The find will help with county road records

 by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

County clerk Dag Robinson with the plat book that hadn’t been seen for more than 40 years. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

County clerk Dag Robinson with the plat book that hadn’t been seen for more than 40 years. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

For a number of years, employees at the Harney County Courthouse had come across references to a “plat book” when dealing with county road legal issues.

Trouble was, none of the employees, or even former employees, had ever seen this supposed plat book.

Then, this spring, County Clerk Dag Robinson was organizing boxes in the vault, or storage area, when he spotted something behind a rack of shelves. He slid the remaining boxes off the shelves, and there, leaning up against the wall, was what looked like an over-sized, unmarked book.

The shelves were slid out as far as they would go in the crowded space, and Robinson wiggled the book out into the open. The edge of the book that had been resting on the ground was somewhat disfigured by moisture and the weight of all the years, and the pages a bit tattered, but otherwise, the book was in pretty good shape.

One look inside, and Robinson realized he had just found the plat book that had been missing for years.

How did the book get there? The best guess is that back in 1959, the courthouse was condemned, and all legal documents were moved over to the former Lincoln Junior High, so work could be done on the courthouse.

Two years later, after renovations, everything was moved back into the courthouse, and it’s speculated that the plat book was placed against a wall for what was expected to be just a “short while.” As more boxes were moved back into the courthouse, the shelves were filled, covering up the book, and the book was soon forgotten.

Further research revealed that former Harney County Surveyor C. E. Beery had been commissioned to complete the plat book in 1915, and was allowed the sum of $200 upon completion of the work.

Robinson said the discovery of the plat book is important because it shows where the county roads are supposed to be.

The county had been using the road record book in the plat book’s absence, but the accuracy of the road record book was somewhat skewed.

Howard Palmer and former county judge Dale White have been working for some time on getting an accurate account of county roads, but Palmer said there is a large margin for error in the road record book. He noted that at the time the records were recorded, the surveyors were using a compass and chains. If the compass was off just a few degrees, the road would end up in a different spot than what the legal record showed.

Robinson said the plat book will help verify the actual intent of the road, no matter where the actual road is now.

“The county has an obligation to know what the county road system includes legally,” Robinson said.

Now that the plat book has been discovered, plans are to have the pages scanned and then tie the images in to the county’s Geographic Information System (GIS) to produce an accurate account of the county road system.

If anyone is interested in preserving Harney County history and learning GIS technology, contact Bryce Mertz at 541-573-8195.


Musical duo to perform in Hines

Posted on April 16th in News

Concert to be held April 24

The Harney County Arts in Education Foundation will present the fifth of their annual recital series, An Evening to Celebrate the Arts, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at the Harney County Church of the Nazarene.

This year’s event will feature Kevin Lefohn on violin and Monica Ohuchi on piano.

Both musical artists are coming from Portland.

Violinist Lefohn maintains an international career as recital soloist, chamber musician and pedagogue. He was recently appointed as adjunct professor of violin at the University of Oregon, and master teacher at Talent Makers Music Academy in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Pianist Ohuchi has been hailed as a pianist performing “brilliantly with clarity, nuance and natural musicality.” She has performed throughout the world, and served a four-year tenure at the Julliard School of Music teaching piano.

The evening will also include the popular art show featuring the works of Burns and Crane high school art students during the reception following the concert.

The young artists have been working on their art in conjunction with Lefohn and Ohuchi in a virtual studio-to-school project. The students will be treated to a personal visit by the music duo Wednesday, April 23.

The rural schools are invited to a recital by Lefohn and Ohuchi at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 23, at Frenchglen School.

The recital is free to the public, donations will be accepted for the continued work of the Harney County Arts in Education Foundation, dedicated to music education, performing arts, visual arts and theater arts for the schools and communities in Harney county.

For more information, contact Becky Thein at 541-573-7001 or Debby Peckham at 541-573-2427.


Trail would run from Badlands to Owyhee 

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Brent Fenty, executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), was present during the Community Response Team meeting (held April 2) to introduce a proposal to designate the Oregon Desert Trail as a National Recreation Trail (NRT).

Fenty began his presentation by providing a brief overview of ONDA.

 

About ONDA

Founded 25 years ago, ONDA is a Bend-based association with more than 4,000 members and supporters.

According to its website, ONDA “exists to protect, defend and restore Oregon’s high desert.” The site states that the association’s “dream” is to “see millions of acres of beautiful and ecologically-vital public lands permanently protected.”

ONDA was instrumental in the creation of the Steens Mountain, Oregon Badlands, and Spring Basin wilderness areas. And, according to its website, ONDA maintains “diligent efforts to enforce conservation laws to protect sensitive wildlife.”

 

About the Oregon Desert Trail

After introducing ONDA, Fenty explained the association’s initiative to obtain NRT designation for the Oregon Desert Trail.

He said the trail, which spans from the Oregon Badlands Wilderness in Central Oregon to Lake Owyhee State Park near the Oregon/Idaho boarder, would be an asset to communities throughout Oregon’s High Desert, creating non-motorized recreation opportunities (such as hiking, boating, horseback riding, and biking) on public lands without disturbing sensitive wildlife areas or areas that are culturally-significant. Fenty said the trail would also incorporate “some of the most scenic and historic” sites in the area.

