The clock is ticking

Someone needs to develop a sense of urgency.

While the Wallowa County Fair Board and the city of Enterprise are gingerly working toward a solution to their impasse concerning right-of-way property to the proposed new hospital site in Enterprise, interest rates on a $15 million loan are going up at $800,000 a crack.

The Fair Board and the city, who to a man and woman are behind the effort to build a new hospital, should be burning the midnight oil to settle their differences. The last official communique between the two players was Oct. 7 when the Fair Board asked for a meeting while valuing their 35 foot x 1,320 foot strip of land at $165,000. The city had earlier valued the property at $13,000.

Fair Board Manager Randy Garnett is trying to set up a meeting between his board and the city this week.

The Enterprise City Council met Oct. 13, but did not have the Fair Board negotiations on its agenda. During the council's half hour work session preceding the meeting, various councilors were brought up to speed on the issue, but during the meeting itself, when something could have been done to remedy the situation, discussions focused on a fire engine and a new municipal judge.

More than once it has been publicly declared that the right-of-way is the last piece of the puzzle to putting together a new hospital package. With the right-of-way secured the hospital board could officially go on record in support of a new hospital, purchase the 15 acres of land which are targeted as the site west of Les Schwab Tires and commit to the federal government concerning financing, thus locking in the interest rate before it goes up another quarter point and another $800,000 (or more) over the life of the loan.

A compromise package has been launched by the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners which should benefit both entities. Water and sewer.

The Fair Board now pays between $2,600 and $2,700 annually to the city of Enterprise for water and sewer services. Why not reach a medium ground on a reduction or elimination of utility bills? Neither side has any money to spare and no cash would be transacted with this solution.

Granted, this remedy does not take into account the two small horse barns which would have to be removed to consecrate the right-of-way deal. The Fair Board does not wish to lose the income it receives for renting out that space.

But County Commissioner Mike Hayward has a solution to that problem as well. Why not pool resources from hospital backers, Fair Board backers and city of Enterprise backers to build a new horse barn on Fair Board property? It would be called volunteerism, not an uncommon solution to problems in economically depressed areas.

Don't misunderstand. Fire truck proponents and municipal judge followers have been active in the civil process for some time and deserve their positive outcomes. But the immediate need for a new hospital overshadows both in the sense that everyone is on the same overall page and in need of a speedy outcome.

We encourage the Fair Board and the city of Enterprise to settle their differences this week. If such cannot be done we encourage the board of commissioners to utilize their authority to negotiate in good faith for the Fair Board.

The clock is ticking.

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