Resident objects to road closures
by Samantha White
During its regular meeting (held July 3), the Harney County Court acknowledged that it received a letter from the board of the Harney County Health District. Signed by Board Chair Sam Caizza, the letter addressed issues with the Eastern Oregon Community Care Organization (EOCCO) and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. (GOBHI).
According to the letter, the board is “pursuing ways to more closely align with the St. Charles hospital system and PacificSource Community Solutions,” and the board is requesting a meeting with the court to discuss and resolve its concerns.
Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels agreed to coordinate a meeting with health district representatives and suggested that representatives from GOBHI and EOCCO be present at the meeting.
Runnels said the CCO process is “moving along,” but he acknowledged that it is “slow going.”
The court also reviewed a letter from Larry Hammond who wrote, “I hope you all will find objection to the proposed closing of some 11.23 miles of road and the decommissioning of 1.2 miles of road.”
Hammond also wrote that he opposes the proposed decommissioning of 0.42 miles of Forest Service (FS) Road 2855, which is included in the Malheur National Forest Upper Pine project.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said he has a “direct conflict of interest” regarding road number FS 2855, and he would not participate in discussion regarding that specific road.
However, the court agreed to ask Forest Service representatives to attend the next court meeting.
Harney County Library Director Cheryl Hancock attended the meeting to discuss reappointing Karen Hendrickson to the Harney County Library Foundation Board of Directors.
Hendrickson has served two consecutive terms on the board. And, according to the board’s bylaws, she would need to take a year off before serving another term. However, Hancock explained that many attempts have been made to recruit a new board member, to no avail. She added that the board is already missing two members, and an additional member will be leaving soon.
County counsel suggested an emergency appointment so that the board can establish a quorum.
Runnels moved to appoint Hendrickson to the board under an emergency appointment, and the motion was seconded by Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols.
Grasty asked to have the board modify the language to allow this type of appointment without it being an emergency. The motion carried unanimously.
Hancock also reported that two Kindle e-readers were donated to the library for its summer reading program. She said one e-reader was donated by the Burns Lions Club, and the other was donated by the Kiwanis Club of Burns-Hines.
Harney County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tom Sharp provided an emergency preparedness update.
Sharp reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved the Harney County Multi-Jurisdictional Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan. The updated plan allows multiple jurisdictions to be eligible to apply for funding for hazards mitigation project.
Sharp also updated the court regarding the hazmat Gap Assessment Project, explaining that funding for the project was provided by a State Homeland Security Grant (SHSG) that the county received. Sharp said information gathered during the project will be used to develop a follow-up project and apply for an additional SHSG grant for county hazmat training, materials, and exercises. The grant application must be submitted to Oregon Emergency Management (OEM) by July 26.
Additionally, the application package for the Harney County Emergency Management Performance Grant must be submitted to OEM by July 15.
Sharp reported that a table-top emergency exercise was held June 27 at Harney District Hospital. The exercise was based on a hypothetical E.coli outbreak scenario at the Harney County Fair, Rodeo & Race Meet.
Sharp said exercise participants learned the importance of early reporting among heath care providers, as this helps them determine patterns in developing illnesses. Sharp explained that, because incidences are not typically shared, it can take a while to determine whether an outbreak has occurred.
Sharp added that with the fair scheduled for Sept. 3-8 and Cycle Oregon traveling through Harney County Sept. 9-12, there will be two major events in Harney County in September. He said an all-hazards incident command structure will be formed prior to these events to aid in information sharing among event organizers and potential first responders. He added that if a large-scale emergency occurs, the incident command structure can be scaled up appropriately.
The court also discussed the FEMA flood insurance issue. Because FEMA did not provide base flood elevations in its recent re-mapping, the court will ask the agency to review the matter further and provide funding for survey work to be done. The survey work will help establish base flood elevations. The court agreed by consensus to work on this issue.
County Treasurer Nellie Franklin attended to discuss the Greater Oregon Federal Credit Union merger with SELCO Community Credit Union, as the institution holds nearly $100,000 in county funds.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Franklin said regarding the merger.
She explained that she just wanted to bring the merger to the court’s attention, adding that she did not know of any staff changes at the local branch, and she does not plan to change the county’s deposits at this time.
In other business, the court:
• received an update from Grasty regarding sage grouse;
• reappointed David Arntz to the Harney County Planning Commission;
• reviewed a letter from Oregon Early Learning System Director Jada Rupley regarding the creation of the Early Learning Council and Youth Development Council under the Department of Education. In the letter, Rupley requested that counties establish a point of contact. By consensus, the court agreed that Grasty will check with Donna Schnitker, director of ESD Early Childhood Center, for contact information;
• was informed by Grasty that he signed the OO Road right-of-way documents. The court agreed to ratify that signature;
• reviewed the Order in the Matter of the federal court case Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) vs. Tom Vilsack, et al, and Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. The case addressed the Malheur Grazing matter.
Grasty said ONDA requested $1,371,893 in fees, costs and other expenses, and although the judge reduced the amount slightly, ONDA was awarded most of what it asked for. Grasty said the money came out of the USFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife budgets;
• reviewed the proposed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision on the Ankle Creek Livestock Crossing Permit, but no action was taken;
• reviewed the BLM Keg Well Environmental Assessment. Grasty said he will review the assessment further and provide comments. Nichols said he “would absolutely be in favor of it;”
• agreed to sign the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Heath Inspection Service Wildlife Service Work and Financial Plan for Harney County fiscal year 2013-2014. The county will commit $54,000, as budgeted for this fiscal year, to this predator control contract;
• held an executive session at 11:45 a.m. to consult with counsel concerning the legal rights and duties of the public body regarding current litigation or litigation likely to be filed. No action was taken, and the court returned to regular session at 12:21 p.m.;
• briefly discussed an email from Kathy Rementeria, Department of Human Services community development coordinator, regarding pulling together community resources to streamline prevention efforts.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, July 17, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.