Council Tables Final Assessment of Local Improvement District

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The Hermiston City Council tabled plans Monday night to approve the final assessment of a Local Improvement District (LID) at the South Hermiston Industrial Park (SHIP) after property owners voiced opposition to their share of the costs.

At issue was an agreement outlined by the city a couple of years ago that would have had it pay $250,000 as part of the overall estimate of $2.9 million needed to make all the improvements to the SHIP. Half that total would come from a federal grant, with the county adding $50,000 and the rest coming from existing property owners.

As work began on the park, it became apparent that the overall cost of the project would be right around $2 million, not $2.9 million. As a result, the city made the decision to re-allocate the $250,000 to other improvements within the SHIP that aren’t covered by the LID itself.

And while the new, lower estimate reduces the property owners’ bill from $1.16 million to $947,734 – an 18.4 percent savings – several in the audience Monday night wanted to know why their share of the cost wasn’t reduced by $250,000.

“Why isn’t the city contributing anything?” asked Jenna Evans, who along with her husband, Craig, owns three lots on S.E. Campbell Drive. “It seems property owners are having to pay for a power upgrade that wasn’t part of the original agreement.”

Evans’ husband, Craig, asked why small property owners have to pay for power upgrades to benefit billion-dollar companies.

“They’re getting services brought to them for free and us smaller companies are paying for it,” he said. “That’s my objection.”

Jon Patterson, who owns property on S.E. Campbell Drive, asked why he should contribute to the cost when he’s already paid for power to be extended to his property. He said there was an agreement by the city that cost savings would be passed on to the existing property owners.

“I’m not interested at all in paying for a power line for somebody else,” he said.

Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith said the power upgrades will not benefit any large-scale companies that come into the LID.

“The power improvements are not even close to what they will need,” Smith said. He also said any new company that builds in the LID will have to pay 100 percent of the cost of extending utility services to them.

Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said existing property owners will benefit from the increased power capacity since the improvements are designed, in part, to cut down the length of any potential power outages.

Jackie Linton, who is running for city council, said the city should stick to the original agreement of contributing $250,000.

“As a council, your word should be your bond,” she said. “If there’s savings, it should go to the property owners. It goes to the integrity of the council, of the government.”

The city council agreed.

“Quite frankly, a deal’s a deal,” said Councilor Doug Primmer. “We should stick with what we said.”

“We made a promise, we need to keep it,” said Councilor Jackie Myers.

The council voted to table the final assessment and come back next meeting with a new final assessment to consider.