The Bureau of Land Management, Burns District Office, has prepared and released for public input, the Steens Mountain Comprehensive Recreation Plan (CRP): an Environmental Assessment (EA) for expected recreational activities and associated facilities that may be desired in the Steens Mountain area, including, but not limited to: campgrounds, trails, interpretive sites, access points, viewing areas and dispersed recreation opportunities. Among other things, if it is determined to be in the best public interest, the Steens Mountain CRP final decision may add to the non-motorized trail system and could close non-motorized or motorized routes designated under the Steens Mountain Travel Management Plan.

Eric Haakenson, CRP project lead, said, “Anyone interested in the future of recreation on Steens Mountain should give the CRP a read. The plan analyzes a number of things that could change or enhance your recreation experience in the area. We welcome any input – positive or critical – on the proposed activities and facilities.”

All documents pertaining to the CRP are available in hard copy at the BLM Burns District Office at the address listed below, online at www.blm.gov/or/districts/burns/plans/index.php, and at the Harney County Library, 80 W D St, Burns. If you have comments, questions or input regarding the EA, submit them postmarked by May 3, to Eric Haakenson, Outdoor Recreation Planner:

By mail: Burns District Bureau of Land Management, Attn: Eric Haakenson, 28910 Hwy. 20 West, Hines, OR 97738.

Email: ehaakens@blm.gov

Fax: 541-573-4411.

After consideration of your constructive, substantive comments, a decision outlining the action(s) to be taken within the scope of the EA will be developed and issued. For further information about the Steens Mountain CRP, or to have your name added to the project mailing list, contact the CRP Project Lead at 541-573-4400.


Kids Club receives OCF bonus

Posted on March 12th in News

Club provides safe place after school

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Representing the Oregon Community Foundation, Fred Flippence presented a $1,000 bonus grant to representatives of the Kids Club of Harney County. From (L-R): Liz Taylor, Alicia Goodson, Sheila Angell, Amber Juhnke, Patty McNeil, Jeni Stevens, Fred Flippence and Chris Siegner. (Photo by Samantha White)

Representing the Oregon Community Foundation, Fred Flippence presented a $1,000 bonus grant to representatives of the Kids Club of Harney County. From (L-R): Liz Taylor, Alicia Goodson, Sheila Angell, Amber Juhnke, Patty McNeil, Jeni Stevens, Fred Flippence and Chris Siegner. (Photo by Samantha White)

During the Community Response Team meeting on Wednesday, March 5, Fred Flippence presented the Kids Club of Harney County with a $1,000 bonus grant on behalf of the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF).

The bonus is in addition to the three-year grant that the Kids Club is already receiving from OCF to help fund programs for local youth.

“The Kids Club has become a leader in the community for youth issues,” Flippence said, explaining OCF’s decision to continue providing financial support.

 

About the Kids Club

The club was originally established as the Boys & Girls Club of Harney County by a group of volunteers in 2001. However, when organizers decided to branch out on their own in 2008, the Kids Club of Harney County was created.

According to its website, Kids Club of Harney County provides “a safe and enjoyable place for children aged 6 to 17 to come after school.”

The club is open on school days (Monday through Thursday) from 3:20-6 p.m. It is also open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

In addition to providing healthy snacks, the club offers programs such as bully prevention, self esteem for girls, monthly cooking and nutrition classes, weekly arts and craft projects, and outdoor-play activities.

 

About OCF

According to its website, OCF is a permanent endowment for community-improvement efforts throughout the state of Oregon.

Flippence explained that money donated to the foundation is distributed via grants and scholarships.

OCF founder, William Swindells, started the foundation with a $63,000 contribution in 1973. Today, OCF has more than $1.4 billion under management, and more than $66 million in grants and scholarships were distributed in 2012.


Information center to be at courthouse

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The grant application is due March 12.

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

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

•••

The court discussed draft proposals for using Title II funding.

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

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

•••

The court also discussed ongoing issues concerning sage grouse management.

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

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

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

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

•••

In other business, the court:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Owners of RV park get go-ahead to expand

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Hines Common Council approved a business license for Left Coast Truck & Equipment Parts Inc., owned by Doug Murphy.

Murphy told the council the business will be located in the former mill saw shop at 207 Hotchkiss Lane, north of the smoke stack, and will be a truck dealership. The business will also sell new and used parts.

At the Hines Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 28, Murphy said his family purchased 11 acres surrounding the building, and they intended to remodel the building, as well as build another shop.

