Council revisits variance request

Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Mayor Craig LaFollette presented newly-appointed Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap with an enlarged replica of his new police chief badge. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Mayor Craig LaFollette presented newly-appointed Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap with an enlarged replica of his new police chief badge. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Newt Skunkcap is now officially the new police chief for the city of Burns.

At the Burns City Council meeting Wednesday, April 8, the council voted unanimously to appoint Skunkcap to the vacant position, effective immediately.

A number of family, friends and fellow officers were present at the meeting to witness Skunkcap’s promotion and offer their congratulations.

Mayor Craig LaFollette presented Skunkcap with a new police chief identification card and badge.

•••

On advice of their legal counsel, the council reopened the public hearing on an appeal filed by Ron Jones regarding the planning commission’s decision to deny his variance request.

At the March 25 council meeting, the council voted to deny the variance, but there was additional written material submitted by Jones prior to that meeting that may not have been considered in the council’s decision.

Mayor LaFollette then asked Jones to present his case as to how the additional testimony should change the council’s decision.

Jones began to tell his story from the beginning, and was reminded by LaFollette that he should focus on why the additional testimony should change the decision.

Jones stated his most recent submission contained photos of other businesses and residences in Burns that are in violation of city ordinances, and was told the photos have no bearing on his appeal, and that he should explain why the council should change their decision.

Jones stated he couldn’t understand why a business couldn’t get help from the city instead of opposition.

LaFollette once again reminded Jones that he was there to present new information. “I’d love to hear what you’ve got that’s new,” LaFollette said.

Jones said he had submitted a five-page letter that wasn’t included in the March 25 council packets.

Councilor Dan Hoke said there was four criteria Jones was asked to meet to have the denial overturned, and he hadn’t done that. “Do we throw all the ordinances out or do we put a stop to what is happening?” Hoke asked.

“The other buildings in the photos aren’t relevant to your case,” Hoke said.

“So there are others in violation (of city ordinances), but you’re going to start with me. Is that what I’m hearing?” Jones asked.

LaFollette said he was still waiting to hear new information and asked Jones to be concise.

Jones stated he turned himself in on the ordinance violation, and common sense should dictate to the council that the evidence should lead to overturning the denial.

Once again, Jones was asked for new evidence regarding the decision affecting his property.

“It’s not any different than any of the others,” Jones said. “I’ll just fold my hands and let you decide whatever you want to. I’m done.”

The public hearing was then closed, and LaFollette stated at the March 25 meeting, the council voted to deny the appeal on a 3-2 vote. He then asked if any of the council members who voted in the majority wanted to take a new vote, and none did.

A motion was then made to ratify the decision to deny the variance request and it passed on a 4-1 vote. Councilors Lou Ann Deiter, Charity Robey and Hoke and Mayor LaFollette voted in favor of the motion, and Councilor Jerry Woodfin cast the lone dissenting vote.

Councilors Terri Presley and Dennis Davis abstained from voting because they are on the planning commission.

•••

With Public Works Director Dave Cullens planning to retire Sept. 1, the council discussed their options for filling the position.

LaFollette said they could ask Cullens to work part-time, 20 hours a week, or they could direct Interim City Manager Dauna Wensenk to develop a plan and time line to hire someone for the position.

Cullens said he would be open to working part-time after Sept. 1 if the council asked. “I don’t want to leave the city in a bind. I’ll help out,” Cullens said.

Councilor Woodfin asked if there was someone already in the public works department qualified for the position, and Cullens said no.

Cullens added that they could get the qualifications, but it would take some time.

Different scenarios were discussed, and it was decided that the council would sit down and talk with the members of the public works department to come up with the best plan of action, and a decision would be made following that discussion.

•••

Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson told the council that an airport crash truck they had received three years ago has been outside in the weather and, as a result, is no longer in serviceable condition. He asked for the vehicle to be put up for sale on the city’s surplus equipment list.

Williamson explained his plans for building a firefighter training facility out at the airport. He said the facility would be constructed using three 40-foot storage containers, and could also be used for police training.

Williamson discussed the plan with the city’s airport architect and the safety committee to address any concerns they might have.

Councilor Hoke asked about the aesthetics of the facility, and Williamson said the plan called for planting grass, shrubs and trees in the vicinity to make it “pleasing to the eye.”

The council waited to make a decision, pending an environmental study.

Williamson also reported the fire department would be sending a truck and two men to Rome to help with fire protection during U.S. Air Force training April 14-17.

•••

In other business:

• the council approved Cullens spending $2,800 for a sewer pump part;

• the council approved Resolution No. 2015-597 declaring certain airport equipment owned by the city to be surplus property and indicating the intent and method for the disposal of the property;

• the council reviewed the items requested by Airport Manager Jeff Cotton through the General Services Administration program for the next fiscal year;

• Andy Lessar, owner of Enjoy, told the council he wants to be a part of the community, and the community does a good job of supporting veterans. “But there is one ordinance not supporting vets, and that’s the one that affects my business,” Lessar said.

