About 150 residents attended barbecue, which featured music and pingpong race
By Randy Parks
After several years of fund raising and grant writing, the Harney County Opportunity Team (HCOT) celebrated paying off the construction of the Harney County Community Center with a community appreciation barbecue on Friday, July 8.
About 150 people attended the event that included live music by the Appirations, free hot dogs and hamburgers, a pingpong ball race and the announcement of HCOT’s next project.
The community center got its start in 2004 when former congressman Bob Smith and his wife, Kay, donated the building to HCOT, a non-profit organization.
Over the next few years, HCOT concentrated on raising funds for the project, which was estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $800,000.
HCOT member Linda Johnson stated that major contributors to the project included the Ford Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Oregon Community Foundation, Autzen Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Jeld-Wen Foundation, Ann and Bill Swindells Charitable Trust and the Henry Hillman Jr. Foundation.
The county and the John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival also made significant donations, as well as the communities whose names grace the outside of the building.
Even though HCOT didn’t have all the funds needed to complete the project, the contractor agreed to go ahead and get started and let the funding catch up.
Construction on the building began in January 2008, and the center opened in December 2008, housing the Harney County Chamber of Commerce.
In 2009, HCOT still owed more than $100,000 and they then started a “Cap-Off Campaign” to have the funds raised by the end of 2010.
In January 2011, Cycle Oregon put HCOT over the top with a grant of $35,000.
Johnson said the center has been a real help in economic development, as it allows a spot for meetings and special events, including weddings, proms and banquets.
With the community center now paid off, HCOT is now focusing on its next project: turning the vacant lot at the corner of East A Street and North Broadway Avenue into a plaza.
The lot was donated to HCOT by Bill and Ulaberl Allen, and HCOT member Bill Wilber noted that the organization is extremely grateful for their generosity.
Wilber said he is working with the School of Architecture at the University of Oregon to get plans for the plaza. He said they hope to get a student or two from the landscape division of the school to come to town for a few days and get input as to what HCOT wants and then draw up the plan.
Initial ideas for the plaza include a living community Christmas tree, picnic tables, sidewalk, statues and maybe an amphitheater.
Fund-raising plans for the plaza are already under way, and HCOT hopes to have a design ready by late fall, with work to start in the spring.