According to ONDA’s website, the Oregon Desert Trail “links existing trails, old Jeep tracks, historical wagon roads and cross-country navigation, and is accessible at different points by bicycle, horseback and raft, in addition to foot. Some sections offer easy walks along well-marked paths. Other areas require GPS  [Global Positioning System] skills, significant outdoor experience and serious preparation, particularly for water sources.”

Fenty said volunteers hiked the area in different seasons to help identify potential routes, as well as fence lines, water sources, and recreational activities.

ONDA’s website states that, “Thanks to thousands of volunteer and staff hours, the guide material, maps, GPS tracks and waypoints, and town information are now available for you to create your own Oregon Desert Trail adventure.”

Fenty said he hopes the people who hike the trail will serve as an asset to nearby communities by patronizing businesses in nearby towns. He added that he hopes the towns will also be an asset to hikers.

The trail transverses Deschutes, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties. Starting from the west, it begins in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and meanders through Diablo Peak, Fremont National Forest, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Steens Mountain, the Pueblo Mountains, and the Trout Creek Mountains, before ending in Lake Owyhee State Park.

Fenty added that, although the trail was featured in The New York Times and Outside magazine, it’s still a “work in progress.”

 

National Recreation Trail designation sought

On Nov. 8, 2013, ONDA submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, requesting NRT designation for the Oregon Desert Trail.

According to the BLM’s website, NRTs may be designated by the secretary of the interior or the secretary of agriculture “to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trial’s managing agency or organization.” Once trails are designated, they become part of America’s national system of trails.

Fenty said ONDA is reaching out to communities and businesses located along the trail’s route to better understand opportunities and challenges associated with the proposed NRT designation.

He then began accepting questions from the audience.

 

A rocky relationship

One member of the audience expressed suspicion regarding ONDA’s motivation for developing the trail.

“I think ONDA is taking on this whole project to recruit people to its legal work,” she said.

Fenty said ONDA’s goal for developing the trail is to “connect people to public lands.”

However, he acknowledged that the association has been involved in environmental litigation.

For example, ONDA pursued litigation that, ultimately, impeded the Echanis Wind Energy Project that Columbia Energy Partners proposed for Steens Mountain. During the delay, available tax credits expired, threatening the financial feasibility of the proposed project.

Another member of the audience asked, “Why do you think the community here should support an effort by ONDA?” He added, “I see your history as being obstructionist.”

Fenty said ONDA has been involved with projects in this community before. For example, he said ONDA assisted with the development of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

Regarding the trail, Fenty said, “I would hope that people could judge the project on its merits.” He added that, “It would have been easy to push [the trail project] off to another group,” but said he thinks the project could create an opportunity for cooperation.

 

Motorized access

Another audience member asked how many roads  would be closed to motorized vehicles if the Oregon Desert Trail becomes designated.

Fenty said the trail uses roads that are not typically accessed by motorized vehicles.

However, the audience member said that he, and many other local people, drive vehicles that are capable of accessing these rugged roads.

 

Private property

Kate Marsh asked whether the trail crosses private land.

Fenty replied that some routes are on county roads that cross between private property, but said the trail sticks to public land.

 

Marking the trail

Marsh also asked whether signs will be posted along the trail.

Fenty suggested limiting signs to the trail’s various staring points, posting just enough to let hikers know they are on the right track.

 

Why designate?

Barbara Cannady said she didn’t understand the point of designating the trail.

“You can advertise that there is a trail,” Cannady said, “but why do you need to have a designation that can have negative impacts?”

Fenty said the NRT designation requires input from organizations and individuals outside of ONDA, adding that he thinks this input will improve the trail and make it more of an asset to nearby communities.

“Ultimately, the product will be better,” Fenty said, adding that, “They are everyone’s public lands, not just ONDA’s.”

 

Search and rescue

Fred Flippence asked whether ONDA has considered the resources that may be needed from rural communities, adding that increased hiking will put pressure on local search and rescue operations.

“We don’t call Salem to find someone who is lost,” Flippence said. “We call the local sheriff.”

Fenty said, “These are the kinds of questions we are working on.”

 

Economic impact

Another audience member expressed concern about how the trail could threaten economic development opportunities in the future.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said, explaining that, for example, highly-valuable, rare earth could be discovered along the trail’s route. He added that, once the trail is designated, he doubts ONDA would be willing to give it up.

Fenty said this is a legitimate point, but added that much of the trail passes through areas that already have special designations.

However, the audience member said he was concerned about the areas that will be newly-designated to “connect the dots” between established trails.

Another audience member said he has hiked several trails, and a lot of them really helped the communities that were close to them.

“By and large, hikers are good stewards of the land, and they spend money in the community,” he said.

But Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols disagreed.

Nichols said, in the 35 years that he has lived near a designated trail, he has only seen two hikers use it.

Fenty replied that the Oregon Desert Trail would connect these existing trails into a “cohesive view of Oregon’s High Desert.” He added, “I think there is evidence that this can be an asset.”

