Umatilla County Commissioners gave one of its members the OK to look into purchasing the building at 645 W. Orchard Ave. in Hermiston, more commonly known as the Broun Building.

The commissioners are assuming the $600,000 price tag for the building and surrounding parking lot is still accurate from a two-year-old appraisal.

Commissioner Dennis Doherty got permission to look into negotiations with Good Shephard Medical Services Corp., which owns the building, after an hour-long presentation to his fellow commissioners and other county employees Wednesday morning. The commissioners ununanimously agreed to pursue it.

"In this economic downturn I'm nervous for the county to spend any amount of money,"?said Commissioner Larry Givens. "But looking at the returns and what it will gain over the long run ... this could be a real significant opportunity for, not only our county, but for this Eastern Oregon region.

Givens and Doherty said they saw acquiring the Broun Building as a building block in the overall plan to improve the fairgrounds to a point where it becomes the regional event for Hermiston and the county. Getting the building fits in with the county's current effort to develop an official master plan for the fairgrounds.

Givens and Doherty also noted the county has a $441,000 federal grant to use for the fairgrounds within three years, and said this would be a good use for that money.

Medical professionals currently rent space within the Broun Building, something the county would like to continue. Though the county may move the fair office to the Broun Building, it would like to keep current renters and the current clientele coming in. There was disagreement in the meeting about how much revenue the renters paid overall, but Hewlett Johnson, county economic director, recalled it in the $36-40,000 per year range.

Commissioners also assumed the county will get revenues with wind development in the next few years, starting after 2010.

"We need to build the project around those revenue streams, one or two years out,"?said Commissioner Bill Hansell.

He said with the caveat that the county be aware of its revenue streams and how much it can afford, he supported the pursuit of the Broun Building.

The building itself is by no means in perfect shape. The $600,000 appraisal didn't include renovations needing to be done, including work on the roof said Jay Steiner, the county's maintainance supervisor.

"The roof is the biggest concern," he said. "It needs it now."

He estimated roof repairs would cost around $45,000. He said the building also needed a restroom converted to Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, which would cost $8-10,000. The parking lot would need repairs to some loose concrete, which would cost another $1,800 to $2,000.

Not all of it was bad, though.

"Most of the building is pretty nice as far as carpet, interior, window coverings, things like that," Steiner said.

Doherty has been working on the improving the fairgrounds for about a dozen years and Hansell said it's time to make a definite step in that direction - purchasing the Broun Building being that needed step.

"We're at a point now where we need to fish or cut bait,"?he said.

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