Companies thinking about locating or expanding in the Westland Road area will have more incentive to do so after the Hermiston city council voted to add the area to the city’s enterprise zone.
The addition — about .86 square miles along the intersection of Interstate 84 and Interstate 82 — increases the amount of industrial land in and around Hermiston where companies can apply for a three to five year exemption on property taxes on capital improvements that directly create jobs. The exemption would only apply to any new construction, not what a company already has there.
Because the land is outside Hermiston city limits and companies would pay their property tax to Umatilla County, the county commission must also sign off on the expansion. Mark Morgan, assistant city manager, said the county was in favor of the incentive, but it made more sense administratively to expand Hermiston’s zone than have the county apply with the state for its own enterprise zone.
Morgan said Hermiston’s enterprise zone has been directly responsible for about $85 million in new investments in the area and 362 new jobs, mostly through Pioneer Seed and Shearer’s Foods, from 2008 to 2016. About $63 million of that construction has since come onto the tax rolls.
The new area covers property where Amazon is building new data centers, but Morgan said the “large company” building in the zone had decided to apply for state incentives instead of the city’s enterprise zone. It may help incentivize other investments, however.
Fire chief Scott Stanton said UCFD1 had concerns about expanding the enterprise zone any further because even though the new area was outside of Hermiston it was inside the fire district.
“We love the growth, we see it creates jobs, we want our kids to have opportunities, here, but we also need enough taxes to provide services,” he said.
Mayor David Drotzmann said he thought the city had “more to gain than to lose,” however, because the zone could bring in development that would come onto the tax rolls after three years but might not exist at all without the incentive.
On Monday the council also approved a $1,529,235 contract with Stettler Supply Company for de-watering equipment for the recycled water treatment plant. The equipment will allow the city to pull biosolids out of the wastewater on an ongoing basis, instead of storing the sewage in ponds and paying $1 million every two to three years to empty them. City Manager Byron Smith said the upfront cost would save the city considerable money in the long run.
Smith said truckloads of biosolid waste from the dewatering equipment could be sent to growers, who have expressed an interest in using it as fertilizer in circumstances allowed by the DEQ. He said the city doesn’t have the money for a waste delivery truck now but the growers would likely be willing to come pick it up.
“This is valuable material from their standpoint,” he said.
“Well, there’s no accounting for taste,” councilor Jackie Myers said amid chuckles from the council.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.