The Morrow County Court awarded the Boardman Fire Protection District a Pacific Ethanol enterprise zone agreement fee of $37,320 every year for the next five years.

The decision came after much discussion at a court meeting Wednesday. On Feb. 18, the court decided to split the money among the Boardman Fire Protection District, the Port of Morrow, the Morrow County Health District, the Morrow County Sheriff's Office and the Boardman Parks and Recreation District.

According to Pacific Ethanol's contract with the county, the county court has the ability to distribute the money any way it chooses. However, Boardman Fire Protection District leaders and the court made a verbal agreement in April of 2006 to give all of the money to the fire district.

Fire district board member Don Russell and Fire Chief Marc Rogelstad reminded the court of the April meeting, and reiterated Pacific Ethanol's partnership with the fire district. To prepare Boardman firefighters for a possible fuel fire, the company paid for special training at the University of Nevada.

The fee was calculated based on the fire district's tax rate of $7.464 per thousand and a value placed on the Pacific Ethanol facility of $50 million, though it is worth far more than that.

The county court made the agreement when Pacific Ethanol was first negotiating its enterprise zone arrangement with the county. County Judge Terry Tallman said he remembered the executive session in which the subject was discussed, and that the court agreed the fire district would receive the money. To not put that agreement into Pacific Ethanol's contract was a mistake, he said, but the court was urged by its attorney at the time to preserve the court's "flexibility." Still, Tallman said, a verbal agreement should be honored.

"It was what we said we would do, and I would like the court to fulfill what we told them on that day," Tallman said.

County Commissioner Leann Rea said she was frustrated by the fact that the agreement was not reflected in the contract. And, she said, firefighters are not the only emergency personnel who would respond to a fire at Pacific Ethanol.

"I have some heartburn over the other emergency services being excluded," she said.

Rea and Commissioner Ken Grieb were not on the county court when it made the agreement. However, after studying the minutes of the 2006 meeting, they agreed to rescind the Feb. 18 decision and give all the money to the fire district.

Fire Chief Marc Rogelstad said the money will go into the general fund.

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