Two vacant Burns council seats filled

Posted on October 15th in News

Local marijuana tax discussed, pending passage of Measure 91

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

After formally accepting Boyce LaForest’s resignation earlier in the meeting, the Burns City Council appointed Lou Ann Deiter and Dennis Davis from a pool of four candidates to fill the two vacant seats on the council.

Along with Deiter and Davis, Charity Robey and Holly Palmer had also submitted letters of interest in serving on the council.

The council was down to three voting members after Councilor Jerry Woodfin responded to an emergency call for the Burns Fire Department.

The council first voted for two out of the four candidates, and the vote was unanimous in favor of Deiter and Davis. The council took a vote as to who should fill which vacancy. The person filling LaForest’s seat will hold the position until 2016, while the appointee to the vacancy created by the resignation of Linc Reed-Nickerson will be up for election in November. Because it is too late to file to run in the election, the appointee could choose to run a write-in campaign.

By a 2-1 vote, Deiter was appointed to LaForest’s seat, and Davis filled the other spot. The two were sworn in and took their seats on the council.

It was also mentioned that Councilor Nona Popham did not file for re-election, so her seat will also be filled by the upcoming election.

Woodfin did file to run for re-election for his position on the council.

•••

The council held a preliminary discussion on whether the city should impose a local tax on marijuana in the event that Measure 91 passes in the Nov. 4 election.

Some of the aspects of the measure pertaining to the discussion are: Measure 91 legalizes recreational marijuana for persons age 21 and older; permits the manufacture and sale of marijuana subject to state licensing, regulation, and taxation; will be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission; according to Section 42 of the initiative, the state will have the exclusive right to tax marijuana. Section 58 provides that the provisions of the measure supersede and repeal inconsistent municipal charters and ordinances; Section 84 provides that the measure will take effect 30 days after it is approved by voters.

City Manager Kraig Cutsforth told the council the city’s attorney recommended the council decide before the election if they want to impose a local tax because once the election is over, it would be too late.

Cutsforth said that several cities, including Bend, Roseburg and The Dalles, have decided not to impose a local tax, appearing to believe that such a tax would be validly preempted by the measure, and further cite uniformity of taxation, a desire to avoid litigation, and a general distaste for sales taxes as reasons for choosing not to enact a tax.

Other cities, including Tigard, Ashland, Milwaukie and Rogue River, have opted to impose a local tax, presumingly, believing that Section 58, insofar as it repeals local ordinances and charter provisions, is invalid.

Cutsforth explained that each city will have to decide for itself if it wants to enact a local tax.

Councilor Terri Presley stated that it would be worth looking into.

Cutsforth said he could provide the council with a model of the ordinance passed by Ashland at the Oct. 22 council meeting, and if the council decides to impose a tax, they will have to decide on the tax rate and pass a new resolution.

The council then moved on to a discussion to amend Burns Municipal Code 5.05 concerning business licenses, and declaring an emergency.

Cutsforth presented a draft ordinance for the council’s review, and explained the change is a two-step process. The first step is to change the current ordinance to allow the issuance of the current pending applications for the medical marijuana dispensaries. Then, a second ordinance will be drafted dealing with the time, place and manner of the specific type of business, with a public workshop for input.

The amended ordinance changes the current ordinance from an almost purely regulatory style to one of a revenue style.

Presley expressed concern about violating federal law regarding marijuana, and said the city still has a responsibility to keep the community safe.

Mayor Craig LaFollette stated the city’s legal counsel can explain the ordinance with regards to federal law, and the council agreed to hold a special session to talk with the attorney and get an explanation.

•••

Cutsforth reported the city’s well telemetry system was failing, and there was an emergency need to order a new system at a cost of about $8,200. He added that the radio system at the airport failed, and couldn’t be repaired, and requested approval from the council to replace the radio system at a cost of about $1,800. The council agreed to go ahead with both expenditures.

Cutsforth stated that he is continuing to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives about the base flood elevation data for the Silvies River watershed, and a meeting has been set for mid-November for the county-wide advisory committee to discuss air quality.

