The Dalles — Wasco County and the city of The Dalles have delayed a final decision on a tax abatement agreement with Google for new server facilities in The Dalles as legal documents outlining the agreement are completed.
“These things are complicated, especially once we start to get the details of the agreement,” said County Manager Tyler Stone at the March 3 board of commissioners meeting. “That agreement has to be translated into a legal document. That is the step we are at right now, is working through the legal agreement, the legal language. We’re pushing off the decision until that is concluded.”
A decision by the city, anticipated March 8 (after deadline for the print edition), will also be delayed, according to Mayor Rich Mays.
Both entities instead continued to gather public input and answer questions regarding the proposal to enter into a Strategic Investment Program agreement with Google/Design LLC. Stone said the county hoped to have the documents completed by March 17. “That will be the goal,” he said. “I don’t anticipate changes in the overall terms,” he added. “The challenge is you have to clarify, using legal language, what things mean. There is a lot of work in the detail of that. .
Google is also in negotiations with Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue. David Jacobs, chair of the MCF&R board, noted the district had met with the company and is working on their fire plan. The plan is to ensure the new facilities have fire protection, and the district has the resources to provide that protection.
"We did have a meeting with Google, a week or so ago. they presented their plan," said Jacobs. "We are still trying to work things out, to try and find an acceptable offer to meet the needs of the district concerning their fire plan."
MCF&R Chief Bob Palmer said that for the most part, the district provided information and will meet with them again, assessing the fire protection plan and what the needs will be for the department.
Stone noted the county and city permit process contains language regarding National Fire Protection Association standards. “We have to make sure we can meet the fire protection standards needed,” he said.
Fire Chief Bob Palmer said details of the discussions underway were under a nondisclosure agreement, “It would be similar to what county is doing in reference to their process, that would potentially involve money, manpower and equipment. These are very large facilities, and the fire district needs to provide fire protection, and Google wants that protection. We need to work out both.”
Several questions addressed to the commission involved whether or not the proposed agreement was better or worse than others of the same type entered into in the state. Stone noted the company will “do what they do based on their business needs. We will never have an inside lens on what those needs are.”
"The Dalles is in a spot where a lot of things happen,” he added. “We have fiber, we have long haul transmission including Bonneville Power Administration power and data transmission both east and west, and to some extent north and south. We have cheap power and communications. The Gorge is a good spot for a data center to be.”
The Dalles Mayor Rich Mays added that the water supply also made the site attractive. Mays noted the water supply question is still being negotiated between Google and the city, but that “there will be improvements to the water system and supply as a result of this agreement.”
In response to a question, he said city sewage treatment impact would likely be minimal, and he would confirm that prior to the city’s March 8 meeting. “There are benefits to having a new major player in the city’s infrastructure,” May said.
Stone added negotiators and staff have looked at other agreements across the state. “Based on where we are at today, we have a comparatively good agreement,” he said. But it is difficult to compare such agreements directly because community needs are different and agreement details are not fully public. “We have looked at other SIP agreements all along. But every community is different, both in how they structured their agreements and in what their needs are. It’s a comparison of apples to oranges. We have a very positive agreement.”
Mathew Klebes, who presented the agreement before both the city and the county, said another difficulty in comparing agreements is that even the structure of the SIP itself has changed over the years.
The Dalles city councilor Dan Richardson said it has been frustrating trying to show the community the value of the agreement. “I think in some ways you have understand how good this deal is compared to previous ones. This deal is 10 times better than previous deals (with Google in The Dalles). People are asking, ‘is this a good deal, is it the best deal?’ There are a lot of questions.”
Klebes agreed, and noted that although comparing deals was difficult, a fair amount of data was available through Business Oregon that might help put the current deal in perspective, and he would investigate that prior to the city’s March 8 meeting.