Owners to be notified of violations
by Steve Howe
The Hines Common Council met for its regular meeting June 24. During the meeting, the council discussed the enforcement of the nuisance abatement ordinance.
Councilors discussed city ordinance 9.52.050 “Noxious vegetation.” The code states that property owners may not allow “weeds, grass, brush, or other noxious vegetation to exceed 10 inches in height after June 1.” Noxious vegetation is defined as any vegetation likely to become a health, fire, or traffic hazard.
The issue was brought to the council as a result of a citizen complaint about the lack of enforcement of this city code, causing concern about dry fuel sources and high fire danger this summer. City Administrator Joan Davies asked the council what its position was with regard to this issue.
A lengthy discussion ensued. It was established that 1) the city is liable if it does not enforce the code (i.e., in the event of a fire starting on an offending property and spreading to neighboring properties), 2) there is no code enforcement officer, nor funding allocated to pay for one, and 3) there is a process by which the city can enter a property, clean it up, and bill the property owner. The problem is that the cost incurred is not necessarily recoupable. Administrator Davies explained that many of these “nuisance” properties already have liens on them, affecting the likelihood of the city collecting on a lien.
Councilors Dick Baird and John Mims volunteered to trim weeds and help clean up. City-owned alleys and narrower strips of city-owned property will be first on the list, giving residents a chance to receive notices and comply with the code.
Mayor Nikki Morgan offered to take photos of the offending properties, and help office staff with generating and mailing extra notices. Those property owners will be notified of the violation and given until July 3 to get weeds, grass, brush, and noxious vegetation mowed or cut.
Fire Chief Bob Spence reported that the Hines Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) had received three calls since the last council meeting.
One was a call to Wright’s Point. A fire there had flared up for the third time and spread to 25 acres. HVFD firefighters spent seven hours at that location.
The second call reported a mattress on fire at mile marker 82 on Hwy. 20 west, and the third call reported a brush fire near West Loop Road. HVFD assisted Burns Tribal Fire Department and Burns Fire Department on the brush fire. In both instances, the fires were quickly extinguished.
Chief Spence also reported that he had responded to the first illegal burn. Administrator Davies stated that flyers have gone out notifying residents of the burn ban that went into effect June 20. Residents are reminded that open burning, wood pits, and burn barrels are not allowed. Only covered barbecues are permitted under the ban.
During the weekend of June 21-22, HVFD firefighters attended a hazmat first responder class. The training was Friday through Monday, and three of the HVFD members attended all 20 hours, including a “table-top” exercise for responding to a hypothetical anthrax letter scenario. The training meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements, and is certified by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST).
Chief Spence reported that Obsidian Days, held June 13-15, went well, but that participation was lower than usual. He thanked Hines City Hall for its work on the administrative side, and then presented a check to Mayor Morgan which included a $200 donation from HVFD for park beautification, and $190 in vendor payments toward electricity use. He said that left $500 in compensation for HVFD’s work at the event.
Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala gave a brief report from his department.
He thanked the Parole and Probation work crew for weeding in ditches around the city.
Zabala warned that there are a lot of rattlesnakes around town right now because they are attracted to water.
Baird told Zabala that the parks and the area around Circle Drive are “looking great.”
Councilor Dick Anderson added that he had spoken with local residents recently who told him that they had “never seen [the parks] look so good.”
Administrator Davies gave the Hines Police Department (HPD) report in the absence of Chief Ryan DeLange, who was unable to attend the meeting. Chief DeLange’s report stated that HPD responded to multiple fights, domestic violence assaults, beer thefts, driving under the influence of intoxicants, drug possession, and sex abuse cases in just one week.
Administrator Davies reported that $10,100 has been raised for the park fund in a little more than two years through refundable can and bottle donations, as well as the mayor’s donations of fees from the Hines Junket. She thanked the community for its generosity.
Davies advised the council of a recent meeting with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Harney County, and the city of Burns with regard to the monitoring of particulates in the air over the past year. DEQ is concerned about the number of times the maximum level has been exceeded. She learned about the monitoring process, and noted that both monitors are located in Burns. One monitor is located near Washington Park. A discussion ensued about whether this was a fair and accurate measure of air quality in Hines.
Davies said that monitors do take into account rangeland fires, but was not sure for what amount of time these were “credited” to the measurement after the fire has been contained. It may not count the days during which the undergrowth may still be smoldering.
Chief Spence noted that oil stoves (as a cleaner alternative to wood stoves that many residents use for heat) are not affordable for many people.
Zabala added that even oil stoves can contribute to the problem if they are not serviced regularly.
Davies noted that there was a wood stove replacement program in the past, but that it provided no compensation for those who did not qualify for assistance but were still unable to afford an oil stove.
Davies, Burns City Manager Kraig Cutsforth, as well as the Burns and Hines fire chiefs, will be meeting to discuss alternative sites for the monitors and what programs might be available for local residents.
Administrator Davies had advised the council that Desert Riders, the local motorcycle club that usually gives away free hot dogs in Hines Park on July 4, had come in to cancel its reservation due to a lack of funds. Davies estimated that it would be $500 to pay for the food, and asked the council if it would be willing to sponsor the event while the club provided the labor.
Councilor Ron Williams, owner of TopLoc Asphalt, volunteered to donate $200 from his business. Anderson and Baird, owners of Jitters Revolution, matched that donation, pledging another $200 to the cause.
Davies asked the council if it would be willing to cover the additional approximately $100 needed. Baird made a motion that the city donate whatever amount above $400 was needed to pay for the hot dog feed. Councilor Hilda Allison seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously.
In other business, the council:
• passed Resolution 2190, electing to receive state revenues for fiscal year 2014-15;
• passed Resolution 2191, adopting the 2014-15 budget in the total of $1,757,494, appropriating funds, and imposing and categorizing taxes at the permanent rate of 4.2922 per $1,000;
• decided to wait on approval of a lawn mower purchase until Zabala and crew were able to find the right model;
• approved accounts payable in the amount of $46,129.64.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Hines Common Council will be held July 8 at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.