Tribal Government & News

Tribe completes $4 million donation to Newberg-Dundee bypass project

NEWBERG -- The pledge was made in November 2011.

The oversized ceremonial check was signed and presented on Monday, March 7.

The money will be transferred to the Oregon Department of Transportation this month.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s $4 million donation to help fund the first phase of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass construction project is now complete.

“That is the biggest check I’ve ever signed,” said Tribal Council Vice Chair Jack Giffen Jr., who led a Tribal Council contingent to a ceremonial check presentation held in Newberg near where the bypass will meet up with state Highway 219 at Hess Creek. He was accompanied by Tribal Council members Jon A. George, Tonya Gleason-Shepek, Denise Harvey, Brenda Tuomi and Chris Mercier.

“All the partners we have, the county partners and the state partners, have all come together to work hard to make our roads safer,” Giffen said. “This is a huge project that will make the passage from Portland to the coast even safer. I want to thank you on behalf of the 5,400 Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Tribal members. As leaders, we administer their dollars and these are their dollars. They are grateful to have the partnerships that we do. I look forward to the day this is open.”

“I’m grateful for this opportunity and proud to be a partner in this process,” Gleason-Shepek said.

Harvey, who is currently serving as a Tribal representative on the Yamhill County Parkway Committee, said she personally can’t wait for the bypass construction work to be completed because she commutes to Grand Ronde from her home in Tualatin.

“I commute daily and have for about 13, 14 years,” she said, eliciting empathetic laughter from those in attendance.

Mercier, who served more than eight years as a Tribal representative on the Yamhill County Parkway Committee, said, “I remember when this was kind of a dream … but as the years wore on it got closer and closer. I remember when we announced this donation and I thought, ‘This is going to happen.’ And here we are. … I’m just excited.”

Tribal Culture Department employees Bobby Mercier, Brian Krehbiel and Travis Stewart performed an honor song and other Tribal employees in attendance included Tribal Attorney Rob Greene, Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Martin, Public Affairs Administrative Assistant Chelsea Clark and Tribal Council Senior Administrative Assistant Lauri Smith.

The check presentation also attracted local officials, including Yamhill County Commissioners Allen Springer and Stan Primozich, McMinnville Mayor Rick Olson and Newberg Mayor Bob Andrews. Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett also attended.

“The Tribal Council spoke about partnerships,” Garrett said. “Looking around here, these are true partners. At times we were running against the wind, but we found a path. Today, we celebrate that and we look forward to when we are cutting a ribbon as we connect this phase one of a very significant and critical transportation project.

“We not only celebrate partnerships, but we also celebrate commitment. We’re celebrating commitment to our past, but also to our future. The future and safety of our people and the opportunities that will come to all of the communities that are represented here. I think that is extremely important. It is the partnership of many that makes this a reality today.”

Tribal Council Secretary Cheryle A. Kennedy, who was then serving as Tribal chair, pledged $4 million in Tribal money to help fund the first phase of construction on the bypass during a Nov. 8, 2011, City Club meeting held in McMinnville.

The Tribal funds, originally designated in its gaming compact with the state of Oregon to help build a new interchange at the convergence of state highways 18 and 22, are helping Yamhill County and three of its city governments fund their $20 million share of the project.

“When they sing the chant about the heroes on this project, one of them will be the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde,” said McMinnville attorney Dave Haugeberg, who chairs the Yamhill County Parkway Committee and was one of the prime movers behind getting the bypass constructed. “You were here first and you are leading us into the future, and we are blessed by this partnership.”

The bypass will fix the “transportation nightmare” in Newberg and Dundee that negatively affects every Oregon community westward along Highway 18. The 5.5-mile first phase is being funded with $192 million from state government, $45 million from the federal government and $20 million from local governments, including the Tribe. It is creating a transportation corridor with only two stoplights between McMinnville and Interstate 5, bypassing the currently congested downtowns of Newberg and Dundee.

Once completed, the bypass will make it easier and faster for Portland-area residents to access wine country, Spirit Mountain Casino and the coast. Construction work is scheduled to be complete by November 2017.

The Tribe will receive a credit from the Oregon Department of Transportation regarding the highways 18 and 22 interchange for re-allocating $4 million to the Newberg-Dundee Bypass. The Tribe’s contribution cap for that project is $9.45 million adjusted annually for inflation, according to the compact.

George provided the invocation that opened the ceremony.

“I don’t know where they’re going to find an ATM large enough to cash this,” Giffen added to a round of laughter.