Information center to be at courthouse

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Harney County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tom Sharp was present at the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held March 5) to discuss the “active shooter” training that will be held at Burns High School (BHS) between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, March 14.

Sharp said the full-scale exercise will include multiple, local law-enforcement agencies, as well as Harney District Hospital (HDH) and EMS staff.

Approximately 40 students from the BHS leadership class will participate in the training, and a moulage makeup-artist will be on hand to create realistic-looking wounds.

“That experience is pretty graphic, even though it’s an exercise,” Sharp said, explaining that role-playing could cause issues for some students.

Thus, all of the students who will be involved in the exercise will receive crisis counseling when the training concludes.

Additionally, Sharp said a realistic information center will be set up at the Harney County Courthouse to field phone calls and provide consistent messaging to the public. Harney County School District No. 3 Superintendent Dr. Marilyn McBride, Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup, and HDH Development Coordinator Denise Rose will be involved with this effort.

“As you can imagine, if we were to have a real event of this type, within minutes, you would have media calling from all over the country,” Sharp said, explaining the importance of the mock information center.

Sharp added that, during the training, participants will repeatedly state that they are engaged in an exercise in order to prevent the public from mistaking the training for a real event.

Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels said he was glad the exercise will be conducted on a non-school day, and he expressed concern about a student committing a “copycat” or “hack” during the training.

Sharp said these concerns were addressed during the planning process, which began in December.

“There has been so much good in bringing agencies together in planning meetings since December,” Sharp said. “We’ve accomplished so much already.”

Sharp also informed the court about a Fiscal Year 2013 Emergency Management Performance Grant application. If secured, funding from the grant will be used toward the purchase of yellow, flame-retardant, long-sleeve shirts for Rangeland Fire Protection Association volunteers.

Sharp said, in addition to providing personal protection, the shirts would help identify the volunteers and  make them highly-visible to responders in the air.

The grant application is due March 12.

Sharp also informed the court that the Burns Interagency Fire Zone will meet Thursday, March 20 at 9 a.m. at the Burns Bureau of Land Management  (BLM) District Office.

In addition to discussing the August 2013 “Shooting Range Fire,” the meeting will address efforts to re-establish the urban fire line break to better protect the cities of Burns and Hines. Plans for the April 23 table-top exercise for inter-agency, radio-communication coordination will also be discussed during the meeting.


The court discussed draft proposals for using Title II funding.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said Christy Cheyne, Emigrant Creek district ranger, will need the county’s priority recommendations soon.

The court agreed to recommend prioritizing the funding of two Oregon Youth Conservation Corps crews at a cost of $80,772, as well as hazardous-fuels reduction on 2,089 acres at a cost of $583,000. The court’s lower priority would be the Dry Creek Greater Sage Grouse habitat restoration project on 800 acres at a cost of $28,620. The court agreed that more information is needed about the sage grouse project.


The court also discussed ongoing issues concerning sage grouse management.

Grasty said the court will stay on as a cooperating agency and remain heavily involved with providing comments concerning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision regarding whether to list sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

“We’ve got to stay at the table as long and as much as we can,” Grasty said.

The court, along with Sharp, discussed Rep. Cliff Bentz’s bill (House Bill 4093), which provides privacy protection for landowners who voluntarily enter into  agreements with soil and water conservation districts to protect sage grouse.

The bill passed, and it is on its way to the governor for his signature.


In other business, the court:

• received a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding Grasty’s request to revert back to the flood boundary map from 1978. Grasty plans to respond to FEMA’s letter;

• upon recommendation from Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella, accepted a bid from Ed Staub and Sons Petroleum Inc. for fuel;

• approved the 2014 Fund Exchange Agreement between Harney County and the Oregon Department of Transportation;

• upon recommendation from Drushella, approved an application from Golden Rule Farms Inc. for an approach off of Miller Canyon Road in Riley;

• discussed open positions on the Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council and Steens Mountain Advisory Council;

• received an email from Lanny Quackenbush, Department of State Lands (DSL) Eastern Oregon regional manager, regarding the status of a proposed land exchange between DSL and Tree Top Ranches LP;

• received a notice of an Environmental Assessment from the Vale District of the BLM regarding a request to amend a ditch right-of-way in Malheur County;

• received an update from Grasty concerning his recent trip to the annual National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.;

• learned from Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols that a copy of the Early Learning Council hub contract has been received.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, March 19, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

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