By Randy Parks
At their regular meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 2, the Harney County Court signed a letter of agreement with The Nature Conservancy to “work together to accomplish mutually beneficial goals related to healthy forests and healthy communities.”
Before the court signed the agreement, Harney County resident Bob Morehead expressed some concern about the environmental group. “They buy private land and then sell it to the federal government at twice the price,” Morehead said.
Both Judge Steve Grasty and Commissioner Dan Nichols assured Morehead that they had several meetings with The Nature Conservancy and felt the two could work together for the betterment of the community and forest needs. “We’ll tread cautiously on this,” Grasty said. “But we need to try and work with these groups to get back to using our natural resources.”
“Environmental groups are changing,” Nichols said. “Collaboration is the key word for coming together for forest health and the benefits to the community. They realize they’ve made mistakes and dry pine forests need to be managed.”
When The Nature Conservancy’s past practices of conservation were brought up, Nichols said, “History needs to change. We’ll enter into this agreement, and I think we’ll be fine.”
Mary Ausmus was in attendance and presented the court with a list of questions regarding parolees being returned to Harney County after being released from the state prison system as mandated by state statute. Judge Grasty encouraged her to attend the upcoming meetings on Jan. 8 and Jan. 22 regarding this issue.
Sam Kaiser also expressed concern about parolees being returned to the county and the expenses associated with the program. “We can’t afford it and they don’t deserve first-class treatment,” Kaiser said. “They’re talking about a grant to build a house for the parolees. Well, grants are a one-time shot and the taxpayers end up paying after the grant runs out.” Kaiser was also encouraged to attend the meetings.
Wayne Baron and Bill Wilber presented the court with an update on 4R Recycling. Baron told the court community support has been tremendous since they opened and the number of customers that use the service seems to be increasing all the time.
Baron said that while the business is doing OK, they still need to increase their volume to make it profitable. He told the court he has had conversations with people in John Day and Prairie City about working with their cities to increase the volume.
The recycling center is also on the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) list as a possible site for an electronics dismantling center.
Baron added that they have talked about placing recycling drop-off sites in some of the outer-lying communities, such as Frenchglen, Drewsey and Riley, but there are concerns about people putting unrecyclable materials in the bins.
There was also concern about the furnace at the recycling center and the cost to run it with heating oil prices so high. The court agreed to look into other options to see what could be done.
Vern Brown and Chris Siegner from Harney Behavioral Health were in attendance to show their support for signing another six-month agreement with Lake County to help improve their mental health program. “We’ve helped Lake County, but they’re still about 18 months out,” Brown said. “As an element of pride, I want to finish the job and do it well.”
The court said they were supportive of signing the agreement, but there were still a couple of questions that needed to be answered before they did so.
In other business:
• the court signed court orders appointing Dr. Yazholi Kanikkannan as Harney County Health Officer, Sandra L. Richards and Stephen Finlayson as Harney County Justices of the Peace Pro Tempore, Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick as Harney County Medical Investigator and the Burns Times-Herald as the Harney County Newspaper for publication of county matters;
• the court approved Resolution #2008-01, which allows the county to collect the maximum fee allowed by law to fund the Law Library;
• Judge Grasty was appointed budget officer for fiscal year 2008-2009.
The court said there would be a special meeting at 10 a.m. Jan. 9 for the sole purpose of paying bills.