Why should Umatilla County buy the Broun Building?
That's the central question facing commissioners this week as they finalize next year's budget.
It appears the decision to borrow $600,000 for the purchase of the 8,000 square foot building in Hermiston - plus another $100,000 for roof repair and other renovations - hinges on Commissioner Bill Hansell of Athena.
Commissioner Dennis Doherty of Hermiston is a strong proponent of buying the Broun Building, which the county could use to expand the fairgrounds.
Commissioner Larry Givens of Umapine appears not to favor the purchase.
If that's true, the deciding vote rests with Hansell.
The decision couldn't be in better hands.
Hansell has said he hasn't made up his mind yet. While Hansell has his critics (an unavoidable result of 28 years experience as a commissioner), he is an honest, thoughtful leader.
With the exception of the political wannabes, insiders and employees who closely watch every move made by the commissioners, most county residents are either oblivious or could care less about the decision.
That doesn't mean it's not important.
It will be a hard decision. Before we give you our opinion, there are the inevitable pros and cons to weigh.
Looming as the largest pro is the fact the Broun could be an important addition to the fairgrounds. Another advantage is the fact there are two renters, paying roughly $76,000 a year. That amount, plus $80,000 a year for five years from the Oregon Wind Farm, would easily cover the annual cost for the loan and other expenses.
The negative is obvious - this is not a good economy to be going into debt, even if you have a short-term source of revenue (the wind farm). There are other potential problems with the purchase. The building, even if it was appraised for $600,000, is an older facility - built in 1978. The renters could depart, leaving the county with only five years of wind money to pay a debt.
In addition, the wind farm money could certainly be used to pay down the debt on the Stafford Hansell Government Center in Hermiston or to build new animal barns on the current fairgrounds.
In the final analysis, we believe if the question were put up for a vote, Umatilla County citizens would reject taking out a loan to buy this building - even if its addition might benefit the fairgrounds. Hard-pressed taxpayers simply are not in the mood for spending.
Those are the core reasons we would argue the county should allow its option to buy the Broun Building to expire.
In turn, that would give the opportunity to the Hermiston school district, which has money remaining from its bond issue to buy the Broun Building and use it for administrative offices.
Our message for commissioners - now is not the time to buy the Broun Building.