Umatilla County is preparing for public transportation.
The county board of commissioners Wednesday morning in Pendleton established the advisory committee for Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund projects. Commissioner Bill Elfering also said the board approved committee by-laws and selected seven people to serve on the committee:
• Seth Whitmer, CEO of Columbia River Community Health Services
• J.D. Tovey, planning director of Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
• Linda Carter, finance director for the city of Pendleton
• Doug Primmer, Hermiston city councilor
• Esmeralda Horn, community development director with city of Umatilla
• Jose Garcia with New Horizon alcohol and drug treatment program in Hermiston
• Teresa Dutcher, recently retired as Milton-Freewater’s public transportation coordinator.
The 2017 Legislature established the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund to provide money to local agencies for public transit projects. The new statewide payroll tax of $1 per $1,000 fills the fund. The Oregon Transportation Commission distributes the money to qualifying entities, which includes Umatilla County. The state requires those entities to set up advisory committees to prioritize plans or projects that would receive money from the fund.
The committee’s role is to make recommendations to the county board, which has the final say on submitting projects to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
“The emphasis is really on moving people around within the county,” Elfering said, but that could lead to including cities.
The committee looks to meet for the first time in September and could consider projects for a state deadline of Nov. 1. But Elfering said there is no real rush. The state silos the money for the county, so if the advisory committee does not push anything forward this year, the money will be waiting for the next round in February 2019.
County Planning Director Bob Waldher is coordinating the committee. He told the board the seven committee members meet state rules for diversity, including low income, 65 or older and public transportation providers.