Saga of air and space museums, IMAX theater and water park continues

The drama and intrigue that have surrounded the ongoing saga of Evergreen’s for-profit and nonprofit entities has reached such a state that we feel we must comment.

For those people who have been living under a rock for the past six months, here’s a quick recap: Evergreen International Airlines has filed for bankruptcy and two of its siblings — Evergreen Agriculture and Evergreen Helicopter — have been sold off. At the same time, the nonprofit foundation formed when Evergreen constructed its air and space museums, an IMAX theater and its popular water park are embroiled in a fight with Yamhill County over the more than $1 million in property taxes owed to the county.

Then there’s an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the possible commingling of funds between the embattled for-profit aviation wing and the nonprofit entities, something strictly forbidden under Oregon law.

For good measure, Yamhill County Commissioners Alan Springer and Kathy George submitted a letter to the Legislature in support of an amendment authored by George’s son, state Sen. Larry George, that would exempt history, natural history or science museums from property taxes if they were formed before January 2010 and are located in a county with less than 125,000 population. Yamhill County’s population just happens to be below the 125,000 threshold and Evergreen’s nonprofits were formed before 2010. The amendment, had it not died in committee last week, would have sunseted in 2018 and, according to its wording, was all in the name of education.

The crux of the argument is whether it’s proper for nonprofit entities to host small profit-making ventures, such as concession stands and gift shops, then funnel the proceeds into the operations of the museum while maintaining their nonprofit status and preferential treatment when it comes to property taxes. Few, if any of the nonprofit agencies we’re familiar with, enjoy such special treatment.

There is no question that the Evergreen air and space museums, and even the theater, are facilities that have the capacity to educate and, despite Mr. Springer’s assertion to the contrary, you don’t need a water park to attract kids to a museum.

It is our belief that the foundation that oversees these nonprofits should be allowed to work out some kind of payment plan to pay off their back taxes; that the concession stands and gift shops should be able to, without being taxed, funnel their proceeds into the operation of the air and space museum and theater; and that the water park should lose its nonprofit status and, pardon the pun, sink or swim in the free market along with its competitors.

Furthermore, it is our heartfelt wish that the air and space museums survive Evergreen’s shenanigans as both facilities are truly historical additions to the greater Yamhill County community and are well worth saving.

Contract Publishing

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