HERMISTON — Economic development in Hermiston is paying for two new “state-of-the-art” fire engines for Umatilla County Fire District 1.
The new engines will be paid off over the next 10 years with payments in lieu of taxes “from new economic development on Westland Road,” according to a news release.
The release did not specify the project, but Umatilla County has a Strategic Investment Program agreement with Amazon for its data centers on Westland Road.
The new engines will be located at the district’s main station next to McKenzie Park in Hermiston, and at Station 22 on Punkin Center Road, which are both staffed around the clock. The news release stated that one of the district’s older engines will be sold as surplus while another will be placed at one of the district’s rural stations for less frequent use.
UCFD1 Chief Scott Stanton said in a statement that having newer engines helps save money on maintenance, reduces the amount of time engines are out of service while being repaired, and helps lower the district’s ISO rating used to determine homeowners’ insurance rates.
“Maintaining an adequate and dependable vehicle fleet and cost-effective fire stations remains our top priority,” Stanton said. “This, along with training, is how we keep our responders safe while meeting the needs of these growing communities.”
In response to follow-up questions about funding, Stanton said the fire district is getting almost $160,000 a year in strategic improvement program payments. A more recent enterprise zone deal the city made for a similar project, using the enterprise zone incentive instead of SIP, gives the district $50,000 per year, increasing 3% per year for 15 years, he said. For Lamb Weston’s major expansion, Hermiston and Umatilla County split the enterprise zone payments solely between the two entities.
Stanton has in the past testified before the city and county that such tax breaks hurt the fire district by creating new buildings that the district must protect, without the commensurate funding to pay for the service.
He told the East Oregonian that he hopes to see the district included in the discussion about such deals in the future.
“We are for growth and giving incentives but the district cannot keep losing funding like that and continue our same level of services,” he said in an email. “We enjoy a good relationship with the county and city and are confident they will consider us in future ventures like these.”
According to the news release about the new fire engines, UCFD1 responded to 1,162 fire/rescue incidents in 2019, an increase of 161 compared with 2017 when the district was formed.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misstated which government entities were involved in the Strategic Investment Program deal with Amazon on Westland Road. The City of Hermiston was not a party to that deal.