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County requests assistance on nuisance issues
by Samantha White
During the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held May 1), Building Program Technician Howard Palmer presented the court with generic plans for building a post frame building, which is commonly referred to as a pole barn.
Palmer explained that the purpose of the generic building plans is to make it “simpler and cheaper for people to apply for a permit” to construct these structures. He added that people using the generic plans would not need an engineer, and the cost per square foot would be cut in half. The generic plans would also save courthouse staff time.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty added that the generic set of plans could be used to build smaller or larger post-frame buildings.
“We have something that’s useable and saves us money,” Grasty said regarding the plans, and he thanked Palmer and Herb Vloedman for their assistance with developing them.
The court agreed to accept the generic post frame building plans, as presented.
Grasty added that he thinks the state of Oregon might ask the county to “work through two or three more” generic plans for structures.
In an effort to help clean up the city, Darrell Williams was recently hired part-time as a code enforcement officer for the city of Burns. During the county court meeting, Grasty addressed the court regarding the possibility of requesting that Williams work a few hours to assist with nuisance abatement issues on the “county end,” as well.
“At least some of the [nuisance] issues are at the edge of the city, so it seems appropriate,” Grasty said.
He added that Williams could be asked to work a few hours a week or even a few hours a month, adding that progress has been made in terms of nuisance abatement in Burns.
“Let’s see what comes out of it,” Grasty suggested.
Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols asked which fund would be used to compensate Williams, and Grasty replied that money could be taken from either the general fund or the nuisance abatement fund.
After some discussion, the court decided to request that Williams work some hours for the county to assist with nuisance abatement issues and that he be compensated from the general fund.
Grasty led a brief discussion regarding a proposal to drill, test and monitor geothermal exploratory wells on private and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands in Harney and Lake counties near Glass Butte.
In a letter written to Grasty, BLM District Manager Carol Benkosky explained that, if approved, the project “would evaluate the potential of geothermal resources in the area.” Ormat Nevada Inc. proposes to drill up to 16 exploratory wells, each within a well pad ranging in size from two to four acres. The proposed project would be located about 70 miles southeast of Bend, and 50 miles northwest of Burns. It would be north and south of Hwy. 20. If approved, work will begin late this summer.
Regarding the project, Grasty said Lake County has not issued a land use decision, but he said Harney County would issue a land use decision for “that little bit” of land in Harney County that was included in the proposal.
Grasty added that he probably plans to submit positive comments regarding the proposal during the public scoping process.
The court briefly discussed a proposal to close the Brothers Oasis rest area. Grasty explained that there had been some discussion regarding closing the restrooms and installing vault toilets.
“I’m going to ask that they stop what they’re doing,” Grasty said. “Vault toilets are not practical.” he added.
Grasty said vault toilets would be especially impractical for Harney County residents who travel to and from Bend to fulfill their medical needs.
In other business, the court:
• listened to a presentation given by Oregon Air National Guard Colonels Jeremy Baenen and Wes French regarding the 173 Fighter Wing Airspace Proposal;
• agreed to recommend the reappointment of Fred Otley and Richard Jenkins to the Steens Mountain Advisory Council;
• was addressed by Mary Ausmus regarding the digitization of county records. She asked if the county had to pay for the digitization project and whether she would be able to find her personal records online. Harney County Clerk Derrin (Dag) Robinson explained that FamilySearch Inc. provided the digitization service at no cost to the county, and in an effort to maintain privacy, records have only been digitized up to the 1930s. Grasty added that the county has been working toward digitization for years, and this project compliments ongoing efforts;
• discussed whether Harney County should declare drought. Grasty said the court will resume this discussion during its next regular meeting;
• discussed Resolution 2013-09 in the matter of establishing a Wolf Compensation Fund. The resolution would establish and maintain a fund as a reserve with the specific purpose of covering the cost of predation from wolves to livestock. The court would spend money from this fund based on the written advice of the Wolf Committee, but the court would have final authority over the appropriation and expenditure of the fund. The resolution will be presented for adoption during the next regular meeting;
• discussed resolutions 2013-10 and 2013-11. Resolution 2013-10 would separate the federally-funded Drug Free Community grant from the Harney County Commission on Children and Families, as the Commission on Children and Families program will end June 30. Resolution 2013-11 would create a fund for the Early Learning Council. Grasty asked the court to review the language of resolutions 2013-10 and 2013-11 and make suggestions. Discussion regarding these resolutions will resume during the next regular meeting of the county court;
• decided to sign a Cooperative Service Agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services (APHIS-WS) to conduct wildlife damage management activities in Harney County. The agreement states that APHIS-WS will “control predatory and nuisance species in and around Harney County to reduce damage to livestock and human health and safety threats;”
• went on a road review trip with Road Supervisor Eric Drushella. Grasty said the court will provide a report regarding the trip during its next regular meeting.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, May 15, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.