UNION COUNTY – With the Oregon legislative short session underway, Union County leadership is hopeful that a long sought after source of state funding may finally be allocated. House Bill 2635, as described on the Oregon legislative website, “Appropriates moneys from General Fund to Oregon Department of Administrative Services for distribution to Union County Fair Association for purpose of water and sewer improvements to Union County Fairgrounds.” If provided, this funding would cover all remaining costs of the Union County Fairgrounds Wastewater Project.
For those unfamiliar, the project aims to connect the Union County Fairground to the City of La Grande’s wastewater system via the instillation of a new water distribution system, the expansion of septic services to the fairgrounds buildings, the construction of new indoor restroom facilities at the fairgrounds, and the construction of a sewer lift station to pump sewer waste into the La Grande system.
Due to environmental concerns as well as the Grande Ronde River presenting a major geographic barrier, the project costs sit at $4,102,777 dollars as of the start of the legislative session. HB-2635 was initially approved last year but was struck down by the Ways and Means committee in June. Following the denial of funding, the Union County Fair Board decided in August to begin construction anyway and focus on expanding the wastewater network into the fairgrounds with the then currently available funds.
Things may change, however. According to Union County Commissioner Matt Scarfo, prospects for the bill within Salem seem positive. Governor Tina Kotek was, allegedly, even openly supportive of the bill when Scarfo recently spoke with her. HB-2635 had a public hearing on February 7 as part of the capital construction package, with various public testimonies in support being submitted.
In total, the bill is requesting $2,250,000 from the state legislature to fund construction. If granted, the City of La Grande has promised to provide an additional $250,000. Currently, the project has secured $1,602,777 in funding from prior bills, donations, and county funding.