•••

In other business:

• Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson said his department had received 120 smoke detectors from a State Fire Marshal grant to install in homes, and they have installed 86 in about 20 homes already. He noted that only one of the homes where the new smoke detectors were installed had functional smoke alarms to replace. Williamson said when they install the remainder of the smoke detectors, they will apply for another grant as their goal is to get every residence equipped with them.

Williamson stated that after the council’s last meeting, when a citizen brought concerns about the dry brush near the nature trail, he had gone out to look at the situation and it is too dangerous to try and burn the brush off.

“There’s too much of a fuel load, and it would get out of hand,” Williamson said.

As a precautionary measure, the city maintenance crew cut down the brush on the city’s side of the trail;

• Burns Police Sergeant Newt Skunkcap reported there had been several more vehicle break-ins, and cautioned residents to keep their vehicles locked and to not leave anything of value in their vehicles;

• Public Works Director Dave Cullens requested permission from the council to proceed with an easement along a drainage ditch on the back side of Railroad Avenue. He asked for approval to spend about $8,000 for engineers to survey the area and then get an easement.

Woodfin asked what would happen if a property owner said “no” to having an easement placed on their property?

Cullens stated it would probably come back to the council to see what their next step should be.

Presley made a motion to have Cullens proceed with the easement, but the motion died for a lack of a second.

LaFollette asked Cullens to get more information and bring the request back to the council;

• Treva Spence was in attendance to ask for permission to close East Washington Street from North Broadway to North Alder on Oct. 18 for the Chili Cookoff, sponsored by Xi Delta Gamma. The council granted the request, and the street will be closed off the night before;

• During the citizens concerns portion of the meeting, Grant Gunderson asked about the public workshop for input on the medical marijuana dispensary business licenses. He then told the council that Cave Junction filed suit against the governor, the state of Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority to decide whether the state law authorizing the sale of medical marijuana through dispensaries complies with the state and U.S. constitutions.

“The lawsuit is moving forward. It’s still a federal offense to use or possess marijuana,” Gunderson said.

Gunderson also asked why the city didn’t put a one-year moratorium on the dispensaries when they had the chance? He requested a written reply to the question.

Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick questioned if the council talked to personnel from the schools, law enforcement and health officials before making their decision to allow business licenses for the dispensaries, and, if not, why?;

• Popham stated that the council was accused of not listening to the public on making their decision to allow dispensaries, but since the decision was made, she has received several phone calls in favor of the decision.

“One person said they couldn’t attend the meeting because of health issues. Another was out of town getting their ‘medicine,’ so they couldn’t be at the meeting either. There have been people talking to me from the other side. We have been listening to both sides.

“I also visited with my own doctor, and felt even better about my decision,” she said;

• the council agreed to hold an executive session at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, for a performance review of the city manager and for legal counsel on the Measure 91 local tax issue.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at city hall.


Human remains found on Steens

Posted on October 15th in News

On Oct. 7, a deer hunter on Steens Mountain reported finding human remains on the east side of the mountain. The Harney County Sheriff’s Office responded, and located the human remains.

A search was conducted of the area on Oct.7-8, and the remains were recovered. The remains were forwarded to the Oregon State Medical Examiner to confirm the identity.

The case remains under investigation.


SandersAt approximately 6:35 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 8, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer confirmed Shane Sanders, 41, was taken into custody by his department. Sanders was lodged in the Grant County Jail on several charges, including menacing and unlawful use of a weapon.

Sanders was the subject of an extensive search by Grant County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of Oregon State Police (OSP) and the OSP SWAT team, after fleeing the Seneca area Wednesday morning as law enforcement officers responded to a shots fired incident during a domestic disturbance at a cabin in Seneca. After law enforcement officers arrived in the area, they heard additional shots. An armed suspect, identified as Sanders, was seen fleeing in the darkness and was the subject of an area search. There were no known persons injured.

After re-opening area roads Wednesday afternoon following a several-hour search, law enforcement personnel remained in the area. Officials believed there was no public safety threat at that time.


by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and local organizations are taking the opportunity to shed some light on the issue.

•••

The Burns Paiute Tribe Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program is seeking to celebrate abuse-free lives and to honor the lives of men, women, and children who have lost their lives in domestic violence incidents with its “Light In The Window” campaign.

