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EOTEC faces questions on maintenance and management

EOTEC hosts the Hermiston Horse Sale Extravaganza in two weeks.
By Jade McDowell

Staff Writer

Published on October 3, 2017 1:38PM

Contestants wait to compete with their livestock in the beef barn during the Umatilla County Fair in August 2017 in Hermiston.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Contestants wait to compete with their livestock in the beef barn during the Umatilla County Fair in August 2017 in Hermiston.

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The Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center in Hermiston was not built for the birds.

Yet interim manager Nate Rivera told the EOTEC board Friday that birds are pulling apart the insulation on the ceilings of the barns and nesting in it. A bid for netting to protect the insulation came in at $196,000 and John Eckhardt of Knerr Construction said that even lower cost options would be “well into the $160,000 range.”

Board vice chair Dan Dorran questioned whether the insulation’s benefits are worth the maintenance expense to save it.

“We don’t have $10, let alone $200,000,” he said.

Eckhardt said the insulation serves to eliminate condensation dripping down, reduce the sound of the wind rattling the roof and keep a cooler temperature inside the barns during the summer. Rivera said it is easy to defer maintenance projects due to initial cost, but that often means more expensive fixes down the road.

The board wanted to see what other options were out there for deterring the birds.

Phil Hamm and Tim Weinke of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center discussed dust and weed control with the board, offering up the center’s expertise on what types of vegetation could be used on the unpaved, un-irrigated parking areas to hold down the sandy soil but not become a significant fire hazard for vehicles to park on during the fair and rodeo. They said if EOTEC could come up with seed, the center could lend some free labor and equipment. The board authorized Dorran to work out the details with HAREC and also voted to have a Department of Corrections work crew pull puncture vine by hand.

Logistics for EOTEC’s biggest event since the Umatilla County Fair and Farm-City Pro Rodeo were discussed at length Friday as the Hermiston Horse Sale Extravaganza looms Oct. 14-15. Rivera said in EOTEC’s current situation — with just a part-time, interim manager as EOTEC’s only staff — the facility isn’t really ready to handle that type of event in 2017. But Rivera said he made an exception for the horse sale because it is an event with a good track record in Hermiston that the community doesn’t want to lose. The sale is expected to bring in 2,000 to 2,500 people and generate about 500 hotel stays.

“This is exactly what this facility was designed for,” Rivera said.

The facility’s conditional use permit has different requirements for different sizes of events, and the board discussed whether those attendance thresholds applied to overall attendance during the entire weekend or merely the number of people on the grounds at any given time, which is expected to be 500 or less. They also discussed the need to have people directing parking and enforcing the restrictions that are in place for access off Ott Road, and someone from EOTEC to be on site managing those people and taking responsibility for issues that arise.

Rivera will be tied up with his other job as superintendent of Hermiston Energy Services over the next couple of weeks, but Dorran said he would work out logistical problems with horse sale manager Randy Hull and make sure someone from EOTEC was on site during the event.

The board also approved a $2,500 grant from EOTEC’s tourism promotion assessment funds to market the horse sale. Board members said the grant amount was coincidental to the fact that Hull was paying $2,500 to rent the rodeo arena, barns and pens. That fee was based on the price Hull had paid at the old fairgrounds, and board members noted it would likely change for future events after a permanent manager is brought in and a fee structure is created for the barns and arena.

A middle school leadership convention had requested free use of the event center in exchange for doing all set-up and tear-down, but Rivera suggested a $400 fee due to the fact that the facility is operating at a loss when comparing expenses such as contract labor for janitorial to rental revenue.

“It costs us over $1,000 per day just to open our doors,” he said, calculating the cost since July 1.

The board also approved some suggestions by Rivera for policy changes to address problems caused by evening events involving alcohol. He suggested an earlier last call for alcohol in order to make sure events wrapped up on time. He said the center should stop offering a discount for doing their own tear-down, since “drinking and exhaustion” was causing additional wear and tear on chairs and tables, and that renters should be charged a $250 fee for leaving their decorations in the building to be picked up later. He also said that someone needed to be supervising security staff hired for events, since “without supervision we’ve identified that very little work is actually being done,” including one incident in which security showed up two hours late to a wedding.

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



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