Flood plain issue still under discussion
by Samantha White
Due to scheduling conflicts, the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held Aug. 21) was postponed until 4 p.m.
During the public comment period, Fair Manager Don Slone addressed the court about the possibility of placing speed zone signs near the Harney County Fair Grounds.
“People are going too fast when they hit the fairgrounds,” Slone said, adding that he is concerned about people speeding in the area year-round, not just during the fair.
Slone said he also discussed the issue with Burns City Manager Don Munkers.
Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said the county may need to go through the state, but he pledged to address the issue.
“We will look into it,” he said. “It [the speed limit] needs to be posted.”
Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels said he would meet with Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella regarding the issue.
The possibility of borrowing speed monitors from the Burns Paiute Tribe and the city of Hines to slow traffic in the area during the fair was also discussed.
Herb Vloedman also addressed the court during the public comment period.
Vloedman began by discussing the ongoing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance issue. Vloedman suggested using an “income approach” to appraise property values, stating that, in some cases, flood insurance payments may be higher than property taxes. Vloedman added that commercial properties may take a “more substantial hit” than residential properties. Regarding this issue, Vloedman said he is willing to help anyone he can.
Nichols said the flood insurance issue is “a huge cost factor to the community.”
Runnels suggested the issue be brought up to Sen. Jeff Merkley. (Merkley held a town hall meeting at the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center Aug. 27.)
Vloedman also discussed the temporary loss of communication that occurred during the Shooting Range fire, stating that it presented an emergency preparedness issue.
Nichols said the loss of communication “pointed out weaknesses in the system,” but said these weaknesses will be corrected and worked on.
Vloedman commended the individuals who responded to the fire, stating, “They did a heck of a job.”
Located near Switch Canyon (just west of the Burns and Hines city limits), the Shooting Range fire started Friday, Aug. 16 from a stray bullet that was discharged by users at the Burns Butte Shooting Range.
Nichols said the Western Juniper Utilization Group’s (WJUG) Declaration of Cooperation ceremony (held Aug. 16 at the Harney County Community Center) was a successful event. He added that a large number of people from WJUG and many members of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s staff attended the ceremony.
Nichols said Kitzhaber, who was the first person to sign the declaration, “spoke solidly” of the project, which has the potential to create jobs in Harney County and throughout the state. Nichols added that the governor’s support of the project has been “tremendous.”
Runnels reported that he and Harney County Health District Board Chair Dan Brown called the Oregon Health Authority to express their concerns regarding the Eastern Oregon Community Care Organization (EOCCO) and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. (GOBHI).
Runnels said it was a “very good phone call,” adding that everyone agreed that Harney District Hospital should maintain its connection with the St. Charles hospital system.
Runnels said a follow-up call had been scheduled to continue the discussion.
In other business, the court:
• approved a bargain and sale deed for Kenneth and Paula Thomas for land in the townsite of Crane;
• approved the 2013 Fund Exchange Agreement between Harney County and the state of Oregon for 2013-2014 chip seal projects;
• received an update from Nichols regarding the Early Learning Council summit that he attended in Salem;
• briefly discussed the House Creek Fire, located on the eastern slope of Steens Mountain, about 20 miles east of Frenchglen. Runnels said the estimated size of the fire had been reduced to about 2,700 acres.
Regarding the fire, Nichols said responders did “a pretty good job keeping that thing under control.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.