IRRIGON - The City Council frustration continues in trying to obtain additional water rights for new well sites as part of its Water System Improvement project.

"We have certification for our existing wells, but we need extra capacity for our growth," City Manager Jerry Breazeale said Tuesday at the City Council meeting.

Breazeale contacted Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, asking him to assist with the city's request to draw additional water from the Columbia River during times of restrictions imposed by the state from April 15 to Sept. 30.

"If you take a bucket of water during that time period you're supposed to put another bucket back in," Breazeale explained.

Former councilman Joe Theisen asked if the city could take water from the existing wells and pump it into the river.

Breazeale said the city still needs to get water rights to take it out.

The city is frustrated with the lack of response on the issue by the Oregon Water Resources Department. Breazeale filed an appeal with the department Sept. 8, 2006, and met with officials Sept. 27.

Councilor Bob Flournoy asked if all cities had to follow the restriction.

"It seems unreasonable," he said.

Breazeale agreed.

"That's why we're protesting it so much. I don't think we would have an affect on the river," he said because the city is small.

Brad Baird, an engineer with Anderson Perry and Associates' La Grande office, said the city first turned in a request nearly two years ago.

"It's mind boggling you don't have approval," he said. "You're getting stuck in a red-tape process."

On another topic, Breazeale said the city likely will begin the bid process for the new City Hall project this month.

"We hope to break ground in February or early March," he said.

Mayor Don Baxter said the city has $665,000 for the project to date, rather than the anticipated $800,000.

Newly sworn-in Councilman Jim Ray asked how the city would come up with the rest of the money.

Baxter responded the city would have to cut costs.

The council also heard from Breazeale that the Irrigon Multicultural Arts Center has formed a coalition.

"Once the non-profit is formed we will be a legal corporation," he said.

The group is hoping to use the old City Hall building as a cultural center, including performing and visual arts.

"Part of it is to celebrate the diversity of our community," Breazeale said. "I think it's pretty exciting."

The group would preserve the old building, which would solve the city and school district's problem with having the building sit empty.

In other business, the council:

?Swore-in new Councilor Jim Ray and incumbent councilors Bob Flournoy, Jesse Pena and Andy Reid.

?Unanimously approved to extend its agreement with the Oregon Public Works Emergency Response Cooperative.

?Heard Grindline Skateparks Inc. has credited the city with $10,000 since volunteers have worked on the project. This will allow the city to add more features to the park.

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