VALE – Malheur County is still sitting on $10.4 million in extra federal funds but how it will be spent and when remains cloudy.
Since last year the county received $5.9 million through the American Rescue Plan Act and another $12 million through the federal program called Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency.
The county has committed some of that money, including allocating $2 million to build a rail spur for the Treasure Valley Reload Center.
The county also used $1.4 million to buy a warehouse for county equipment.
According to Lorinda DuBois, Malheur County administrator, the county still holds around $10.4 million in funds that have not been allocated.
Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce said in a recent interview that he had “no clue” how the county would spend the remaining funds even though some of the money has been in hand for months.
Last year more than a dozen local organizations asked the county to share the federal funds and help their local needs. In March, the county issued a moratorium on handing out any more federal cash, citing the need to establish an application process. But the process wasn’t put in place and many of those who sought money were informed they would not receive any money until the county prioritized its own needs.
The priority is to renovate county buildings, said Ron Jacobs, Malheur County commissioner.
“We are trying to utilize the money to better serve the people by upgrading our buildings and facilities,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs said in the past the county has delayed repairs and upgrades to its own infrastructure because of a lack of money.
Several projects, he said, will be financed with the federal money.
One project is to upgrade to the Malheur County Road Department facilities, he said.
“That is one of the major things. Their storage shed is old and dilapidated and their shop, they can’t get some equipment into it because of its size. So, we either expand the shop or do something else there,” said Jacobs.
He also said the county has a number “of buildings that need upgrading.”
So far, said Jacobs, there hasn’t been much discussion among county officials about using the extra money to help Pioneer Place in Vale. The skilled nursing and assisted living center in Vale faces steep financial challenges.
The facility has about six months’ worth of funds in reserve and officials are working on placing a measure on the 2024 ballot to extend the Pioneer Place health district in an effort to collect more money.
Joyce said he did not know where the Jacobs or Mendiola stood on giving Pioneer Place money. “I would assume there would be some consideration but to say exactly what it is, I don’t know,” said Joyce.
Jacobs said no one “wants to see Pioneer Place leave.”
Pioneer Place officials are scheduled to meet with the county court Wednesday, Sept. 20, to make another request for funds. Pioneer Place has already asked the court seven times for help. The court did approve $150,000 for the facility in August 2022. That money, Pioneer Place officials said, was enough to cover about one pay period for the facility.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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