Tribal Council approves lodge, convenience store investments

02.06.2019 Dean Rhodes Spirit Mountain Casino, Tribal Council
Spirit Mountain Lodge

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Tribal Council approved on Wednesday, Feb. 5, almost $16 million in loans and equity investments that combined will remodel Spirit Mountain Lodge and the Grand Ronde convenience store located just east of Spirit Mountain Casino on Salmon River Highway.

Tribal Council OK’d a $15.5 million loan to Spirit Mountain Gaming Inc. that will fund construction costs for the first phase of lodge interior remodeling.

The lodge’s interior remodel will include adding more high-demand suites, updating older lodge rooms, and redesigning and updating the entrance way and Hall of Legends connecting the lodge to Spirit Mountain Casino. Tribal Council approved $1.1 million to fund the remodel’s design phase in March 2018.

During the Tuesday, Feb. 5, Legislative Action Committee meeting, Tribal Council members Jack Giffen Jr., Kathleen George and Steve Bobb Sr. supported the lodge remodel, pointing out that with gaming and hotel competition now in Clark County, Wash., that Spirit Mountain Casino and Lodge must remain fresh and up-to-date to continue attracting guests.

“This is a necessary, strategic investment,” George said.

The revamping of the 254-room lodge, which opened in 1998, follows the Tribe’s $13 million investment to remodel the casino in 2016.

The Grand Ronde Tribe is in the enviable position of having the financial resources that it can loan Spirit Mountain Gaming Inc. the necessary funds for remodeling both the casino and lodge and then Spirit Mountain Gaming pays the loan back to the Tribe with interest.

The second vote approved a $360,000 equity contribution to the Grand Ronde Food and Fuel Co., which operates the convenience store, for replacement of all gas pumps so they can become card chip reader compliant, remodel the store’s interior and install a new car wash. The funds will come from the company’s 2018 dividend to the Tribe held in the general fund.

Tribal Council also did a first, adopting Hattie Mae Emmilee Craig as an honorary member of the Tribe.

Hattie Mae, the daughter of Tribal member Stephanie Craig and Umatilla Tribal member Fermore Joseph Craig Jr., was born Dec. 3, 2018, and walked on eight days later. She and her brother, William, were born prematurely and she passed away from complications.

Hattie Mae was assigned honorary member roll number A0001.

“This is an historic moment,” Vice Chair Chris Mercier said as Hattie Mae’s parents sat in the audience.

In other action, Tribal Council:

  • Approved an application to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management for two State Homeland Security grants totaling $80,000 to update the Grand Ronde Emergency Operations Plan and prepare an Emergency Operations Plan regional response annex;
  • Approved an application to the Oregon Department of Transportation for the Tribe’s $100,000 in Rural 5311 federal pass-through funding;
  • Adopted a resolution that mandates all appointments to Spirit Mountain Gaming Inc.’s Board of Directors shall have terms ending on Sept. 30 and that the terms of current board members will be extended to expire on Sept. 30;
  • Appointed Reuben Nelson and Jerry George to the Timber Committee, Anthony Texeira to the Veterans Special Event Board, Valeria Atanacio to the Education Committee and Josephine Ingraham to the Enrollment Committee. All of the terms run through March 2020;
  • Approved the fifth amendment to the Tribe’s Portland Harbor Environmental Services agreement with Industrial Economics to add work regarding the third phase of natural resource damage assessments;
  • Approved final adoption of amendments to the Guardianship and Conservatorship Ordinance that were adopted on an emergency basis in November. The amendments will help protect the assets of disabled Tribal children who are wards of the state by allowing the Tribal Children and Family Services Program to file for conservatorship in Tribal Court. No comments were received on the amendments when they were sent out for a first reading;
  • Approved sending amendments to the Leasing Ordinance out for a first reading, which will solicit Tribal member comments. The amendments will allow the Tribe to assume authority over the process and approval of leases on Tribal trust lands. “The more self-governance we do, the better,” Tribal Attorney Rob Greene said during the Tuesday, Feb. 5, Legislative Action Committee meeting.
  • Approved the Tribe’s annual application for $13,000 in Oregon Youth Conservation Corps funding that will partially fund the Tribe’s Summer Youth Crew. The Tribe has received the grant funding for more than 20 years and it is used to help pay Youth Crew participants;
  • And approved an amended professional services agreement with Akana to provide construction administration services for the second phase of construction of the Wind River Apartments. The amendment brings the total agreement with Akana to $113,392.

Also included in the Feb. 6 Tribal Council meeting packet were approved authorizations to proceed that established a proposed financial model for establishing fully funded targets in the Tribal endowments and waived the Committee and Special Event Board travel policy to allow four members of the Youth Council to attend the 2019 UNITY mid-year conference in Arizona in February and allow the remaining members to attend the national Unity Conference in July in Florida.

The meeting was held at 1:30 p.m. instead of the customary 4 p.m. because of the threat of inclement weather that remains in western Oregon, Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez said.

The video of the entire meeting can be viewed by visiting the Tribal government’s website at and clicking on News and then Video.