Generator to power health department in emergency
by Samantha White
Harney County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tom Sharp attended the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held Dec. 18) to provide an update.
Sharp reported that the Harney County Public Health Department received a $10,000 special project grant, which will be combined with $13,000 of the county’s federal Emergency Management Performance Grant funds for a $23,000 electrical power backup generator upgrade project at the public health department.
Sharp explained that the health department currently relies on a portable generator to supply the facility with power during an outage. In addition to being more than 10 years old, Sharp said the department’s current generator has had some maintenance problems, and it is unable to provide power to the entire building, making it impossible to keep the facility open during a power outage.
The new, 50 kilowatt, propane-fueled, electrical generator will automatically start up when it senses a loss of power, and it will be permanently installed at the health department.
Other county emergency management and public health department grant awards received in fiscal year 2013 total $189,631, and many of these grants require no local match funds. In fact, fiscal year 2013 grant awards represent a return to the county of $7.29 for each $1 of county match funds.
“Tom [Sharp] has done a great job of finding money,” Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said.
“So far, we have been 100 percent successful in [obtaining the grants that] we have gone for in Harney County,” Sharp said. “The state sees the county doing good things, and they are supporting us,” he added.
Sharp said he wanted to recognize Ron Copeland for his assistance, as well as, the volunteer groups that have helped with emergency management in Harney County.
Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Coordinator Scott Fairley also attended the meeting to provide an update.
Fairley explained that the goal of Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions is to develop regional priorities by identifying similarities among local issues occurring in communities throughout the region. He said once regional priorities are identified, they are refined and presented to an advisory committee for review.
Commissioner Dan Nichols expressed frustration with this process.
“The whole process is wrong from the get-go,” he said, explaining, in part, that he does not think regionalization works in Eastern Oregon because the region is too large.
Nichols also expressed his belief that private business should dictate the direction that the state moves.
“It’s not a perfect system, but the intent is to move closer to perfection,” Fairley replied.
Grasty provided an update regarding his review of the sage grouse Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
“I’ve got a couple dozen hours into reviewing this EIS, and I know I’m not unique,” Grasty said.
Grasty told the court that a professional writer is needed to help draft comments in response to the EIS. He said he inquired about the cost of these services, and received an estimate of “not to exceed $17,500.”
Grasty said he has asked multiple counties with sage grouse populations to help with funding, but he has only received a commitment for financial assistance from Lake County. He said he hopes Malheur County will also assist, as Malheur, Lake and Harney counties are “ground zero” for sage grouse.
Grasty said he wants to start the hiring process as soon as possible, but he warned the court that, “We [Harney County] might get stuck with the bill.”
He added that he would like to have the Eastern Oregon Counties Association hire someone, and asked for court approval to appropriate funding to cover this cost up-front.
However he said, “I will do everything in my power to find other funding for this,” adding that he believed Rep. Cliff Bentz had some funding set aside to work on sage grouse, and he will find out whether any of that funding is available.
“If we have to do it, we’ll do it,” Nichols said, regarding covering the cost of the professional writer up-front. “At least we can hold our heads up to our constituents.”
The court agreed by consensus to fund hiring a consultant to draft the county’s response to the EIS.
Grasty also stated that public meetings regarding the EIS are coming up, and he would like to encourage the public to participate in them.
During the public comment period, retiring Burns City Manager Don Munkers thanked the court for its cooperation and partnership during his tenure. He also introduced Kraig Cutsforth as his successor.
“I’ll tell you from the little bit that I have known Kraig [Cutsforth] that he’s going to do a great job. He’s going to be perfect for the city of Burns,” Munkers said.
The court welcomed Cutsforth and thanked Munkers for his years of service.
Ron Copeland attended the meeting on behalf of the American Legion in order to propose transferring funds from the insurance payout that was received when a van that was donated by Teague Motor Company and an anonymous donor crashed. Grasty explained that the van accident resulted in a total loss, and the insurance settlement has been kept in a trust for use by veterans. The American Legion has proposed accepting those funds, and the county has received approval from Teague Motor Company and the anonymous donor to transfer the funds to the Legion. The Legion will bring a final, approved proposal to the next court meeting. Grasty thanked Copeland and Joe Oltman for their work on the proposal.
“I really want to say thanks to you, and I absolutely want to acknowledge Joe [Oltman] because I know he put a lot of time into this,” Grasty said.
In other business, the court:
• received a letter from Tom Davis Livestock Inc. requesting that several county-right-of-way easements be vacated. Grasty suggested that Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella review the records and make a recommendation during the next court meeting;
• reviewed the 2012-2013 Workers’ Compensation audit, which reports that Harney County will receive a $22,727.66 credit. It will be a credit on the account for the fourth-quarter invoice;
• acknowledged a letter that was submitted by William Burstow, which announced his resignation from the Training and Employment Consortium Budget Committee. The court agreed to accept Burstow’s resignation and send him a thank you card;
• discussed recent changes made to the Brothers Oasis rest area. Grasty acknowledged that the changes were unfavorable to the public, and he said this is “a priority issue for our citizens;”
• recognized a letter received from Harney Health District Board Chair Dan Brown regarding the hospital board’s desire to realign with the Central Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) and disconnect from the Eastern Oregon CCO. Grasty said the court will organize a meeting with interested parties to discuss the matter further.
Due to the New Year’s Day holiday, the next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.