Fed bill brings $1.1M

A crew from the city of Pendleton works on the exterior grounds and drainage sewers Wednesday afternoon at the Round-Up Stadium.<BR><I>Staff Photo by Brenna E. Chapman</i>

The $410 billion federal spending bill will deliver more than $463,000 for improvements to the Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon. The bill includes nearly $250 million for Oregon projects of which Umatilla County will get a little more than $1.1 million.

President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 into law Wednesday. On Tuesday the U.S. Senate passed the bill by a voice vote. Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, voted in favor. The House passed the bill 245-178 on Feb. 25, mostly on a party line vote, though 13 Republicans voted for it and 18 Democrats voted against it. Republican Rep. Greg Walden was the only member of the Oregon delegation to vote against the bill.

Along with the Round-Up and Happy Canyon projects, Milton-Freewater will get $300,000 to treat storm water, Blue Mountain Diagnostic Imaging will get $95,000 for a telemedicine project and Blue Mountain Community College will get $285,000 for equipment and curriculum development.

"The bill lays the foundation for economic growth in Eastern Oregon," Merkley said in a written statement.

These funds are part of the annual funding for Fiscal Year 2009, and will complement the funding provided through the economic recovery legislation last month.

Randy Severe, Round-Up president, said the Round-Up Association and Happy Canyon partnered to get the federal money. The Round-Up will get two-thirds of $463,125 to help with its $10 million project to revamp the west grandstands, and Happy Canyon will get the other third to help pay for its roof.

Last week the Round-Up Association Board of Directors received news it was in line for the money, Severe said, so the board started planning how best to use the funds. The board has the plans ready, along with architects and a builder, but is awaiting notice of grants from private foundations. The money will dictate just how much the Round-Up will be able to accomplish.

Severe said the board will have to determine that in the next 30 days.

And while the Round-Up's share of the $463,000 is small in comparison to the total project's costs, Severe said every bit helps.

"A wise man once told me you never turn down money or food," he said.

Mike Thorne, who has played a lead role in the renovation effort, said in round numbers the board has raised about $7 million for the project. That includes what the board can support, grant funds and other contributions and commitments.

And while the Round-Up hasn't reached that $10 million mark, Thorne said given the state of the economy this is an impressive achievement "just short of impossible."

Thorne said one of the reasons the Round-Up has been so successful in raising funds in spite of the economy is because the Round-Up is so well known. He also said foundations have pointed out they have given money because of the mutual relationship the community and the Round-Up have developed over the years.

"We're still hopeful we can find some way to push this project over the top," Thorne said.

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