Doubtless many folks in Pendleton are upset over the news the U.S. Forest Service will move next year to Coyote Park on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
In one sense, the move is a loss to the city. Yet as Mayor Phil Houk noted, its also good news. Most importantly, it also must be seen as an opportunity.
The forest service has been in the privately-owned building overlooking Southgate Avenue in Pendleton for 44 years. From that standpoint, its hard to lose a great neighbor.
Houk has the right attitude about the move. He pointed out the jobs are not leaving Pendleton, just moving a few miles up the road. Forest Service employees will continue to live in and around Pendleton. Pendleton will also continue to be the primary source for shopping.
Forest supervisor Kevin Martin admitted moving isnt going to be easy.
This location has served us well, he said. We recognize that, for generations, the community has come here for information about their forest.
During its most recent two-year agreement, the forest service paid lease payments equivalent to more than $24,000 a month. The owner of the building, according to Umatilla County records, is Nora Peterson of Pocatello, Idaho.
The owner of the building certainly has ample time to find a new renter, or she can sell the property. In either event, the building will remain on the county and city tax rolls. So, from that perspective, nothing changes.
As Houk also points out, the old building should be a highly-lucrative site for a new company headquarters or a business that wants to relocate to a prime Eastern Oregon location.
An obvious question some are asking is why didnt the city get the forest service to move to the proposed industrial park on Airport Road?
Certainly a beautiful new building on Airport Road, overlooking the city, would have been a magnificent sight. But, it would have been an expensive site because the city would have had to pay to have it built.
Thats what the tribes are going to be doing, once its board of trustees approve, at an estimated cost of $3 million for a one-story, energy efficient building.
The cost for Pendleton would likely have been much because of the lack of key elements the expensive bugaboo known as infrastructure including water and sewer.
Frankly, the citys taxpayers would have been hit and hit hard, right in their pocketbooks.
The lease payments eventually might have paid for some of the initial investment. But, with the city owning the facility, the building wouldnt have been on the tax rolls.
Besides, its also a great project for the tribes, who have shown a savvy, progressive business attitude. Pendleton still benefits and the tribe gets a core piece for its expanding business hub.
Houk, along with Umatilla County Commissioner Bill Hansell, have made it a priority to work cooperatively with the tribes. He sincerely congratulated our friends and neighbors at the CTUIR.
Quite frankly Im very pleased it worked out that the tribes were able to get that project, Houk said. I congratulate them for their work on keeping the jobs in Pendleton.
Finally, its an opportunity for the city and its economic developers to realize that it must continue to expand its cooperation with the tribe. Coyote Park has its infrastructure in place and, for a variety of other reasons, has a distinct advantage as an attractive location for other businesses.
The city must use its proximity to Wildhorse, Tamastslikt and Coyote Park for economic benefit. We must focus on affordable housing, interesting and diverse shopping and industry and businesses that need and want to be in our city.