Business & economy

With no public notice, rail reload center board moves ahead on interviews to fill empty slots

NYSSA – The group tasked to oversee the construction of the Treasure Valley Reload Center will meet Thursday, Oct. 20, to interview candidates to fill two open slots on the board but the public won’t be involved nor know who was chosen until the issue is brought before the Malheur County Court.

Two positions are open on the Malheur County Development Corp. board, including one that opened last week when Lynn Findley, a state senator from Vale, resigned his seat on the board.

Findley has served on the development company board for several years but has missed a string of recent meetings. He presented questionable information to legislators last month about the status of the rail project, providing misleading information about project funding. He has since not addressed questions about that September presentation.

The second slot was vacated last year when Randi Svaty, a branch manager of Northwest Farm Credit Services, resigned.

There has been no public notice the positions are open. The interviews will be conducted by Greg Smith, rail project manager and former Malheur County Economic Development Department director, and Grant Kitamura, president of the development company. Kitamura is general manager and part owner of the onion packing firm Baker & Murakami Produce Co.

Kitamura said he isn’t sure how many people are vying for a position on the board. He did confirm that Mike Walker, an Adrian farmer, and Ontario resident Ralph Poole are interested.

Kitamura said that word the board was filling vacancies was by “word of mouth.”

Kitamura said after he and Smith decide on nominees they will bring the suggestion to the county court for final approval.

“That’s what we’ve done in the past,” said Kitamura.

Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, said he has no issue with Smith and Kitamura choosing the candidates on their own nor with the fact the corporation did not give public notice that the public positions were open.

“Those guys are more than capable to choose who sits on the board,” he said.

Joyce said the county does not have a set policy regarding committee and board selections and interviews.

“You know if you are doing a budget board selection we try to pick someone from the area, from the county, you know, from Ontario, one from the west, one from the south,” he said.

Other members of the board of the development corporation include Kay Riley, the former general manager at Snake River Produce in Nyssa; Jason Pearson, an executive with Eagle Eye Produce in Nyssa; and Corey Maag, a Vale-area farmer.

The reload center is designed so onion producers can truck their produce to the site north of Nyssa for loading onto rail cars for shipment to destinations in the Midwest and East.

The majority of the funding for the project comes from a $26 million outlay approved by the Oregon Legislature in 2017, and two $3 million special appropriations, one in 2021 and a second one this September.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at

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