Local government

Legislators tell county they want an audit of rail center project

VALE – Two state legislators who represent Malheur County want an outside audit to be completed on the Treasure Valley Reload Center before they throw their support behind a county funding bid to finish the project.

The county recently submitted an $8.5 million request to the state to rescue and complete the beleaguered project.

In a joint letter from state Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, and state Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, sent to the county March 22, the legislators wrote that “because of history of the project and the taint surrounding it, we have reached out to determine the level of support for the request.”

“For the most part everyone wants the project to be completed but there are issues that must be completed before any additional funding commitments and support is received,” Owens and Findley wrote.

READ IT: Legislators’ letter

Who the lawmakers received the input from and when is unknown.

The legislators wrote that it was “widely believed a third-party analysis is necessary.”

They wrote a financial accounting should center on two key questions:

• Have funds been spent appropriately to date?

• Are appropriate financial controls in place?

The legislators also wrote they’d received input regarding the operation of the facility, such as the degree of confidence the project can be completed, the timeline for the project to be finished, the total cost of the project and a viable financial plan.

The two legislators’ letter also suggested six independent accounting firms as candidates to do the audit.

Findley and Owens also wrote they want to “ensure ongoing commitment from producers, operator, rail line, other parties necessary for the facility operation.”

At its regular meeting Wednesday, March 29, the Malheur County Court approved a plan to hire Zwygart John and Associates of Nampa to complete the audit. The county will pay the firm – which has completed audits on the project in the past – between $2,000 and $3,500 to do the financial review.

Whether Zwygart John and Associates can be considered an outside accounting firm even after it conducted previous audits of the project was a question neither Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, nor Ron Jacobs, Malheur County commissioner, could answer.

 “I don’t know. That’s a good question,” said Joyce.

While there was no timeline in the letter regarding the audit, Jacobs said he was “pretty sure they are starting on it right away.”

Joyce said he believed the two legislators wanted the audit done by the end of April.

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

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

Previous coverage:
A ‘pivot’ for Nyssa reload project: Court asking legislators for $8.5 million to finish the job

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

YOUR GUIDE: What is the Treasure Valley Reload Center?

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