City Council Work Session - Minutes

Mon., Mar. 20, 2017

Mayor Drotzmann called the work session meeting to order at 6:00 pm. Present were Councilors Kirwan, Hardin, Beas-Fitzgerald (arrived at 6:20pm), Primmer, Myers, Smith, and Gutierrez. Councilor Davis was excused. Also present were County Commissioners George Murdock, Bill Elfering, and Larry Givens and County Attorney Doug Olsen. Staff members in attendance were City Manager Byron Smith, City Attorney Gary Luisi, Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan, Chief Edmiston, Scott Clark, Clinton Spencer, Bill Schmittle, Roy Bicknell, Ron Sivey, Larry Fetter, and Lilly Alarcon-Strong. News media present were Jade Mc Dowell of the East Oregonian and Michael Kane of NE Oregon Now.

EOTEC Discussion with Umatilla County Commissioners

EOTEC Board Report

City Manager Smith stated both the City and the County asked the EOTEC Board to come up with a recommended management structure for EOTEC. A subcommittee was formed to create the work chart attached with job descriptions and responsibilities for each position. Mr. Smith reviewed the chart with the Council and Commissioners.

There were some questions from the Council and Commissioners regarding the EOTEC General Manager Position and Marketing of the facility. Mr. Smith stated a Marketing Sub-Committee has been formed to address and focus on the future of this position and marketing strategies; the current manager, Heather Cannell, will be invited to participate in these discussions and apply for the position. Mr. Smith stated management companies have not been looked into at this time, but have been in the past.

Councilor Kirwan asked if research and comparisons have been done for management systems vs contracted organizations to take care of these functions, events, and day to day operations.

Mr. Smith stated they have spoken with a couple of different facilities with different management structures but have not done a comprehensive comparison.

Mayor Drotzmann asked if there has been discussion regarding the future structure of the EOTEC Board once the construction phase has been completed.

Commissioner Givens stated the EOTEC Board has not had this discussion; but, like the Council, the Commissioners have had this discussion as well.

Councilor Kirwan stated he feels like there are conflicting views on what EOTEC should be. There is a vested interest with all parties, but it’s more than just the Fair and Rodeo, and the EOTEC facility as a whole, needs to be successful as well, and the 60 and 90 day lockout periods in the leases will greatly affect EOTEC. Councilor Kirwan stated he appreciates all that the EOTEC Board has done thus far, but there needs to be more involvement by the Council and Commissioners.

Mayor Drotzmann asked the group what they thought of the organizational structure as presented.

Commissioner Givens stated he feels like the organizational structure will work well, but the Council will need to let the EOTEC Board run it as it is presented, because the County and City both appoint members to the EOTEC Board to make these decisions. Commissioner Givens stated EOTEC also needs to remain a regional facility, if it changes to a City of Hermiston facility, the City may lose support on further continuing the entity.

Commissioner Elfering agreed, and stated changes can be made to the IGA but need to be done so carefully to make sure those changes head in the right direction. Commissioner Elfering added there should be a financial limit on what can be incurred by the Board so both entities can be better protected.

Council Primmer agreed.

EOTEC Board Member Kim Puzey stated it is an open budget process, and both the County and City can participate, then there is a proposed budget and adopted budget process. And there is plenty of time in-between the proposed budget and adopted budget for people to give additional comments including both of these entities.

Mr. Smith stated both the City and County are directly involved in the EOTEC budget process. EOTEC has a budget subcommittee which he, Commissioner Givens, the County’s Finance Director, City’s Finance Director, and other members of the public are a part of. The Council is also presented with the EOTEC budget during the City’s budget process to review, amend, and approve as well. Finance Director Amy Palmer also prepares Financial Reports each month and the Board really reviews them, asks questions, and doesn’t hesitate to make changes when changes are needed.

Commissioner Murdock stated he feels like this process is sufficient and not of concern, his concern is the revenue. The City and County can balance the projected EOTEC budget but that doesn’t balance the ending budget; because eight months later, when expenditures outstrip revenues, then we’ll have to have another conversation. Commissioner Murdock stated he is deeply concerned about the potential liability the City and the County have with this facility.

Mr. Puzey stated he understands Commissioner Murdock’s concerns as the project is so new and both entities do not know what to expect. Mr. Puzey recommended that the City and County really listen to what Commissioner Murdock is saying, and that is, how big of a vested stake are both entities willing to have in the unknown. Because it truly is an operational unknown for an unknown amount of time.

Mr. Smith stated Commissioner Murdock is right, there isn’t any history to look at to project these items, but the EOTEC Board makes their best estimates to create, and stick with a budget that is approved in the open budget process. The City and County can change the IGA, but if the Board has to have approval from both entities to make decisions, then that completely alters the character and the intended function of the IGA for the Board, and will impact the operations of EOTEC. But there can be more of an effort made to strengthen the budget process where there is more communication with both entities during the budget process. 

Mayor Drotzmann stated both entities made a commitment to EOTEC and to see it through. We may not know what is going to happen in the next year or two but that’s where we’re at. The Board was created to provide oversight and that’s what they are doing.