The program obtained purple, battery-operated candles and distributed them to tribal members and staff at a presentation about domestic violence on Oct. 2. The candles will be displayed in windows or on porches for the month of October, and serve as a statement that domestic violence is not accepted in the community.

•••

Another local program, Harney Helping Organization for Personal Emergencies, (HHOPE), will hold a candlelight vigil on Oct. 25 at 5 p.m., in the parking lot of the Harney County Museum. The purpose of the vigil is to commemorate the victims of domestic violence homicide.

HHOPE defines domestic violence as “a pattern of behaviors that one person uses to physically, sexually, emotionally and/or verbally abuse another person.”

A news release from HHOPE recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month states that:

• Domestic violence is never the fault of the victim.

• One in four women have been the victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner, while one in seven men have experienced the same;

• One in six women have been stalked during their lifetime, and one in 19 men have experienced the same;

• Jealousy and possessiveness are not a sign of love;

• Of those young women aged 15-19 who are murdered, 30 percent are killed by their intimate partner;

• Domestic violence occurs in every part of society. No group or community is immune to it;

• According to the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, nearly 20 Oregonians were killed by intimate partners in 2013.

HHOPE is a nonprofit with a mission “to provide housing, advocacy, and support services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through medical and emotional support, community education, and outreach by helping one person at a time escape an abusive situation.”

The organization reported that it responded  to 292 calls regarding domestic violence and provided 2057 shelter nights for adults and 943 shelter nights for children during 2013.

•••

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Domestic Violence Awareness Month grew out of the first “Day of Unity” recognized in October, 1981. The first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in October of 1987, and also marked the establishment of a national telephone hotline.

 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESOURCES
•••

Burns Paiute Tribe Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program: 541-413-0216

Domestic Violence Advocates:

Teresa Cowing, 541-573-8053

Phyllis Miller, 541-573-8004

Mazie Richards, 541-573-8045

•••

Harney Helping Organization for Personal Emergencies (HHOPE)

• Website: www.hhope.org

• Office: 541-573-2726

• 24/7 Crisis Hotline: 541-573-7176

•••

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Website: www.ncadv.org

•••

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

•••

In an emergency situation, always call 9-1-1.


by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Tree Top DSL Exchange webThe Department of State Lands (DSL) hosted a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 30, to receive input on the proposed land exchange between DSL and Tree Top Ranches.

The proposed exchange involves parcels of land located in Harney and Malheur counties, totaling about 1,220 acres.

Chris Castelli, senior policy and legislative analyst for the DSL, welcomed those in attendance and gave a short presentation showing the parcels of land that would be involved in the exchange.

The main concern of those attending was that the exchange could affect access to public lands and to South Fork Reservoir.

Castelli explained the reservoir does not meet the definition of a “navigable-for-public-use waterway,” and belongs to Tree Top Ranches.

In making its determination that the reservoir is not navigable-for-public-use, the DSL used an opinion of the Oregon Attorney General issued in 1972 regarding Fishhawk Lake, located in Clatsop and Columbia counties.

The question put forth in the Fishhawk Lake case  was, “Do members of the public have a right to use boats on the waters of an artificial lake, resulting from the damming of a non-navigable stream, although the beds and banks of the lake are privately owned and the waters are artificially impounded by the owner under a permit from the state engineer?”

The answer was, “No.”

In comparing South Fork reservoir to the Fishhawk Lake opinion, DSL determined that the reservoir is formed from the damming of a non-navigable stream, and is not deemed navigable by DSL.

Bill Mulder, representing Tree Top, said Tree Top is a cattle ranch, and the exchange makes sense because it aligns property lines with natural features. As for the reservoir, Mulder stated Larry Williams, the owner of Tree Top Ranches, has said if the exchange goes through, the reservoir will remain open to fishermen as long as use of the reservoir doesn’t become a nuisance.

Harney County resident Dave Glerup pointed out that three parcels of land that would go to Tree Top in the exchange, labeled 5B, 10B and 11B on the map, currently provide access to a large portion of public land, and if that access is closed, it would block off the public use.