However, he admitted that he cannot know who will use the trail.

 

•••

Tonya Fox of Training and Employment Consortium (TEC) attended the meeting to announce that TEC offices in Harney and Grant counties will be offering classes to prepare participants for Microsoft® Word certification testing.

Fox said, once participants received certification, they can sign up on Microsoft’s website where employers can find them and offer them higher-paying jobs and positions in larger companies.

Classes are two days a week, for four weeks. The classes are free, but the certification test cost $100. Some test sites may also charge a testing fee.

Fox said TEC also offers self-paced classes for anyone who wants to learn Microsoft® Word, but doesn’t want to take the certification test.

She added that TEC hopes to add certification training classes for other Microsoft® Office programs in the future.

Participants must be 18 years or older and register with WorkSource Oregon.

 

•••

Christine Nelson of the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation (GEODC) attended to discuss the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) update.

According to GEODC’s website, CEDS “is designed to bring together the private and public sector in the creation of an economic roadmap to strengthen and diversify regional economies.”

Harney County belongs to a seven-county region, which also includes Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla, Wheeler, Grant and Malheur counties.

Nelson encouraged everyone (community members, business owners, civic organizations, economic development organizations, etc.) to provide input regarding economic development in the region.

Anyone interested in providing input can complete a survey online at: http://www.geodc.net/ceds/2014-survey.


Several buildings considered in study

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

During its regular meeting (held April 2), the Harney County Court discussed a feasibility study for biomass heat.

Prepared by Wisewood Inc., the study explores the possibility of using a single, large biomass boiler system to transmit heat to connected facilities via thermal distribution lines (steam or hot water). This concept is known as district heating. Because thermal energy can be metered at each facility, individual billing can be applied.

The Harney County Courthouse, Harney County Sheriff’s Office,  Harney County Jail, former Lincoln Jr. High School building, and Symmetry Care were all considered in the study.

Lori Cheek, a Harney County School District No. 3 board member, said Slater Elementary School is also exploring the possibility of heating its facility with  a biomass boiler, but because the school is located too far from the courthouse, it would require a separate system.

Cheek said Slater is seriously considering this option because its existing boiler system is outdated and broken, and the school has been paying thousands of dollars in repairs.

Instead of wood pellets, the biomass boilers would use juniper and/or forest residuals, sourced from local forests. These boilers are capable of processing fuels of varying moisture content.

In addition to being more affordable than wood pellets, biomass material could provide employment opportunities for local logging groups.

However, according to the feasibility study, “The upfront construction cost of building a biomass district energy system…is currently estimated at approximately $1,500,000.”

But Wisewood Inc. will be able to access the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) if the combined total of individual projects  (developed simultaneously) is approximately $4 million or greater.

Wisewood Inc. has already secured State of Oregon Energy Incentive Program Tax Credits, which are in addition to any NMTC financing.

Cheek said Slater doesn’t want to be the “guinea pig” and pay full price for its boiler system.

She added that Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility may also be interested in participating.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty stressed that this study is still in draft form, and nothing has been committed. He added that the next step will be to meet with Wisewood Inc. to discuss the study further.

•••

Randy Fulton, Harney County Economic Development director, attended the meeting to discuss Resolution 2014-02 in the matter of sponsoring an application for the designation of an enterprise zone within the cities of Burns and Hines.

According to the text of the resolution, the 6.84-square-mile-zone would “encourage new business investment, job creation, higher incomes for local residents and greater diversity of economic activity” by granting property tax exemptions to eligible businesses firms.

Fulton explained that these tax abatements would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

After some discussion, the court agreed to approve the resolution, which was signed by Grasty and became effective April 9.

•••

Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella reported that he submitted a Federal Lands Access Program application for maintenance funding. If received, the funding will  be used to chip seal Rattlesnake Road.

•••

The court also discussed ongoing efforts to prevent the proposed sage grouse listing, agreeing that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Resource Management Plan Amendment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RMPA/DEIS) failed to adequately analyze the social and economic impacts of the proposed listing.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said, “They analyzed the bird and its habitat to the ‘nth degree,’ but they didn’t analyze the impact on humans.”

“We’ve just got to stay at the table until we get done,” Grasty said, regarding the court’s ongoing efforts.

•••

In other business, the court:

• scheduled its budget board meeting for May 14. The budget hearing is scheduled for June 4;

• discussed Early Learning Council Hubs. Nichols said he is interested to see how counties that have yet to receive a Hub designations will be included;

• received a letter from Stacy Davies announcing his resignation from the Harney County Planning Commission. In his letter, Davies stated that, over the past few years, he has been lax in filling out the Oregon Government Ethics form. As a result, he was fined $3,300. He added that he recently received the new form in the mail, and rather than fill it out, he decided to resign.

