Built in 1910, Milton-Freewater City Hall is not only one of the centerpieces of the city, but central to the city government’s goals for the future.
In a report to the Milton-Freewater City Council before the members adopted the goals Jan. 9, city manager Linda Hall called the list for 2017-2022 “one of the longest and most wide-encompassing that I have seen in my career.”
Although the list spans several different areas, the future of Milton-Freewater’s historic city hall took several bullet points.
The Milton-Freewater Police Department is currently housed in the city hall basement, a fact the city would like to change.
Hall said in an interview that the people in charge of building city hall couldn’t have anticipated a larger police force, computers or a records retention schedule, meaning the modern police department operates in cramped environs.
“It’s pretty horrible,” she said, adding that there’s also a lack of natural light.
Hall said the council is interested in building a new, stand-alone police station on a city-owned lot west of city hall.
From the bottom of city hall to the top, Hall said the city also wants to explore restoring city hall’s third floor, an old auditorium, and turn it into the council’s permanent chambers.
The council currently meets in a room at the Milton-Freewater Public Library.
Accessing the third floor, or any other besides the ground floor, is also an issue for city hall. Without an elevator, the building doesn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Hall said installing an elevator into the building would set the city back roughly $500,000.
Besides city hall improvements, other goals include establishing more funding for parks and recreation, re-establishing the city’s urban renewal district and securing long-term funding for street maintenance.
On the latter goal, Hall said a $3 million state grant from several years ago helped the city with some major street projects, but there’s still a need for more road improvements.
Hall highlighted Broadway Avenue, a four-lane road that used to belong to the state that is now starting to accrue some wear and tear.
While the feasibility of some of the goals has yet to take shape, others are already showing progress.
The city is interested in re-starting a schools resource officer position — Hall said the position was eliminated during a round of budget cuts in mid-1990s — a prospect the Milton-Freewater Unified District has already discussed with the city.
The council also continues to consider starting a Hispanic advisory council after Umatilla County Commissioner Bill Elfering in June approached the city about starting something similar to Hermiston’s advisory council.
Hall said Milton-Freewater has requested the ordinance that established the original advisory council from Hermiston and is waiting to hear back.
“We’re intrigued by Hermiston’s services, but they’re bigger than we are,” she said.
Because the population of Hermiston is more than double than that of Milton-Freewater (16,745 and 7,050, respectively), Hall said the council is also considering appointing a single liaison rather than an entire committee.
At 43.1 percent of the population, Milton-Freewater has the highest share of Latino residents in Umatilla County.