City Council approves bond issuance for wastewater treatment plant

<p>The water extension that was approved by the Hermiston City Council on Monday could reach center pivot units like the one pictured above at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.</p>

The Hermiston City Council approved two measures Monday that could have long-term ramifications for the community.

The first was an ordinance declaring the city will annex 168 acres of land for purposes of extending regional water to the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

HAREC Director Phil Hamm spoke in support of the annexation, which he said could help the station continue to make the region an economic player well into the future.

“This is an extremely important region for agriculture,” Hamm said. “There is no other place in the world that can out-compete us. There are places that can compete with us but no place that can out-compete us. The area is extremely diversified. We gave up (counting) at 207 different types of crops.”

Hamm stressed the economic benefit of supporting the agriculture industry. He said the annexation and subsequent extension of water resources will allow researchers to study how the agriculture industry in the region can reach a possibly lucrative potential.

“If we had all the water we needed what would be the economic benefit?” Hamm asked the council. “A study showed about $1.5 billion would be generated (annually). So what we are asking for tonight is to increase the land mass that we can do research on and then get water to the area.”

The council unanimously passed the measure to annex the land and extend water resources to the site. Mayor David Drotzmann said the city understands the importance of bolstering the research facility’s efforts.

“The station has been a valuable asset to our community,” Drotzmann said. “We know we are an agricultural based community, and we will do everything we can to continue supporting that industry.”

The second measure that could have an impact on residents for years to come was an ordinance authorizing the city to issue a revenue bond to pay for upgrades to the wastewater treatment facilities and water delivery systems. The council approved issuing $5.5 million in bonds to complete work to the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. City Manager Ed Brookshier said the bond was the last piece of financing for the project. The council passed the measure unanimously. The bonds are expected to provide $3.6 million for the wastewater treatment plant and $1.25 million for the water extension to HAREC. The total cost of the new wastewater treatment plant is estimated at $27.2 million, with $23.6 million provided by loans from the state of Oregon. Assistant City manager Mark Morgan said the two projects for were packaged together as one bond to save the city administrative costs.

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