Berry Anderson of Tree Top stated the issue for the ranch was hunting and the protection of private lands. He said fishermen are no problem, but Williams spends about $200,000 a year feeding wildlife on the ranch and hunters try to access the private land.

Members of the audience wanted to know if continued access to public land through the three parcels could be written into the exchange agreement. Several examples were given of past agreements where one of the parties said there was no problem, but as soon as the exchange was done, public access was blocked off.

Castelli was asked if all recorded, existing easements will remain in place after the exchange?

“That is our intent,” answered Castelli.

Jim Knott with the Oregon Hunters Association OHA) said, “There is a bad element wherever you go. People assume they can go anywhere they want, whenever they want.”

He said OHA tries to instill respect for private lands, and he would like to see a better description of some of the parcels included in the exchange proposal. He suggested maybe excluding some of the parcels that would be involved in the exchange.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty stated a solution would be to institutionalize, or legalize, every two-track road in the area affected by the land swap, thereby creating an easement and preserving public access.

DSL will  continue taking public comment on the proposed land exchange until Oct. 15.

Comments may be emailed to: realproperty@state.or.us, with a subject line of “Tree Top” or mailed to Asset Analyst Clara Taylor, Oregon Department of State Lands, 775 Summer Street NE No. 100, Salem, OR 97301.


Water meters to be replaced or repaired

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

The Hines Common Council met for its regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 23. During the meeting, the council heard from those involved in a group seeking to “bring home” a train engine and caboose that ran on the historic Oregon & Northwestern (O&NW) railroad in Hines, as well as a flatbed car, to put on display at Hines Park.

A subsidiary of the Edward Hines Lumber Company, O&NW hauled logs, lumber (and occasionally livestock) between Hines and Seneca from 1929 until 1984.

The project committee, organized by Councilor Hilda Allison, is seeking to raise the necessary funds to purchase the No. 4 O&NW engine and a flatbed car from the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, Calif., (just northwest of Reno, Nev.) and transport them here to be placed permanently in Hines Park. Wayne Monger, co-author of Images of Rail: Oregon & Northwestern Railroad, is considering donating a refurbished, 100-year-old O&NW caboose pending the acquisition of the No. 4 engine.

Monica Newkirk, Mayor Nikki Morgan, and City Administrator Joan Davies presented information from the group’s recent meeting.

Newkirk reported that the engine would cost around $16,000, and would need to be purchased within the year, as it is slated to be scrapped. She said that costs for transporting the engine would come to around $25,000.

Morgan said that the flatbed car is $1,000, and would need refurbishment of its redwood decking. She said that it could be used as a stage for performances in the park. Morgan added that the requirements to have the train engine and cars displayed include a prepared ground surface, new railroad ties and track, and a roof over the engine.

Newkirk said that they will aim to raise $50,000 – $60,000 in total.

Davies said that they are considering placement on the southern edge of the main park, in a dirt area where it would not take away any grass or play area. Davies also noted that the city’s insurance carrier had been consulted, and that there would be no extra cost to the city with the addition of the train engine and cars to the city park.

Morgan also reported that the group includes a high school student, Hannah Rohwer, who will be working on grant-writing and publicity as part of her senior project. She said that Rohwer has met with Desert Historic Theatre owner Tiny Petersen about showing a short film about the train and the mill, and possibly tying it in with a dinner event as a fundraiser.

Councilors Dick Baird and Dick Anderson raised concerns about extra work and maintenance expenses for the city once the train engine and cars were placed in the city park. A discussion ensued about the project in terms of its historical value to the community, as well as tourism.

“The businesses…will benefit when people come through here,” said Morgan.

“We’ll be on the map for those railroad enthusiasts,” she added.

Allison asked if there was any public process that needed to happen before the group started fundraising. Anderson suggested that the city send out a questionnaire with the water bill to gauge public opinion on the matter. Morgan said that time was limited, and it would have to be sent out with next month’s bills.

•••

Hines Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) Chief Bob Spence reported that there had been only two calls since the last council meeting one month ago. He also said that HVFD continues to participate in joint training activities with Burns Fire Department and the Burns Tribal Fire Department.

