UMATILLADowntown plan wins award

Umatilla City Mmanager David Stockdale said the city's 2019-2020 budget passed this week includes money for several projects that could improve the look of the city's main drag.

UMATILLA — Downtown Umatilla is getting a facelift.

City Manager David Stockdale said the city’s 2019-20 budget passed this week includes money for several projects that could improve the look of the city’s main drag.

“We really anticipate seeing some fantastic changes to Umatilla’s downtown area,” he said.

The biggest project is a $6.1 million reconstruction of Sixth Street where it passes through the city. More than $5 million of the funding comes from grants from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The new street will including bulb-outs, stamped concrete, new lighting and other features intended to not only beautify downtown but also help signal to Highway 730 travelers that they are passing through a community and need to slow down.

The city is also putting additional funding toward its façade grant program. The previous program limited applicants to $10,000 and required a 50% match, but this year the city hopes to boost the number of applicants by awarding up to $26,500 and only requiring a 25% match.

Umatilla recently purchased the former post office building next to city hall, and in the coming months the city will spend $750,000 on the building to turn it into the Umatilla Business Center.

Community development department staff will have their offices there, and space in the front of the building will become a “business incubator” where brand new businesses can enjoy heavily subsidized rent as they get off the ground. A large multipurpose room will host workforce development activities during the day and recreational activities, such as yoga, in the evenings.

The city has increased its event budget for 2019-20 to $100,000 in order to start a few new family-friendly events. It is also starting its first parks and recreation program, overseen by a new recreation manager. The city will add restrooms to Kiwanis park.

Stockdale said the theme of Umatilla’s 2019-20 budget is accommodating the city’s recent growth spurt. Additional money has been set aside for repairs to streets and sidewalks. New staff are being added to handle increased activity in planning and building. The city will also do repair work on its backup emergency generators to ensure it will be able to continue running its water and sewer systems in the event of a long power outage.

The city is also extending a wastewater line for a project that will take recycled water used for cooling data centers in the area and send it to West Irrigation District for agricultural use.

One thing that isn’t in the budget is a new pedestrian bridge across the Umatilla River behind the high school. The previous bridge is unusable after partially collapsing during spring flooding.

Stockdale said it looks like the city will be able to keep some parts of the bridge, but the project will still cost more than $1 million due to the type of equipment needed to handle mid-stream construction. While Stockdale expects insurance and FEMA to cover about $850,000, the city hasn’t come up with a plan yet to fund the additional $250,000 or more needed to complete the project.

Reporter

Reporter covering city government and economic development in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.

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