East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, May 26, 2016, Page Page 8A, Image 8

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KITZHABER: Website failed to enroll a single person
Page 8A
East Oregonian
Continued from 1A
cials misused federal money
and improperly commingled
oficial and political resources
to enrich Kitzhaber’s polit-
ical prospects. However,
Democrats on the panel
blamed the state’s contractor,
Corporation, for the website’s
problems. In their own report
released Wednesday, Demo-
crats say Oracle failed to
deliver a functioning website
and misled state oficials.
Oregon produced the
country’s worst rollout of the
new national health insurance
program. While the crippled
federal website eventually
worked, Oregon’s failed to
enroll a single person online.
The state had to resort to
hiring 400 people to process
paper applications.
The Centers for Medicare
& Medicaid Services’ “failed
oversight of the development
and implementation of
Cover Oregon resulted in
millions of wasted taxpayer
dollars,” the committee said.
The federal agency should
reform its grant and oversight
process, the panel said.
The committee said
documents and testimony it
obtained are consistent with
the indings of the Govern-
ment Accountability Ofice,
a congressional watchdog
agency. The committee report
also noted Cover Oregon is
not unique.
“Several other states have
had signiicant problems
developing and imple-
menting a health insurance
exchange,” the report said.
comment from Kitzhaber
early Wednesday morning
through his iancée, Cylvia
Hayes, wasn’t immediately
returned. Representatives of
CMS declined to comment.
Ken Glueck, senior vice
president at Oracle Corpo-
ration, said Wednesday the
company feels “pretty vindi-
cated” by the Republicans’
Glueck took issue with
the report by the panel’s
minority members, saying
Democrats never responded
to company requests for
meetings and conducted no
analysis of their own. Glueck
said Oracle would welcome
any independent probes by
the Justice Department or the
Rep. Elijah Cummings,
D-Md., rejected Oracle’s
claims they weren’t involved
in the investigation and said
evidence obtained by the
panel “reveals a company
focused on covering up its
incompetence and lining its
own pockets at the expense
of Americans trying to obtain
health insurance.”
In other indings, Repub-
licans on the committee said:
• Oficials with the
Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services applauded
the progress at Cover Oregon
and awarded the project addi-
tional federal dollars even as
the quality assurance vendor
rated the project as “high
• State oficials and
advisers “collaborated to
such an extent that the lines
between oficial and political
activities became blurry.”
Kitzhaber resigned in
February 2015 amid alle-
gations his iancee, Cylvia
Hayes, did private consulting
work for organizations
seeking to inluence state
policies. The report noted
discussions about Cover
Oregon often included
individuals with no authority
over the matter, and it
found that at least one email
included Hayes, “who did not
have any Cover Oregon role
or responsibilities.”
In their own report, Demo-
crats said Oracle “misled
state oficials by repeatedly
assuring them its work was
on track and on schedule
when in fact it was riddled
with errors.” The Democrats’
report also said independent
experts said Oracle’s work
was so lawed that the state
should consider withholding
payment to the contractor.
In March 2015, Gov. Kate
Brown signed legislation
dissolving Cover Oregon.
ROEMARKS: Building served as the library in 1914
Continued from 1A
high-visibility space at the corner of
Main and Second. They have already
heard from some interested parties and
said they welcome contact from more.
“We really want something cool for
the downtown community to go there,”
Neighbors said.
The Scrubs store, which sells medical
professional clothing, already leases
space along the Second Street side and
will continue to do so from the new
owners, and Neighbors said they have a
prospective tenant for the space north of
Scrubs. He said the second-story renova-
tions on that side of the property will take
place in a second phase in two years.
The eastern side of the building (where
RoeMark’s used to sell western wear)
and its mezzanine will be converted into
a reception area, ofice space and confer-
ence rooms for Simmons Insurance.
The 6,000-square-foot space will hold
administrative ofices and commercial
insurance, while Simmons Insurance’s
home, auto and health ofices will remain
in their current location down the street
at 702 East Main. Once renovations are
inished in November or December,
the company will vacate the space it
currently leases for administrative ofices
in the 400 block of East Main.