Grasty said that, although he understands the need to be ethical in government, there needs to be a better form. He added that he feels for Davies, and is sad to lose him from the commission;

• briefly discussed the Ochoco Summit Trail System Project;

• briefly discussed Taylor Grazing Proceeds distribution;

• held a work session after the meeting to discuss the BLM’s Steens Mountain Comprehensive Recreation Plan. No decisions were made.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the next county court meeting will be held Wednesday, April 23, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


Bound for Boston

Posted on April 2nd in News

Journey expected to take seven months

 by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Anna Harrington passed through Burns on her walk east to raise awareness for Shriners hospitals. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Anna Harrington passed through Burns on her walk east to raise awareness for Shriners hospitals. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

On March 1, Anna Harrington was in Astoria, which is where she took the first step of her journey that will end in Boston, Mass., in, presumably, seven months time.

Harrington’s walk across the country is to raise awareness for Shriners Hospitals for Children, and she “officially” arrived in Burns Saturday, March 29.

Harrington, 42, said her first experience with Shriners Hospitals was in 2005, when her nephew received treatment for scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, at the hospital in Sacramento, Calif. While at the Sacramento site, Harrington met other families whose lives had been impacted by the medical care at the hospital.

Then, just a few years ago, Harrington heard that there was the possibility of some Shriners hospitals closing because of a shrinking endowment, and she made the decision to walk across America to help them out.

Growing up in Tucson, Ariz., Harrington had a dream of walking across the country for an important cause, and making the trip to benefit Shriners hospitals was a good fit.

“While in Sacramento, I saw the wonderful things they do,” she said.

Harrington’s plan is to visit a number of Shriners hospitals across the country, and her first visit was to the hospital in Portland. From the Rose City, she trekked up Mount Hood, dropped down into Madras, and followed Highway 20 into Burns. Harrington, who now lives in Meridian, Idaho, said her route will take her to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she will visit another hospital, and eastward from there, passing through a total of 14 states.

Harrington is pushing a cart that carries the essentials for the trip, including a tent, sleeping gear, food, water and clothing. She plans to try walking 20 miles each day, and noted that, so far, she has been impressed by the beauty of the ever-changing terrain.

Walking alone along busy highways could be daunting, but Harrington is finding a lot of help along the way. She said people have invited her in to spend the night, motels have donated rooms, motorists have checked on her along the way, and businesses have donated tires for her buggy, and a cell phone and charger.

“Cars on the highway are the scariest,” she said.

When asked about obstacles she might encounter, Harrington answered, “You don’t know how to prepare for everything. There’s always a fear of the unknown, but you can’t let that fear dictate your actions. It’s scary out there sometimes, but it’s also exciting, and the reward outweighs the fear.”

To make a donation, visit: annaswalk.com


Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jim Bishop has announced his upcoming retirement from Harney District Hospital (HDH).

He will leave his position with HDH in August 2015, just shy of 15 years of service to the hospital as both the chief financial officer (CFO) and CEO.

Over the last five years, the Harney County Health District Board of Directors and HDH administration have developed a succession plan, which provides an organized approach to filling open positions with qualified candidates. This plan allows current HDH employees to bolster their education through district-sponsored trainings and tuition support, and develops a process for recruiting external candidates. Both approaches provide assistance in filling open HDH positions with existing or new staff.

The CEO is the only HDH position that is hired by, and reports directly to, the Health District Board. The board has already contracted with an advisor who is well-versed in Oregon’s rural hospitals to facilitate the planning process for recruiting this important position.

A strong health district is valuable to our community, not only in terms of economic benefit and employment opportunities, but also in ensuring that top-quality healthcare is readily available in our remote area.

HDH has seen much growth under Bishop’s leadership. Among other accomplishments, the new HDH facility was built and moved into; 24/7 general and emergency surgical coverage is now the norm; a new electronic health record (EHR) system has been installed; the Swing Bed, Infusion Clinic, Cardiac Rehabilitation and Sleep Study programs were developed; and HDH Family Care and HDH Physical Therapy became departments of the hospital.

The CEO Recruiting Committee consists of three board members, two administrators, one physician, and two members of the public, in addition to the advisor. Recruiting, preliminary interviews, and reference checks will take place throughout the remainder of this year, with final candidate interviews and board selection in early 2015.

 


Board discusses EOCCO

 by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

During the Harney County Health District Board of Directors meeting (held March 26), the board agreed to approve the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Recruitment Committee charter.

The eight-person committee, which was approved by the board during its previous meeting (held Feb. 26), will work with an advisor to recruit a CEO for Harney District Hospital (HDH).

Current HDH CEO, Jim Bishop, announced that he will retire in August 2015, after almost 15 years of service to the hospital.

Board chair Dan Brown  explained that the committee will not make the hiring decision. Instead, it will make recommendations to the board. (See story titled, “Hospital CEO announces he will retire next year.”)

•••

During the March 26 meeting, CEO Bishop shared some of the information that was presented at the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO) meeting with the board.

Bishop reported that an “unusually large number of people” in Harney County signed up for Medicaid coverage, and most of them (more than 90 percent) are assigned to HDH Family Care.

Bishop also reported that the majority of patient costs are concentrated in a small number of people. In fact, only 5 percent of patients account for 55 percent of costs. For Harney County, that 5 percent represents 72 people, Bishop said.

Dr. Kevin Johnston explained that these are the patients who have required intensive, regular contact as a means of avoiding even more expensive treatment and wasted/duplicate testing.

