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Feds reject North Chenoweth grant

The Dalles is facing what could be a costly good news-bad news situation.

The good news? The Dalles isn’t a distressed community by U.S. Economic Development Administration standards. The bad news? That means the Port of The Dalles may not be eligible for a $2 million grant to pay for infrastructure at the new North Chenoweth Subdivision, Port Executive Director Andrea Klaas told the port commission at its meeting Wednesday.

The first phase of construction on the infrastructure is due for ground-breaking Jan. 31 with Crestline Construction as its general contractor and the port recently received notice their grant application had been rejected. But the district’s leaders aren’t giving up.

“That’s too much money to just leave lying on the table,” said Port Commissioner Kristi McCavic, with Commissioner Mike Courtney in agreement.

Approval criteria for the grant include per capita income and unemployment averages for the prior two years within Wasco County. To qualify as a distressed community, the jobless average must be at least 1 percent higher than the national rate. And income must be at 80 percent or lower than the national average.

Wasco County unemployment averaged 8.18 percent in 2011-2012, or .27 percent lower than the national average of 8.45 percent. Per capita income was also higher than the threshold, at 85 percent of the national figure in 2011 and almost 83 percent in 2012. All the figures are based on U.S. Census data.

“Our unemployment figure has been lower than the national averages for quite a while,” said Commissioner Bob McFadden.

Klaas said the port considered using wider regional figures but noted that unemployment in Hood River and Sherman counties is even lower than in The Dalles. Even inclusion of Klickitat County, which has marginally higher unemployment, could not yield qualifying figures.

She hopes the Economic Development Administration will reconsider its decision and will be working with their representatives to review the numbers.

“We will be going through the information to see if we can make a case that we are distressed, maybe looking at some other criteria,” Klaas said.

In the meantime, the port is expecting to hear any day now from the Oregon Department of Transportation that they have received approval of a $2.5 million grant from the state to help in funding the subdivision construction.

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