Photo by RaeLynn Ricarte
U.S. REP Greg Walden, left, receives a compass Monday from Dr. Frank Toda, president of Columbia Gorge Community College, that shows geographic ‘“true north,” the axis that the earth revolves around. Toda said the gift appropriately represented the Congressman staying the course over more than a decade to obtain funding for the new Fort Dalles Readiness Center, where soldiers train and students study in the field of renewable energy program.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden had visited the construction site for the Fort Dalles Readiness Center in The Dalles, but Monday provided his first glimpse of the finished project.
“Wow!” he said when entering the 10,000 square foot assembly hall that doubles as a drill floor for Alpha Company soldiers and a rental for large community events.
“If it just had a view,” Walden quipped when looking at the floor-to-ceiling windows on the north face of the room which looks out on the Columbia River and Mount Adams.
He was joined on the June 2 afternoon tour by Dr. Frank Toda, president and chief executive officer of Columbia Gorge Community College, Jim Willeford, chief of military construction for the state, Dave Ferre, deputy director of the Oregon Military Department, Dan Spatz, development director for the college and Jim Austin, facilities services director for the college.
“This is very impressive, wonderfully built and integrated with the college — a great resource for the state,” said Walden of the space shared by members of the Oregon National Guard and students enrolled in the college’s renewable energy program.
Toda thanked Walden for working to score about $20 million in federal funds for the 62,689-square-foot structure built on 7.4 acres on the east side of the college campus.
Oregon Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, worked to get another $8 million invested from the state to accommodate classroom and lab space on the lower level and an industrial shop that, like much of the building, will be shared by soldiers and students.
“This is a nice piece of real estate you’ve got here,” Walden said to Toda, who informed him that the assembly hall had held 500-600 people for the dedication in April and not seemed overcrowded.
When on the first floor in front of a seating area next to the windows, Walden said, “You just want to grab a book and sit down here and relax.”
Spatz told Walden the 12 welding labs are still under construction and will be finished sometime this fall and celebrated with an open house for the community.
Willeford asked Walden to seek another $2.4 million in federal funding to make the building “net zero,” which means it will generate as much energy as it uses from solar panels, geothermal wells and other efficiency measures.
Walden was asked about his trip to Afghanistan in mid-April with seven other GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner.
“Our purpose was to build relationships so that we don’t get into some of the problems that we have had in the past with Pres. (Hamid) Karzai,” said Walden.
The delegation stayed in the U.S. embassy compound in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan and its largest city.
“It was one of the better days and it hadn’t heated up yet so we were pretty comfortable,” said Walden.
Nearly seven million voters, some braving the threat of death, turned out April 5 to mark ballots for one of eight candidates. Karzai was ineligible to run due to term limits.
No candidate obtained enough votes to secure an outright victory, so the election will proceed to a runoff June 14 between former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.
It will be the first time in Afghanistan’s history that power is democratically transferred.
Walden said U.S. officials wanted to send a strong message to the candidates that the work and sacrifice of thousands of troops and civilians, as well as their families, to stabilize the country needed to continue.
Both Ghani and Abdullah have signed a security agreement with the U.S. that would allow thousands of foreign troops to remain in the country beyond the end of the year.
Prior to the June 2 tour, Toda met Walden at his office and presented him with a compass showing the direction “true north.”
Toda said he had received the same compass from a superior officer when leaving the Air Force as a colonel with 30 years of experience to help develop college facilities in the gorge.
True north is the geographic direction along the earth’s surface to the north pole, which is the axis the world revolves around.
The symbolism of the gift, said Toda, was telling him to steer true in his mission.
He wanted Walden to also have a compass in thanks for his many years of dedication in bringing the readiness and workforce innovation centers to fruition.
“He kept going true north to get this funding so it seemed like an appropriate gift,” he said.
Prior to touring the college and military training center, Walden toured the new Insitu facility at Eagle Point in Bingen. He also held a roundtable meeting with small brewers at Full Sail in Hood River, right after touring the Tofurky Company, which is also headquartered in Hood River, where Walden lives.