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Rappel base lease signed

UC Commissioners also discuss summit


The rappel base set to be built at the La Grande/Union County Airport is going to look different than what was proposed more than six months ago, but the project is back in the works.

According to Shelley Burgess, Union County administrative officer, the rappel base is a joint project between the Forest Service and Union County. The two entities will enter into an agreement in which the county will get a $1 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation, another $1 million from the state and an additional $4 million loan from Business Oregon to cover the costs

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The rappel base set to be built at the La Grande/Union County Airport is going to look different than what was proposed more than six months ago, but the project is back in the works.

According to Shelley Burgess, Union County administrative officer, the rappel base is a joint project between the Forest Service and Union County. The two entities will enter into an agreement in which the county will get a $1 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation, another $1 million from the state and an additional $4 million loan from Business Oregon to cover the costs of construction, but the Forest Service will make the payments to offset the payments for the loan.

The building, which will house the local rappel team and its equipment, will be just under 10,000 square feet, about 3,000 square feet smaller than the original plan. The plan was modified to make it affordable for the Forest Service.

“It’s bare bones,” Union County Public Works Director Doug Wright said of the building. “But it’ll have everything the rappel team needs.”

During Wednesday’s Union County commissioners meeting, Commissioner Steve McClure commended Wright for his diligence on this project.

“Doug worked on (the plan) with (the Forest Service) to make it more cost effective,” McClure said.

The signing of the lease agreement will take the project to its final approval.

Based on the loan’s interest rates, at best, the county could make more than $73,000 a year. At worst, the county will lose $7,000, which Commissioner Jack Howard said isn’t a big deal compared to some of the county’s other projects.

“We’re losing more than ($7,000) with the golf course,” Howard said.

Wright said reaching this agreement has been a team effort.

The term of the loan is 20 years. The Forest Service is required to pay off the loan in its entirety.

“It’s been a long time (coming),” McClure said. “It’ll give people working here (at the airport) better conditions. This will help with economic development.”

McClure said the new rappel base will likely attract other aviation groups to the area because there are only five other bases in the Northwest.

At the meeting, Union County Commissioner Donna Beverage said the economic development summit will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Blue Mountain Conference Center in La Grande. Current and potential business owners can come to the summit and learn about what resources are available to them in the county.

“We’ll have people there to help,” Beverage said, adding there will be at least 10 presentations.

The Union County Leadership Committee, which has representatives from all the towns in the county, organized the summit.