The Hermiston School District is closer to reaching its goal for a multimillion dollar athletic complex, and the City of Hermiston will now have more space for soccer leagues to play.

Monday night, the Hermiston City Council and the Hermiston School Board of Education each approved an intergovernmental agreement that will allow city use of Rocky Heights Elementary for 33 years in exchange for a $100,000 contribution to the Kennison Field Renovation Project. Both votes were unanimous.

“This is a great culmination of collaboration between the City of Hermiston and the Hermiston School District,” interim Superintendent Wade Smith said. “The intergovernmental agreement is really the epitome of a win-win situation. We’ve really come together as two organizations both with a need, and I believe this results in those needs being met.”

For the school district, the donation moves the $4 million renovation project one step closer to reality. The project will replace the playing field, bleachers and track at Hermiston High School. For the City of Hermiston, the agreement alleviates pressure on the city to provide additional playing fields for the rapidly growing soccer programs.

“There are many benefits to the city, to the school district and to the community at large,” Hermiston Parks and Recreation Director Larry Fetter told the Council. “This agreement represents the opportunity for us to make investments at the Rocky Heights facility which we determined through the soccer advisory group that that was the least cost and most immediate way to get some soccer fields available to the larger community.”

In addition to the monetary donation, Fetter said the city would make about $80,000 in improvements at Rocky Heights including parking, fencing, the playground, restrooms and landscaping. In a written memo, Fetter said the estimated $80,000 is “considerably less” than it would cost to develop “raw” land at a price of more than $1 million.

Individual improvement costs range from landscaping at a price tag of $2,000 to $45,000 for restroom facilities, according to the memorandum.

City Manager Ed Brookshire, who was absent, recommended in a memorandum the council approve the contribution. The total $180,000 investment will be funded out of the city’s general fund.

“This would leave us with with an unencumbered general fund of over $4 million,” Brookshire said in the memo.

The agreement does make provisions for construction and potential location changes of the fields on the Rocky Heights property if the school building is replaced  within the next three decades. As the oldest of the Hermiston schools, Rocky Heights will likely be the next facility replaced by the Hermiston School District. Under the agreement, the district will maintain playing fields before and after construction.

“This really puts in writing what has been a long-standing relationship,” Smith said. “The city will save over a million in costs if they had to go out and build these fields and this provides some level on continuity over the next 30 years.”

Dave Drotzmann, a member of the Kennison Renovation Committee, addressed the council.

“We feel like it’s going to be a big boon to the community,” Drotzmann said. “It’s economic development … it really is when we’re investing in our kids,  investing in a facility like that. We’re glad the city is considering participating with us. We think it’s going to be a big win for you guys, providing the access to facilities.

“I think that’s a great opportunity for our community to have some increased green space, which this city doesn’t have enough of. Having access to that, that’s just a great thing for our community.”

Mayor Bob Severson spoke favorably of the agreement between the city and the school district.

“I just feel this is the best things the city can do,” Severson said.

Council president Jackie Myers also voiced support for the contribution.

“This agreement benefits all parties and just addresses so many issues,” Myers said.

 The city’s contribution raises the project’s fundraising to $565,000: more than 80 percent of the $700,000 fundraising gap.

The city is the second “diamond” sponsor on the project, following a $100,000 grant from the Good Shepherd Community Health Foundation. The Good Shepherd grant is earmarked for the new track.

For more information about the Kennison project and its funding, visit:?www.hermiston.k12.or.us/krp

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