Umatilla County Commissioners on Friday unanimously approved an ordinance ratifying the creation of the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center Authority, the next major step in moving the facility toward reality.

The intergovernmental agreement between the county and the City of Hermiston will create an authority that will “acquire, construct, own, manage and operate real and personal property to be known as the Eatern Oregon Trade and Event Center.”

There are still several steps ahead in the process, but most are considered mere formalities.

The Hermiston City Council gave its approval to the IGA in December 2011. The council is expected to adopt an ordinance ratifying the agreement next week, a process required under Oregon law.

Once both entities have officially adopted and ratified the agreement by ordinance, the county’s sale of the current fairgrounds to the Hermiston School District for $3 million will be put into motion.

The district has set a May 1 deadline for the sale to be closed. When the sale is closed, the City of Hermiston will be obligated to convey to the EOTEC Authority the 75 acres of land on which the facility will be built. The city will also provide water and sewer service to the boundary of the property.

The city will also be in charge of disbursing the $6.4 million lottery funds appropriated by the state legislature last summer specifically for the project.

The county, meanwhile, will convey to the EOTEC Authority the $3 million from the sale of the fairgrounds, as well as about $900,000 from the fair improvement fund and grant money.

At the time of the sale of land to the school district, the parties will also sign a lease that will allow the Farm-City Pro Rodeo and the Umatilla County Fair to remain at the current site through 2016 if necessary.

EOTEC will be the new home of the Umatilla County Fair and the Farm-City Pro Rodeo, but under the agreement, the two events could wait until 2017 to move to the new facility.

Supporters say that will give the EOTEC Authortity ample time to plan and raise the necessary funds.

The commissioners were in complete agreement that the trade center should move forward.

“It’s time to do it,” County Commissioner Dennis Doherty said Friday morning.

Commissioner Bill Hansell said, “As I look at this particular project, I believe the timing is right. ... We’re not going to have this opportunity again.”

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