Spence said although there had been some rain, there will need to be more before the ban can be lifted for burn barrels.

•••

Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala said 10 water meters were replaced or repaired, and 30 are currently in progress.

The council voted to approve Resolution No. 2192, transferring $2,100 from the contingency fund to pay for water meter repairs and replacements.

•••

Hines Police Chief Ryan DeLange was absent from the meeting, as he was attending a training session. Davies delivered his report, which noted that there have been two house burglaries as of late, and that Officer Casey Held has been busy working with the joint drug task-force team.

•••

Davies reported that there was $1,736.37 in the cans and bottles fund for the park.

She read aloud a letter from a resident, thanking the city for cleaning the alley behind her house.

Davies said a resident contacted her regarding the police “cracking down” on illegal use of golf carts and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on city streets. The resident heard that John Day passed an ordinance allowing golf carts. Davies said she checked into that city’s ordinance, and although it makes an allowance for ATVs (i.e., for plowing snow), it does not allow golf carts.

“I believe your position is that we won’t [allow golf carts] either,” Davies said, addressing the councilors. She also noted that it was illegal anyway, and the city couldn’t make allowances for state highways.

•••

In other business, the council:

• voted to award contracts for crack sealing and a slurry seal for Circle Drive to TopLoc (Councilor Ron Williams abstained from both votes, as he was a contractor that bid on the projects).

• approved accounts payable in the amount of $32,757.81;

• approved per diem for Davies to attend the League of Oregon Cities meeting in Eugene, Sept. 25-27;

• approved mileage expense for Davies and city treasurer Rachel Robinson to attend the Chaves Consulting conference in Baker City Oct. 8.


On Thursday and Friday, Sept. 25-26, members of the community gathered at the Burns Cemetery to plant trees in memory of Josh Shepherd. The 128 trees, blue spruce and Ponderosa pine, were donated by Kraemer’s Nursery of Mount Angel, where Shepherd was employed before passing away from injuries suffered in a traffic accident last May. The trees were planted in two rows to form a windbreak along the west side of the cemetery. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

On Thursday and Friday, Sept. 25-26, members of the community gathered at the Burns Cemetery to plant trees in memory of Josh Shepherd. The 128 trees, blue spruce and Ponderosa pine, were donated by Kraemer’s Nursery of Mount Angel, where Shepherd was employed before passing away from injuries suffered in a traffic accident last May. The trees were planted in two rows to form a windbreak along the west side of the cemetery. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Shepherd’s wife, Jennifer, his father, Jim Shepherd and son, Liam, help with the planting of trees. (submitted photo)

Shepherd’s wife, Jennifer, his father, Jim Shepherd, and son, Liam, help with the planting of trees. (Submitted photo)


Economic summit to be held Oct. 8-9

Posted on September 24th in News

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

The Harney County Restoration Collaborative (HCRC), in collaboration with the High Desert Partnership (HDP), will host the Harney County Small Diameter Tree Economic Summit October 8 and 9 at the Harney County Community Center in Burns.

The summit is a continuation of the forest restoration work being done through the collaborative efforts of HCRC. Founded in 2008, the mission of the group is “to restore healthy and resilient forests” while providing “social and economic benefits to the community.”

 

Background

Due to highly successful fire suppression policy in the Malheur National Forest in past years, the region has become overgrown and prone to fire and insect infestation. HCRC has worked to restore more than 100,000 acres of public forest land since its inception, as approved by the National Environmental Policy Act.

In the restoration process, small diameter trees and “biomass” (tree limbs, tree tops, brush, and other forest vegetation) are reduced in order to prevent the occurrence of catastrophic fire and insect damage. The challenge then becomes what to do with this material.

With a mission to provide “social and economic benefits to the community,” and a capacity funding grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, HCRC organized the upcoming summit to promote local industry surrounding small diameter and biomass material.

According to HDP Executive Director Sara Jones, the summit will be a starting point for organizing a community network and support for forest contractors and manufacturing in Harney County. The objectives of the summit include:

• presenting data on the quantity and quality of available materials;

• exploring economic opportunities and utilization of the materials;

• and discussing the business development needs associated with the small diameter tree processing industry.

