County commissioner addresses Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Border Board

County Commissioner Larry Wilson, second from left, addresses the Eastern Oregon Border Board Monday during its meeting at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario.

ONTARIO — House Bill 2456 will be the first of the legislative concepts proposed by members of the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board to receive a hearing before a committee in the Oregon Legislature.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, would allow Malheur County to rezone land within the Economic Development Region from exclusive farm use to residential uses.

The hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. (Pacific Time) Thursday before the House Agriculture and Land Use Committee. Border Board Chairwoman Shawna Peterson announced at the board’s meeting Monday that she and board members Tiffany Chruickshank and Ralph Poole will be traveling to Salem to testify.

The four other bills have been assigned to committees but no hearings have been scheduled for them, Peterson said.

Those bills include HB 2453, related to a marketing plan for the region; HB 2454, related to occupational licenses from other states; House Bill 2455, related to expanding broadband internet access; and HB 2457, related to making more educators available to teach high school math and science classes and teach in career/technical education courses.

A sixth bill, having to do with the board entering intergovernmental agreements is being prepared, Peterson said.

Grant and loan programs

The board is also proceeding on the development of its grant and loan programs for allocating the $5 million appropriated by the Oregon Legislature for economic projects.

On Monday, the board took public comment about how the money should be allocated and possible uses.

Kit Kamo, executive director of the Snake River Economic Development Alliance, suggested that a revolving loan fund could be set fund to help businesses and other entities which may not qualify for other loans programs.

But, on the opposite side John Faw, local Realtor, said, “I would hate to see you be a lender,” noting there are already loans programs available.

Larry Wilson, Malheur County commissioner, suggested there should be a focusing on bringing more housing to the region, commenting there is more houses being built on the Idaho side than on the Oregon side.

Shawn Reynolds, executive director of Giggles and Grace Early Learning Center, in Ontario, said there is a need to expand his program to serve more families, as a lack of child care hinders parents from taking employment.

Extension Agent Barbara Brody said the boards needs to help business in the smaller communities in the border region. This was echoed by Brent Ishida, who said Adrian needs help on taking advantage of the traffic which goes through the community, particularly that which comes from Idaho on its way to the Owyhee Reservoir or the river.

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Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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