He explained the ordinance doesn’t allow his business to be open on weekends, and he’s received numerous letters from veterans asking him to be open at least one day on the weekend so they can come in.

Lessar said cannabis has shown to be effective in treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it helps the veterans sleep at night.

He added that he met with city officials recently and walked them through the facility, and noted they were surprised;

• Mayor LaFollette reminded the council the cities of Burns and Hines were holding a community clean-up day Saturday, April 18, and asked for volunteers to help out at C&B Sanitary Service during the day.

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


(L-R): Britton Bentz, Clayton Bentz, Sam Williams, Warren Clayton Johnson competed in the Small Diameter Wood Products Contest. (Submitted photo)

(L-R): Britton Bentz, Clayton Bentz, Sam Williams, Warren Clayton Johnson competed in the Small Diameter Wood Products Contest. (Submitted photo)

Young entrepreneurs competed last Thursday, April 9, for cash awards in the first annual Small- Diameter Wood Products Contest designed to spark creative product ideas using small–diameter pine and also juniper wood.   This timber currently has little economic value, but is being harvested in large quantities to improve forest health, resistance to fire and improve rangeland habitat. The Harney County Restoration Collaborative (HCRC) and the High Desert Partnership, the backbone support organization for HCRC, created this contest to challenge Harney County high school students to develop inventive products and a corresponding business plan utilizing wood from restoration activities both in the Malheur Forest north of Burns and the sagebrush steppe rangeland in Harney County where juniper infestations are a threat to sage grouse habitat.

Two teams competed in the contest and they each presented their business plan to participants at the HCRC meeting on April 9. Britton Bentz and Clayton Bentz, both seniors at Burns High School, with their company, Lone Pine LLC, won the first place award and $1,500. Sam Williams, a sophomore at Crane Union High School, and Warren Clayton Johnson, a sophomore at Silvies River Charter School, with their company WJ Wood Products, were awarded second place and $750 for their efforts.

Lone Pine LLC owners presented a business plan incorporating several small-diameter wood products and an ambitious growth plan for their company. Their proprietary product was “sawdust cement” they were calling “Lone Pine-crete.” This product mixes sawdust and resin glue to form an impervious and light weight product. The Bentz and Bentz team proposed to market to the construction industry as flooring, patios, and also to set posts for fences and pole barns. Lone Pine LLC also planned to market “dyed wood chips” using an environmentally safe dark-brown dye for use as mulch in flower beds and landscaping applications. Lone Pine LLC team also proposed selling juniper firewood, and the team designed a method to reduce the handling of the firewood by selling it in one cord-sized fruit crates.

WJ Wood Products presented a business plan with a product they designed, a simple-to-construct small animal pen using small diameter juniper posts. The Williams and Johnson team have extensive 4-H and FFA experience and realized these pens would be ideal for 4-H and FFA animals. The WJ Products team proposed marketing these pens in and around Bend and Redmond where 4-H and FFA members usually live on smaller acreages. The pen would be ideal for lambs and goats. This team also had in their product line-up juniper firewood. These two young men’s long range plans included expanding their business by building rustic furniture and garden items all built from juniper wood.

Members of the HCRC who judged these two entrepreneurial teams were impressed with the business plans and ingenuity presented. The HCRC meets regularly and meetings are open to all citizens.  The goal of the HCRC is to restore the ecological health and resilience to our forests while providing social and economic benefits to Harney County. Both organizations, HCRC and the High Desert Partnership, hope to hold a similar contest in future years to encourage and recognize students with an entrepreneurial spirit for developing wood products.


Court attempts to stay up-to-date on NEPA discussions

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Malheur National Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin, United States Forest Service (USFS) Public Affairs Specialist Teresa Gallagher and Emigrant Creek District Ranger Christy Cheyne attended the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held April 1) to answer any questions that the court might have concerning a letter that Harney County Judge Steve Grasty received from Regional Forester James Peña concerning the time line for completing travel management planning on the Malheur and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

In his letter, dated March 17, Peña informed Grasty that he asked Beverlin and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Supervisor Tom Montoya to defer any additional work required under Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule (Designation of Roads, Trails, and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use) until after the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision is complete.

“I believe this pause will provide enhanced opportunity for the counties and the public to focus on the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision re-engagement,” Peña wrote.

Beverlin and Grasty both agreed with Peña’s statement, adding that they both requested the deferment.

About the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision

During a public meeting held March 18, 2014, Beverlin explained that the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision will impact the Malheur, Wallowa-Whitman, and  Umatilla National Forests (which are collectively referred to as the Blue Mountains National Forests).

He added 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.

He also 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.

About the Travel Management Rule

Announced in 2005, USFS’s Travel Management Rule requires every National Forest and Grassland in the United States to identify and designate the roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle use. The rule is divided into subparts A, B and C.

In a letter addressed to Beverlin, Peña wrote, “It is expected that the Forest will complete travel analysis as required under Subpart A of the Travel Management Rule by the end of 2015.” He added, “Travel analysis does not result in a decision, but rather will be used to inform future project-level decisions and planning efforts as well as any future travel management planning efforts.”