Simmons Insurance is a family-owned
company founded in Hermiston in 1974.
Today it has ofices in 20 locations, but
48 of its approximately 100 employees
work in Hermiston. Neighbors said
some of those employees have been
working from home due to lack of ofice
space, but will now have a desk at the
RoeMark’s location.
Simmons said the renovations that
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
The RoeMark’s building has been purchased by the Simmons Insurance
Group and renovations have begun to transform the former store into
ofice space.
just got underway will include about
$500,000 worth of new HVAC, lighting,
windows, looring, walls and other
“It will look a lot different,” he said.
Despite a complete transformation of
the interior, Simmons said the plan was
to keep much of the outside brick façade
the same, with the exception of replacing
the boarded-up window wells with glass
The purchase wasn’t oficially
announced until Wednesday, but
Simmons said as word leaked out in
the weeks before, people said they were
happy that someone local was going to
put the building to good use.
“Everyone I talked to is excited
because that is a staple of the commu-
nity,” he said.
The two-story section of the building
was irst built in 1907, and in 1914 it
served as Hermiston’s public library.
Later uses included a ladies’ boutique
and the ofices of the East Oregonian
from 1968 to 1973, when Roe Gardner
purchased the building and renovated
it, turning it into RoeMark’s Men’s and
Western Wear.
To inquire about the retail space that
will be up for lease, contact Josh Woods
at Simmons Insurance at 866-268-3796.
LAND: Building will cost $4.78M, open by winter 2017
Continued from 1A
everyone else as well.”
Not only did the port gift
several acres of land for
each project, but Neal said
they will also extend sewer
and water services onto each
lot. The area will have a far
different look than the rest
of the port, which is a 24/7
hive of manufacturing. Port
businesses make everything
from french fries and cheese
to wood chips and ethanol.
Neal estimates the port
accounts for roughly 5,000
jobs, though a whopping 70
percent of workers commute
elsewhere. That,
combined with the unique
and changing skills required
to ill those jobs, has created
the demand for local work-
force training.
Enter BMCC, which
will house its data center
and industrial technology
programs at the Boardman
facility. The building will
cost $4.78 million and open
by winter 2017.
“This is a momentous
occasion,” said college Pres-
ident Cam Preus at Wednes-
“We think this is just the
right stuff for the city of
Boardman and Morrow
Sixteen students have
already signed up for
the school’s data center
program, which is entering
its second year. Neal said
the port has two sites where
data centers are up and
running and more could be
coming “in the not-too-dis-
tant future.”
By having BMCC at the
port, Neal said they can also
help local students make
connections that lead to
good-paying jobs in their
own back yard.
“My job is to create jobs
for the people I represent,” he
said. “Now, I just have to get
them skilled up to be ready
to enter those positions.”
The BMCC Workforce
Training Center will also
host the school’s early
childhood learning classes,
allowing those students
the opportunity to work
directly with the port’s Early
Learning Center that will
be next door. Neal said that
facility should break ground
sometime later this year.
Because employees at
the port work long hours or
odd shifts, Neal said they
need a place for their young
children to receive care and
start their education.
The Early Learning
Center will be operated in
partnership with Umatil-
la-Morrow Head Start
and IMESD, and paid for
through $1.6 million in state
lottery bonds.
Finally, the Boardman
expected to provide another
shot in the arm for the
community. Nearly 60
percent of voters approved
a $12 million bond to build
the facility in 2014, which
will include an indoor swim-
ming pool, gym and training
Once again, the port
stepped up with free land,
The Boys are back!
Don’t miss this great
Portland area band!
Sat. May 28, 2016
8:00 pm
and even spent $250,000 to
move Les Schwab from that
location to a new building
on Lewis and Clark Drive.
Along with the SAGE
Center, Neal said the campus
was a good it and ills a
different role than the rest of
the port’s heavy industry.
“It’s about supporting the
area we serve,” Neal said.
“We think we’re striving to
do that.”
