When I first arrived in Hermiston a few months ago, I expressed surprise at the rapid pace of Hermiston City Council meetings.

They seldom lasted more than 30 minutes, and more often than not were finished in far less time.

After my concerns became public, more than one council member told me that “people of Hermiston really don’t care. They never show up at meetings.”

Thus, the council didn’t see the need to discuss many items publicly. Instead, decisions are  reached in committee meetings, recommendations are made to the council and those recommendations are basically rubber stamped.

Monday evening, the council’s budget committee will meet to review the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget as proposed by City Manager Ed Brookshier.

It will be the first time the public has a chance to view the budget.

It’s worth a look. Along with the huge outlay for the new recycled water plant project (now at $27 million and threatening to grow larger), the budget also includes money for several public improvement projects, a new street sweeper, a donation toward construction of the new homeless shelter, a pay increase for city employees and a transfer of $100,000 to the city’s revolving loan fund.

The last item is an interesting one. It’s the loan fund the city uses to attract new businesses. If the city pitches in $100,000, it will be eligible for a state grant of $750,000.

The bulk of the last grant — nearly $700,000 — was used to attract Fuddruckers to Hermiston. Only a small portion went to locally owned businesses.

I’m not going to debate today the merits of any of the expenses included in the latest budget. Whether you like the idea of your money being spent on low-interest loans to out-of-town businesses is up to you.

But I am going to remind you that Hermiston City Council was elected by you. They are in office to do your bidding and respect your wishes — and that includes how and where your money is spent.

Monday, the budget committee will hold its first meeting at 6 p.m at City Hall.

If you have a thought on any of the items — from pay raises to loan funds to water treatment plants — it will be your first chance to ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask exactly how that money is being spent.

Kudos to local runners who set records in the Butte Challenge 10K. On the men’s side, Sean Williams checked in at 33 minutes, 24 seconds. On the women’s side, Jen Puzey ran a terrific 34:26.

For Puzey, it was not only a course record, but also a personal best. While translating “road” 10K times to the track is by no means a perfect science, Puzey’s Butte 10K would be in the 33:20 range on the track.

That’s just 20 seconds off the 2010 Olympic trials qualifying time. Puzey is still a relative neophyte to 10K racing, meaning she could be within range of that trials qualifying time sometime in the next year.

We think it would be terrific to have Hermiston representative at the 2012 Olympic trials in Eugene.

You might have seen all kinds of bicycles on the road a couple weeks ago. There was a reason (along with some decent spring weather).

What you might have seen were riders in the annual Scott’s to Scott’s bicycle outing, in which cyclists ride between the two Scott’s bicycle stores in the Tri-Cities and Hermiston.

The Hermiston Scott’s, by the way, is a terrific store with some very knowledgeable folks. As someone who has hung out at plenty of bike shops, I can attest that Hermiston’s bike store is a step above many shops in much bigger cities.

And finally, a story that generated lots of public comment last week was the removal of 20 pine trees near the old Sunset Elementary School.

I understand progress. I understand that a majority of the trees had to come down to make way for parking lots, traffic circles, etc.

But I also have to think there could have been a way to save at least a couple of the old sentries. Progress is nice, but a tie to the past also adds a little continuity. Surely a little compromise could have been reached.

Know of something we need to be reporting? A piece of news you’d like to see in the Herald? Drop me a note at nwoelk@hermistonherald.com or call me at 541-564-4533.

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