Hermiston and Umatilla County elected officials called it a historic day for Hermiston on Wednesday after they signed an intergovernmental agreement establishing the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center Authority.

In a joint meeting with the commissioners, the Hermiston Council passed an ordinance ratifying the creation of the authority under “emergency” conditions, putting it into effect immediately.

A packed house that included U.S. Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, watched as councilors and commissioners signed the IGA.

The commissioners ratified creation of the authority March 9.

The authority will “acquire, construct, own, manage and operate” the EOTEC, to be located on 75 acres just south of the Hermiston Airport.

“The EOTEC Board will be the governance body for this joint city-county operation,” Commissioner Dennis Doherty said. “What we're essentially doing now is turning the project over to the board. The board will make final decisions regarding the siting, the footprint, the schedule, and it'll be the EOTEC board that gives the 'go' sign eventually when we break ground.”

The EOTEC Board of Directors consists of Doherty, Buzz Brazeau, Vijay Patel, Chet Prior, Ed Brookshier, Dan Dorran and Dave Bothum. The IGA mandates that the authority meet within 30 days of its ratification.

“This is a historic time for Umatilla County and Hermiston,” Doherty said. “Thirty years of waiting is over today. My feeling is let’s do it right and do it well for the next generation.”

Hermiston Mayor Bob Severson called it “one of the premier days in the history of Hermiston.”

Brazeau said the EOTEC Authority will next focus on fundraising in an effort to add to the $12.8 million currently attached to the project. A preliminary project plan prepared by Fishel CM provided two options for the facility: one for $22.5 million and one for $31.5 million.

Brazeau said it is important to ask corporations committed to funding portions of the facility if the authority can now announce the names of the sponsors publicly.

“We'll have a series of 10 to 15 presentations or more that we'll have to make to various funding sources about raising money,” he said. “The clicker just started as they signed it. We have 30 days to get everything focused.”

The county will now sell the current fairgrounds to the Hermiston School District for $3 million, with a May 1 deadline for the deal to close. When that is completed, Hermiston will convey the property near the airport to the EOTEC authority.

“Hopefully we can get it acquired as quickly as possible because that's important to anything that we do fundraising-wise,” Brazeau said.

Umatilla County will sign a five-year lease with the School District for the current fairgrounds, meaning the fair and Farm-City Pro Rodeo could remain at their current locations through 2016 if necessary.

The approval of the EOTEC Authority came just one day after the Hermiston City Planning Commission approved a fairgrounds overlay zone. If approved by the council on March 26, the fairgrounds overlay could be applied to the EOTEC land.

The overlay zone allows for agricultural buildings, a fairgrounds and a rodeo. Such venues are not allowed in an industrial zone.

“I appreciate the positive consideration from the planning commission and we're moving forward,” City Manager Ed Brookshier said. “One more step.”

Next, the Hermiston Council will consider the overlay at its March 26 meeting.

If approved at the meeting, the overlay zone will be official.

“Then you have to go back and actually map it onto property,” Spencer said.

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