Beverlin described Subpart A as an internal analysis in which agency staff looks at the USFS’ documents and database and determines the agency’s needs.

Work on Subpart C (Over Snow Vehicle Use) will also continue, and Beverlin said the public and local groups are being engaged in this effort.

The Umatilla National Forest already completed Subpart B and was not impacted by Peña’s Subpart B direction.

•••

The court, Beverlin, Gallagher, and Cheyne also engaged in a conversation concerning the various ongoing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes.

In an effort to stay up-to-date on the discussions, court staff developed a NEPA tracking spreadsheet. Grasty said he’d like to add a column to the spreadsheet that can be used to indicate whether the court has submitted comments.

Cheyne reminded the court that comments are currently being accepted regarding the Izee Allotment Management Plan Preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA). The court will review the EA and submit comments.

•••

The court continued its ongoing discussion concerning sage grouse.

Grasty provided an overview of the Administrative Rule writing committee meetings that took place in Burns March 19-20, adding that he and Harney County Planning Director Brandon McMullen have been “pushing back” on the issues.

Grasty also reported that he discussed the value of Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) during a recent meeting with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Gov. Kate Brown. He said he emphasized that CCAAs “came from the ground up” and were brought forward by the local community.

McMullen also briefed the court on a recent meeting that he had with other county planning directors concerning sage grouse management issues.

•••

The court received an application from Candace Carpenter to purchase county-owned land.

Grasty expressed concerns about the property’s location, relationship to low-density sage grouse habitat, and other land use implications and recommended that the court elect not to sale the parcel at this time.

The court agreed to deny the application and refund the application fee.

The court also received an application to purchase county-owned land from Mike Davis of Davis Ranches and Farms.

Grasty said the property’s location would make it fit for sale, and the court agreed to put the parcel up for public auction.

•••

In other business, the court:

• signed Amendment No. 01 of the Cooperative Improvement Agreement between the Oregon Department of Transportation and Harney County for rock production.

Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella explained that the amendment is an extension of the original agreement;

• signed Resolution 2015-04 in the matter of establishing the Harney County General Operating Reserve Fund and Resolution 2015-06 in the matter of abolishing the Harney County Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) Reserve Fund.

Grasty explained that the PERS fund was created in order to prepare for drastic changes in the PERS rate, which have since been stabilized.

Resolution 2015-06 will transfer $100,000 to the Harney County 9-1-1 Fund as a loan to cover the current budget deficit, and the remaining balance will be transfered to the General Operating Reserve Fund that was established by Resolution 2015-04. Monies from the General Operating Reserve Fund can only be expended by the court through an order or resolution. The court will have final authority over the appropriation and expenditure of this fund;

• signed Resolution 2015-05, accepting $55,888 of unexpected State Homeland Security Program grant funding for expanding Harney County’s incident response capability;

• agreed to sign and send a letter written to legislators regarding Oregon Senate Bill 941, which attempts to address criminal access to firearms.

In the letter, the court expressed concern that the proposed legislation is “overly broad” and “is being fast tracked without sufficient time for interested persons to participate in the Senate Committee process;”

• received a letter from Megan Irwin, acting Early Learning System director, regarding Intergovernmental Agreement contracts that it will receive from the Early Learning Division pertaining to Healthy Families Oregon;

• will hold an executive session Tuesday, April 14 at 2 p.m. to consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent who did not request an open hearing.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, April 15, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


Burns Ward Family History Center is hosting a free RootsTech Family Discovery Day Saturday, April 25, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (600 N. Saginaw Ave. in Hines).

The goal of Family Discovery Day is to teach participants how to search for their family history.

The event will feature classes for all skill levels and activities for all ages, and everyone is invited to attend. There will be a mix of live instruction and recorded sessions from RootsTech 2015.

Held Feb. 12-14 in Salt Lake City, Utah, RootsTech 2015 was a three-day, family-history conference that offered more than 200 classes and featured famous keynote speakers. Annual RootsTech conferences are hosted by FamilySearch.org — a free website that allows its users to enter information regarding their family trees, as well as photos, stories, and audio recordings. The site stores this information in its online database, which can be accessed by other users who are seeking to learn more about their family history.

In April 2013, Cheryl Wood, the family history director for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hines, and her daughter, Tamara Mooney, worked with Harney County Clerk Derrin (Dag) Robinson to digitize Harney County’s historical records, including deeds, naturalization, marriage, water rights and probate records from 1889 to 1930. These digitized recorded were indexed and uploaded into FamilySearch.org where they can be viewed by the public.

During Family Discovery Day, participants will learn how to navigate the FamilySearch website and utilize its tools. They’ll also learn how to use similar websites such as Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, MyHeritage.com, and Newspapers.com to discover more about their lineage. Family Discovery Day will also feature classes that teach individuals how to record their own personal histories, which can be preserved for future generations.

“Photopalooza,” an opportunity to scan personal photographs with the help of instructors, will be one of the day’s activities. In addition to family photos, participants are asked to bring their own laptop or tablet, as well as a USB flash drive.

