County looks at possibility of road improvements
By Debbie Raney
As the Obama Administration and Congress forge an economic stimulus bill, local governments across the nation are scrambling to make a plan to spend any funds that could come their way — Harney County included.
At the Jan. 7 meeting of the Harney County Court, Association of Oregon Counties representatives John Oshel and Mac Alliason presented information on the possibility of using the funds for county road improvements. Oshel said the most likely use would be for over-lay projects, but there would be definite limitations. The projects would need to be ready to be bid out within six months of the funding becoming available. This would mean that there could be no water issues or right-of-way issues that would require environmental studies.
To qualify for the stimulus money, the projects would also need to create jobs. This would require the work to be contracted out.
Harney County Road Superintendent Eric Drushella will create a prioritized list of possible roads throughout the county where work could begin immediately. Roads suggested during the court meeting included the east end of Sod House Lane, portions of the South Steens Road that have already had prep-work done, and the Crane/Venator Road.
In a related subject, the court discussed the legal width for county road right-of-ways. Judge Steve Grasty presented a copy of the Oct. 7, 1920, Commissioner’s Journal. In the journal it states, “It is ordered that all right-of-way for highway in the future be 80 feet in width.” A 1977 journal discussion used this date and decision as reference, and Grasty suggested it go on record that in 2009, this would also be the point of reference for right-of-way decisions.
In other county court business, a public hearing was scheduled for Jan. 21 for Resolution 2009-01, in the matter of requesting that the Oregon Economic and Community Development Commission exempt the Echanis Wind Project from property taxation under the Strategic Investment Program.
Fred Flippence from the Harney County Library Foundation Board presented the foundation’s annual report. Flippence told the court that like all funds the past year, the value of the foundation’s investments had decreased. Flippence also complimented Library Director Cheryl Hancock on the improvements she had made at the library. Improvements include increased inventory, back-room cleanup and equipment purchases.
Annual official appointments were made with the following appointments for 2009:
Justice of the Peace, Pro-Tempore — Sandra Richards and Stephen Finlayson;
Newspaper — Burns Times-Herald;
Budget Officer — Steve Grasty;
Medical Examiner — Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick;
County Health Officer — Dr. Holland Haynie.
Commissioner Jack Drinkwater was selected to continue to be Harney County’s representative on the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation Board of Directors.
Discussion was held on the Court Facilities Summary Report, commissioned by the Oregon State Legislative Joint Interim Committee on Court Facilities. The reports, completed on all 48 Oregon courthouses, are exempt from public disclosure, as they discuss the weaknesses relating to security in the facilities. The report requests that a local committee be formed to review the findings and make recommendations regarding improvements and possible funding sources. Commissioner Dan Nichols volunteered to chair the committee and will coordinate with Circuit and Justice Courts as well as maintenance staff.
The Harney County Library Advisory Board by-laws, which were revised in August, were approved.
A contract for technology services from ASI was approved.
A public hearing was held on Land Use File #08-58, in the matter of updating the Harney County Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision and Partitioning Ordinance. Proposed updates to the ordinance were reviewed. The public hearing will be continued on Jan. 21.