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Burns officers not in favor of allowing ATVs on city streets
by Randy Parks
With an ordinance drafted to allow ATVs on city streets, the Burns City Council now needs to vote on whether to pass the ordinance or not.
A public hearing on the ordinance was to be held during the council meeting on April 10, but the city failed to issue a public notice regarding the hearing, so the hearing will be held at 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24.
The council did allow the public to comment on the ordinance, and those comments will be taken as part of the public record.
There were four residents in attendance at the meeting to speak in favor of allowing ATVs on city streets.
Two Burns police officers, Newt Skunkcap and Robbie Tiller, spoke in opposition to the ordinance, citing safety issues as their main concern.
Councilor Terri Presley stated that she wanted the public to understand that it would be fun to hop on an ATV and ride around town, but who would be riding them is a big question. “If we pass this, how many kids will just take off riding them?” she asked. “The safety issues are huge. It would be fun, but I think it’s a bad idea.”
Burns resident Vina Tiller stated that riders would have to have liability insurance and proper safety equipment. “It’s no more dangerous than other vehicles if you’re doing it right,” she said.
Officer Tiller stated, “You would obey the laws, but others wouldn’t.”
“That’s like saying you can’t go in a bank because somebody else will rob it,” V. Tiller said.
After the public hearing on April 24, the council is expected to vote on the ordinance.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty was in attendance to speak to the council about the formation of a joint emergency preparedness organization.
Grasty said that Columbia County found that different entities; such as cities, the county and hospitals; would conduct separate, but similar, emergency management activities. In response, Columbia County formed an association to be responsible for emergency planning.
Using the Columbia County plan as a guideline, Harney County drafted a plan for a county-wide organization, Harney Emergency Planning Association.
The association would be managed by a board of directors that would include members of law enforcement, fire and EMS services, schools, utilities, city and county governments, medical facilities and others.
Grasty said they have a $65,000 grant that can be used in the formation of an organization pursuant to ORS 190.
Councilor Holt said she had concerns about the organization having total control in the event of an emergency “What if they pull all the resources out of the city?” she asked. “Our first responsibility is to the residents.”
“This is about preparedness, not response,” Grasty answered.
Grasty said he was not asking the city for money, and he encouraged the council to look over the draft with the idea of coming up with a plan to fit Harney County’s needs.
The council agreed to hire Darrell Williams as a part-time code enforcement officer for the city.
City Manager (CM) Don Munkers said that code-enforcement has been placing an extra burden on the city’s fire and police departments, and having Williams take over the duties would help the city.
Williams would visit the sites in violation of city ordinances, explain what needs to be done to bring them into compliance, do follow-up visits and issue citations if warranted.
“It will help us get the city cleaned up,” Munkers said.
Councilor Dan Hoke reviewed the work done at the cemetery over the past year-and-a-half, and thanked volunteers for their help. Hoke estimated that over that time period, more than 1,200 hours have been put in by volunteers.
Hoke gave special recognition to Lois Taylor for her work on updating cemetery records. “She spent probably 500 to 600 hours researching, verifying and correcting records,” Hoke said. “And because of her work, we have located three Civil War veterans in the cemetery.”
Hoke said they had the county use their GIS system to identify gravesites, and hope to use that information to prepare a user-friendly map for visitors.
Other recent improvements included tree removal and replacement and the new fence.
Hoke said upcoming projects will involve tree planting, continuing with the landscape beautification plan and working on infrastructure, such as replacing the main water line and an evaluation of the road surfaces.
He added that the long-range plan includes the cemetery committee looking for their own replacements so those coming in will understand and complete the vision for the next 20 years.
In other business:
• CM Munkers told the council he may have found another source of funding to complete the fire suppression system at the Burns airport;
• the council approved changes to the cemetery ordinance; removing references to a perpetual care cemetery, and allowing double and triple markers in the crematorium section;
• Councilor Hoke asked about the possibility of a crosswalk on Highway 20 near Safeway. CM Munkers said that a crosswalk with flashing lights is part of the sidewalk enhancement program.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at city hall.