Increased access to industrial land south of Hermiston could be one of the city’s next big-ticket expenses.

On Monday, during a city council work session, assistant city manager Mark Morgan said most of Hermiston’s developable industrial land lies south of the city, behind Hermiston Foods and the Walmart Distribution Center. The city hopes to make that land more marketable by increasing access.

Much of the land in question has been known for decades as the Cook Industrial Site, but Morgan said the Cook family is in the process of selling a 38-acre parcel and 8-acre parcel to an agricultural operation that would plan to farm it until an industrial developer is interested. Morgan said city staff’s new working title was SHIP — the South Hermiston Industrial Park.

The ideal project Morgan presented Monday would include extending Penney Avenue to Highway 395 and adding a traffic signal to the highway where it connected near Ranch & Home. Southeast Campbell Drive would extend down to Penney Avenue, a “stub” street would be built into property owned by the Port of Umatilla and Southeast 10th Street would go from a sagebrush-covered right-of-way to an actual road. Existing roads would be widened and improved and water and sewer lines would be extended. The total package would cost an estimated $8 million.

Morgan said the project could be downsized — taking off the traffic signal would shave about $1 million off, as would canceling the Penney Avenue extension, and not putting sidewalks on the roads would save another $700,000.

The city qualifies for up to $1.5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for the project, due to the number of layoffs that happened when Hermiston Foods closed its plant there, but Morgan said the grant is “highly competitive.”

He also said that the grant requires a 50 percent match, so the more funding the city applied for, the more it would be on the hook to provide. He suggested the city look for partnerships with the Port of Umatilla, Umatilla County, the state and private entities that might benefit.

Councilors expressed an interest in seeing the city submit an EDA grant application this year to cover the building of 10th Street and the stub road off of it into the Port of Umatilla property.

“I’d like to see a grant application be submitted, but we need to come up with a plan for the matching dollars,” Councilor Lori Davis said.

Councilor Manuel Gutierrez said the city needed to talk with the port and county about their interest before going forward, and city manager Byron Smith pointed out that port manager Kim Puzey and county commissioner George Murdock had both shown up to the meeting.

Councilor John Kirwan said he liked the idea of improvements.

“Any time we improve access to a property, it increases the marketability for someone to do something with it,” he said.

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