Local government

County court approves $2 million in bailout funds for Treasure Valley Reload Center

VALE – The Malheur County Court agreed to hand out $2 million in bailout funds to help build a fourth rail spur for the Treasure Valley Reload Center.

The court voted unanimously on Wednesday, Dec. 14, to provide the money to the Malheur County Development Corp., the company set up by county commissioners to oversee the reload center. The court includes Judge Dan Joyce and Commissioners Don Hodge and Ron Jacobs.

The development corporation asked for the bailout funds Nov. 2 but the court declined then to make a final decision on the matter, seeking more information.

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 county money is part of the development corporation’s effort to find $4.5 million soon to keep work progressing on the shipping center.

The fourth rail spur, dubbed Track C, is seen by corporation officials as vital because Union Pacific Railroad will only serve the shipping depot if the spur is installed. Project leaders last April decided they would put off the rail spur for three years because they were short of money.

Brad Baird, project lead engineer and president of Anderson Perry & Associates, along with Grant Kitamura, president of the development corporation, Greg Smith, a Heppner contractor managing the reload center and Ryan Bailey, Smith’s aide, were on hand to brief the court.

Jacobs said before he voted to approve the funding request that he wanted the development corporation “to try to secure additional funds to compelte this project.”

Jacobs said he also wanted the development corporation to send all invoices for the work on Track C to the county before it pays out money for the rail work.

Even with the $2 million from the county, the development corporation is still short of closing an estimated $8 million in project costs that exceed its original budget of $26 million.

Last week, the development corporation made a request for $1.5 million from the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board. The board took no action on the request to help the beleaguered reload center.

Project managers also have listed a proposal to get $1 million from “other” sources, that Smith previously said was a certainty.

At the Dec. 14 meeting, Smith, who participated via Zoom, said he could acquire the $1 million via “other funding streams” including one from a “partner” who wished to remain anonymous because they didn’t want to  “to be on the front page of a paper.” Under questioning from commissioners, he confirmed that the money would be a loan.

Greg Smith, project manager for the Treasure Valley Reload Center, appeared remotely before the Malheur County Court on Wednesday, Dec. 14. He helped make the case for an emergency $2 million infusion into the project.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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