Pendleton City Council voted unanimously to borrow $700,000 at 6 percent interest from its sewer fund in order to pay for road and utility infrastructure surrounding the Olney cemetery housing project.

In other action Tuesday night, council increased some city development charges by 40 percent and narrowed its options for increasing its roads budget.

Public works director Bob Patterson said the sewer fund is secure with $4.5 million in reserves. According to finance director Linda Carter, the borrowed money is set to be repaid to the city. The state plans to contribute the $700,000 after the city’s initial payment. The 6 percent interest will be repaid by the developer.

“Sometimes a bill comes in and you have to dip into your savings in order to pay it, knowing the money will come in later,” said councilor Neil Brown.

The council also adjusted transportation system development charges — or SDCs. After 15 years of no changes, the council increased the charges by 40 percent. SDCs are charged to owners of new buildings to pay for expanding road infrastructure.

“The previous administration and council did not increase fees with the (consumer price index) like we should have,” councilor Tom Young said. “Now the current council is examining, ‘Why are we losing money?’ Well we have to catch up with all of our fees.”

In a work session prior to the meeting, Patterson also laid out the funding situation regarding paving city streets. It would cost the city nearly $36 million over the next 10 years in order to bring its streets up to a “good” level as measured by a federal system. Deferred maintenance costs will continue to rise until streets are brought up to standard, he said.

City council voted to have staff look into a range of funding levels between $17 million and $35.7 million over the next 10 years before honing in on a specific funding amount. Staff then plans to pursue a gas tax, among other measures, to increase budgets.

In both discussions about SDC fees and street funding, councilor Al Plute argued against fixed rates, saying the city needs to find a permanent solution to keeping up with rising costs.

The council also approved the addition of a new Geographical Information System position in the public works department. At a cost of $60,000-$75,000 per year, the new employee will map the city’s utility infrastructure as part of a master planning effort.

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Contact Natalie Wheeler at nwheeler@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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