EOA youths responsible for crimes
The Hines Common Council met for its regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 13. The unapproved minutes are as follows:
Rich Streeter, executive director of Eastern Oregon Academy (EOA), had asked to be placed on the agenda to address any questions or concerns the council might have about the operation of the academy, a behavior rehabilitation service. In the past week, the same youth has been charged with breaking into the Hines Food Market on two separate occasions.
Councilor Brent Drury said the council has concerns about Hines Police Department being called out for youth who leave the grounds, but are not “runaways” and have not committed any crime. Streeter said the staff cannot restrain a youth from leaving the facility, and they cannot go find them and bring them back.
He said that he had met with Police Chief Ryan DeLange and Sheriff Dave Glerup about the calls over the past three years, which were mostly for runaways, but there is nothing EOA can do. They can give the youth consequences, but cannot detain them.
Mayor Nikki Morgan pointed out that this policy is putting the public at risk from harm.
Councilor John Mims asked what regulations required that, and whether some of the youth should not be in a locked facility, such as OYA (Oregon Youth Authority). Streeter said that OYA is for adjudicated sex offenders, which EOA does not take. Their youth are those who have been in correctional facilities, but are working their way back into the community, or DHS-managed (Department of Human Services) youth who have blown out of foster homes.
Drury asked, “So a kid is allowed to break into a business two times, create expenses to the store owner, and there is nothing we can do?”
After more discussion, Morgan said it reminded her of when ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) said a traffic light wasn’t needed at the Barnes intersection because no one had ever been killed there.
Streeter pointed out that the city had just had a stabbing and that there are risks in any community. He said the EOA youth are not posing any more risk.
Councilor Hilda Allison said she remembered when the academy was first established as Kirkland Institute, and the community had rejected the plans. People didn’t want the risk of youth violating the law in the community.
Kirkland said they would have security guards, and they did. She asked why EOA doesn’t have guards and why EOA staff either don’t know when youth leave, or don’t do anything about it. She cautioned that many Hines residents have firearms in their homes, and a youth could be shot, or a firearm could be taken and used by a youth.
Streeter said that the academy has an evidence-based curriculum, and they do employ physical restraints.
“But if a kid clocks me when I’m trying to restrain him, it’s not a crime,” Drury said. “But that’s when our police get called.”
Sheriff Glerup was in attendance and pointed out that EOA has a great liability when they allow their kids to just walk out. “You’re their mom and dad while they’re here,” he told Streeter. “Kirkland didn’t allow them to leave. I think you have to restrain them from leaving. If you let them leave, and they get run over, you get sued.”
The sheriff added that there was a meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning (Nov. 14) with DHS, OYA, the Harney County Juvenile Department and EOA. It was agreed that representatives from the city should also attend.
Morgan added, “This is a retirement community. I don’t want to see that happen.”
Mims pointed out that there is a big difference in them telling staff they are going to leave, or they just run out the door.
Glerup said, “You have to have security. Some of them are suicidal.” He added that he knew Kirkland had hired staff to stay up all night to make sure youth didn’t leave. Streeter said he would not put children at risk of being abused.
Drury said he had seen EOA youth on playground equipment at the park deliberately misusing it and trying to break it. Their supervisor was sitting on a table nearby, reading a book, ignoring what they were doing. He said he asked her if she thought it was proper, and she told them to stop. Just a few weeks before that, EOA youth had broken some of the equipment.
Streeter said the city could have kids work for them because EOA wants to give back to the community.
Councilor Dick Baird asked who puts the youth in EOA and how EOA accepts them. Streeter said that they come from OYA and DHS, agencies that are trying to get the youth out of the system and save costs for the state.
Allison asked if the staff knew the kids who broke into the Hines Food Market were gone before or after the crime was committed.
Streeter said, “Rarely have we not known kids were gone when they left. We were called by dispatch in this one case.”
Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala asked how many youth were at the facility and how many staff.
Streeter said they like to maintain at about 22 youth, although they are licensed for 34, and they have 42 staff.
Glerup asked Streeter if EOA makes reports to DHS and OYA on their disciplinary problems with the kids. Streeter said they report, as required, on each of the kids.
The sheriff asked, “So this 12-year-old kid who broke out two separate windows and broke into the market twice – you just let him walk out?”
Streeter said, “Yes.” He said the youth was on one-on-one supervision, but he had left the grounds.
