The city has received grants to upgrade its sewer and water systems, while a northern addition is in the works.
Echo was awarded $7 million in infrastructure grants to update its sewer system last year, which improvement has been needed since 2007, according to City Administrator Dave Slaght. The city got $5.9 million in water system grants this year.
The city chose to build a water tower rather than drilling a well, Slaght explained.
“We’re putting in a 500,000-gallon tank,” he said, “which will bring us up to 845,000 gallons of storage. That’s enough to meet firefighting requirements. We’ve needed that for a long time.”
Echo hopes to let bids begin in the spring.
“There must be some people thinking that Echo is worthy of major investment,” Slaght said.
Echo lobbied the Oregon legislature for American Rescue Plan Capital Improvement funds for both its water and wastewater systems, Slaght recounted. State Reps. Bobby Levy and Greg Smith and Sen. Bill Hansell supported Echo’s requests, he said, and the city was awarded $5.53 million for its water system and $1.5 million for its wastewater system improvement.
Echo also received $450,000 in federal appropriation funds for its water meter service replacement, Slaght added. U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden championed this application.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality approved a $1 million loan as well, Slaght reported. Up to half of the loan may be forgiven to offset wastewater upgrade expenses, which should cost around $2 million.
“The city of Echo has been very blessed with this opportunity and is grateful for all the support from our county commissioners, state legislators and federal senators,” Slaght concluded. “The city council has been very involved and Mayor Chad Ray sat with me as we lobbied for the funds, and was huge in helping convince them how important this was to Echo’s future.”
The city council considered Kent and Laura Madison’s application to annex to Echo their 132-acre property, adjoining Interstate 84, at its June 14 meeting. The Madisons proposed withdrawing their application to submit a corrected version. The council approved this motion and would welcome the new application.
If annexed, the Madison Addition would be connected to Echo by Thielson Road, which the Oregon Department of Transportation has approved, according to documentation presented to the council.
Residents of the county within Echo’s urban growth boundary spoke in opposition to the annexation at the May 10 city council meeting. James Shelton, Brad and Don Miltenberger, who has lived north of the city for 45 years, cited water and sewer issues. Shelton spoke as an individual, not as president of the Echo Citizens for Responsible Development. He was also concerned about housing, roads, open spaces and parks, according to the meeting’s minutes.
Madison noted no one living inside Echo’s city limits opposed the annexation application. He requested tourist commercial zoning, due to the recent Snow Estates housing proposal, while acknowledging the council would decide how to classify the addition.
”We withdrew the application because some Echo Heights residents opposed its mention of an amphitheater as a possible use,” Madison said. “But saying yes or no to a particular use is a decision for the city to make.”
Madison said that the grants to upgrade Echo’s sewer and water systems encouraged him to exercise the option he had on the property since 2018.
He has hired an attorney to draft the reapplication.
”The whole objective isn’t a Kent Madison project,” he added. “It’s an Echo project, to pay taxes into the system, instead of relying on grants every 40 years.”
Madison also said he hopes retail and commercial development on his property could make work for local citizens, so Echo doesn’t become just a bedroom community.
”Western Umatilla County and eastern Morrow County are going to continue to grow,” he said, “in part thanks to Amazon.”
Slaght said no one can be forced into the city against his or her will.