Contact George Plaven
at gplaven@eastoregonian.
com or 541-966-0825.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Housing costs driven
up by high demand,
costly regulations
Capital Bureau
A conluence of factors
— including low supply,
high demand, obstructive
regulations and inadequate
infrastructure — are driving
up housing prices in the
state, a panel of state econ-
omists and housing experts
told a legislative committee
“There are too few
units given the strong and
growing demand,” said Josh
Lehner, economist with the
Oregon Ofice of Economic
Analysis. “In such a market,
anything available at a
remotely reasonable price
and/or location is gone
instantaneously. The lack of
supply drives prices higher.”
Panelists recommended
a series of policy changes,
many of which lay outside
the Legislature’s control.
Local zoning laws, permit-
ting rules and even the
state labor commissioner’s
interpretation of prevailing
wage law for residential
construction projects can
drive up the cost and time
it takes to build units, said
Kurt Creager, director of
Portland Housing Bureau.
“Who moves to Oregon?
The short answer is everyone
moves to Oregon,” Lehner
In the past year, the
state has attracted more
newcomers than it had any
year in the past two decades.
About 30 new households
move to the state or are
formed in the state every
Meanwhile, the state’s
stock of affordable housing
has failed to keep pace.
Portland is a year behind
in building new units to
keep up with population
growth. The city needed
23,000 more units than
were built between 2006
and 2015. That combination
has yielded the ifth lowest
vacancy rate among the 100
largest metro areas in the
nation, Lehner said.
The economist said he
doesn’t know why the city
lagged behind in building
“Coming out of the Great
Recession, I know inancing
was very, very hard for
builders to obtain,” Lehner
said. “Some analysts like
to point out that demand
increases much faster than
supply can, given how long
it takes to build housing.”
doesn’t necessarily equate
to affordable housing. Much
of the new construction
is more expensive than
existing housing, said Mike
Wilkerson, senior economist
with ECONorthwest.
The median monthly
rent in Portland is $1,200.
In order to afford that, you’ll
need to earn 113 percent of
median income, Wilkerson
said. If the unit was built
after 2007, that price climbs
to $1,750. Nearly 54 percent
of Portland renters are
paying at least 30 percent
of their income toward rent,
according to Lehner’s anal-
ysis of census igures.
Increased demand for
construction work has driven
up the bids contractors make
on projects by up to 20
percent, Wilkerson said.
commissioner’s rulings on
prevailing wage also can
drive up building costs,
Creager said.
One is example is the
Yards at Union Station, a
built in ive phases in
downtown Portland. For the
irst two phases, the Yards
at Union Station developers
were required to pay the
residential wage to workers
on the project.
After Labor Commis-
sioner Brad Avakian took
ofice, he ruled the inal
three stages — which were
identical to the irst —
demanded a commercial
wage, because 20 percent
of the development had
commercial features. The
other 80 percent of the
project was residential. That
decision drove up labor
costs for the project by 25
percent, Creager said.
A solution to help reign
in those labor costs is to
apply a split wage rate to
such projects, he said.
Local zoning laws limit
where developers can build
multifamily units, and there
are few areas where building
multifamily units is viable
because of the high cost
of installing infrastructure,
Wilkerson said.
Panelists recommended
easing limits on density and
prohibitions on duplexes,
triplexes and garden-style
apartments in single-family
neighborhoods. Decreasing
restrictions on construction of
condos and prefabricated and
modular homes also could
help increase affordable
housing capacity.
said, low-income housing
credits need to be targeted
geographically where the
greatest need is, which is not
happening now.
Creager, of the Portland
Housing Bureau said, even
something as simple as
including cost control into
the charge of a city’s design
review commission might
help remove obstacles for
Last session, lawmakers
passed legislation to end
the state’s 17-year ban on
requiring developers to
include affordable housing
in their plans, a measure to
prohibit rent increases in
the irst year of a month-to-
month tenancy and increase
notice for rent increases
from 30 to 90 days, a pilot
affordable housing program
for smaller communities and
a measure to allow annex-
ations without going to the
people for a vote.
The Legislature also
poured millions of dollars
into emergency and home-
less housing assistance,
foreclosure counseling and
other programs designed to
keep people in their homes.