Local government

More money will be needed to finish rail reload center while construction remains stalled

NYSSA – The Treasure Valley Reload Center will not be open until next year and the county most likely will need a large loan to finish the project.
That’s the result of an engineering review of the stalled project and recommendations of the project’s new leader.
The 2024 operating date for the center is just the latest in a long series of delays for the project once touted as a major economic development engine for the county.
The project was originally scheduled to be open in 2020. That date has slipped year by year and Malheur County Development Corp. just weeks ago committed to the state that the Nyssa shipping center would open no later than November.
But the independent review undertaken by Engineering Northwest of Ontario concluded that costs for the project have, once again, escalated. The county will need not only $8.5 million requested two months ago from the Legislature but another $700,000 to finish the project.
That pushes the public investment in the onion shipping operation to about $40 million.
But moving towards finish faces a crucial hurdle – winning legislative approval of yet another state bailout for the project. A stalemate at the Capitol brought on by Republican senators is blocking legislation.
Sen. Lynn Findley, one of the primary advocates for the $8.5 million, is part of a walkout by the Republicans. It is unclear how the partisanship at the Legislature will impact the county’s $8.5 million request.
Meanwhile, construction at the rail center site is frozen because building permits have not been issued. Construction was supposed to start May 1, but a series of issues with the permits means contractors can’t start on the building. There is no firm schedule when construction would begin.

Findley’s support for the extra funding hinged on the independent review of construction costs. They have escalated steadily in the past two years and previous requests for state help were far short of what was needed to build the reload center.
He sought the review after the departure of Greg Smith, who served as project leader since 2017. He was replaced recently by Ontario attorney Shawna Peterson, who is serving as executive director of the Malheur County Development Corp.
Peterson briefed the development company board on Tuesday, May 23, on the latest developments. She recommended the county seek outside financing, including loans, to cover about $700,000 in additional costs. She said the money could come from conventional and government sources such as Business Oregon, the state economic development agency.
The loan, she said, would be repaid through operating income from the rail center.
The Malheur County Court recently put $2 million more into the project and continues to cover the costs for Peterson’s contract, interest in loans taken out to pay contractors, and other operating costs for the project. The loan, she said, would be repaid through operating income from the rail center.
Peterson said if the development corporation and the Malheur County Court approve her recommendations, she plans to send the $8.5 million request to Oregon Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, and Findley later this week.
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 September.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

Previous coverage:

County inks deal with local engineering firm to conduct review of rail reload project

Permit glitches impede progress on rail reload project

Surprise $2 million cost drives reload center deeper into financial trouble

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