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Prosser planning for future growth

City eyes FruitSmart plant purchase

— City Administrator Dave Stockdale updated business leaders Tuesday on growth plans for the city during a Prosser Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

For about an hour, Stockdale outlined ambitious plans for the city, from upgrading infrastructure to expanding north of the interstate to improving the quality of life.

“We want a safe community, a healthy community and a vibrant community,” Stockdale told the nearly two dozen in attendance.

To fulfill that goal, Stockdale said the city has a five-point plan of attack — improve livability and quality of life, be financially stable, promote economic and job development, update infrastructure and strive for operational excellence and better communication.

During the program, he touched briefly on a variety of prospects and challenges facing the growing city.

Among those, were developing plans for a regional park, hiring more police, broadcasting wireless internet downtown, wastewater and irrigation improvements and more.

A task force comprising 10 residents is being formed to begin the process of regional park planning.

“Our task force for a regional park kicks off next month,” he said, noting the board will have to find land and develop a park plan quickly.

The city has a fall 2019 target date for getting the first phase of a park complete, he said.

While the board tackles park planning, the city is focusing efforts on expanding wastewater treatment capacity, replacing aging water lines and developing a new irrigation system in the city.

According to Stockdale, over the last couple years the city has spent $8.25 million to double wastewater treatment capacity.

“We reduced the stink by 70 percent,” he said.

But since the plant is already too small to accommodate increasing growth, the city is seeking a $2 million grant and loan package to buy the private FruitSmart wastewater system. Once updated and added to the city system, wastewater treatment will be increased another 35 percent.

“The city’s wastewater system is the weakest link” in growth prospects, he said.

Not far behind is the lack of affordable housing, he said.

Prices for land and homes in the Prosser area cost 2-3 times more than the rest of the Lower Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities, he said.

“There is a huge need for medium- and high-density developments,” he said.

Without more affordable housing, businesses wanting to relocate to the community are having to look elsewhere to accommodate their employees.

One way the city hopes to attack the housing shortage is expanding utilities north of Interstate 82.

The city is planning to expand a utility corridor under the interstate at Wamba Road, bringing water, wastewater and more, he said. The city is offering utility providers the opportunity to upgrade and install new fiber-optic, power, telephone and other infrastructure at the same time.

Improved utility service would open the door for development of a new 100-acre housing area along Wamba and Johnson roads. It would also open the door for commercial development north of I-82 near the Gap Road interchange.

In the immediate future, the city will be initiating a $1.25 million street project on Seventh Avenue, that will include fiber-optic lines, removal of unused railroad tracks and repaving. Once complete, the city will move on a $1.4 million project along Bennett Avenue.

The fiber-optic will provide a much-improved internet service to downtown.

“Our ultimate goal is to have free Wi-Fi throughout the downtown,” Stockdale said. “We could start broadcasting from City Hall.”

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