Laura Nichols and Amanda Benton are the new councilors

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The City of Burns once again has a full council.

At their regular meeting on Wednesday, April 13, the Burns City Council appointed Laura Nichols and Amanda Benton to fill the vacancies created by the resignations of Darwin Johnson and Len Vohs over the past several weeks.

Council President Bill Renwick explained that when Johnson resigned, Nichols was the only person to submit a letter of interest to fill the position, so she would be the only one considered for that council seat.

After receiving Vohs’ resignation, the city received two letters of interest in serving on the council, one from Benton and the other from Richard G. Watkins, and the council would appoint one of them to fill the vacant seat. By a 4-1 vote, Benton was appointed to the council.

Renwick went on to say that in Burns the mayor is a council member and to fill that position, vacated by Vohs, city code dictates the new mayor be appointed by the council. “I don’t care to be mayor, but a councilor has stepped forward to say he would fill the position until the term ends and that is Craig LaFollette,” Renwick said. The council then appointed LaFollette to serve as mayor for the balance of the term.

Upon taking over the mayor’s seat, LaFollette began with the Woodrow Wilson quote, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” In a prepared statement, LaFollette said he believes that as mayor he can represent the citizens of Burns in making decisions that affect our lives and community in a positive way.

“I have been asked why I would take the mayor position, and this past week provided me with some answers to that question,” LaFollette said. “This past week I watched a community come together, where critical decisions needed to be made immediately, where a volunteer fire department planned into the early morning hours, in great detail, a working plan to deal with a very real and imminent threat of a flood. I saw over 100 people sign up as volunteers to do whatever was asked of them with the belief that they could make a difference, and they did.

“I saw people come into city hall with their arms filled with food and drinks to provide meals to those working to thwart a flood hitting our community,” LaFollette said.“I watched our city crew, police department, county workers and state workers come together, working as one team, side by side, preventing water from flowing into our city, and manage all the various details void of notable problems.

“It is because of the pride and willingness of the people of this community and county to help in any way they could that motivates me to give back and serve in the capacity of mayor for the City of Burns.”

Other councilors and department heads also thanked everyone for their help in dealing with the high water.

The council reviewed a liquor license application they had received from Jim Saunders for Convenient Services.

LaFollette said that if the council denied the application, it would go on to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) for further investigation and a final decision.

Councilor Ed O’Carroll said he felt the council should approve the application. “The smoke shop here has historical significance. It speaks of Harney County,” O’Carroll said.

Police Chief Randy Cook had recommended that the council deny the application, noting in his report that “the applicant had been arrested twice for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), arrested for a controlled substance offense and the business has been a constant source of persistent problems.”

Saunders addressed the council and stated there was some injustice in the report.

Saunders said he has never been arrested for drugs or possession, he was arrested once for DUII, but no charges were filed and he added the only time he smoked marijuana was for medicinal purposes. “I’ve never had a conviction,” Saunders said. “It depends on this vote if this business can exist,”

O’Carroll said Saunders is a long-time resident and the council needs to support Harney County residents.

Pointing to the application, O’Carroll said, “There’s nothing here that shows the owner has done anything wrong in the last five or 10 years.” He then made a motion to go against the chief’s recommendation and approve the application. The motion died for a lack of a second.

Noting that there were discrepancies, Councilor Dan Hoke made a motion to deny the application, allowing it to go back to the OLCC for more scrutiny. The motion passed.

In other business:

• airport committee members were appointed by LaFollette and they included Linc Reed-Nickerson, Jonathan Manski, Randy Fulton, Matt Davies and Cliff Asmussen;

• City Manager Don Munkers reported the Silvies River level had gone down and precautions were being put in place in case the high water returned.

He stated that the National Guard had been scheduled to help with clean-up in the community April 9-10, but ended up helping with the high water instead, so they are trying to re-schedule the clean-up days.

Munkers noted that the Monroe Street Project is under way, they are still working toward having an industrial site off Monroe Street, he is meeting with legal counsel on April 25 to review airport leases, the dog ordinance is nearing its final stages and they are still progressing on the rural fire suppression subscription model;

• the council voted to donate $100 to the Burns High School Class of 2011 for their all-night party.

The next council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at city hall.

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