 

Featured Speakers

Speakers will include United States Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management officials, forestry business representatives and others.

Andrew Haden, president of Wisewood, Inc., a Portland-based biomass energy company, is slated to speak on the second day of the summit. He will present information about the new project being explored that would use wood chips sourced directly from land in Harney County to heat Slater Elementary School, Burns High School, the Harney County Courthouse and Sheriff’s Office, and Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility.

Another speaker is Rusty Dramm, interim program manager at the Forest Products Marketing Unit of Forest Products Laboratory. He will speak about innovations in the use of “woody biomass,” including nanotechnology, cross-laminated timber, and biochar soil amendments. Biochar is biomass heated in a low or no oxygen environment. It can be used to increase soil fertility and agricultural productivity, and also is a form of carbon sequestration that could mitigate climate change.

The keynote address will be given by Steve Beverlin, deputy forest supervisor with the USFS. He will provide an overview of the ecologic and economic opportunities of utilizing small diameter trees.

Nine other presentations are scheduled, as well as a breakout session and group discussion time. The full agenda can be viewed online at www.highdesertpartnership.org.

 

If You Go

The summit will take place Wednesday, October 8, from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 9, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Harney County Community Center in downtown Burns.

Anyone is welcome to attend the summit. Due to space limitations, please RSVP to Sara Jones at hdpdirector@gmail.com or 316-322-5394 by Friday, October 3.


by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Members of the Citizens Working Group attended the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held Sept. 17) to propose an ordinance pertaining to public land closures.

Kenny Bentz explained that the group would like to see the court pass an ordinance that is very similar to Grant County’s Ordinance 2013-01, which was signed by all Grant County Court members and the Grant County sheriff May 22, 2013.

Borrowing language from the Grant County ordinance, the Citizens Working Group proposed an ordinance that would state:

“Whereas, the safety and well-being of Harney County citizens and the custom and culture of Harney County are closely tied to the public lands within the boundary of Harney County; and 

Whereas, the roads, trails, stock driveways, and by-ways over and across these public lands have customarily been utilized unrestricted by Harney County residents for search and rescue, fire protection, firewood gathering, access for hunting and fishing, livestock management, logging activities, mining, recreational uses and general welfare.

Therefore, be it hereby ordained that for the safety and well-being of Harney County citizens all roads, trails, stock driveways and by-ways over and across public lands within the boundary of Harney County Oregon shall remain open as historically and customarily utilized consistent with the Harney County plans and policies, unless otherwise authorized for closure by the Harney County Court and Harney County sheriff.”

Jim Sproul, co-chair of Grant County’s Public Access Advisory Board, explained that Ordinance 2013-01 was written to ensure people have access to public lands. He added that the ordinance was written with local, cultural knowledge and that the Public Access Advisory Board was created to advise the Grant County Court on access decisions.

Sproul said federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service, have followed the ordinance.

“It seems to be working,” he said.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said there isn’t anything that the local government could do that would give it authority over federal and state law.

Sproul explained that the ordinance doesn’t limit the federal government. Instead, it requires agency staff to concur with county government.

“Our broader goal is to have them ask us,” he said.

Bentz asserted that passing a similar ordinance in Harney County would give county officials more say regarding access to public lands.

Grasty said having an ordinance makes sense.

However, he added that, “Choosing the words is going to be really important.”

He explained that the court’s legal counsel reviewed Grant County’s ordinance “word-for-word” when it went into effect and found that some of it may not be necessary for, or applicable to, Harney County.

He said, “I have heard from counsel that we already have these laws in place.”

He added that the court has regular communication with local agency staff.

“I can’t say they listen to us every time, but I can’t say a month goes by where we don’t have a federal agency in here talking to us,” Grasty said. He added, “We can’t deny that a fair number of federal employees here today are long-time Harney County families, and they are just as much a part of this community as everyone else is.”

Bentz said, “I have nothing against local BLM staff, nothing. Those folks are local people too. But decisions come from Washington, D.C.” He asked, “How do we fix that?”

Grasty said he wished he had the answer to that question.

