Malheur County commissioner says he has no role in county land deal

Larry Wilson, left, Malheur County commissioner, at the courthouse in December. (The Enterprise/Joe Siess)

VALE – Plans by Malheur County to buy land north of Nyssa near a planned reload facility are on hold even as officials appear to be confused about who is overseeing the real estate deal.

The county has anticipated buying 79 acres owned by Nyssa Industries Inc., land near the location of other property bought by the county for the Treasure Valley Reload Center and a county-run industrial park.

Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, wouldn’t address the status of the purchase during a board meeting last week of the Malheur County Development Corp.

Instead, he said questions about the purchase should be directed to Malheur County Commissioner Larry Wilson.

Smith also said information about the status of a county appraisal on the property needed to go to Wilson.

“Commissioner Wilson is leading a subcommittee that is handling the real estate,” Smith said.


Wilson, who didn’t attend the meeting, later told the Malheur Enterprise that Smith was wrong. Wilson is a minor shareholder in Nyssa Industries.

Wilson said he is not engaged in the potential real estate deal of the Nyssa Industries property because that would be a conflict of interest. Wilson said he has recused himself from any county decision regarding Nyssa Industries.

“I am not involved in that. Where they are in the process, I don’t know,” said Wilson.

Wilson said he is part of a county-created subcommittee that is working on the improvement of 290 acres of industrially-zoned land the county bought from the Jim Farmer family in December. The property will be used for a business park with 65 acres set aside for the rail reload center.

The development corporation doesn’t have a committee focused on real estate at the rail reload site, said Grant Kitamura, the corporation president. 

The county executed a sales agreement in 2018 to buy the Nyssa Industries land, but closure of the deal has been repeatedly delayed and now is scheduled to close March 20.

“I abstained from voting on that (Nyssa Industries) just so, you know, no one could accuse me of getting something out of the thing,” said Wilson.

Wilson said he was not sure why Smith said he was spearheading the county’s action on the Nyssa Industries property.

The county court decided in December to order an appraisal of the Nyssa Industries land.

The appraisal has not been completed and the county isn’t sure it will buy the land, officials confirmed last week.

County Judge Dan Joyce confirmed last week that Wilson hasn’t been involved in decisions regarding the Nyssa Industries property.

“Every time something comes up, he says he can’t be involved,” said Joyce.

As to why Smith said Wilson was leading the real estate effort, Joyce said he didn’t know.

“Larry would have to answer that or Greg,” said Joyce.

Smith responded to written questions about his comments with a statement that any real estate “acquisition must be approved by a majority of the county court. Without their direction, I do not have authority to answer you.”

Have a new tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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