Baker County Commission Chairman Bill Harvey and Commissioner Bruce Nichols say their decision to not extend the county’s contract with economic developer Greg Smith is based on declining revenue, not on Smith’s performance as the county’s contractor over the past several years.
Both commissioners also said they were not concerned about potential conflicts of interests based on Smith’s contracts as an economic developer with adjacent counties, or his service as a state legislator.
The Baker County Economic Development Council, which advises Harvey, Nichols and the third commissioner, Mark Bennett, voted Thursday not to renew Smith’s $96,000-per-year contract when the new fiscal year starts July 1.
The reason, both Harvey and Nichols said on Monday, is that revenue from a tax collected from guests at motels and other lodging establishments has dropped substantially over the past fiscal year.
That lodging tax revenue is the source of the money for Smith’s contract.
The contract, which took effect July 1, 2018, was slated to continue through June 30, 2022. The contract includes a clause allowing either party to cancel the agreement with 60 days written notice. That clause also allows the county to end the deal if “funding from federal, state or other sources is not obtained and continued at levels sufficient to allow for the purchase of the indicated quantity of services.”
Harvey said Smith “did very good work for us for many years.”
The county has contracted with Smith, a longtime Republican state legislator from Heppner, since 2011.
The likelihood that Smith won’t remain as the county’s economic developer is “just economics,” Harvey said.
He said the situation is not related to a story by The Malheur Enterprise newspaper in Vale, which was published in the Baker City Herald on June 5, that examined Smith’s multiple contracts to oversee economic development in other counties besides Baker, including Malheur and Harney.
See more in the June 12, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.