Dr. Johnston said many of these patients have both mental and physical health issues, possess a limited subset of skills, and lack sufficient social support. As a result, many of them call the ambulance and go to the emergency room multiple times a week.

Dr. Johnston said these are the type of patients who may be ideally managed by primary providers and clinical care coordinators.

Clinical care coordinators are licensed health care professionals who, as part of a multidisciplinary team, provide daily care management services that are determined by individualized care plans.

However, Dr. Johnston added that the top 10 users of medical care would all have separate problems, and financial resources may need to be committed based on classes of disease.

Dr. Johnston said the goal is to find ways to save money, while helping these patients in a more appropriate way.

CEO Bishop added that patients will probably be selected based on their clinical needs, rather than just money.

“That’s what we need to do — select clinically, and the money will follow some time in the future,” he said.

Board member Tim Smith said it seems logical for care providers to focus on the conditions that they have the talent and skill set to deal with.

CEO Bishop also shared the inpatient maternity statistics from December 2012 through November 2013. These statistics, which were presented at the EOCCO meeting, show that HDH had the highest rate of Cesarean deliveries (C-sections).

However, Brown said that, because the statistics were taken from a small sample size, they aren’t really valid.

CEO Bishop agreed, stating, “If you changed three of those babies from C-sections to not C-sections, we are average.”

Dr. Johnston said, because HDH does not have a neonatal intensive care unit, doctors are willing to err on the side of calling a C-section early, rather than pushing an infant to the point that he/she has to be resuscitated or flown to another facility.

The statistics also showed that HDH had the lowest rate of infants requiring neonatal intensive care.

•••

The board received an update from the Paragon project managers regarding the hospital’s change to the Paragon electronic health record system.

One of the project managers explained that the goal of the change is to improve the patient care experience by aligning HDH with the St. Charles Health System.

Another project manager added that the system update is taking place on an “extremely aggressive time line,” but a third manager said the update is on track to meet the June 9 deadline.

HDH CFO Catherine White said a percentage of the money that was invested into the system will be reimbursed if project deadlines are met.

•••

Sammie Masterson (HDH human resources) said the hospital participated in the “active shooter” training that was held Friday, March 14.

“It was quite the undertaking with all the entities involved,” Masterson said. However, she added that it was “a great cooperative effort” and said she was glad the hospital participated in the training.

Masterson and Chief Nursing Officer Barb Chambers recognized HDH Safety Officer Perrilyn Wells for her role in organizing the training.

Chambers said staff from all over the facility stepped outside their regular roles to participate.

“The team work that was happening was amazing,” Chambers added.

•••

In other business, the board:

• appointed CFO White as the budget officer;

• appointed six people to the budget committee;

• learned from HDH Development Coordinator Denise Rose that some HDH employees have expressed interest in enhancing their skills and moving to other areas of the hospital. She said some are even going back to school to earn additional qualifications. Rose said staff members’ desire to work internally to find better and more fulfilling jobs shows that they want to stay at the hospital;

• learned from Rose that HDH and Symmetry Care are working together to apply for a grant from the EOCCO to be used toward a licensed clinical social worker position. Rose said HDH has enjoyed building a relationship with Symmetry Care;

• learned from Chambers that feedback from patients regarding HDH staff has been positive.

“Staff here are doing an exceptional job in every department,” she said.

The next board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, in the hospital board conference room.


Formal complaint filed against superintendent

 by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

With a room full of concerned parents and citizens hoping for a resolution in a dispute between Harney County School District (HCSD) No. 3 and Silvies River Charter School (SRCS), HCSD No. 3 board chair Ralph Dickenson squelched any sort of input on the matter by declaring that there would be no public discussion allowed at the meeting.

Dickenson’s declaration came at the outset of a special meeting of the HCSD No. 3 board of directors on Thursday, March 20.

At the center of the dispute is a complaint filed Feb. 19 by SRCS Superintendent Katie Baltzor  against HCSD No. 3 Superintendent Marilyn McBride.

Dickenson stated that he would read the complaint and the response from McBride aloud, but wouldn’t allow public comment on the matter.

Baltzor pointed out that SRCS was put on the agenda under both reports and action items, and she asked, “But you won’t allow us to speak?”

“No. We’re not going to have a public discussion,” Dickenson replied.

SRCS board member Nancy Walker said, “We’re talking about kids in our community, and this is a bad example for kids and families. Our intent is for District 3 to be strong and viable. We don’t see it as a competition.”

In response, Dickenson said, “If it wasn’t your intent to turn it into a circus, you wouldn’t have brought this many people.”

Baltzor then asked the rest of the board members if Dickenson was speaking for them as well, when he stated that no one from the public would be allowed to speak, and there was no definitive answer to the direct question.

Dickenson then read the complaint and the response to those in attendance.

The complaint charges that McBride failed “to follow the provisions set forth in ORS 339.260 and OAR 581-021-0255. These laws require the former educational agency to transfer the student records no later than 10 days after a request is received from a school.”

The letter goes on to say that HCSD No. 3 secretaries indicated SRCS requests go directly to McBride, and the secretaries had been additionally instructed by McBride to not fax transcripts, as they must be sent to her office.

