The Hermiston City Council and Umatilla County finalized several deals Monday night including one that transfers ownership of the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center (EOTEC) to the city.
The deal includes cooperation between the city and the county toward construction of office space for the Umatilla County Fair, improvements to Airport and Ott Roads, and various changes to the county fair’s lease of the EOTEC facility.
“I find it great that with all of the issues that you read about in the state and federal governments that our two governments have been able to work together so well to develop these facilities, and make moves like this for the benefit of all,” said County Commissioner George Murdock. “To borrow a term from my Scottish grandmother, too many cooks spoil the broth.”
The city and county also struck a deal estimated at $4.5 million to stimulate residential and commercial growth in the northern area of Hermiston. Through a memorandum of understanding, Umatilla County will commit $2 million resulting from payments it will receive in lieu of taxes from the recently announced $225 million expansion of Lamb Weston’s Hermiston processing plant toward water storage and distribution upgrades in northeastern Hermiston. The upgrades will add a million-gallon water reservoir and install approximately 2.25 miles of new water mains.
“To borrow a phrase from Commissioner Murdock, ‘the issue of housing in Umatilla County has been studied to death,’ and I couldn’t agree more,” said Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said. “We know that developers want to build here because there is demand for housing, and this investment will now make it financially viable for developers to build more housing on a large scale in western Umatilla County for the foreseeable future.”
City staff conservatively estimates that, due to the number of large undeveloped residentially zoned properties in the area of these improvements, the new infrastructure should stimulate at least 800 new housing units in Hermiston. Staff also estimated that if the new infrastructure is able to stimulate just 20 additional homes per year, which wouldn’t have otherwise been built, then those homes will generate approximately $12 million in new property tax revenue for local jurisdictions over 15 years.
For its part, the city agreed Monday night to pledge approximately $2.5 million from its share of payments in lieu of taxes from the Lamb Weston expansion. The city council authorized City Manager Byron Smith to negotiate and execute loan documents with the Oregon Infrastructure Finance Authority to begin design on the improvements this spring, with construction estimated to be complete by early 2020.
Drotzmann also applauded State Rep. Greg Smith for his efforts to help fund a new home for the Greater Hermiston Chamber of Commerce through a $1 million appropriation in this year’s legislative session.
“Once again, Rep. Smith has done an amazing job in bringing state dollars to our region,” Drotzmann said. “His continued focus and delivery on the important needs within our community and region is unparalleled in other communities across the state, and I look forward to continuing our support of the chamber as they transition into their new home.”