City takes over ownership of EOTEC

The Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center is now under full ownership of the city of Hermiston.

The Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center is officially the city of Hermiston’s.

After the Umatilla County board of commissioners voted to withdraw from the joint project last week, the Hermiston city council voted Monday to approve the deal, taking on full ownership and liability for EOTEC in the hopes that the switch will help the center run more efficiently and cut down on the amount of hoops other organizations have to jump through when dealing with EOTEC.

“As my Scottish grandmother used to remind me, too many cooks spoil the broth,” said commissioner George Murdock.

Representatives of the city and county alike took pains to stress that the breakup was an amicable one.

“You are part of Umatilla County and own the home of one of our biggest events and so obviously we want you to be successful,” Murdock told the council.

As a result, the county is still living up to its share of several costs of EOTEC in the deal, the components of which include:

•The city takes full ownership of EOTEC and the land it is on

•The city takes ownership of Ott and Airport roads after the county improves them to a certain standard, with the help of $1.5 million from the state’s transportation package.

•The city pays half of the cost of building office/storage space for the Umatilla County Fair, up to $250,000.

•The county pays an annual contribution of $75,000 per year for operations through 2022 and an additional $160,574 in 2018 for expected operational losses.

•The county pays $105,000 to cover its half of construction budget overruns.

•The county pays $595,000 by June 1 to provide half the cost VenuWorks estimates for fully equipping the facility.

•The county agrees to loan the city up to $500,000 for EOTEC if needed in the future.

•The fair lease increases from $10,000 annually to $100,000 annually for the use of the fairgrounds for six weeks each year.

The lease for the fair was renegotiated, and Smith said there were a few things that were clarified, such as the guarantee that the county can hold the fair appreciation dinner at EOTEC each winter. He said there were no plans to renegotiate the Farm-City Pro Rodeo lease.

Mayor David Drotzmann said the city was aware that the county could have just left the city “holding the bag” and was grateful for the county’s willingness to be a good partner even as they dissolved the intergovernmental agreement that first formed EOTEC.

“It was a great partnership and we achieved some awesome things,” he said.

Councilor John Kirwan said the deal represented the next chapter for EOTEC and said he was excited to see how it will grow.

When it came time for a vote on the deal, councilor Lori Davis made a motion to delay the decision for one more meeting, but the motion died for a lack of second. Davis did not explain why she wanted to wait. When a second motion was made by Kirwan to approve the deal, it was passed unanimously.

Afterward the council approved the first reading of an amendment to the city’s charter, adding an EOTEC advisory committee to the city’s list of committees. The committee will be made up of a member of the Umatilla County fair board, a member of the Farm-City Pro Rodeo board, a member of the hospitality/tourism community and two at-large members who can apply through the city’s usual committee application process. The city manager, the general manager of EOTEC hired by VenuWorks and at least one city councilor will also attend meetings as liaisons.

Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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