Court discusses drought declaration

Posted on January 29th in News

County’s 125th anniversary

by Samantha White

Burns Times-Herald

During the public comment period of the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held Jan. 22), Herb Vloedman addressed the court regarding the lack of snowpack that he observed in his travels around the state. Vloedman said conditions are dry in Harney County, and he encouraged the court to move forward with a drought declaration.

“We need to get it done as early as possible,” he said.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said he believed the county was already included in a national drought declaration, but it will benefit the county to obtain a declaration from the state of Oregon, as well.

Later in the meeting, Grasty suggested that the court prepare a drought declaration and write a letter to the governor.

Grasty said the county does not have resources available to help its citizens address drought conditions.

Ron Copeland, assistant county emergency management coordinator, was present to provide input concerning the declaration.


Verna Pettyjohn, Mildred Fine and Dale White attended the meeting to dedicate the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center’s new addition  and parking lot to the Harney County Court in appreciation of the court’s contributions to the project.

“It’s been a wonderful project,” Pettyjohn said, emphasizing the building’s importance to the community.

Pettyjohn also recognized a variety of other individuals who contributed to the success of the project, and stated that the building’s new heating system is very efficient.

White added, “I just want to say, ‘We appreciate your support with the project, but we really appreciate your ongoing support day-after-day, year-after-year.’ We have the best center because we have the best county court in the state of Oregon. I really believe that.”

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said he appreciated the recognition, but it is the people at the center who deserve the praise.

“It’s the folks working down there that make it exemplary — the staff and volunteers,” Nichols said.


Harney County Clerk Derrin (Dag) Robinson reminded the court that the county’s 125th anniversary will be on Feb. 25. Robinson said he will work with the court and community organizations to plan activities to recognize the anniversary.


In other business, the court:

• discussed ongoing issues concerning Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). Grasty stressed the importance of these federal payments, which help local governments offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries. Because many of the congressional bills that have been introduced now include PILT funding, Grasty said he is cautiously optimistic;

• received an update from Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella who discussed continued construction on Double 00 Road. Drushella said he is considering doing overlay on Hotchkiss Lane, part of Airport Lane and the road in front of Crane Union High School, as well as some chip seal work around Harney Valley;

• reviewed and adopted the Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mileage reimbursement rate of $0.56 for calendar year 2014 for travel when personal vehicle use is required. In order to reflect true expense, the court agreed by consensus to the concept of reimbursing half the IRS mileage rate for travel when employees choose to use their personal vehicles. Grasty will prepare an order for the next county court meeting;

• opened bids for crushed rock at 11 a.m. The court received bids from Harney Rock & Paving Co. and ACW Rock & Ready-Mix.  With a bid of $268,560, Harney Rock & Paving Co. was the low bidder. And, upon recommendation from Drushella, the court agreed to award the bid to Harney Rock;

• received an update from Grasty concerning the sage grouse Resource Management Plan Amendment/Environmental Impact Statement.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

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