LA GRANDE, Oregon – State Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) and Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove) met with leaders from throughout their districts in La Grande to discuss priorities for the 2019 session of the Oregon Legislature. The event, sponsored by Eastern Oregon University, saw a gathering of elected officials from Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties.
Umatilla County Board of Commissioners Chairman George Murdock and Sheriff Terry Rowan were among those attending. In addition to the county, Murdock also represented Pendleton Mayor John Turner who was unable to attend due to a medical appointment.
Murdock and Rowan shared the work of a legislative committee composed of local leaders. That group had been hard at work for two months to narrow down a list of 13 priorities to three. The members of the group include representatives from the county, the city of Pendleton, the Port of Umatilla, Blue Mountain Community College, and the InterMountain Education Service District. Other members were several past state officials who live in the area.
The three priorities are $5.5 million for the BMCC FARM 2 project at the Pendleton Round-Up Grounds, a $1.1 million request for major modifications to the Umatilla County Jail which serves four Eastern Oregon counties, and $300,000 for the renovation of a hangar at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton.
Murdock says the biggest project sees five organizations coming together to build FARM 2, which includes classrooms and an indoor rodeo arena for the college.
“It’s a joint venture between BMCC, the city, the county, Happy Canyon, and the Round-Up,” he said. “It’s kind of a win-win.”
Murdock says the jail is now holding 100 more prisoners than it was before Sheriff Rowan was elected. While the construction won’t increase the jail’s footprint, it will provide vitally needed room in the area of inmate intake and holding.
Renovating the hangar is a project that will pay for itself quickly, Murdock said. He learned that a defense contractor is ready to move in if the city is able to modernize the space.
“They’re talking about a five-year minimum lease at the airport with 40 total jobs just associated with this particular project,” he said.
Also at the forum from Umatilla County were Weston Mayor Jennifer Spurgeon, Athena Mayor John Shafer, and Milton-Freewater Mayor Lewis Key.