East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, December 30, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Page Page 3A, Image 3

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Saturday, December 30, 2017
East Oregonian
Page 3A
EOTEC, short on office space,
looks to VenuWorks for answer
East Oregonian
Contributed photo
Erin Biencourt and Ben Carleton moved to Pendleton from Grants Pass in May and
August, respectively, for jobs in the area. They are expecting their first child in May.
Starting a new family in Pendleton
East Oregonian
Ben Carleton and Erin Biencourt miss
the trees of Grants Pass, yet the couple said
Eastern Oregon has its own beauty.
They have been together for three-and-a-
half years. Erin, 32, arrived in Pendleton in
May to oversee child support enforcement
for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla
Indian Reservation.
Her first impression of the area, she said,
was “that’s a lot of hills.”
Those hills were green at the time, and
that reminded her of the novel “The Sea of
Grass,” which she said she read and enjoyed
in high school but now cannot recall the plot.
And the Eastern Oregon sunsets, she said,
“are really something.”
She was the juvenile and family support
prosecutor for the Josephine County District
Attorney’s Office. Josephine County voters
turned down a public safety levy, so she
looked for work elsewhere and the tribes
offered her the job. She recalled asking Ben
what he thought of moving to Pendleton.
His response: “Yeah!”
Ben, 31, said he has been driving through
Pendleton for years on his way to archery
hunting in Wallowa County’s Eagle Cap
Wilderness. Cutting hours off that trip was
worth the move, he said.
Ben arrived in late August just before
archery season opened. He is Pendleton’s
code enforcement officer, the same job he
held in Grants Pass.
Communication is the first step, Ben said,
such as breaking down legalese to everyday
Pacific Northwest English to make sure
people understand local law and its conse-
Our New
“You have to learn to talk to people,” he
said. “I don’t use force. I’m not allowed to.”
While he works for the city police depart-
ment and holds the title of code enforcement
officer, Ben is not a state-certified police
officer and cannot carry a sidearm for the job.
Words are his shield of defense. He said he
even took a course on how to quickly built
rapport with someone and de-escalate tense
“You work with people in the worst situa-
tion to make the best outcome,” he said. “So
you have to think outside the box.”
Encouragement and offering more rewards
than sanctions can help someone comply with
codes, Ben said, as can bringing in someone’s
family or neighbors to lend a hand. Ben said
he also had success asking church groups to
help and plans to do the same here.
Aside from hunting, Ben also enjoys
fishing and said he is looking this winter
for place to ice fish. He also hunts for shed
Erin is an avid reader. This year alone, she
read 75 books. Some of her favorite recent
authors include Louise Erdrich and Swedish
author Jonas Jonasson. She keeps a log of the
books she reads and devours the words from
tablet screens and bound volumes alike.
“I don’t believe in discriminating,” she
Erin is not quite the outdoors person Ben
is, but she enjoys shed hunting with him.
The couple also is expecting their first
child around the middle of May.
When VenuWorks takes
over management of the
Eastern Oregon Trade and
Event Center on Tuesday,
the company will be faced
with unresolved questions
about the project’s relation-
ship with its anchor tenants.
During a meeting Friday,
EOTEC board members
disagreed on policy deci-
sions regarding the Umatilla
County Fair, including who
would own improvements
made to EOTEC property
on behalf of the fair and
what responsibility EOTEC
had to provide office space
for fair staff.
Nate Rivera, who has
been acting as interim
manager of EOTEC, said
fair staff had been told they
needed to vacate one of the
two offices they have been
using by Tuesday, in order
to make room for Venu-
Works. The company plans
to have three staff on-site —
an administrative assistant
at the front desk, a general
manager in Rivera’s former
office and an operations
manager in a second office.
The fair employee who had
been occupying that office
was asked to move into the
building’s ticket booth, also
located in the administrative
area of the event center.
Board chair Byron Smith
said the longterm lease
signed by the Umatilla
County Fair only specified
that EOTEC would provide
two office spaces, but not
where those spaces would
But board member Dan
Dorran said the fair board’s
understanding of the lease
had been that the two
offices that were used by
the fair this year were being
reserved for their exclusive
use in the future, too.
“We’re losing office
space that was dedicated to
us,” he said.
Rivera said asking the
fair staff to move into the
ticket booth wasn’t a slight
board hired VenuWorks to
provide professional exper-
tise in running the venue,
including creation of a
business plan and longterm
strategic plan. It made sense,
he said, to let them come in,
get to know the project and
its tenants, and make recom-
mendations before the board
made decisions about things
like remodeling. In the end,
the board agreed to hold off
on making the fair vacate
an office and revisit the
issue during their January
meeting after VenuWorks
came on board.
They also held off on
making a decision on who
would own and/or control
improvements made to
EOTEC on behalf of the fair
or other organizations. The
livestock auction committee
got permission Friday to
install a system of panels
around the animal-weighing
stations to increase “safety
and animal-control,” and
last week the fair received
permission to install some
roofing structures over
storage containers on the
donated things are asking
are they ours? Are they the
fair’s? Are the EOTEC’s?”
Givens said.
The board’s next meeting
is scheduled for Jan. 26,
although Smith said there
may be a special joint
meeting with the Umatilla
County commission and
Hermiston city council
on Jan. 22. Rivera also
members attend the city’s
Jan. 10 planning commis-
sion meeting. EOTEC
obtained a variance from the
planning commission for
parking during the fair and
rodeo, but conditions set for
that variance were not met,
and Rivera said the planning
commission has requested
testimony as to why they
were not met.
Contact Jade McDowell
at jmcdowell@eastorego-
nian.com or 541-564-4536.
on the fair, but merely
an acknowledgment that
everyone using EOTEC
didn’t have all of the
resources and space they
need and compromise had
to be made. While he and
Smith emphasized the need
for EOTEC to operate
successfully year-round and
not just during fair week,
board member Larry Givens
said the “real purpose” of
the project was to provide
a new home for the fair and
the Farm City Pro-Rodeo.
“This can be worked out,
but I don’t want us to forget
the two main reasons for this
facility were for the fair and
the rodeo,” he said. “I don’t
want to shortchange them
because a lot of donations
were made with the fair and
rodeo in mind.”
At the behest of the
fair board, John Eckhardt
of Knerr Construction
presented an option to turn
the small first aid station
inside the event center into
another office by moving
its doorway from the lobby
to the office area. He said
a remodel would likely
cost about $15,000. During
the fair, first aid could then
be moved to the building
near the barns used by
law enforcement. Rivera
said security personnel for
events at EOTEC use the
first aid station as their base,
so they would also have to
be moved somewhere else.
Givens said the ideal
solution would be to have
a separate building for the
fair, similar to the mercan-
tile building the Farm City
Pro-Rodeo built on their
own dime next to the rodeo
arena. Then the fair staff
could have office space year-
round, especially during the
weeks surrounding the fair
when they ramp up to eight
staff. They could also have
storage and a conference
room they could use without
being charged.
estimated such a building
would cost about $700,000.
Rivera said the EOTEC
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Contributed and staff photos
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A Hermiston toddler lies in the hospital after being accidentally shot by a seven-
year-old sibling.
Continued from 1A
the car and stay there.
Sometime after, she heard a
bang and her son’s shouts of
“Mommy, mommy, the baby
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Seeing her son covered
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“Don’t leave things like
that in the reach of your chil-
dren,” she said. “I’m thankful
my son made it, but if it had
been off by just a little bit he
wouldn’t be here.”
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