Individuals, businesses and government bodies booked the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center for a total of 210 events in 2018.
Al Davis, general manager of EOTEC for the past year, told the Hermiston City Council during its Monday meeting that if they take into account the 40 or so days EOTEC is out of circulation for the Umatilla County Fair and Farm-City Pro Rodeo, “we’re pretty busy.”
Last year’s events included 53 public events, 74 corporate bookings and 84 private events. The event center already has more than 100 events booked for 2019.
“If you’re looking for a weekend, you will be hard-pressed to find one,” he said.
Weekdays are more of a challenge to fill, Davis said, and he’s working on recruiting more business conferences, corporate trainings and other events to fill those days.
EOTEC is a good location for companies that want to do a training on the east side of the state, he said, but they have to know it exists. The venue offers some unique options — for example, Davis said RDO Equipment likes having trainings in the main room of the event center because the large garage door on the side allows them to bring farm equipment right inside the building.
The city is working on plans for an RV park that will give EOTEC a more stable source of revenue year-round. Davis said the original goal when VenuWorks was brought on board in January 2018 to manage EOTEC was that the venue would become self-sustaining between years three and four, and that’s still the goal.
The RV park was stalled from breaking ground in February after the city planning commission banned all new construction at EOTEC until an overflow parking plan was submitted and approved. Councilor John Kirwan said city staff presented the draft parking plan to the EOTEC advisory committee Thursday and plans to present it to the planning commission Feb. 27.
Kirwan said Travis Lundquist, who runs two RV parks in the area, came and answered questions about RV parks and “brought a lot of enlightenment” to the committee. Mayor David Drotzmann said the discussion with Lundquist and with advisory committee members was helpful.
“There were some great ideas coming out of there and I think we’re going to have a better project as a result,” he said.
During Monday’s city council meeting the council also approved a franchise agreement with the city of Umatilla.
The agreement allows Hermiston to install infrastructure for the Regional Water System in Umatilla’s rights of way in order to serve a project by Vadata — a subsidiary of Amazon — off of Lind Road that has been annexed into Umatilla.
Vadata plans to use water from the Regional Water System, which uses the Port of Umatilla’s water right and is administrated by the city of Hermiston, for new developments off Lind Road and Westland Road outside of Hermiston.
City Manager Byron Smith said the Lind Road development has since been annexed into the city of Umatilla, and Umatilla requested that Hermiston pay a franchise fee for the privilege of running water infrastructure through Umatilla’s rights of way. Smith reminded the council that Hermiston charges franchise fees to electrical utilities, telecommunications companies and others who use Hermiston’s rights of way.
The agreement the council directed Smith to sign gives Umatilla five percent of the revenue generated from the water system within Umatilla city limits. Smith said Vadata would pay the fee to Hermiston, which will turn the money over to Umatilla.
Kirwan made the motion to approve the agreement, but also pointed out that it would cost the city to collect and send the fees. He asked that the city’s administrative costs for the Regional Water System be considered in future discussions about rates for the system.
The council also approved a hangar lease with Gorge Aviation Services on Monday. The aviation company has been managing the Hermiston Municipal Airport for a few months.
The airport did not previously have a shop with mechanics to fix and inspect airplanes in Hermiston, but Gorge Aviation provides that service. Assistant city manager Mark Morgan said fuel sales at the airport are up by 33 percent, or about $62,000 since Gorge Aviation Services took over.
The mechanics have been housed in a private hangar, but Ross Brandt Electric has recently moved out of a larger city-owned hangar and Gorge Aviation’s shop will move into that hangar. About $80,000 worth of renovations are needed, and Morgan said the agreement before the city council Monday reduced the rent by about $10,000 per year for five years in acknowledgment of the money Gorge Aviation Services would be spending to upgrade the city’s hangar. Morgan said the money would be more than made up to the city through increased fuel sales from planes coming in for repairs.