The Umatilla County Commissioners should be lauded for being a partner in building EOTEC. They, the city of Hermiston, Farm City Pro Rodeo, and Fair Board saved the Umatilla County Fair.
Around eight years ago the County got an estimate of $8 million to $10 million to simply bring the decrepit downtown Hermiston fair site up to code. The county did not have the money and if the money was spent the site was still inadequate with absolutely no parking. The commissioners asked other county communities if they wanted the fair and if they could provide facilities. There was no interest.
Because of this, the staggering cost to bring the old fairground up to code, and a 30 year interest in Hermiston of moving the fair out of the middle of town, EOTEC was conceived as a home for the fair and much more. This was agreed upon by the unanimous approval of the Umatilla County, city of Hermiston, Farm City Pro Rodeo, Umatilla County Fair and Hermiston School District. An intergovernmental agreement was signed by the county and Hermiston with EOTEC to be built and jointly owned.
After years of daunting work, a new $17 million facility was built, giving the Umatilla County Fair a wonderful home and providing 95 acres of grounds for a trade center and the rodeo — $12 million of that money coming from the state of Oregon — money which would have gone elsewhere except for EOTEC being built.
In building EOTEC, the commissioners, city, rodeo and fair went “where no one has gone before,” to use a phrase from an old space series. But they got it built — with no real bonded debt.
But when you “go where no one has gone before,” sometimes you have to adapt to conditions when you arrive at your destination. That is what the county commissioners are doing. They realize that the ownership, operation, management and liability of EOTEC would be better placed with just one entity — the city of Hermiston.
While much county money has been spent on EOTEC to date, with more to be spent in the next few years, those sums pale when you look at the $8 million to $10 million cost of renovation the county was faced with — or the loss of our county fair.
We should applaud the commissioners for their realism and for saving the fair.