Mary Binder, public affairs officer for the Umatilla Chemical Depot, goes over safety issues with members of the Hermiston City Council and staff. From left city manager Ed Brookshier, Parks and Rec superintendent Ivan Anderholm, city councilors Ron Hardin and Jackie Myers, and assistant city manger Ray Jones. The group was on a tour Saturday of area development.

By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski

Staff writer

HERMISTON — For the first time in three years, members of the Hermiston City Council, Budget and Planning Commissions were treated to a grand tour of Hermiston Saturday morning.

The purpose of the tour, according to assistant city manager Ray Jones, is to keep volunteer committee members informed as to what is happening in the city.

"It is a way to show how their decisions are impacting the community," Jones said.

Jones says the tour is also a way for Hermiston to toot its own horn.

"There has been a lot of growth in the city," Jones said. "Both in residential and commercial properties."

The four-hour tour brought everyone up to speed on the changes occurring in the city. As the bus passed each significant site, department heads gave a commentary of the achievements reached by the city and business owners.

Driving by Beltway Park along Highway 395, Parks and Recreation superintendent Ivan Anderholm explained how the park is part of the Highway 395 Beautification Project sponsored by the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce.

"The park was all funded by the chamber," Anderholm said. "The water feature will have electricity to it this week."

The water feature will have lights and synchronized sprays, Anderholm said. The cost of the park was $8,500, which is a bargain according to Anderholm.

"It cost $4,500 yearly to mow it," Anderholm said, "so it is very cost effective."

The tour took city officials past Hermiston High School's remodel (which wasn't completed during the last tour), several street overlays, the new Riverfront Park and golf course, as well as the state-wide significant industrial site. Since 2001, there have been 27 street improvements, with eight planned for 2004.

City manager Ed Brookshier said that the city is working on expanding the urban growth boundary to include the golf course in the city. The plans are to amend Hermiston's comprehensive plan to include the higher-end housing that would come with the golf course site. An application will be headed to the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development by the end of May.

"There is a 45-day comment period once the DLCD receives the proposal," Brookshier said. "After the comment period and approval by the state, the proposal will go to the county commissioners for ratification."

Driving through the many housing developments in Hermiston brought many oohs and aahs from the riders. Building superintendent Mike Ward said that houses in the Copper Basin (Pheasant Run and Quail Ridge) are selling for $130,000 to $200,000. That brought the question as to who is buying the homes.

"People from the DC (Wal-Mart Distribution Center), Hanford, and other professionals," Ward said.

Cost Less Carpet has nearly completed their building, Ward said. He indicated the plan is to double the size of the building by this time next year.

The Theater Sports Park on Harper Road has been nearly competed. Lights are in but not hooked up yet Anderholm said. Restrooms and the lights are being funded through the motel tax.

As the bus passed by the Hermiston Aquatic Center, Anderholm said it was on schedule to open by June 26. Twenty-five life guards and 15 water safety instructors have been hired.

"If anyone wants a tour, call me," Anderholm said.

There will be 130 parking spaces at the pool, as well as a lot for over-flow. A trail system will connect the soccer field to the hospital trail.

One side trip the bus took was the Umatilla Chemical Depot. Public Affairs officer Mary Binder boarded the bus to give a tour of the depot and to give the city a quick peek at the incineration plant. She assured officials that the number one priority of the depot is safety, as shown by the thorough inspection of the bus before allowing everyone to pass through the gates.

The ?windshield' tour, as Binder called it, took the bus through the storage facilities, called igloos, in which VX, GB Sarin and mustard gas rockets are stored. According to Binder, only about 100 igloos are being used to store chemical weapons and decontaminated waste.

Binder explained how the rockets would be trucked to the incineration plants after being stowed into giant containers called Enhanced On-Site Containers (EONCs). The EONCs are specifically designed to protect the munitions from external forces.

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