Citizens Working Group member Brandon Baron said he thinks a lot of agency staff would support the ordinance, “but they are reluctant to voice that opinion because of their boss.”

He added that local office staff can change, and having an ordinance in place would give agency staff “something to conform to.”

Grasty said the county is currently in the middle of a “very contentious” road map process, and he suggested addressing the ordinance after the hearing concerning a map of roads within Harney County closes.

“I don’t want anyone to tell us that [we passed this ordinance] so the outcome  of the map would be different,” Grasty said.

He explained that the biggest debate concerning the map has been about access to private land.

Sproul said Grant County’s ordinance only pertains to public land.

However, Grasty asserted that it’s impossible to travel the length of most roads within Harney County without alternating between private and public ownership. He agreed to sit down with group members to demonstrate and work through some actual examples.

Grasty also invited the group to discuss the proposed ordinance with Barbara Cannady, stating that she might have a different perspective.

Cannady said she agreed with everything Sproul did regarding public lands.

The court agreed to address the ordinance after the map hearing closes.

“Correctly worded to work down here, I think this [ordinance] could be a benefit, without a doubt,” Grasty said.

•••

The court received a letter from Andrea Davies concerning the map of roads within Harney County.

Davies wrote, “I would like to see a distinction between private and public roads and accesses on the map. All landowners should have the right to remove any roads, trails, salt roads, etc. that are not for public usage. I really believe Ms. Cannady is correct on this one.”

The court will continue to receive comments concerning the map until the hearing closes on Oct. 15.

•••

The court resumed its discussion concerning an Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) speed zone investigation that was recently conducted on Egan Road.

Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella said he received word that the south zone (from Culp Lane to the south boundary of the Harney County Fairgrounds) will be set at 35 mph, instead of the 45 mph limit that was recommended in ODOT Region 5 Traffic Investigator Rich Heinemann’s report.

•••

The court agreed to sign a quitclaim deed, releasing the road right-of-way reservation that the county holds on a piece of ground owned by Jeff and Sherri Hussey near East Steens Road.

The Husseys have elected to donate the parcel to the federal government and receive a tax deduction.

•••

In other business, the court:

• was addressed by Mary Ausmus regarding the letter Cannady submitted during the previous meeting (held Sept. 3).

Ausmus asked why Cannady was discussing her personal trial with the county court.

“I’m getting a little weary of my tax dollars being used for a private problem,” she said.

Cannady replied that the letter discusses an issue concerning the map of roads within Harney County;

• was addressed by Herb Vloedman concerning a fire hazard along the nature trail.

Grasty said he’d explore the possibility of posting signs, stating that smoking is prohibited on the trail.

Grasty also thanked Vloedman for his efforts in obtaining veterans recognition signs;

• received a letter from Jennifer Williams, requesting a donation to help defray the cost of bringing Kevin Pearce to Burns Sept. 29. Pearce will help educate the community about brain injuries.

Grasty said he’d look at public health funding;

• signed five bargain and sale deeds for county-owned properties that were purchased during the  county land sale auction;

• approved signing an order of appointment in the matter of appointing a pool of members for the Harney County Board of Property Tax Appeals.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


Licenses issued ‘with modifications or amendments’

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

After two meetings to listen to public input, the Burns City Council voted to issue business licenses, with modifications or amendments, to two individuals to operate medical marijuana dispensaries.

The council approved the licenses at its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 10, by a 3-1 vote. Councilors Boyce LaForest, Terri Presley and Nona Popham voted yes, and Jerry Woodfin cast the lone nay vote. Mayor Craig LaFollette and Councilor Dan Hoke were excused from the meeting, and Linc Reed-Nickerson submitted his resignation from the council earlier in the day.

Before the vote, City Manager (CM) Kraig Cutsforth said the councilors had several choices to look at. He said they could modify the ordinance to allow the licenses with conditions; they could do nothing with the ordinance and deny the licenses, and then defend the decision in court; they could remove “federal” from the ordinance; or they could write a new section of the ordinance.

“It’s your decision,” Cutsforth said.