Family Discovery Day will also include pioneer games, a dessert-tasting table, and informational displays. Additionally, a family history table will be set up to help participants get started.

The day’s events will conclude with RootsTech 2015 recordings, featuring family stories shared by 2014 Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus Pace and entertainer Donny Osmond. Wood added that Osmond also sings during his recorded session.

Anyone wishing to attend Family Discovery Day is asked to bring his/her own sack lunch and register online at http://www.lds.org/familydiscoveryday (search for Burns, Oregon).


Public works director position discussed

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

After almost three years of not having a police chief, the Burns City Council decided it was time to put someone in that position, and the hire will come from within the department.

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, March 25, the council agreed by consensus to appoint Police Sergeant Newt Skunkcap to the police chief position at its next meeting on April 8.

Before agreeing to make the appointment, the council discussed the steps that led to the decision.

Skunkcap was promoted to sergeant in January 2014, and has been attending classes and training to meet the qualifications needed to be chief. It was pointed out that Burns Police Administrative Assistant Brice Mundlin will be retiring June 30, 2016, and by appointing Skunkcap to the chief position now, it will give him a year to work with Mundlin on handling the administrative duties of the position.

Mundlin said the city lost its last police chief because of budget cuts, and the department has been preparing Skunkcap for the position by sending him to training.

“Once he has been appointed chief, he will have a two-year window to complete the training, and he’s almost there,” Mundlin said. “All that’s left is a two-week managerial course.”

The council noted that when Mundlin retires, they will hire an entry-level officer to bring the department back up to four officers.

“We’ll have a chief that patrols and handles administrative duties, and we need a chief,” Mayor Craig LaFollette said. “Newt has been working with Brice already, and it makes more sense to hire from within the department than to get someone, like a retired police chief, who leaves after a couple years.”

•••

The council discussed the retirement of Public Works Director Dave Cullens, effective Sept. 1. LaFollette stated that Cullens had presented the city with information about the position, and the council could use that information to help in the decision-making process. The council will discuss the position further at its next meeting.

•••

The council approved Resolution No. 15-596, increasing budget amounts within the airport fund for the projection of wild fires and adding personnel services.

City Clerk/Interim City Manager Dauna Wensenk told the council the resolution was drafted because there wasn’t enough money to purchase fuel during the fire season last year. By using past figures, they can estimate how much fuel will be needed for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson gave a brief overview of the conditions for the upcoming fire season. He said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is looking at 90 percent of its state lands being below 50 percent of average snow pack.

“We count on snowpack and runoff in the spring. There are more fuel loads drying out already, and depending on lightning activity, we could see the fire season early on,” Williamson said. “We’ve been talking with the BLM about how to fight fires because this is a completely different situation this year.”

Williamson added that his department has been working to get the word out to citizens about creating defensible space around their homes to protect themselves.

On Wednesday, April 1, a trailer from the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, designed to train fire fighters in live fire attack procedures, will be in town.

•••

The council opened a public hearing at 6:15 p.m. to listen to an appeal of a planning commission decision.

Mayor LaFollette explained that the planning commission had denied a request for a variance at 35 South Grand to allow a previously-built carport up to the property line. The findings by the commission were that the applicant did not meet the four criteria required to allow a variance, and a 2-2 vote by the commission resulted in a denial of the request.

Ron Jones, who applied for the variance and the appeal, stated the planning commission meeting was done “unprofessionally,” and the commission brought hearsay into its decision to deny the variance request. Jones said he was told two years ago that he didn’t need a permit to build a 10×20 carport, and when he found out he did, he came to the planning commission to make amends, and he was denied his request.

“I can’t see a reason to not grant a variance. I made a mistake, came to the planning commission to ask for a variance, and never got a good reason why I was denied. There are no safety issues, no traffic problems, vision isn’t blocked, and I sent out letters to the neighbors and none had a problem,” Jones said. “I’m hoping you have some mercy here so I don’t have to tear down my building.”

LaFollette reminded Jones that the burden of proof was on him to show that he had met all the criteria to overturn the decision, and he had yet to do that.

Jones stated the building was a foot in back of the property line, but there was no proof of that as a survey had not been done, and it wasn’t clear where the actual property line runs.

A motion was made to approve the variance, but it died because of a lack of a second.

A second motion was made to deny the variance request, and it passed on a 3-2 vote. Councilors Dan Hoke and Lou Ann Deiter, and Mayor LaFollette voted in favor of the motion. Councilors Charity Robey and Jerry Woodfin voted nay.

Councilors Terri Presley and Dennis Davis excused themselves from the hearing, as they are on the planning commission.

Legal counsel advised that the staff needs to write up their findings and decision on the vote to clarify how they came up with their vote, and the decision will be adopted at the next meeting.

•••

The council held a discussion regarding making the airport manager a city employee, rather than an independent contractor, until June 30. The compensation package would include a monthly salary of $1,800, plus benefits, and the manager’s performance would be subject to a review by the city manager or acting city manager.