The letter noted, “Some of the records requested involved students who received denial letters by McBride a minimum of two days (maximum 14 days) after being enrolled and already attending Silvies. All of the students appealed the denials and the denials were thus overturned by ODE (Oregon Department of Education).”

Baltzor’s letter stated that SRCS would view the complaint as being resolved when:

“1. Superintendent McBride sends all of the delinquent records/transcripts immediately.

2. All future record requests shall be sent to SRCS to comply with the aforementioned statutes.

3. The superintendent shall cease the practice of holding records for students [that] the District intends to send SRCS enrollment denial letters [to].

4. Presuming the District intends to follow Oregon statutes for SRCS as they do for other schools, the superintendent shall allow building and district secretaries to process all SRCS record as received, e.g., eliminate superintendent authorization requirements for SRCS, fax transcripts when requested, mail records directly to SRCS, etc.”

In her response, dated Feb. 24, McBride  stated that, “Generally, according to ORS 338.125 the student who wishes to enroll in a virtual public charter school does not need the approval of the school district where the student is a resident before the student enrolls in the virtual charter school. Notwithstanding, the subsection and ORS 339.133, which may be information you have not had the chance to review, states that if more than 3 percent of the students who reside in the district are enrolled in virtual charter schools that are not sponsored by the school district, a student who is a resident of the school district must receive approval from the district BEFORE enrolling in a virtual public charter school.”

The letter then notes that enrollment of HCSD No. 3 students in SRCS has exceeded 3 percent of the students who reside in the district, and therefore, any new applications require the student to first seek approval from the district before enrolling at SRCS. Failure to do so would result in the student being enrolled at SRCS in violation of state law.

McBride wrote once the 3 percent limitation was reached, SRCS enrolled students prior to approval from either the district or the Oregon Department of Education, a practice that doesn’t meet Oregon statute standards. As long as the 3 percent limitation has been exceeded, the district will not send records for any new student seeking enrollment at SRCS unless the procedures described in the statutes are satisfied.

She added the district will make reasonable effort to send records with record requests following approval for enrollment either by the district or the state, and “I trust SRCS will no longer enroll students prior to approval and in violation of state law.”

In closing, McBride stated that record requests must be sent to the district office, as school secretaries do not have information related to any denials due to the 3 percent limitation.

Baltzor then asked if her letter to the school board, dated March 5, was going to be read? She explained that SRCS was following the district’s complaint process, and because an adequate resolution had not been reached, the next step was to bring the complaint to the board.

Dickenson asked how the letter was substantially different from the first, and said he didn’t think it needed to be read.

Baltzor pointed out it was a rebuttal to McBride’s response, and deserved to be heard. “It cites law that is key to the entire argument,” she said.

Dickenson relented, and allowed the March 5 letter to be read. In it, Baltzor points to the Oregon statutes and administrative rules (OAR) that back her argument, and states that McBride is in violation of OAR 581-021-0255 by not providing student records in the time frame set by the OAR.

In response to McBride’s assertion that SRCS was in violation of state law with their enrollment practices, Baltzor states that SRCS has followed the law. She explained that once a student is denied enrollment by HCSD No. 3, and until overturned by ODE in the appeal process, the student is withdrawn from SRCS. That means SRCS does not receive basic school support  for the student during that time period, but they continue to provide educational services.

Following the reading of the letters, Dickenson stated that it was the board’s intention to meet the laws, as they apply.

When asked if the charter school would receive a written response from the board, Dickenson replied, “No. Our complaint policy says we may or may not. Our intent is to meet the rule of the law.”

Baltzor asked that the charter school receive some sort of response, so they could decide which direction to go next, and asked if the board could respond within two weeks time.

“No, we didn’t say that,” stated Dickenson. “We will respond, just don’t know when. Maybe through an attorney.”

“Our position is that we would like a response within two weeks,” said Baltzor. “If there’s no response by then, we’ll seek legal counsel.”

“There’s no time limit, but we will respond in some manner,” Dickenson replied.

•••

Burns High School (BHS) FFA Advisor Jimmy Zamora told the board the BHS FFA chapter went to Louisville, Ky., for the national convention, and gave a short slide presentation.

He then outlined three upcoming trips for the group, which are the Oregon State FFA Convention March 21-24 in Bend; the Strawberry Mountain FFA District Shop Skills competition April 10 in Ontario; and the Oregon State FFA Career Development Event May 4-6 in Corvallis.

The board approved a motion to allow the trips.

The board also approved the list of paid and volunteer coaches for the district, and teaching positions for Kathy Wassom and Gordon Black.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting for the school board is 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8.


Acting Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin led the public meeting to discuss the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE)

Acting Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin led the public meeting to discuss the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE)

Comments accepted until June 11

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

A public meeting was held Tuesday, March 18, at the Harney County Community Center to discuss the United States Forest Service (USFS) Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision.

 

Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision

The Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision will impact the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests (which are collectively referred to as the Blue Mountains National Forests).

Steve Beverlin, acting forest supervisor on the Malheur National Forest, explained that the National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires forest plans to be revised at least every 10 to 15 years, but plans for the Blue Mountains National Forests haven’t been revised since 1990.

