Burns CM Munkers testifies at hearing
By Randy Parks
Oregon’s current land-use laws regarding industrial zones make it difficult for cities and towns to attract new businesses. That’s the message several speakers delivered to a legislative committee at a hearing in Ontario on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
Burns City Manager (CM) Don Munkers told the Burns City Council at their regular meeting that he testified at the hearing about the city’s ordeal and cost of getting 40 acres re-zoned to industrial.
Munkers said the re-zoning process started before 2007, and it wasn’t completed until 2010. Over that time period, there were 180 meetings at a cost to the city of between $12,000 and $15,000.
The next step the city tried was to get the area “certified” so the state would help advertise to prospective businesses, but they couldn’t find anyone to explain the process.
“Then we had to guarantee a tenant water, sewer, power and a road within six months time,” Munkers said. “There’s no way to do that.”
He added that if the city were to put services in before an agreement is reached, it would cost the city about a quarter of a million dollars.
Munkers pointed out that the state of Idaho is shovel-ready right now because they don’t have the same regulations, and it’s costing Oregon jobs. “Our system’s broke. It was established in 1972 or so and today it’s obsolete,” he said.
State Rep. Cliff Bentz, Dist. 60, was at the hearing, and Munkers said he is preparing legislation proposing to change the land-use laws.
On a more positive note, Munkers said he attended a meeting with representatives from Pure Wood Solutions who were looking to possibly set up an operation locally.
The company produces building material for homes and other buildings using smaller diameter trees. The building components are assembled with dowels, transported to a site and put up in a short amount of time. Munkers reported that a 2,000 square foot home was built in just five days. “I’d love to have one of their homes,” he said. “They’re beautiful.”
CM Munkers reported he and other local officials attended a meeting with a representative from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to discuss the changes in ODOT’s funding program.
The criteria and application process has changed dramatically, sparking some concerns, and Munkers said if Burns, Hines and the county could go together to apply for a grant, that would be a plus, but he wasn’t sure that was possible.
The complication of putting up flags at the cemetery seems to have been solved. Because the new fence is not rigid enough to handle the flags, the city plans to cement two-foot sections of pipe in the ground between the fence and the bricks, slide PVC into the pipes and put the flag brackets on the PVC.
When it’s time to remove the flags, the PVC can just slide out with the flags, and everything can be put away.
In other business:
• the council approved Ordinance No. 12-822 that outlines the advisory and ad hoc committees for the city and the guidelines for the committees;
• Ordinance No. 12-820, which would establish the city of Burns Historic Preservation Act, was tabled until more information could be gathered;
• Mayor Craig LaFollette said several people signed up to discuss the ongoing feral cat problem in the city, but, because the city had been threatened with a lawsuit, that topic would not be discussed;
• Councilor Terri Presley said, with the city now offering the rural fire protection subscription, the fire department would face an increased workload. She suggested the city fix up a shed near the fire hall so it could be used for additional equipment storage. The council agreed they would look into what it would cost to make improvements on the shed;
• Mayor LaFollette said, when he was gathering signatures for his re-election petition, he found a number of people who aren’t registered voters. He encouraged people to register and stated it’s a person’s duty to vote.
• LaFollette reported that fuel sales at the Burns airport for a two-month period, July 1 to August 31, totaled 176, 596.52. CM Munkers said it was good that the fuel sales were ahead of projections, but the bad news was that the fires were responsible for the majority of increased fuel sales.
The next Burns Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at city hall.