By John L. Braese
FAREWELL BEND – Many in the county have memories of the truck stop in Farewell Bend — the food, the bar, spending a night in the motel, gassing up the station wagon for a trip to the coast.
Since 2011, the property has been a ghost town of boarded up and closed buildings. A sign warns of dog patrols.
Now, a Georgia corporation is looking to bring the freeway truck stop 25 miles north of Ontario back to life.
Joseph Alee, a partner in the company that owns 42 gas stations and four truck stops in the southern U.S., said the Farewell Bend location is the first attempt to move into western states.
“We are planning on building a line of truck stops between the Idaho-Oregon border and Portland and then extending down to California,” Alee said. “Basically, we want to be along Interstate 84 and I-5. Farewell Bend is our first in the line.”
Alee said the purchase of the property should be completed in approximately three weeks and then his plans are to start working on the property immediately.
“They have already hired an architect, demolition company and a construction company,” said Greg Smith, director of Malheur County Economic Development. “The primary benefit of this project is it will immediately clean up an eyesore that has existed a long time.”
Alee plans to strip the existing motel to its foundation and build a 42-room motel under the Quality Inn name. The motel is scheduled to open in three months.
“We will add a swimming pool to the motel portion down the road,” he said.
The truck stop will take a bit longer as Alee sees it operational in six to eight months. It will include a convenience store, a 24-hour restaurant, laundry, showers, fitness club, drivers lounge, movie theatre, video poker, all open 24 hours and encompassing 15,000 square feet.
“We are trying to get Black Bear Diner here for the restaurant, but if not, we are also looking at Denny’s,” Alee said. “The truck stop will also have a number of fast food options like Popeye’s and Cinnabon.”
Alee also plans to build a 100-space RV park as well as a truck wash and repair shop.
“This is the right location because of the Port of Entry being right there,” Alee said. “Trucks have to stop here and it has good access to get on and off the freeway.”
The Oregon Motor Carrier Transportation Division operates the Port of Entry in Farewell Bend. All trucks exceeding 20,000 pounds entering Oregon must stop to be weighed and obtain a “certified” scale receipt before continuing on through the state.
Alee said the operation will employ 60 to 80 employees with the majority from the local area. As for wages, Alee plans on paying higher than minimum wage.
“We need to be able to keep employees so we pay a living wage,” Alee said.
One limitation on past operations, Alee said, was that the truck stop had been using water that was supposed to be used only for agriculture.
“We are in negotiations with the city of Huntington to have a line extended to the site,” said Alee. “It is about a one-half million dollar project, but we are going by the books.”
Smith said the company is getting no public funding for the work.
Alee is already working full time on the project. For the past month, he has lived in Ontario while arranging the purchase of the property and lined up contractors to starting work.
Smith is currently attempting to find crews for the company to start on the project.
“We are looking for HVAC installers and a solar panel installation company immediately,” said Smith. “This is a huge win for the property tax revenue for Malheur County and in addition to Huntington and other cities in Malheur County.”
“I really like this area,” Alee said. “I am anxious to get going on the property. I think people will be impressed with what we accomplish.”
Have a news tip? Contact reporter John L. Braese at 541-473-3377 or [email protected].