“In essence, these plans are old,” Beverlin said. “A lot of things have changed.”

Beverlin explained that economic, social and ecological conditions have changed; new laws, regulations and policies are in place; new information that is based on monitoring and scientific research is available; and amendments have been completed to incorporate the best-available science.

He added that the three primary goals of the proposed revision are to promote ecological integrity, economic well-being, and social well-being.

“The balance of those three things is what our decision should try to achieve,” Beverlin said.

Examples of desired conditions for ecological integrity include maintaining healthy forests, water and soil quality, species diversity, wildland fires, and plant species composition.

Examples of desired conditions for economic well-being include providing access to forest products, livestock grazing, recreation, and mineral and geological resources.

Examples of desired conditions for social well-being include maintaining a sense and value of place, culturally-important areas, recreational opportunities, scenic qualities and wildlife values.

Beverlin explained that forest plans do not make site-specific or project-level decisions; open or close roads or trails; or designate wilderness. Instead, they provide broad-based, strategic direction for these more specific decisions, which are made after detailed analysis and additional public engagement is completed. Forest plans also protect and honor Native American Tribal Treaty Rights.

 

The revision process

Numerous public meetings, as well as meetings with local, state, and federal agencies and tribes, have been held since 2004 to discuss the proposed revision.

Public scoping began in March 2010, and the USFS used comments gathered during this time to develop the Proposed Revised Land Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RLMP/DEIS).

Beverlin explained that the RLMP/DEIS offers alternatives, which range from A to F.

• Alternative A is the same forest plan that is currently in place.

• Alternative B encompasses the proposed action that was sent out for public scoping in 2010.

• Alternative C proposes the greatest amount of wilderness and least amount of public access.

• Alternative D was developed to address some of the counties’ concerns.

• Alternative E is the USFS’ preferred plan, and it doubles the outputs that are currently in place.

• Alternative F is similar to Alternative E, but F proposes a lower level of outputs than E.

Beverlin explained that the output levels refer to the Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ) for timber harvest.

The RLMP/DEIS was released to the public on March 14, marking the beginning of the 90-day, public-comment period.

Public meetings (such as the one held in Burns March 18) are currently being conducted to introduce the RLMP/DEIS, solicit public comment, and offer an opportunity for people to ask questions.

 

Judge Grasty offers his comments

During the March 18 meeting, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty shared his comments concerning the RLMP/DEIS.

In a written synopsis of his comments, Grasty explained that Harney County has been a cooperating agency in the development of this revision for the last 10 years.

“We have attempted to be a proactive participant and provided much input,” Grasty wrote. “That effort does not mean we agree with this final product. Simply stated, in my opinion, the Proposed Revised Land Management Plan does not work for this community. I see little, if any, opportunity for social or economic stability in this plan for Harney County.”

Grasty added that, with an ASQ of only 55 million board feet, he saw a conflict with the commitment made for the 10-year stewardship contract to provide 75 million board feet of saw logs each year.

“There are those out there who believe 55 million is the cap. I hope it’s the floor,” Grasty said.

He added that the economic and social needs of the people and communities were not adequately reflected in the proposed plan.

Some of Grasty’s other concerns addressed:

• the proposed plan’s lack of attention to hunting and fishing;

• campsite closures on the Malheur National Forest;

• the proposed plan’s failure to mention logging and timber work as a goal for promoting social well-being;

• management of county roads that predate the USFS;

• whether decisions will be made based on budgetary restrictions;

• miscalculations concerning the county’s Wildland-Urban Interface acreage;

• the proposed plan’s failure to address the social and economic impacts of forestry decisions that were made prior to the 1990s.

Grasty suggested that Dr. Jerry F. Franklin and Dr. K. Norman Johnson’s  recommendations concerning dry-side restoration of Eastern Oregon forests be included in the proposed plan.

“It’s good science, and it’s backed with years and years of experience,” Grasty said.

He concluded by stating that, because he was unable to confer with the court prior to the meeting, his comments do not reflect the court as a whole.

Beverlin thanked Grasty for his comments and complimented his ability to represent the people of Harney County.

 

Weed management

A member of the audience asked whether the RLMP/DEIS will address noxious weed management. And there was an additional question concerning whether the proposed plan will discuss which chemicals can be used to treat weeds.

Beverlin said a separate, site-specific EIS is being developed to address the actual treatment of weeds, and this EIS will address chemicals use.

 

Timber Contracts

Brad Clemens, a private timber contractor, expressed concern about large timber contracts.

“Big contracts feed the rich man and kill the poor man,” he said.

Beverlin said, in an effort to help address this issue, a small sales forester was hired to identify work areas with contractors.

Clemens also expressed frustration concerning the size of materials that are being put into brush piles.

“That’s a total waste in my opinion,” he said.

Beverlin said it costs money to burn these brush piles, and said allowing contractors to extract materials may be a cost-effective solution.

Clemens added that the USFS hires contractors from an itemized list, which takes away from smaller-scale contractors.

Beverlin replied that the USFS can help smaller-scale contractors get into the system by showing them the steps they need to complete in order to qualify. He added that the USFS can notify contractors when contracts go out, and prioritize benefit to the local community over price when awarding bids.

