Hermiston residents hoping to hit up a new Ranch & Home store for Christmas shopping will be out of luck this year after the company told the city it won’t open its doors before its original deadline of Jan. 1.
The Hermiston city council voted Monday to extend deadlines until June for the outdoor lifestyle retailer after owner George Dress asked for a new deadline of March 1 to fulfill requirements needed to be reimbursed for some development costs.
The city had previously approved an agreement with Ranch & Home to reimburse system development charges, building permit fees and some sewer costs — an incentive package worth an estimated $107,800 — if the store being built on south Highway 395 gained its occupancy permit by Jan. 1, 2018. The agreement also stated that the city would reimburse the company $185,000 in road development costs if the company managed to recruit a grocery store to build next door by Oct. 1, 2018.
In the original deal, the company would be reimbursed 10 percent less — about $11,000 — for each month it missed the deadline, for up to six months.
The company has had difficulty finding electricians, however, causing Dress to request that the full reimbursement be extended to March 1. After Mayor David Drotzmann expressed concern that March would not be enough time to finish, the council voted unanimously to extend the deal even further, to June. Ranch & Home will also have until Oct. 1, 2019 to recruit a grocery store.
Assistant city manager Mark Morgan said staff recommended an extension on the agreement because the “major intent” of the money was to get Dress to begin construction on the development, and the January deadline was put in place to avoid having an open-ended deal. The city recently had to delay a project putting traffic signals on NW 11th Street because it received no bids from electrical contractors, he said, so “the city can certainly commiserate” with having projects thrown off schedule due to a shortage of electricians in the area.
He also said there didn’t seem to be a downside to extending the part of the agreement about the grocery store, because either no grocery store would come in and the city would not have to pay the road costs, or the city would get a new grocery store.
“The city can continue to recruit, but it just doesn’t carry the same weight as another business owner saying ‘I’ve invested millions of dollars here,’” he said.
Drotzmann said he agreed that the real intent of the incentives were to get the ball rolling on construction of the store, and there didn’t seem to be any reason why Ranch & Home would want to delay opening if they had a choice.
“I don’t think they’re making this up,” he said. “I don’t think they’re trying to stall by any means.”
Councilor John Kirwan agreed, noting that the company he works for, Union Pacific Railroad, has problems finding electrical contractors. He also agreed with Drotzmann that March may not be enough time, and made the motion to extend the incentives through June.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.