There was also a discussion on a need for a back-up plan should the airport manger get sick or want to go on vacation.

The council voted to make the airport manager a city employee through June 30 and approved the compensation package.

•••

In other business, the council:

• voted to approve the purchase of materials for fuel tank repairs at the airport in the amount of $7,868. That amount does not include shipping or installation costs;

• discussed having a community cleanup day on April 18. Wensenk said she had talked with C&B Sanitary about being open on that day from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. to accept yard debris and metal only. She asked for volunteers to help with the activity at the transfer station.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, at city hall.


Square and circular towers are common on the mesas of Hovenweep National Monument and are widely thought of as providing warnings against marauders. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

Square and circular towers are common on the mesas of Hovenweep National Monument and are widely thought of as providing warnings against marauders. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

The Harney County Library will be presenting a free slide show and lecture: “The Stones Speak: What they Tell About Art and Survival” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9. Diane Sward Rapaport, Hines resident and author, will be presenting the slide show and lecture. The event is free and open to the public.

In many Southwest communities, stone walls tell the stories of ancient Pueblo cultures as well as contemporary cities and towns that have been abandoned.

In the 1400s, tens of thousands of Pueblo peoples migrated away from their homes in Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Hovenweep and other communities. Archaeologists are still studying the ruins of Puebloan cultures to decipher what happened during “the grand disappearance.” In the book House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, author Craig Childs follows the trail of migration to cultures as far south as Mexico by looking at pottery shards and stone ruins. These ruins attract millions of visitors a year.

In 1953, most of the 15,000 people that lived in Jerome, Ariz., once the Southwest’s richest copper mining city, migrated away to find jobs elsewhere. The city became a famous ghost town and, within 40 years, a beautiful village visited by as many people as those that go to the ancient Puebloan ruins. The revival of a town “too stubborn to die,” is told in Diane Rapaport’s book, Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City.

“In Jerome, the stone buildings and retaining walls tell a great deal about survival against the steep mountain that holds the town and its restoration as an art and history mecca,” Rapaport said. “Like the Puebloan walls, they are works of art.”


Court declares drought

Posted on March 25th in News

Update given on progress of biomass heating project

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

At its regular meeting Thursday, March 19, the Harney County Court passed Resolution #2015-03, declaring a drought in the county.

The resolution states that the “agricultural and livestock industries, and related economy are suffering widespread and severe economic damage, potential injuries and loss of property resulting from extreme weather conditions within the county…”

It also cites statistics from the State Water Availability Committee and the State Drought Council, stating:

• As of March 10, there is a “record historic low” of snowpack;

• As of March 11, there is “less than 50 percent of normal” snow water equivalent;

• As of March 1, spring and summer forecasted streamflows are “significantly below normal”;

The resolution declares a local disaster within the county, implements the drought emergency plan, and requests that Governor Kate Brown declare a drought emergency for all of Harney County, and that she direct the Oregon Department of Water Resources to make available in the county: temporary transfers of water rights, emergency water use permits, use of existing right options/agreements, and other federal and state drought assistance and programs as needed.

•••

Harney County School District No. 3 Board Chair Lori Cheek was present to update the court on the biomass heating project. She said the district is awaiting response on its application for a  $400,000 grant from the “Cool Schools” program through the Oregon Department of Energy. The funds would be split between Slater School and Burns High School, and applied toward a biomass boiler system – part of the larger biomass heating project that includes the county.

Cheek also reported that a job description had been created for a project manager to coordinate wood chip allocation and contracts, among other things. It will be a contract position limited by funds received from the school district and the county ($10,000 from each entity.)

Cheek said she has been looking into what is entailed in forming a cooperative to serve as the managing entity for the biomass heating district.

“We need to do that, because that is the vehicle that will be managing several things. The co-op is the county and the school, – that is all it is right now,” said Cheek.

She added that she thinks others will join the co-op in the future as users of the biomass heating, and said a board of five members would probably be needed. After establishing the co-op, Cheek said the next step would be working toward sourcing funding to “buy out” a loan being obtained by Wisewood, Inc. (the project developer and consultant.) She mentioned the Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant program (REDL&G) as an opportunity, and said she would bring more information to the next court meeting.

•••

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty reported on a recent meeting of the Harney County Parks Committee. He said Theimer Park’s “Boy Scout Cabin” is in need of improvements. Several windows are broken, and woodpeckers have been destroying the siding, Grasty explained. He said the committee would like to put out for bids on the projects. Commissioners Pete Runnels and Dan Nichols agreed.

•••

Grasty said a letter had been received from the Harney County Fair Board requesting the re-appointment of Jim Kelly and Kevin Pryse to the board. The court voted unanimously to approve them.

Grasty also reported that he had met with fair board members March 18 to discuss various budget-related issues. They also reminded Grasty that the court had promised the construction of a 150-foot by 150-foot gravel pad in the southwest corner of the fairgrounds for equipment storage. Grasty asked them what their time frame was, and they told him it would make the most sense to do it after fair this year. He recommended that they first get written permission from the city of Burns because of the proposed pad’s proximity to the lagoon.

