The Observer in January 2019 spoke with local government officials about their goals for the coming year. We re-visited with some of those officials during the first week of 2020 to find out if they met their goals.
Imbler Mayor Mike McLean at the start of 2019 wanted the city to consolidate its animal control ordinances. Because the city was separated into two areas, each with their own ordinances, consistency about the rules was lacking and causing confusion.
One area, the Westenskow addition, which was annexed at least four decades ago, had an ordinance limiting the number of livestock, while the rest of the city had no limit. To achieve the goal of establishing a single ordinance, the city had a vote of the people to first dissolve the two individual rules. But the city has yet to establish one zoning ordinance so the animal control law can cover all of Imbler.
McLean said the reason the goal wasn't completely met is because things can take a bit longer to do in Imbler. He said because the city council doesn't meet as often it will take more time to get things passed, but he is committed to getting things done.
"We have to get it done. We don't move real fast," McLean said. "We try to get everything done one step at a time, without rushing anything through."
La Grande Mayor Steve Clements in 2019 said he hoped the city would conduct a study to establish the town's biggest needs for housing.
City Manager Robert Strope said that report is complete and the city now has specific recommendations to follow in 2020. Strope said the report shows La Grande has enough land to address its housing needs but the city may need to make changes to zoning.
La Grande last year also wanted to continue working on economic development through Urban Renewal Agency funding. Strope said some projects wrapped up in 2019, including updates to Countertop Solutions, Grande Ronde Animal Hospital and Steve's Outdoor Adventures. He also said progress continues with the URA's call for new projects, which he described as a "major tool for our economic development."
Perhaps the biggest goal the city met was establishing the train whistle quiet zone, Strope said. The trains that pass through La Grande are no longer required to blow their horns at each crossing, an accomplishment that has been in the works for more than 10 years. The zone went into effect just after midnight Dec. 27. Strope said the city staff anticipates hiccups in getting train engineers to remember not to blow the horns but they are happy to have accomplished this long-awaited goal.
Union County welcomed two new commissioners in 2019, Matt Scarfo and Paul Anderes. Both commissioners completed county college, a networking opportunity where new commissioners learn the ins and outs of county government.
"The best thing that came out of county college was the folks I met and the relationships I formed," Anderes said.
Scarfo echoed Anderes' remarks about county college and said having other commissioners in Oregon he can turn to for advice and guidance will be invaluable. The new commissioners said the people they work with have been the biggest help in getting established in their new roles.
"We have some truly great people working in Union County," Anderes said.
The county's goals in 2019 including commissioners attending city council meetings throughout the county, increasing membership at the Buffalo Peak Golf Course and establishing new businesses in the Baum Industrial Park. The county did not increase membership at the golf course but checked off the boxes for the two other goals.
Commissioner Donna Beverage said two new businesses — Romans' Precision Irrigation and Ethiopian Hands — finished building at the industrial park and plan to open for business in the next few months.
All three commissioners said they found value in being liaisons to the different cities as it helps them better understand what is happening across Union County. Each commissioner works with at least two cities, and Scarfo said the effort has helped bridge the gap between county and city officials.
"A lot happens at the city level," Scarfo said. "It is important to keep these things in everyone's agenda."
Another highlight in 2019 for the county commissioners was a visit to the White House. Scarfo said it was an honor to represent Union County and rural Oregon.
Wallowa County Commissioner Todd Nash said the goals for the county in 2019 were to work on the Wallowa Lake Dam and the Blue Mountains Forest Plan.
The dam was not completed, though Nash said most of the work will be completed during the winter of 2020 and the project finished by the fall of 2021. He said doing the work during the winter will employ workers during the off-season.
The Blue Mountain Forests Plan revision did not come to fruition. The U.S. Forest Service tossed out the project in March 2019 and late in the year re-started the process — for the third time — to develop a plan that addresses social, economic and ecological goals of the national forests in the Blue Mountains in addition to providing framework for future management decisions.
"We are developing a new plan, and doing it in a new way," Nash said. "Hopefully in the next two and a half years we will have a new functioning plan."
Eastern Oregon University
EOU's biggest goals for 2019 were to continue making education more affordable and accessible to students and to continue developing the university's identity as a rural university. Using its strategic plan, known as "The Ascent," the university worked on these goals with a variety of projects.
One project Eastern completed was the addition of a sustainable rural systems degree. Students enrolling in the fall of 2020 will have the opportunity to pursue an area of study that will develop skills geared toward local communities. EOU President Tom Insko said he is excited about the more experience-based, hands-on learning opportunities the school is developing for its students.
"It is about providing relevance and providing opportunities through the university for our students," Insko said.
Insko also said he is happy the university continues to provide affordable education to students. He said the university has kept its tuition increases lower than other universities, and the implementation of a free review process for transfer credits has helped provide access to education for students who want to continue their education at EOU.
Renovation of Loso Hall remains ongoing and progress continues on updating some of the performing arts facilities on campus.
Insko credited the success of the year's accomplishments to the university's strategic plan, which provides a clear vision.
Cove, Elgin, Island City, North Powder, Summerville and Union city officials did not respond to requests for comment on 2019 goals before publication. The Observer will provide information about the 2020 city and county goals at a later date.