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Questions asked about what the city gets in return for funds
by Samantha White
Harney County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jen Hoke attended the regular meeting of the Hines Common Council (held Tuesday, Dec. 11) to provide an update regarding chamber activities.
Hoke said the Main Street program and Community Enhancement Team (CET) are the same entity. She added that the Main Street program / CET is working on a variety of projects to beautify the community. One idea is to remove the plywood that is covering the second-story windows on some of the storefronts along North Broadway Avenue in Burns. Hoke said that some of these windows are still intact, and removing the plywood would add character to the buildings.
Hoke added that the chamber held its second-annual Harney County Christmas Drawing Extravaganza. Consumers were invited to bring receipts from local businesses, showing purchases of $25 or more and dated between Nov. 23 and Dec. 14, to the chamber office to enter the drawing, which was held Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. at the Harney County Community Center. Hoke said over $1,300 worth of gift certificates were given away last year to 12 winners.
Hoke also informed the council that the 63rd annual Awards Banquet will be held Jan. 26, and the theme will be “Winter Wonderland.”
She added that the 32nd annual John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival will be held April 11-14. She said there has been some discussion about when to hold the festival, but that it is hard to determine when the birds will migrate, as migration patterns can change from year to year, depending on weather conditions. She joked that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge invites the birds to attend, but they don’t always come. She said the Audubon Society president is scheduled to speak at the event. Hoke also showed the council the watercolor poster by Mary Lou Wilhelm, which depicts a colorful map of Harney County sites.
Mayor Nikki Morgan told Hoke that the council is about to start working on the budget for next year, and it continues to have concerns about what it gets in return for the funds that it pays to the chamber. Under state law, motels and recreational vehicle parks pay transient room taxes (TRT) to the city. In the past, a Hines resolution has provided that 25 percent of the TRT goes directly to the chamber. Hines received $141,000 in TRT and paid the chamber $35,000 during the 2011-12 year. Burns pays 20 percent of its TRT to the chamber, which amounted to $18,500.
Hoke said that, because the funds come from TRT, state law requires the money to go toward tourism. She said the city gets its own percentage for sidewalks, etc.
Morgan asked why migratory bird festival banners were hung in Burns, but not Hines, last year. She said that 38 Hines businesses are members of the chamber, but none of these businesses received banners to advertise the festival. She added that Hines contributes more to the chamber than Burns does.
“In the past, we always did banners down Broadway,” Hoke said. “Now that Hines has posts, we can hang them in Hines as long as the sizes are correct.”
Hoke explained that the banners will only fit onto a specific size of posts. She said that she can order banners to fit the posts in Hines, but that she will need the measurements.
“I am more than open to considering [banners] in Hines, but I need measurements,” she said.
Morgan also asked Hoke why advertisements said that the Cannonball Run took place in Burns.
The Cannonball Run is an annual, cross-country motorcycle trip that is mostly made up of vintage motorcycle riders from around the world. About 300 riders stopped in Hines this year, and a dinner was served to the participants behind the Apple Peddler restaurant.
Hoke replied that any advertising stating that the Cannonball Run took place in Burns did not come from the chamber. She said advertisements mentioning Burns may have come from the route planners. City Administrator Joan Davies said the original map and notification was for Hines.
Morgan said she would like the chamber to advertise future events as taking place in “Burns and Hines or the communities of Burns and Hines.”
Hoke said the chamber has used similar language to advertise events in the past, but she received complaints about it. She added that, because of the city consolidation effort, she may get complaints about it again.
“Some people don’t want to be lumped together,” she said.
However, Hoke added that she wishes the cities would work together more.
Hoke also added that, in some cases, space limitations dictate how events are advertised, but she said she could change the language on some advertisements. She added that the chamber covers all cities in the county.
Hoke concluded her update by stating that she is in the process of updating the Harney County Chamber of Commerce website.
The council discussed how to spend $2,838.19 in available Citycounty Insurance Services (CIS) Risk Management Incentive funds.
Morgan said that the money will be lost if it is not used.
During the council meeting held Oct. 9, the heads of the police, public works and fire departments were asked to make a list of possible uses for the funds.
Police Chief Ryan DeLange’s list included three neon safety vests and two bulletproof vests, costing $1,651. DeLange said his bulletproof vest is two years old, and Officer Matt Githens’ vest is five years old. DeLange said the vests have a “five-year shelf life.”
Fire Chief Bob Spence’s list included testing for the department’s 35 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units, two conference tables and 10 chairs at a cost of $2,425.
Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala’s list included a floor jack, pressure washer and battery pack for $1,729.
Morgan said she thought the council should use the funds to purchase the bulletproof vests and to pay for SCBA testing. She said, even if washed and cared for properly, the vests receive a lot of wear. She added that the fire department’s SCBAs should be tested every five years, and that testing is currently two years past due.
Councilor Dick Anderson said he agreed with Morgan, because not purchasing these items could create liability issues.
Councilor Brent Drury said he did not care, as long as the public works department got everything that it requested.
Davies said, “I would like to buy all of it. They are all very well-thought-out requests.”
She suggested that CIS funds be used to purchase the bulletproof vests and the SCBA tests and the other purchase requests be met through other funding streams available to the city.
Councilor Hilda Allison made a motion to use the CIS funds for the bulletproof vests and SCBA testing and to use the balance to put toward all other requests. The motion was approved.
DeLange reported that the department has received calls for theft, burglary and criminal mischief. He said there has also been an increase in the number of complaints regarding barking dogs, but reports of vehicle break-ins have slowed down.
DeLange also reported that Officer Githens obtained all of the warrants that he needs in order to investigate the stabbing that occurred on Oct. 14.
He added that the department received seven or eight applications for its open police officer position and that some of the applicants are Department of Public Safety Standards and Training certified, meaning that they have already attended the police academy. However, he said any officer who is hired to fill the position can be asked to sign a two-year contract, which could be used to prevent him or her from using the position as a “stepping stone to the academy.”
Davies said these kinds of contracts are typically for a two-year period, and she explained that any agency wishing to hire the officer before his or her contract expires would be required to reimburse the city for the officer’s salary and mileage expenses accrued from putting the officer through the police academy.
DeLange added that the department will be working with the sheriff’s office and Burns officers to perform a driving under the influence of intoxicants saturation patrol from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1.
Zabala said the public works department has been busy with regular maintenance. He also provided the council with a final report on the cleaning of the city’s water tank.
Spence was unable to attend the meeting. Morgan reported on his behalf that the fire department received two calls. She said one was for a chimney fire and the other was for a motor vehicle roll-over south of Hines.
In other business, the council:
• swore in Rachael Robinson as the municipal treasurer;
• approved a business license for John Rutter of Double O Ranch Road for a business called Cedar Products. Rutter does construction and forestry clean-up jobs;
• decided to purchase $30 beef certificates for city employees. Morgan explained that the certificates are purchased each year to show appreciation for employees;
• set up a mailbox for children to send their letters to Santa. Davies said the first letter was received Friday, Dec. 7;
• was wished a Merry Christmas by Morgan. Morgan also thanked Davies and city staff for the work that they have done throughout the year.
Morgan asked whether any of the council members wanted to have a second meeting in December, as the regularly scheduled meeting date falls on Christmas Day. The consensus was that, unless something besides approval of the bills needs to be discussed, a second meeting will not likely be held. Morgan explained that the council can approve the bills via email.