>La Grande Observer | Union and Wallowa Counties' News Leader

La Grande, OR forecast
& Eastern Oregon University Valley Cam

http://tinyurl.com/n2723qt
Observer news NE Oregon Classifieds Web
web powered by Web Search Powered by Google

Follow LaGrandeObserver.com

Today's front page

Image of The Observer's Front Page

Get Home Delivery of The Observer for only $8.50 per month, $9.50 for motor routes. Just click here and after filling out one simple and secure online form you could be on your way to learning more information about local, state and world news.

manage your account »

Recent article comments

Powered by Disqus

Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow COUNTY MOVES TO RESEARCH PHASE IN RAIL LINE TALKS

COUNTY MOVES TO RESEARCH PHASE IN RAIL LINE TALKS

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Union County moved one step closer Tuesday to buying a railroad.

The county commissioners voted to enter a confidential agreement with Idaho Northern Pacific Railroad to begin negotiations to buy the line running from La Grande to Joseph. The decision followed an executive (closed) commission meeting.

The purchase is far from a done deal, but the agreement allows the county to research the railroads history and financial situation before making a decision as to whether to buy. Wallowa County was expected to sign the agreement, probably today.

The price of the line has been estimated at $15 million. Two years ago, the price of the line from Elgin to Joseph, abandoned by the railroad in 1994, was said to be $7 million to $8 million.

If the two counties can buy the full length of the line, which hauls freight from Elgin to La Grande, the railroad can generate revenue to pay for maintenance and, perhaps, part of the purchase price.

Rio Grande Railroad of Fort Worth, Texas, owner of Idaho Northern Pacific, has consistently insisted that negotiations take place in confidence. The counties would not say how much, if any, money has been placed in escrow while the negotiations continue.

A consultant, Gary Hunter, has contracted with the counties to research the railroad records, including its financial condition. Union County Commissioner John Howard said Tuesday that the counties will pay between $25,000 and $35,000 for the research.

Weve not set a specific amount, he said.

The 2001 Oregon Legislature voted to allow $2 million from lottery bonds to help the counties buy the line, but those funds will not be released until after the Oregon Supreme Court rules on a challenge to the lotterys legality. Some state funds are expected to be loaned to the counties for the negotiating process.

Commissioner Steve McClure said after Tuesdays meeting that he has been talking about federal funding with the states delegation in Congress.

I think there is an opportunity for funding for short-line railroads, McClure said. It might be difficult for us to get $15 million.

The commissioners have consistently said that property tax dollars will not be used to either buy or maintain the railroad. If federal and state funds are not available, the counties will not buy the railroad, they have said.

Howard, who has led the effort to purchase the line, said the state funds will be used for the preliminary research. He did not say how the research would be funded if the county decides not to buy the railroad.

The county has hired La Grande lawyer Ray Baum to represent the counties in the negotiations.

I can assure the people of Union County that we are not spending their property tax dollars on this project, Howard said.

Howard and McClure said the decision to try to buy the rail line was based on the threat of abandonment in Wallowa County.

Wallowa County has been significantly impacted by the federal timber policies, McClure said. This (purchase) is probably not as important to us as it is to Wallowa County. Once (the railroad) goes, the chances of getting it back are pretty slim.

A preliminary decision on the purchase is expected by the end of March.

 
blog comments powered by Disqus
News
Local / Sports / Business / State / National / Obituaries / Public Notices
Opinion
Editorials / Letters / Guest Columns / Columnists
Features
Outdoors / Ag / Spiritual / Go Magazine / Portraits
Classifieds
View all classifieds / Jobs / Autos / Real Estate / Rentals / Place an Ad
The Observer
About / Contact / Commercial Printing / Subscriptions / Terms of Use / Site Map
Also Online
Photo Reprints / Slideshows / Weather and Valley Cam / /index.php?option=com_rss&feed=RSS2.0&no_html=1">RSS Feed ?> RSS Feed

Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Follow La Grande Observer headlines on Twitter

© Copyright 2001 - 2014 Western Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. By Using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

LaGrandeObserver.com works best with the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari