After trying for three years to sell the aging Wallowa Valley Care Center building or give it to a health-care nonprofit agency, directors of Wallowa County Health Care District are giving it to Wallowa Resources, the nonprofit promoting county economic development.

The board voted on Monday, Oct. 26, to authorize hospital administrator Dave Harman to negotiate and sign an agreement with the nonprofit. Wallowa Resources directors did likewise the same evening.

The district will lease back the Care Center portion of the building and continue to operate the nursing home. Other space will be used as Wallowa Resources offices and rented to other institutions, according to Nils Christoffersen, executive director of Wallowa Resources.

The 1950s-era building was the county hospital before the current facility was built and had been converted into the nursing home, but isn't optimal for modern health-care uses, Harman said. "We need to be out of that building," he said.

The district's long-term plan is to build a new Care Center elsewhere. The plan, already in progress, would transition from the 32-bed intermediate-care facility to a 60-bed residential-care facility. Eventually, the plan will require public vote for a tax levy.

The board voted in 2006 to give the 60,000-square-foot building on East Park Street in Enterprise to the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness, but the idea "didn't pan out," Harman reminded the board.

When the giveaway fell apart, the property was offered for sale, with no interest, he said. An alternative would be to demolish the building and sell the bare lot, but the value of the lot wouldn't compensate for the demolition cost, he noted.

By giving away the building, the district benefits county economic development and is relieved of the cost of building maintenance, Harman said.

Besides using the space for offices, Wallowa Resources would provide space to agencies that have expressed interest in renting, including the agency's for-profit subsidiary, Community Solutions, Inc., and the Energy Trust of Oregon, Renewable Energy Solutions and other community service agencies.

Some space would be reserved for classrooms and lab space for educational activities, Christoffersen said.

Other institutions considering locating in the building, Harman told the board, include government agencies and community colleges. Additionally, there may be space for visiting professors to live, he said.

Harman and Christoffersen said they hope to finalize an agreement by Dec. 1.

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