Allison said it appeared to her that the tail was wagging the dog. She said she knew the program was needed, and the state had to cut costs, but at the risk of the Hines community?
Drury asked if there would be anyone at the meeting tomorrow (Nov. 14) who could fix that. Streeter said there is no quick fix and that he knew the city had tolerated a lot.
DeLange reported that Officer Matt Githens had assisted Burns Police Department with their fatal stabbing and provided a statistics sheet showing 46 calls in two weeks. These included child custody, domestic violence, two crashes and two youth escapes from EOA.
Githens also wrote a second search warrant on the stabbing in Hines that happened earlier, for additional evidence purposes.
DeLange contacted Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) about the diseased deer in town and will be assisting ODFW by notifying them when he picks one up or has to dispatch a dying deer. There may be a parasite involved in some of the illnesses.
Fire Chief Bob Spence reported seven calls in the past two weeks: one motor vehicle accident; one stand-down for a haystack fire; one electrical fire in Burns; one five-acre fire by the gun range, which might have been arson; a semi-truck rollover; an alarm at Hines Middle School; and an unattended pile burning on Frenchglen Millworks property. He will speak to the owner and find out who set the fire and left it burning.
Maintenance work is needed in Rescue 8 and Engine 6, which the city administrator (Joan Davies) approved.
Superintendent of Public Works Zabala told the council the crew had been busy getting ready for winter. They raked up leaves and attached the snow plow to the truck. He said the new (water) meters are working very well.
City Administrator Joan Davies asked the council if they wanted to reconsider parts of the contract the city made with Harney County Veterinary Clinic in 2010. Although it may have been the intent for the process to enable the city to collect fines assessed to dog owners whose dogs were impounded, that was never the practice.
As it is now, any dog owner with a pet in the pound usually goes to the clinic first, then is told they have to go to city hall to pay a $55 fee. The fee is actually what the clinic charges for the impound, so it just costs the city staff time to process the payment and issue a check to the clinic. The city does not collect any money from the dog owner, does not have the owner cited and doesn’t need to be involved as a pass-through for the clinic’s fee. If city hall is closed, the pet owner has to wait to get the dog out.
A few small changes to the system would end the frustration for dog owners, get the city out of the pass-through fee obligation, and still compensate the clinic for the lodging, Davies said. But if the clinic would agree to a graduated fee system, maybe owners who pick up their dogs within a short period, or whose dogs don’t require overnight lodging, etc., could be charged a lower fee.
Davies told the council that if they wanted to have that looked into, she would do so, but if they wanted to go back to their original intent of citing owners and charging for licenses before release, she would develop that process.
The majority of the council agreed that they wanted to end the frustration for the public and reduce the time investment for the city.
Davies also described to the council an electronic cash register system, which had been recommended by both the city of Burns and the auditors, for reducing liability in cash handling. The machine and software are available through Chaves Consulting, the firm that also designed the budget-tracking system the city uses.
It will allow staff to enter a payment and have it directly attributed to the appropriate budget line, will dramatically decrease staff time by avoiding manual entries and redundant processes and will provide a checks-and-balances system that has never existed.
Councilor Tom Choate moved to approve the purchase of the system from Chaves Consulting, seconded by Baird; all ayes, motion carried.
DeLange updated the council on purchasing a third patrol car and advised council that he had at first worked with the non-profit organization that they got the other two cars from, but had since found a couple of other businesses with better deals. He said he will be purchasing the best car for the city’s money.
Councilor Dick Anderson asked how many applications had been received for the third police position.
DeLange said they had received three, and the chief has been talking with three or four other officers who are interested.
Davies said she had extended the application period for another two weeks to get more applications. She also pointed out that the statistics report in the packets is for the past two weeks, not a whole month, like the previous report.
The city charter requires the council to meet once a month, but it has historically met twice a month. The suggestion had been made that it was only necessary to meet once a month, with reduced subject matter.
However, it was the consensus of the council that they would continue to meet twice a month. Since the second meeting in December falls on Christmas Day this year, though, it will either be moved to a different date or cancelled, depending on agenda needs.
There was some further discussion about building a structure to house the cans and bottles (that are donated to raise funds for the city) during the winter, to make it easier for council people who are processing them.
Anderson and Baird are working on that.
Baird has now located designs for octagonal tables and will be talking with Tom Garo at OYA to get the shop youth to build them this winter.
The next common council meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.