State Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, addressed the Irrigon City Council on March 20, delivering a presentation on the Morrow Pacific Project before an overflow crowd.

The project includes a transload facility that would transfer coal from rail cars to barges at the Port of Morrow to be shipped downriver. According to Smith, the coal would be in fully enclosed facilities and the conveyors to load the barges would have vacuum filters that would prevent any coal dust from leaving the structures.

Smith called the project a chance to create local economic benefit without negative environmental consequences. Twenty five jobs and around $300,000 per year for the local schools would result from the project. The council voted unanimously to support the Morrow Pacific Project.

Also at the meeting, a public hearing was held to to consider terminating the Joint Management Agreement with Morrow County for management of the lands within the Irrigon urban growth area. The city had previously instructed City Attorney Bill Kuhn to send a letter to Morrow County Planner Carla Mclane advising the county that the city was not pleased with the present contract and wanted to negotiate a new contract.

City Manager Jerry Breazeale explained that the hearing was part of a legal process outlined in the Joint Management Agreement to terminate the existing agreement. He noted that the contract requires that during the time between the notice to terminate and the public hearing that the two parties must seek resolution of differences. Breazeal said Morrow County had not responded with any attempt to negotiate with the city regarding the agreement.

The Morrow County court had directed that notices be sent to all land owners with in the UGB letting people know that the City of Irrigon was planning to terminate the Joint Management Agreement, and encouraging them to attend the public hearing. Most of the testimony at the hearing indicated that the property owners were fine with the current agreement and did not wish the city to terminate the agreement.

Another public hearing concerned a proposed amendment of the city ordinance regulating the growing of medical marijuana. The amendment to the ordinance would allow more than one registered card holder legally residing at the same residence to grow marijuana if all the other conditions are met.

After the public hearings, Councilor Ken Matlack moved to send Morrow County a notice of the city’s intent to terminate the Joint Management Agreement and get them to negotiate as required in the agreement termination clause.

The council voted unanimously to approve the motion and approved the marijuana ordinance change.

Also at the meeting:

• Morrow County School Superintendent Dirk Dirksen provided a summary of school funding issues and explained the proposed operating tax levy. The levy would continue the existing operating levy that will expire unless voters approve extending the tax. Voting for the tax levy would not increase anyone’s existing tax bill as it would be the same as it has been.

• Approved a proposal to exchange real estate owned by the city for a fairly new water truck that the Fire District had appraised at $35,000.

• A city goal-setting session was scheduled for April 10.

•A proposal to purchase an 8,500-square-foot city lot in a newer subdivision to obtain the water rights from an exempt well on that site was approved.

Information for this report was provided by Irrigon City Manager Gerald Breazeale.

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