LETTER: Greg Smith writes to offer context for cost overruns

Greg Smith, Malheur County’s economic development director, is shown speaking in a meeting at the Malheur County Courthouse. (The Enterprise/FILE)

To the Editor:

According to Merriam-Webster, when something is contextualized, we mean that it is placed in an appropriate setting, one in which it may be properly considered. Perhaps, the good folks at the Malheur Enterprise missed that day of sophomore English class when they decided to begin their “investigative reporting” of Malheur County Economic Development and the Treasure Valley Reload Center.

Let me digress.

The Oregon Lottery was created through an initiative petition amending the Oregon Constitution, in the midst of the 1984 recession, to support economic development and job creation.

When folks purchase a lottery ticket, proceeds are in part to be issued throughout the state, in the form of grants, to fund positions and projects of significance. The Treasure Valley Reload Facility is the recipient of such a lottery grant.

Did you know that zero (again, zero) of Oregonians hard-earned tax dollars are being used to fund this important agricultural investment? Moreover, when the project is complete, Malheur County will have a $29 million investment with zero debt (and again, with the use of zero tax dollars) with a rail spur and hundreds of industrial zoned acreages ready to immediately serve additional tenants.

Now, let’s address “the elephant in the room.” The fact is Malheur County has $29 million dollars of state grant dollars. To complete the project we envision we need $35 million. This doesn’t mean there was mismanagement or incompetence, rather it means we can’t afford everything we want… kind of like a family budget.

I guess the next question one must ask, would the Malheur Enterprise rather $29 million be spent in Multnomah County? Their never-ending criticism would make one wonder. If these funds weren’t spent in Malheur County, they would have gone elsewhere, which would be a great loss for us.

Like any other grant, you undertake as much of the work as you can until the money runs out and another source of funding is obtained. For example, in 2021 the Oregon legislature allocated $3 million (again a grant allocation to the City of Nyssa) for a water line extension to the reload center and the neighbors in between. We would anticipate over many years additional grants will be pursued for the benefit of Malheur County…some submittals will be successful, some will not.

Back to the term “contextualized.” The citizens of Malheur County deserve to read and know about the important grant investments and the source of those funds verses the blatant mis-contextualization of the Malheur Enterprise.

Les Zaitz and the Malheur Enterprise, you know better. Accepting grant dollars to build our economy just makes sense and cents.

Greg Smith

Malheur County Economic Development director

EDITOR’S NOTE: The total that project engineers say is needed is $38.8 million, not $35 million as cited in the letter.