Wasco County will support matching funds for college; building codes decision pushed to Dec 19 meeting

Wasco County Commissioners made one key decision at their meeting Wednesday and held off on another awaiting more information. Commissioners did vote to proceed with negotiations with the City of The Dalles to see how best to use Google Enterprise Zone payments to help Columbia Gorge Community College match a $7.5 million state grant that would allow the college to build on-campus housing and a new skill center.

Whether the county will take back operations of the building codes division from the State of Oregon, which has operated it on a temporary basis since February, is still up in the air. A key factor is how the nearly $4 million on the reserve fund would be split among the counties that formed the former Mid-Columbia Council of Governments if the county were to take back the program. That’s because the county would have to build up the program from scratch, including hiring staff, finding a permanent location and providing needed support services. If Wasco County’s share of the reserve is fairly small, it could use up most of it in the initial setup and be left with inadequate reserves to support the program in any economic downturn.

If the county relinquishes operations to the state, all the reserves would go to the state. The primary concern is that the state has said it would close the office in The Dalles and attempt to serve the area from Pendleton or Salem. Commissioners noted their concern that such a move would hurt builders and homeowners in the area.

County administrator Tyler Stone has requested the state to provide details on the reserve distribution in order for the county to make a decision before the December 31 deadline the state has given them. Final regularly scheduled meeting of the year for commissioners in on December 19.