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Letter: Transparency needed about how county divvies SIP funds

Published on January 23, 2018 3:51PM

On Jan. 2 I attended a regular Port Commission meeting at the Port of Umatilla. I was there as a representative of the Umatilla Hospital District #1 hoping to gain an understanding of how the strategic investment program (SIP) money would be allocated.

The funds will be paid by Vadata Inc. as part of a 15-year tax abatement program for the three Vadata projects. Two of the projects, the McNary and the Bonney property located west of Lind Road, are in city limits.

The hospital board received a letter dated Dec. 7 from Umatilla County Counsel Doug Olsen, along with an agreement he expected the district to sign. The letter indicated that the district would receive a portion of the community service fee. However, the letter did not explain how the county will calculate the fees or how the fees will be shared among the districts in the two code areas. (The letter also did not accurately explain how much tax revenue the district would lose as a result of the SIP agreement.)

Many public service districts are impacted by the SIP agreement. The county is responsible by law to administer the funds. Umatilla County, the city of Umatilla, Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District and Umatilla Fire District #1, the Hermiston Cemetery District, Umatilla Special Library District, West Umatilla Mosquito District Control District, Umatilla Morrow Radio & Data District and the Port of Umatilla will all receive funds.

My reason for writing this letter is to question why the city and the districts were not included in negotiating how the funds are to be distributed and how the county commissioners arrived at the formula that was used.’

Darla Huxel, board chair of the Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District, asked this question at the Port meeting and was told by Olsen and County Assessor Paul Chalmers that county could not answer the question since she is a city employee and the city had retained an attorney to negotiate with the county. That opened up more questions as to why attorneys are involved and why the county is not being transparent.

In my opinion all stake holders should have been involved. The lack of transparency is disturbing. Let’s call a meeting to get answers to these questions and hold the county commissioners accountable.

Danice McBee



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