•••

Grasty reported that the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development’s administrative rulemaking committee was meeting March 19 and 20 to draft a document for sage grouse habitat conservation policy. He said the same process will happen soon within the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.

•••

The court voted unanimously to make a revenue line budget correction for Fund 252, Harney County Fair, for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The line was changed from a $26,500 debit to a credit line of $26,500.

The court also passed Resolution #2015-02, adopting and appropriating the supplemental budget for Fund 227, Early Learning Council Hub, as presented at the supplemental budget hearing on Nov. 5, 2014 in the total sum of $428,310.00 for fiscal year 2014-15.

•••

The court reviewed correspondence from:

• The Northeast Oregon Forests Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) Coordinator Jeff Tomac, thanking Grasty for his service as a RAC member. Tomac said his contribution helped the committee accomplish 39 Title II projects in 2014;

• Bill Rosholt, requesting potential names for Local Workforce Investment Board members from Harney County;

• Shane Theall of the Burns Interagency Fire Zone and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, announcing a spring meeting for “county-wide fire cooperators” April 13 to discuss current fire outlook, radio communications, and equipment and personnel status checks, among other subjects;

• The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Burns District office, announcing a Determination of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Adequacy (DNA) for the Kiger and Riddle Mountain Herd Management Areas (HMA) wild horse gather. The letter stated that the proposed action of the DNA is a wild horse helicopter drive gather to re-establish the wild horse populations of the Riddle Mountain and Kiger HMAs to the low end of their respective Appropriate Management Levels (AML). Comments may be submitted to the Burns District office, and must be postmarked by April 10;

• Karen Moon, coordinator for the Harney County Watershed Council, recommending Diane Rapaport for appointment to the “Concerned Citizen-General” position on the council. The court voted unanimously to approve the appointment.

In other business, the court:

• reviewed applications by Duane Grant (4-D Farms/Whitehorse Ranch) and Jerry Miller (Bell A Grazing Co-op) to purchase county-owned Tax Lot No. 1000 and Tax Lot No. 7100, respectively. The court voted unanimously to bring both properties to auction;

• received notice of the Southeast Oregon Symposium on The Arts and Economic Development, to be held in Burns May 19 and 20;

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


Burns-Hines Kiwanis Club members Deborah Smith (left) and Pauline Braymen help out with last year’s Ronald McDonald House Blitz. (Submitted photo)

Burns-Hines Kiwanis Club members Deborah Smith (left) and Pauline Braymen help out with last year’s Ronald McDonald House Blitz. (Submitted photo)

Many Harney County families rely on Bend lodging

The Kiwanis Club of Burns-Hines will hold its annual Ronald McDonald House® Blitz on Saturday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Big R and Ericksons Thriftway Market.  Club members will accept donations and provide information about this charitable program which has benefited so many families in Harney County.

Since the Bend Ronald McDonald House opened in 1997, many families have stayed there while their child was receiving medical care in Bend. From Harney and Grant counties, there have been a total of 219 family stays and a total of 1,352 family nights.  One of the families was there for 74 nights.  Last year alone, 13 Harney County families lodged a total of 153 nights at the House That Love Built™.

Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central Oregon provides a “home away from home” for families who must travel to Bend seeking medical care for their seriously ill or injured child, age 21 or under, as well as women with high-risk pregnancies who must remain close to emergency medical care.  The house is located on the property of St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, because “healing happens together.” A $20 per night room donation is suggested, but no family is ever turned away due to inability to pay, even though it costs Ronald McDonald House $113 per night to provide accommodation.

Of the Harney County families that have stayed there, 31 percent of the children had surgery, 21 percent were hospitalized for respiratory illness, 18 percent were premature births and 9 percent were high-risk pregnancies. The rest of the diagnoses were a variety of illnesses, injuries and accidents.

In 2013, 15 percent of the families served by Ronald McDonald House were from Harney County and 15 percent were from Grant County. Only Deschutes County had a higher percentage of usage.  Overall, the greatest percentages of families that lodge at the Bend Ronald McDonald House have a premature baby receiving treatment in the St. Charles Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The drive to establish a Ronald McDonald House in Bend was spearheaded by the Redmond Kiwanis Club with support from the other Kiwanis clubs in Division 78, which includes Burns-Hines. Last year, $1,000 was raised by Burns-Hines Kiwanians to benefit this facility. Every $113 raised provides a night’s lodging for a family of seven.

Donations may be made at the Blitz Stations at Big R and Ericksons Thriftway Market on Saturday, April 4, or contributions may be mailed to the Kiwanis Club of Burns-Hines, P.O. Box 793, Burns, OR 97720. Checks should be made payable to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Oregon, in order to be tax deductible.


by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

An explosion totaled a camp trailer on North Broadway March 11, and sent a local man to a Portland hospital for burn treatment. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

An explosion totaled a camp trailer on North Broadway March 11, and sent a local man to a Portland hospital for burn treatment. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

On Wednesday, March 11, a propane leak caused an explosion inside a camp trailer in the North Broadway area, and sent Duane Harold Barklow, 50, to a Portland hospital with burns on his arms and hands.