Commissioner Murdock stated he has made no attempts to hide how he feels about this project, and knows he is not supported by the rest of his colleagues regarding his thoughts. He believes somewhere down the line, the City of Hermiston will be more interested in further investments and reshaping EOTEC to benefit it’s City, beyond what and where the County is prepared or wanting to invest in. The County cares about Hermiston, but also has 11 other towns that the County has to consider as well. However, he also feels that the entities need to interact more with the EOTEC Board as an owner and as a tenant.    

Mr. Smith stated the Board is trying to inform both entities more about updates to the facility by providing and presenting monthly updates at the City Council Meetings and County Commissioners Meetings as well.

Commissioner Elfering stated he appreciated the monthly updates.

EOTEC Board member Dan Dorran thanked the Council for allowing Mr. Smith to serve on the Board as he does an exceptional job. Mr. Dorran stated the image of what EOTEC was going to be has changed over time, but the Board was always meant to make sure that the facility would hold a successful Fair and Rodeo, and that is what is going to happen this summer. Mr. Dorran thanked all those involved in making this process a success thus far.

Mayor Drotzmann asked what an EOTEC GM would cost per year and if both entities would be prepared to pay their share. Mayor Drotzmann asked what the job description would entail. 

Mr. Smith stated he has not done a cost comparison, but to keep in line with the budget, the base salary for this position would be between $60,000 to $75,000 per year. And, as shown in the diagram, would be responsible for all of these items as well as marketing, tourism, and be a spokesperson.

After some discussion, the Council agreed that the proposed salary would not be sufficient for the type of GM EOTEC needs. An experienced GM would need to be paid somewhere in the range of $100,000 to 140,000 per year, and this person would need to start sooner rather than later. Mayor Drotzmann asked if the County is prepared to pay their share of this amount for this GM Position and what they thought about a starting timeline for this position.

Commissioner Givens stated he is unsure about the timeline, but understand the need and they would be willing to pay their share of this amount, but it would need to be for a person with experience.

Mr. Puzey stated he believes this is a great conversation but the entities need to decide what vested interests the two parties want to have in this project. Based on private fundraising efforts and in the newspaper, most of the support for EOTEC is based in the West-Side of the County, more so than in the East-side of the County. This should be part of the conversation as well as this speaks to the commitments of the broader constituents in the area.

Commissioner Murdock stated the County just finished their budget, but he believes the City and County should move away from the conversation until a proposed budget can be presented with the GM position included so that both entities have a clearer picture of what that may entail.

Mayor Drotzmann asked what the budget scheduled looks like for EOTEC and if they can present the proposed budget to the City and County together in early May.

Mr. Smith stated he will do more research on the wages for a GM position and have the proposed budget ready by this timeline.

Hermiston Energy Superintendent Nate Rivera asked that the Council and Commissioners strongly consider allowing a 3rd party to manage EOTEC marketing, as this has proven to have the best overall success. This was discovered when the EOTEC group toured other facilities ran by counties, municipalities and private 3rd party entities. These 3rd party entities have the networking connections that can market the complete facility.

Mr. Dorran agreed. And stated the EOTEC group visited about 15 different facilities in the Northwest and Northern California.

Project Update

City Manager Smith stated there is a lot of construction going on in the Arena and Barns. Both projects are once again on schedule. Landscaping, electrical, fencing are also being worked on and events are continuing to be booked in the Event Center. Mr. Smith proposed that he attend the 1st Commissioners meeting in April and give more details on all of these items. Two wells were drilled as the first well did not produce very good water, and the second well will barely meet EOTEC’s initial needs to have irrigation on the site.

Mr. Smith stated EOTEC held a neighborhood meeting and had a really good discussion about concerns the neighbors have. Mr. Smith stated the Board is working on addressing these issues.  

Misc. Discussion

Mayor Drotzmann asked if the County had reviewed the proposed leases that are coming before the Council in the regular meeting.

Commissioner Givens stated he has received the leases but has not yet shared them with the other Commissioners for their review.

Mayor Drotzmann stated he will not discuss the leases as all of the Commissioners have not been able to review them.

Public Comment

Christopher Wayne Airport Rd, stated he has concerns about the excessive noise that stems from the Event Center hosting events until 3:00am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The information that he has been told regarding his concerns is that he falls into a grey area, as he lives in the County and the Event Center is located in the City, and because the noise cannot be measured at a City residence there is no violation. Mr. Wayne stated this grey area is being exploited and hopes the City and County can come together on some kind of agreement to create an ordinance that addresses this issue and takes into consideration the neighbors around EOTEC. Because of this issue, his neighbors have formed a Neighborhood Association to deal with the matter.

Mayor Drotzmann stated he understands Mr. Wayne’s concern but as the City grows some of that rural space gets infringed upon.

Mayor Drotzmann thanked the Commissioners for attending and ended the work session at 7:16 pm. The Councilors took a short break before the regular City Council meeting convened at 7:22 pm.

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