 

Public Comments

Beverlin encouraged the public to submit comments regarding the RLMP/DEIS stating, “We need help. You guys live in and are tied to the land. You have more of an intuitive understanding of this land.”

In addition to accepting written comments, members of the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision Team were available during the meeting to type and electronically-submit verbal comments.

Comments concerning the RLMP/DEIS will be accepted until June 11.

They can be submitted electronically at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/BlueMountainForestPlanRevisionComments, or mailed to: Blue Mountains Plan Revision Team, P.O. Box 907, Baker City, OR 97814. For assistance, call 541-523-1246 or 541-523-1302.

An electronic copy of the RLMP/DEIS can be found online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa-whitman/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprdb5247447.

Printed copies will be available at the local library and USFS office, and the document is also available on CD.

 

Making a decision

After June 11, the comments will be reviewed, analyzed and considered toward the finalization of the RLMP/DEIS.

The final plan/EIS will be available in the summer of 2015, which is when the objection process begins.

Anyone wishing to obtain standing to object, must submit a comment with their name and contact information during the public comment period.

Resolution of objections will take place in the fall of 2015, before Records of Decision are signed.


R.E.A.D. program began in 1993 

 by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Claire Larson, registered handler, and Nasika visited Mrs. Revak’s first-grade class to introduce students to Waggin’ Tales, a new program at the Harney County Library that grants children the opportunity to read with registered therapy dogs the first and third Saturdays of each month.

Claire Larson, registered handler, and Nasika visited Mrs. Revak’s first-grade class to introduce students to Waggin’ Tales, a new program at the Harney County Library that grants children the opportunity to read with registered therapy dogs the first and third Saturdays of each month.

A couple of competent canines are now available by appointment at the Harney County Library (located at 80 W. D St. in Burns) the first and third Saturdays of the month.

The local library launched its Waggin’ Tales program Saturday, Jan. 4, to give children the opportunity to read aloud to the attentive, non-judgmental ears of furry friends, Tova and Nasika.

These disciplined dogs are not your run-of-the-mill “Rovers.” They are both therapy dogs who have also been registered through the Reading Education Assistance Dogs ® (R.E.A.D.) program.

According to its brochure, R.E.A.D. was launched in 1999 by Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA). Founded in 1993, ITA is a Utah-based, nonprofit organization that was created to “enhance quality of life through the human-animal bond.”

The brochure states that animals are ideal reading partners because they help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure; listen attentively; don’t judge, laugh or criticize; allow children to proceed at their own pace; and are less intimidating than peers.

The brochure also states that, “When a R.E.A.D. dog is listening, the environment is transformed, a child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation, and learning occurs.”

R.E.A.D. uses registered therapy animals that have been trained and tested for health, safety, appropriate skills and temperament. They volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team.

Tova and Nasika are teamed up with Claire Larson, assistant librarian at the Harney County Library, who is their registered handler.

Larson explained that, in addition to developing excellent obedience and behavioral skills, R.E.A.D. dogs need to be highly interactive. For example, they are taught to look at the books and put their paws on the pages. Some dogs are even taught to sneeze as a cue to encourage children to look difficult words up in the dictionary.

“R.E.A.D. wants a higher level of interaction,” Larson said, adding that dogs are taught cues to benefit struggling readers.

The pooches are clicker trained, which is a method of positive-reinforcement training that uses a clicking sound to inform animals when they complete a task correctly.

Larson said her dogs learned to associate the sound with rewards, such as food, a toy or a ride in the car. She added that clicker training changes dogs from “reactive” to “active and engaging,” as they become eager to repeat behaviors in order to obtain incentives. Larson added that, once dogs master simple tasks, several trained behaviors can be chained together to teach increasingly complex skills.

“They have to do four or five things in sequence to earn a click,” Larson explained. Adding, “It’s pretty amazing what they can be taught to do.”

But, much like people, dogs have unique personalities and character flaws that can interfere with the training process.

For example, Tova is shy, and she tends to get overwhelmed in large crowds. On the contrary, Nasika might be a little too outgoing.

Larson described Nasika as a “wild child,” adding that she “gets goofy” and likes to dance and chase her tail. Nasika also needs to learn how to be quiet in the library.

“She has a comment for everything,” Larson said, adding that she likes to “howl and talk.”

But Larson — who has been adopting rescue dogs and horses for several years; volunteered locally as a 4-H dog-club leader; worked at a greyhound track; raced whippets; and run her own dogsled team — will tell you that training animals is a constant, ongoing process.

Larson, who has been working with her dogs on obedience for quite some time, received help from youth at Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility. For example, the youth helped “socialize” Tova, teaching her how to interact with young people. They also taught her to wave and shake hands. River, another one of Larson’s dogs, has also been moonlighting at the facility. And, because the youth and dogs have enjoyed the experience, Larson decided to continue and expand the facility’s pooch program.

At the library, Waggin’ Tales will continue semimonthly until after April, and restart in October. There is still time to schedule an appointment with a proficient pup.

For more information about Waggin’ Tales, or to book a 15 to 20-minute reading session with Nasika or Tova, contact the library at 541-573-6670.


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