At about 8:30 p.m. on March 11, a resident in the North Broadway area contacted the dispatch office and reported hearing a loud, “sonic boom that rattled his trailer” about an hour earlier, and wanted to know whether there had been any similar reports.

The following morning, there was a report that there was an explosion inside a trailer in the North Broadway area, and the authorities began an investigation.

Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson said he went to investigate the report,  along with the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, and Burns and Hines police departments, and found a trailer that had obviously been damaged at 1222 North Broadway. He spoke with a woman in the driveway, Sharon Pulley, who told him there was an explosion the previous night, caused by propane, and that she had transported Barklow to Harney District Hospital. From there, he was flown to Portland to be treated for burns.

Williamson contacted the Oregon State Fire Marshal and the Oregon State Police arson division to conduct an investigation.

Williamson said that, after the investigation, it was determined that Barlow had been working in the yard, using a propane wand for lighting. He then carried the 5-pound propane tank and wand inside the trailer, and put a pizza in the oven, which was also fueled by propane. About 15 minutes later, Barklow opened the oven door to check on the pizza, and the open flame ignited the propane that had been leaking from the wand connection, causing the explosion.

Williamson said Pulley was also inside the trailer when the blast happened, but she was laying on the bed with a heavy blanket over her that helped prevent any injuries.

The explosion totaled the trailer, as well as blowing out windows on the house next to the trailer.

The couple was living in the camp trailer while remodeling the house.

Pulley was arrested on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm and cited for possession of less than an ounce of a controlled substance.


Need for master water plan emphasized

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

At the regular meeting of the Hines Common Council Tuesday, March 10, discussion continued on the need for increased water base rates to fund necessary improvements to the city’s water and sewer system. No votes were held on the issue.

At the previous meeting on Feb. 24, it was reported that water base rates would need to be increased in order for the city to qualify for loans and grants through the Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA) to fund the needed improvements.

Mayor Nikki Morgan told a crowded room Tuesday evening that the original figure of $46 per month (water base rate) quoted in the city newsletter and the Burns Times-Herald had actually decreased to around $34, after being recalculated with new information received in the past week. It was clarified that this would be the eventual rate the city would need to charge in order to be eligible for financing. Morgan said the first step toward determining appropriate water and sewer rates and identifying all the needed improvements was to pursue a “current and accurate” master water plan.

Doug Ferguson of Ferguson Surveying and Engineering (the city engineer) and Tawni Bean, regional coordinator for the Oregon Business Development Department, IFA, were present to help answer questions.

City Administrator Joan Davies began the discussion by guiding the audience through a packet of information that had been compiled and distributed to everyone present.

The packet included:

• Evaluations and recommendations from 2001 and 2002 regarding the state of the elevated water tank. Davies said the recommended repairs were never done;

• A 2002 engineer’s report detailing options and costs for the repair or replacement of the elevated water tank and construction of a new on-grade tank. Davies said this was never done;

• Historic ordinances pertaining to the setting of water and sewer rates. Davies said water base rates had not increased in 12 years. She said a 2006 resolution set multi-family unit rates, but a 2010 resolution deleted those. She could not find reference to why that was done;

• Hines Common Council meeting agendas and minutes highlighting water and sewer discussions and votes from Sept. 24, 2013 to the present;

• Copies of emails between Davies and Bean, showing the discussion on the necessity of increasing rates in order to qualify for loans and grants;

• The 2014 inspection report for the 250,000 gallon steel elevated water tank, and the 2015 repair report for the 600,000 gallon steel on-grade tank. The 2014 report said that the interior of the elevated tank needed sandblasting and that the concrete footings were crumbling. The 2015 report detailed the 27 leaks that were repaired in the on-grade tank, and indicated that it will have to be checked again in six months;

• An explanation from Ferguson Surveying & Engineering detailing why Hines needs a master water plan, as well as a 2014 memo regarding water issues in the city. In the explanation, Ferguson wrote:

“We need a master plan in order to identify all the problems in the system, determine a viable fix to those problems in a timely and orderly manner, and to identify a means to fund the fix to those problems;”

• Highlights of water and sewer-related actions and discussions dating back to 1931; and

• Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala’s 2013-14 city water usage reports.

The discussion then opened to public comment, which included:

• A concern about using finances to improve infrastructure in the industrial area when there is no guarantee of a company coming in to use it. This is not part of any plan at this time, and Zabala commented that the industrial area’s water lines were in good condition and that the major issues were with residential areas;

• A recommendation that the city look to other, “non-governmental” places for loans, so rates are not “dictated.” Davies said the city is in regular contact with various funding sources, and the IFA is the only one that has responded with a chance to apply for a grant;

• A question about why easements are now needed on properties that water lines run under, when the city hasn’t had them all these years. It was explained that water lines run under unrelated properties, and the city has no legal rights to them;

• A comment that “most people in Hines have fixed incomes and/or are retired,” and would be adversely affected by the rate increase;

• A comment that vacant, bank-owned houses, although they don’t have water turned on, are not contributing toward funding maintenance and improvements on the overall system. Davies said there is no city authority to collect for not using water;

• A question about why residents couldn’t all “pitch in” and do the work  (water and sewer improvements) to save money. Morgan responded that there is too much liability and the city doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance for volunteers. Ferguson agreed, saying it just wasn’t possible these days.

