City Council - Work Session Minutes

Date: 
Mon., Oct. 24, 2016

Mayor Drotzmann called the work session meeting to order at 6:00 pm. Present were Councilors Primmer, Beas-Fitzgerald, Gutierrez, and Smith. Councilors Myers, Harding and Davis were excused. Staff members in attendance were City Manager Byron Smith, City Prosecutor Blaine Clooten, Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan, Clinton Spencer, Chief Edmiston, Nate Rivera, Bill Schmittle, Ron Sivey, and Lilly Alarcon-Strong. News media present was Jade Mc Dowell of the East Oregonian.

City Manager Byron Smith introduced City Prosecutor Blaine Clooten who will be filling in for City Attorney Gary Luisi while on vacation.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Discussion
Planning Director Clint Spencer stated GIS is more than just cartography/mapping. With GIS you have the ability to take two-dimensional data and convert it into spatial data. You can look at how multiple layers of data interrelate and use it to dive in to what you really want to know about city facilities, for example:

  • when water vales are installed
  • assessed lot value
  • how many vehicles go thru an intersection everyday
  • project tracking
  • land use actions that help to show where the city is growing from year to year
  • analysis for planning that can easily asses all lots that are vacant or buildable lands.
  • public access to data- with mapping portals, parks department information, economic development with zoning, city produced maps, FEMA flood plan area map, etc
  • basically, with enough time and effort anything that can be assigned a value can be mapped.

Mr. Spencer stated maps using the GIS system have been created for other departments, internal planning, public information tools, etc. Mr. Spencer displayed different types of maps to the Council, to include: Parcel maps, with addresses, utility billing numbers, zoning, waterlines, water meters, fire hydrants, and can create a maintenance schedule based on when infrastructure was installed.

Mr. Spencer stated the City recently purchased a large format plotter and scanner that can print 3ft of paper at one-time, and helps with digital records management. This system is also used regularly. Planning staff has been taking all of the City’s building plans, digitalizing, storing, and organizing them on the City’s server so they can be easily accessed.

Mr. Spencer stated the GIS system has an interactive format that the user can click on the area they are interested in and get more information. This has been available for years, but has recently been placed on the city’s website for easier access to the public. The GIS system is used daily and updated regularly on the City’s website.

Mr. Spencer logged onto the City’s website to show the Council how easy the GIS system is to use and how much faster it is to obtain the information that is needed; it can even be used from a smart phone. Mr. Spencer stated this mapping system is very precise and servers are frequently backed up by tape. Once the Capital Improvement Plan has been completed, those items will also be listed, as well as have cost association with each project.

 

John Kirwan asked how difficult it was to find all of this information before the GIS System was purchased.

Mr. Spencer stated it wasn’t difficult, but it was very time consuming. Individuals would have to come to City Hall and look through the big map binder that only have about 20 maps in them. The big map binder would not fit on a photocopier so the binder would have to be taken apart so each map needed could be photocopied and then the binder would need to be put together again. Mr. Spencer stated the GIS is a wonderful piece of information for the public.

Mr. Spencer stated this system is dependent on him as he went thru a graduate program to learn how to use it; but is simplifying the structure of the system so anyone can use it in the future.

Natural Gas
Hermiston Energy Superintendent Nate Rivera presented the Council with the new Hermiston Energy Services (HES) logo that Executive Assistant Lilly Alarcon-Strong led the project on.

The Council thanked Executive Assistant Lilly Alarcon-Strong for a job well done.

Mr. Rivera stated with Council direction, HES has been working on municipalizing natural gas services in Hermiston; as currently, Cascade Natural Gas (CNG), during peak times, has a difficult time reaching distribution services to industrial sites. Therefore, there is no provider for large employers looking to build or expand a site that has a need for a large gas supply. At this moment, HES is only looking to connecting gas services for industrial and small commercial sites. Any customer who utilized gas services through CNG would be allowed to continue their service through the company of their choosing.

Mr. Rivera presented the Council with a map of the industrial site and CNG gas lines going to the site, and explained, Trans Canada Gas also runs through Stanfield and discussions were had regarding being able to connect to their main line to serve the City’s industrial site. After reviewing all options with Trans Canada Gas and CNG, it was determined the best option would be to partner with Trans Canada and run 1,300ft of gas line along HWY 395. This had the shortest route, most cost savings, easiest easement access, and had the least complications, etc.

Mr. Rivera stated to make this option financially stable, the City would need a large volume user. Once this gas utility has been built, the City becomes an owner/operator of a transmission and distribution system and takes on a large amount of liability with this utility. Mr. Rivera stated he recommends having a dedicated plan, similar to HES’s plan, on how the City would handle this utility, with: a superintendent, contractors, emergency response, local training, qualified people who can deal with issues when contractors are out of the area, etc.

Mr. Rivera stated an application has been submitted to Trans Canada; an RFQ has been developed for engineering services; and a company has been chosen that can develop the City’s Management Plan to handle the reporting, updating, inspections, maintenance, and operations of the natural gas system. With all of this in place, once the City has a large volume user, and with Council approval, the City would be able to move quickly move forward with a natural gas utility service.

 

Mayor Drotzmann stated this original conversation was inspired by a developer that wanted natural gas and Pioneer also wanted more natural gas than they originally had and the City was not able to get it to them without a significant cost to them and the City. Mayor Drotzmann asked what the original cost was from CNG to the City to get natural gas to the industrial area.

Mr. Rivera stated $2.2 million, but believes this number was grossly underquoted.

Assistant City Manager Morgan stated another challenge with this besides the quoted price of over $2 million, but CNG would only provide gas to Pioneer Seed. So if another developer wanted to use gas in that area CNG would not provide them with services without another significant cost putting the City in the exact same boat as we were in originally.

Mr. Rivera stated besides the 3 large volume users, there are about 27 other industrial low volume users.

Mayor Drotzmann asked if it would be beneficial to pull all users together and follow through with completing the utility at this time.

City Manager Smith stated staff recommends waiting for a large volume user to stabilize the system instead of getting all smaller users together. Waiting for this large volume user would be a financially wiser choice.

The Council asked how long this process would take if a large volume user needed natural gas services.

Mr. Rivera stated the City is as prepared as it can be and can quickly use the system if a large user wanted/needed it, with a turn-around time of about one year.

Assistant City Manager Morgan stated this process is very similar to when the original Regional Water System was contemplated. Having this plan ready is beneficial to the City when speaking with potential clients.

The Council agreed that it would be beneficial to wait for a large volume user to continue forward with the natural gas utility.

Councilor Kirwan stated it is great to have this investment in place for potential users. The Council agreed.

Mayor Drotzmann ended the work session at 6:55pm. The Councilors took a short break before the regular City Council meeting convened at 7:00 pm.


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