Business & economy

Rail reload board seeks new members to fill vacant slots

ONTARIO – The board of local residents charged by the county to oversee the Treasure Valley Reload Project wants to fill two seats and is looking for interested community members.

Shawna Peterson, the director of the Malheur County Development Corp., said last week the board wants to accept letters of interest as soon as possible.

“I would like to move this along as long as there are good people who are interested who can contribute to the board,” said Peterson.

The development company would recommend new directors to the Malheur County Court, which holds the authority to name the directors.

The board of the development corporation has seven seats but only five have been filled consistently since 2021. That’s when board member Randi Svaty stepped down to take a position on the Oregon Board of Agriculture. Svaty was appointed to the board to fill a position left vacant when Toni Parrish, who at the time was the vice-president of Northwest Farm Credit Services in Ontario, stepped down.

The board under previous management and the county court have left the seat empty since then.

The other empty position was held by state Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, who resigned from the post in October 2022.

“I am not accustomed to a board functioning with fewer board members than are allowed,” said Peterson.

Peterson said the lack of a full board can create “quorum issues.”

“I think where the project is at a point where it requires some fresh eyes and input to make sure we are on track, two people who bring experience and expertise or thoughtfulness to the table would be good,” said Peterson.

“The skill set that I think the board will be looking for is someone with a development background, building background, fiscal background and a community background,” said Peterson.

Peterson said letters of interest can be delivered via email to [email protected] or mailed to P.O. Box 355, Ontario, 97914

Peterson said the letter must include name, address, contact information, a summary of educational background and work experience along with a brief statement of intent. Peterson said a brief summary of experience “relevant to the work of the development corp.” is required.

“It can be pretty short and sweet,” said Peterson.

Peterson said the board plans to review those seeking its recommendation to the county court.

The Treasure Valley Reload Center was originally designed to ship farm products, mostly onions by rail. A warehouse and rail spurs are the key components to the center situated on farmland north of Nyssa.

The project, though, is now stalled, as it has faced cost overruns and missed deadlines for more than three years. 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. The legislature also pledged $5 million more for the project last summer.

The center was supposed to open in 2020, then it was to be available for use by October 2022. A third deadline for opening – in April 2023 – was also missed.

Peterson was brought on as director in March, after Greg Smith, a state legislator from Heppner, quit the position.

Not long after taking over as director, Peterson called for a pause of the project. The state halted its funding in August, not long after the proposed operator of the center, Americold, pulled out.

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

Previous coverage:

State’s fund for rail center nearly exhausted but millions in costs remain, records show

A rail spur cast as a $2 million surprise was required in reload center plans

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