Councilor Rod Bennett asked whether the price estimate for the master plan was still $50,000. He was told, yes, and that the estimate was based on similar plans in similar cities.

“And we don’t have the funds for that right now,” added Councilor Hilda Allison.

“However, we can get a loan to do the master plan, is that correct?” Bennett asked, addressing Bean.

“You can get a $20,000 grant, as well as you can come in for a $30,000 loan,” Bean said.

“And all we have to do is raise the water rates enough to cover the loan?” asked Bennett.

Bean responded “Yes.”

Following a comment from the audience about the city of Burns’ water and sewer enterprise fund, discussion ensued on whether an enterprise fee should be established to cover the potential loan to complete the master plan.

“Basically, with 600 meters, if we are looking at $30,000, we would need a $5 a month increase to cover the loan…and pay it off in a year,” said Bennett.

Davies mentioned she had already applied for the $20,000 grant, and asked Bean if an added enterprise fee would count toward the eventual rate needed to apply for future project financing.

Bean responded, “Yes, that will be a part of your rate already.”

The discussion extended into specifics of what improvements would need to be made, and whether multi-family rates needed to be raised.

Morgan concluded the discussion by reiterating that the master plan would  address these subjects and determine what specifically needed to be charged:

“We’re not going to make any [of those] decisions tonight. Ultimately, we need the master plan.”

•••

Davies reported on a special meeting of the Hines Planning Commission held March 3. At the meeting, the commission:

• Reviewed a land use permit given to the owners of the Hines Mobile Home Park, allowing them to add a mobile home. Davies said that they had wanted to put a double-wide on the south end of the park, but she advised them that it would be in the flood zone. Instead, they will place it on the northeast end;

• Reviewed and discussed requests for commercial zone changes. Davies said that there have been several inquiries from property owners regarding why their property is zoned commercial. There are also issues with properties that are multi-family zoned and have only single-family residences on them. Davies said she would start contacting property owners in affected areas to see what their preferences are, and once that is determined, begin the hearings process.

• Reviewed and recommended a flood prevention ordinance. Davies explained that all cities are mandated by law to have a flood prevention ordinance in place – without one, Hines would be ineligible for coverage by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which would prevent both the sale and purchase of properties that have to be financed. The commission unanimously voted to forward the ordinance to the council with a recommendation to approve. The council decided to hold off on a vote until the next meeting, in order to have more time to read and review the ordinance.

•••

In her regular report, Davies said she and other members of the local air quality task force are continuing to work with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to find ways to manage the particulate levels in both cities.

She said she received news about a bill in the Oregon House of Representatives, HB 3399, that would require all municipal court judges to be members of the Oregon Bar or complete an expensive, multi-week judicial academy on-site in Reno, Nev.

“That would be devastating for the small cities,” said Davies. She added that she would write a letter to legislators describing how the bill would adversely affect Hines, and urge them to vote no.

Davies said that she, Hines Chief of Police Ryan DeLange and Hines Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) Chief Bob Spence attended a “9-1-1 meeting” regarding dispatch service rates, which are set to double in the coming year.

“We have several meetings set up with the county judge, the sheriff, and all the other agencies affected by that,” said Davies.

Davies told councilors that a letter had been received from the Natural Resources Conversation Service (NRCS) inviting them to participate in a local work group meeting on March 12. The purpose of the meeting was to gather input for the development  of the Natural Resources Long Range Strategy for fiscal years 2016-2020.

•••

DeLange delivered his regular report. He said he was called away before the last council meeting to a stabbing. He added that the suspect is in custody and that the victim survived.

DeLange reported that during last month’s seatbelt blitz, there were 31 traffic stops and 11 citations.

Illegal drug use is out of control in both cities, especially methamphetamine, DeLange said. He added that law enforcement agencies are teaming up with Symmetry Care to fight the problem. DeLange and other officers have also started doing “walk-throughs” at schools to interact with students and teach them about the danger of drugs.

•••

Zabala reported that his department has been busy checking manholes and cleaning sewers. He also thanked the city of Burns for sweeping streets in Hines recently.

•••

Spence reported that there had been no 9-1-1 calls since the last council meeting. He said HVFD is continuing to do joint training with Burns Fire Department.

•••

In other business, the council:

• approved per diem for DeLange to attend the annual Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Bend, April 14-16;

• approved per diem for councilors to attend “Elected Essentials 2015” training offered by the League of Oregon Cities March 19 in Ontario.

The next meeting of the Hines Common Council will be held Tuesday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. at Hines City Hall.


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