Hermiston’s growth won’t be slowing down in 2019.
Businesses and other organizations around town have plans for everything from new buildings to new programs they would like to implement over the next year. We caught up with a few about what they envision for 2019:
Umatilla County Fire District
Fire Chief Scott Stanton said the district has one main goal for 2019 — build a fifth fire station. The proposed location for the new building is a plot of land on East Walls Road and Highway 37, at the east edge of the district. Stanton said the district already has the equipment to supply another station. He said they don’t know the cost yet, but they will not go out for a bond to help pay for the station. He said they hope to have it built by summer or fall.
Stanton said the district may also see some minor changes or expansion in coverage if the transfer of the Umatilla Army Depot is completed.
He said the district is always recruiting volunteer firefighters, and as they build their new station, they will look for volunteer coverage specific to that area.
Umatilla Electric Cooperative
UEC spokesman Steve Meyers said the electric cooperative has a few projects in the works for this year. One, he said, is a second transmission line from the McNary Substation to the Hermiston Butte Substation. The line, 5 miles long and 115 kilovolts, is in the final stages of planning and permitting. Meyers said the line will provide service to residential customers in Hermiston, Stanfield and Umatilla. Meyers said this line is in response to a 30 percent increase in customer demand for residential power over the last two decades.
Meyers said the company is also constructing a new substation in Morrow County, south of Homestead Road. Called the Oregon Trail Substation, the new facility will serve irrigation and farming activities in the area.
Both those projects are part of a nearly $65 million plan for the next biennium, Meyers said, which includes other projects in the region as well.
Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce
It is inevitable that 2019 will be a year of change for the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber is currently searching for a new chief executive officer after former chamber director Debbie Pedro, who served in the position for 10 years, resigned in December.
Chamber board president Paul Keeler said parts of the chamber’s path will be charted by the incoming director, who will bring a “fresh perspective” to the role.
“A lot will depend on the new director,” he said.
In the interim, however, the chamber is moving forward with two large projects. The organization has received $1 million from the Oregon legislature to pay for a new building, which will include offices for the chamber, meeting space available to businesses and an area for workforce development programs.
More specific plans are still being worked out, Keeler said, but the chamber is getting close to finalizing a location.
“Plans are getting more and more definite,” he said. “We have a piece of property we’re looking at, and we’re hoping in 2019 to possibly even break ground.”
$1 million won’t be enough to cover the cost of the entire business center, so Keeler said the chamber will be fundraising for the rest. To assist in those efforts, the chamber is starting a nonprofit foundation, where donations to the building, Leadership Hermiston service projects and other chamber programs will be tax-deductible.
Hermiston Police Department
Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said there are a few changes on the horizon in 2019. One, he said, is that police officers will start to work events at Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center as contracted employees of the company VenuWorks, which manages EOTEC. Edmiston said the benefit to having officers work under VenuWorks is that it wouldn’t affect their benefits as city employees.
“The PERS liability to the city is pretty significant,” he said. ‘This removes them from being in overtime capacity.”
He said he has offered that service to other local companies and groups as well.
The department is also looking at some new traffic enforcement plans. Lt. Randy Studebaker said he hopes they will be able to implement a process that police in Cheyenne, Wyoming use.
“They do this every Christmas — an officer dresses up in a Grinch costume at a different location, running radar, and a stationed police officer chases down the cars he spots,” Studebaker said. “It’s well-publicized — they’ll be at this location at 10 a.m. on this day.”
Edmiston said they have some trouble spots in mind where they’d like to try this — such as Highway 395 and Elm Ave., but logistically, it may be difficult to have a police car stationed in such a busy spot.
Nevertheless, they said they hope to give the process a try, although Studebaker said he wasn’t sure about the costumes.
“It’s unconventional, but it’s well-publicized ahead of time,” he said. “Obviously our goal is voluntary compliance.”