LaForest stated that it was not a “black and white issue,” or a matter of being for or against a dispensary. He said he did a lot of research and listened to both sides before reaching his decision. Factored into his decision was the cost of litigation should the council deny the licenses, public opinion, and the small chance of the federal government getting involved in legal issues.

The council approved the motion to grant the business licenses pending business license ordinance modifications, saying the modifications would allow the council to have more control.

During the citizens concerns portion of the meeting, several folks wanted to know why the city didn’t place a moratorium on dispensaries to allow more time to delve into the issue.

Bev LaFollette stated that, although she doesn’t live in Burns, she does have a business in town and she has concerns about where the dispensaries may be located.

Dave Smerski asked if the city had insurance for litigation, and Cutsforth told him it did not, and funds to fight litigation would have to come out of reserves.

Rob Paramore said he owns a business in Burns, and he wasn’t happy with the council’s decision. “You put the concern of a lawsuit over the concerns of citizens,” he said.

Grant Gunderson told the council he was disappointed in the council’s decision and the unintended consequences that may come from it.

Mark Christie said he was in law enforcement for three decades and called the decision a “travesty.” He added that the decision  has negatively affected the livability of the community. “I feel bad for the officers in the city and county. You better start hiring more police officers to deal with the situation you created here tonight,” he said.

LaForest told the audience that litigation was not the only or primary factor in the decision. “It makes us less liable and gives us more control,” La Forest said.

Popham said she heard from citizens on both sides of the issue and that made for a difficult decision. “We can control it by modifying the ordinance, and there are people here who wanted it,” she said.

The council agreed to hold a public meeting to discuss what modifications will be made to the business license ordinance before issuing the licenses.

•••

At the start of the meeting, Presley, who was acting chairman, read the letter of resignation from Reed-Nickerson. It stated that he would be taking an extended vacation, beginning Oct. 30, and the resignation was effective immediately.

Questions regarding Reed-Nickerson’s status as a Burns resident also came up during the citizens concerns.

LaFollette said Reed-Nickerson had told her that her opinion on the dispensary didn’t matter because she wasn’t a resident of Burns, so she looked into his residency and found he hadn’t lived within the city limits for about a year.

Paramore stated that Reed-Nickerson hadn’t lived in Burns since last October. “Why is he still on the council? he asked. “That upsets me. He’s been able to make decisions without living in Burns. I donated my services for four years, doing high school sports on the radio for zero compensation, and for him to say we have no say upsets me.”

Gunderson said he was appalled that a councilor lied about his residency and falsified information.

•••

At the Aug. 27 meeting, the council tabled a decision on whether to allow Megan Deiter to keep a horse on her 1/2-acre lot on East E Street, and discussed it again at the Sept. 10 meeting.

Cutsforth said the horse is considered a comfort animal and not a service animal, which doesn’t allow for any special circumstances in making a decision.

Cutsforth stated he read over the city’s ordinance regulating livestock several times, and spoke with a person who was on the council at the time it was approved to find out the intent. The ordinance was implemented Jan. 1, 1998, with the intent to diminish keeping of livestock in the city. Cutsforth said no livestock permit had been issued since then, and he recommended not issuing a permit.

LaForest stated that the council would not be in violation of the ordinance if they did issue a new permit.

“But you’d be opening a floodgate,” Cutsforth said.

After some discussion, LaForest made a motion to “open the floodgate and allow Megan Deiter to keep the horse on her property.”

The motion passed 3-1, with Woodfin voting against.

•••

In other business:

• Officer Robbie Tiller reported the police department was looking into the possibility of adding a canine unit. The council asked the department to come up with a cost analysis and other statistics and make a presentation to the council;

• Cutsforth stated the fire suppression system was completed at Burns airport, which should allow the moratorium to be lifted. He added that he met with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials regarding the flood plain issue. He said that it’s a slow process, but the base flood elevation (BFE) should be established soon. “It’s probably not as much a decrease as we would like,” he said.

Cutsforth was also to meet with Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials to discuss the city exceeding the particulate matter for air quality. If the city exceeds the maximum too often, DEQ may ban all burning in the city, including burn barrels and wood stoves. A committee will be formed to develop a plan.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24.


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