The Hermiston City Council at its meeting Monday night, Nov. 8, approved a plan to allow the Hermiston School District to move forward with its expansion of the high school campus at 600 S. First St.

The school district is developing a new 13-classroom building on the high school campus north of the school, between Weber Field and the newly paved parking lot. The new building is a two-story, 22,800 square-foot addition that comes with expanding the parking area.

The Hermiston Planning Commission in September approved the district’s conditional use permit application for the expansion, but the district objected to a couple of the conditions, and the city council took up the appeal in a public hearing Nov. 8.

Mark Morgan, Hermiston assistant city manager, said the district’s biggest issue was a condition requiring the district to contribute financially to any future local improvement district that would affect the intersection at West Highland Avenue and South First Street near the high school. Morgan said that condition made it tough for the district to budget for something in the future.

“I think mainly they didn’t like the nebulous aspect,” he said.

Traffic at the intersection gets busy at the start of the school day, during the school’s lunch hour and when school lets out. But at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, for example, Morgan said, there is hardly any traffic. And improving the intersection, he said, “may not be as straightforward as some people think.”

The intersection now, he said, technically does not meet the requirements for a signal. A traffic study the city paid for also shows a lot of the flow through the intersection is not associated with the high school.

So city and district staff, he said, were able to come up with a deal: the district would provide a one-time, up-front payment to the city for future improvements based on how much of the traffic is school related.

Morgan said the traffic analysis shows about 25% of the vehicles through there are school related, and the cost of upgrading the intersection would cost about $1.5 million, so the city council gave its nod for staff to work with the school district to zero in on how much the payment should be.

This plan gives the district the budgeting certainty it wants, Morgan said, and allows the district to be done with it.

There is no timeline for when this will come back to council for its final stamp of approval, Morgan said, but the aim is to seal it sooner rather than later.

In other business, the council also approved the local laws the city has been working to update, including establishing a parade permit process, simplifying the regulation of bicycles and establishing an appeal process in zoning matters.

The council in recent meetings has discussed and rejected staff proposals to update these laws, often wanting more clarity in the language.

And in another move, the council approved transferring the solid waste franchise from

Sanitary Disposal Inc. to Waste Connections of Oregon Inc., which will do business as Sanitary Disposal.

While this touches every household in the city, Morgan said, because Sanitary Disposal is transitioning its business to Waste Connections, the transfer of the franchise does not come with does not alter any rates.

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