Note: The Enterprise asked readers for their thoughts on the Treasure Valley Reload project, as work halted and financial challenges multiplied. Here are some of their views.
To the Editor:
I want to say thanks to the Malheur Enterprise. You are trying to keep all involved in the Treasure Valley reload catastrophe half honest. As it stands right now the reload board is over…? Well, over what? Hard to believe there has never been a budget. Or an audit to track the millions spent. So right now, the board has committed $12.9 million over the original approved amount. And there is little doubt that will grow.
Before this bungle began there was no survey to guess how many growers might use this center. Ten maybe? No one knows. There was no proposed budget. No audit.
So when any board member criticizes the Enterprise of having a negative slant-remember sometimes the truth don’t always please everyone. And the Enterprise has not been accused of printing misinformation.
William F. Alexander
To the Editor:
So the Onion Reload Project needs another $6.5 million – we are told by the incompetent, disconnected, blame-shifting, dissembling folks who have mismanaged the project thus far.
Economists call this the Sunk Cost Fallacy, the belief that since we have already spent $30 million (maybe more? who knows? certainly not those tasked with oversight!) that we are now obligated to spend more to “save it.” The $30 million is gone; it cannot be unspent. The only way to guarantee that the Onion Project will be over-budget, under-resourced and not ready for the 2023 harvest is to entrust $6.5 million of taxpayer funds to the same people and politicians who have consistently failed to admit to mistakes and accept responsibility.
Since this experiment in socialism – that is, using taxpayer money to subsidize the transportation costs of a couple hundred farmer – has pretty much failed, I would suggest a free-market solution. The County should offer to lease – for free!– the existing Onion Project (as is, where is) to the onion growers who would benefit. The only requirement is that the growers would pay for and manage the completion of the project, and pay for its ongoing operating cost. This would save at minimum $6.5 million in tax dollars, and would – in the best capitalist tradition – require that those who would benefit would pay for it. Win-win.
Of course, if the onion growers decline this generous proposal, that will tell you all you need to know about the real worth of this reload project.
To the Editor:
You have done your investigation and kept the citizens up to date. Maybe it’s time for the state to get interested in the way the money has been spent and the activities of the politicians involved.
To the Editor:
I have been following the Reload Center Story since the beginning.
A considerable amount of money has been spent without an end of spending in sight. I am led to wonder about management of this endeavor.
The managers of the Reload Center are working for the public and collecting pay at taxpayers’ expense. The managers seem to feel that they answer no one. It has been reported that Mr. Smith collects $9,000 a month for managing this program. Who supervises Mr. Smith?
Mr. Smith refuses to provide a full accounting of the taxpayer’s dollars that have been spent? What does he have to hide?
Does Mr. Smith continue to collect full pay while the subcontractors have been put on hold to receive the money they are owed?
A complete independent audit needs to be done to account for every dollar. It is time that the taxpayers receive this full accounting.
Full disclosure: I do not live in the area. I live on the west side of the state. I have supported the building of the Reload Center. What is good for one area of the state will be a benefit to the entire state.
To the Editor:
Not being a lawyer, I’m not sure what the normal course of events should be but I can’t help but think that when you have an Oregon state senator hiding behind constitutional immunity (yikes!) and a state representative who both seem to be very shady characters who refuse to be open and transparent about the use of public funds that they themselves have been entrusted with, it seems to me that it’s time to go outside of the county and petition for a state grand jury investigation.
Also, you have a county judge involved at least peripherally, so it seems logical to that you would want to circumvent local jurisdiction.
Obviously there has to be some sort of skullduggery involved, why else would they all be so elusive and secretive? A state senator hiding behind constitutional immunity? I didn’t even know such a thing was possible. You know what they say, “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck!”
Thanks for the fantastic reporting,
To the Editor:
As last week’s Enterprise reported, the onion reload center project manager, Greg Smith, and his hired engineer, Brad Baird, finally revealed some numbers about a project now years behind schedule. Speaking at Smith’s direction, Baird presented a one-page “budget analysis” to the MCDC Board created to run this public money project.
From end to end, Baird’s report in the public meeting (recorded on Zoom) was bizarre.
Responding to questions from the Board as he talked through each item on the “budget analysis,” Baird raised troubling doubts about every line of the report. Between his waffle explanations and the vague line items themselves, the real facts about costs, contracts, and completion dates now seem farther away than ever.
The Smith-Baird one page “budget analysis” (published in last week’s Enterprise) does make one thing very clear: there may be a lot more going on here than inept bumbling. Baird is the president of a long-time Eastern Oregon engineering firm whose website claims they are expert at project pricing and construction engineering. Smith, a budget committee vice-chair in Salem, is an experienced budget reader-writer.
Why do they continue to turn in work that would embarrass a freshman FFA student? A farmer couldn’t get money from a bank to build a chicken coop with the kind of insistent incompetence on display with the reload center.
Citizen taxpayers need more than a one-page “analysis.” The Smith-Baird report to the board suggests the reload center’s problems may run beyond mere mistakes and misjudgments. This long cascade of problematic business relationships, contract and construction missteps, and compliant oversight, compounded by practices of managing information about the project by limiting public disclosure, should invite a forensic audit and an immediate legal investigation by Oregon’s attorney general.
Larry Seaquist, U.S. Navy captain (Ret.)
Note: Larry Seaquist is a Vale farmboy and 1956 graduate of Vale Union High School. He commanded the battleship USS IOWA during a 32-year Navy career, and later was elected to the Washington State Legislature, where he served eight years on the House budget committee.
SUBMIT A LETTER: Send your letter with contact information by email to [email protected] or by mail to Malheur Enterprise, PO Box 310, Vale OR 97918.