The most recent action by the Pendleton City Council regarding the branded “Farm II” project supposedly being led by Blue Mountain Community College highlights what little information has been provided to the public regarding the project. My discussions with those around the communities beyond Pendleton support that confusion exists as to whose project it really is, what it entails, who is involved, the costs, and, most of all, its benefit to the taxpayers of Umatilla County. And taxpayers needs to know when you consider that Blue Mountain Community College, the InterMountain Educational Service District, the Port of Umatilla and Umatilla County all have shingles hanging on the project.
The taxpayers of all of Umatilla County can also be a hero of the project but only if there is open and transparent dialogue regarding the project. To date there has not been.
No explanation has been provided as to why, if it’s BMCC’s project, the land transfer has been made to the Pendleton Round-Up? Do the taxpayers really want to shell out millions of dollars for project located on what is essentially private land, and if the project does not come to fruition have the same property remain in the hands of the Round-Up?
From information provided in the public forum, BMCC first had only secured $5 million for the then-$10 million project. The most recent figures offered now put the project costs at $18 million, of which only $10 million is in hand. While one would conclude, based on funding, that it is Blue Mountain’s project there is then confusion as to why the city of Pendleton, the Pendleton Round-Up Association and the Happy Canyon Company have all conducted property purchases and trades at their own expense in support of the project. Added to this concern is the yet-unveiled costs of operation and maintenance it will take to keep the facility viable over the long term — and who will absorb the operation and maintenance cost?
In the end it is glaring to me that for FARM II to be a success Blue Mountain Community College, the city of Pendleton, Umatilla County, the Port of Umatilla, the Pendleton Round-Up Association, the Happy Canyon Company and the InterMountain Educational Service District need the support of the public, the taxpayers, to make the project a success, yet they have left these most important patrons in the dark. The East Oregonian said it best in January of 2018 in advocating for “close examination” of FARM II, and I repeat that call now, as for 10 months such examination has not been provided. I say it is time for a series of public meetings where all the information, plans, needs and expectations of the project are brought to the public eye. Doing so will undoubtedly lead to its success.