UPDATED: County project board slates Tuesday meeting on rail center

The Malheur County Development Corp. will meet Tuesday to discuss the next steps for the $26 million rail reload center north of Nyssa. (The Enterprise/File).

Updated to include more details on the next steps of the project.

ONTARIO – The local board that will oversee a $26 million rail reload center north of Nyssa met Tuesday to discuss the next steps of the project.

The meeting of the Malheur County Development Corp. was held at the Plaza Inn Restaurant. The meeting focused on discussions with AmeriCold Logistics LLC and the future requirements from the state for the project to move ahead. 

The seven-member development corporation is a county-created business. 

The state previously furnished the development corporation with general guidance on the projects next steps. Among those steps are tentative dates and estimated costs. 

Those steps are:

– Preliminary project plans completed and approved by a professional engineer licensed by the state, including an updated project schedule and estimate;

– Approval from Union Pacific for 30% signal design that illustrates the exact mileposts of the proposed switches;

– An agreement between project sponsors and a terminal operator;

– Documentation of agreement of fee structure and rates between operator and shippers;

– Updated financial statements based on the operator agreements;

– The amount and terms and conditions of any subsidy offer or agreement.

According to a draft document from the board, after the milestones are delivered, the state transportation commission will review them and then make a decision on releasing more money for the project. The transportation commission decision could take up to six weeks. While the milestones are straightforward one question – regarding a subsidy offer or agreement – remains unanswered. The Enterprise reached out via email to Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, Monday but did not receive a reply by press time. 

The Oregon Transportation Commission approved the taxpayer-funded project last month, nearly two years after local elected leaders began to plan for the venture. In May, documents delivered to state transportation officials showed local leaders were in tentative discussions with AmeriCold Logistics LLC to operate the facility. Since then, though, there has been no word on how far discussions with AmeriCold Logistics LLC have progressed.

At the rail reload center, onion producers will truck onions to Nyssa where they will be loaded onto rail cars for shipment back east. Under the plan approved by the transportation commission – which was significantly modified from its original concept – the county will also go into the rail car business, leasing up to 200 rail cars. Initially, a major selling point of the reload center was to be its fast, express service, enabling local producers to push their product to east coast markets faster than normal. However, Union Pacific reported last spring it would not be able to offer express service. The county has proposed a 60,000-squarefoot warehouse at the site proposed for the shipping center. 

While the commission approved the facility, the county won’t see a state check right away. The next step for the development corporation will be to sign an agreement with the state Transportation Department on fine details, such as construction and project deadlines. 

 Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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