Murphy added that they wanted to clean up the area around the smoke stack, and asked permission to cover up the debris and make it into a pocket park. Because the land around the smoke stack belongs to the county, the commission encouraged Murphy to contact the county about the cleanup.

The council noted that the business would be located in an area zoned for industrial use, and supported the idea of cleaning up the area.

The council also approved a conditional use permit for Murphy, based on the recommendation of the planning commission.

The council also discussed a conditional use permit for the Hines RV & Mobile Home Park, which is also owned by Murphy. Plans called for adding 18 pull-through spaces at the park, and temporary holding pens for travelers that were hauling livestock.

The council approved the expansion and the permit.

During the Jan. 28 planning commission meeting, Tom Phelps, owner of Sands RV Park, requested an extension of the 30-day limit on RV park tenants. He explained that half of his income comes from the people who stay longer in the warmer weather, and then the park is closed for the winter. Phelps added that construction workers also use the park and don’t want to have to pack up and leave after 30 days.

The commission had concerns about guests who put up dog kennels or placed hay bales around the base of their RV, stating that those activities needed to be prohibited.

The commission recommended an amendment to the current conditional use permit to allow tenants to remain in the park for up to 120 days per year.

The council agreed that tenants should not be allowed to erect temporary foundations, dog kennels, etc., and voted to follow the commission’s recommendation to allow tenants to stay for up to 120 days per year.

•••

City Administrator Joan Davies reported she had attended a city managers meeting in Baker City, where a total of seven cities were represented. She said all the cities seemed to be dealing with the same issues, including flood plain issues and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) new requirements for flood insurance.

With regards to the Hines council’s plans to have a water rate study done, Davies stated that John Day and Enterprise are doing water rate studies at a cost of about $10,000.

Davies said while the local area is dealing with the sage grouse issue, areas like Baker City are going through similar issues with salmon.

Regarding marijuana dispensaries, Davies stated the city has language in the municipal code already that prohibits a business that breaks federal law. The Oregon Senate already passed Senate Bill 1531, which would let cities and counties regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, but not ban them, so cities are being cautious to avoid lawsuits.

Davies said that other cities are now contracting services out, as positions open up. From city hall to maintenance to law enforcement, cities are contracting out, so they can save money by not having to pay benefits.

Davies and others had written letters to FEMA five months ago detailing the adverse effects of the new insurance requirements and just recently heard back from the agency. The letters had asked that FEMA go back to the flood plain mapping from 1978, and FEMA replied that  was not an option.

Davies and other city and county officials attended a meeting with FEMA representatives on Feb. 24, and there was discussion on statistics from 1969 that showed a flow of 9,000 cubic feet per second in the Silvies River. No one could explain where that number came from, and it is so high that it skews the data.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty pointed out that FEMA representatives were unwilling to accept the data from the 1978 mapping because of a lack of technical data, but were insisting on keeping an unsupported, extremely high water flow number, without any technical data.

Davies said she and the mayor had submitted letters to the Bureau of Land Management asking them to reconsider listing the sage grouse as endangered because of the adverse effects it would have on the people and economy of this area.

She also requested the council extend the time limit on accepting bids for the surplus police vehicles because one of them was still in the process of having the police equipment dismantled, and she wanted interested parties to have the chance to view the vehicle before making a bid. The council agreed to extend the deadline to March 18.

•••

Police Chief Ryan DeLange reported that his department had conducted a 13-day safety belt blitz, and during that time, they made 55 traffic stops that resulted in 42 citations.

DeLange stated he will be attending a police chief conference in April, with the main focus being on the anticipated legalization of marijuana. He said marijuana is now a Schedule II drug, and the penalties for possession have changed. Possession of less than an ounce is a violation, up to four ounces is a misdemeanor, and more than four ounces is a felony.

The council asked DeLange about their request to establish a no parking zone on Highway 20 near the high school. DeLange stated the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) would not allow any more signs to be posted in that area, so “No Parking” would have to be painted on the asphalt. ODOT also requires a letter from the mayor making the request.

Councilor Dick Anderson suggested the no parking zone extend from the Hines Shell station to Pacific Pride, and include the left-turn lane.

•••

In other business:

• Assistant Fire Chief Jonathan Manski reported that they had no emergency calls to speak of, but they were conducting weekly training sessions, and the maintenance on the Jaws of Life by a certified technician had been completed;

• Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala reported the consumer confidence reports on water testing would be going out to residents in the mail. He said they had a water leak Feb. 6 near Harney Electric, and thanked the Burns Public Works for their assistance. He added that they also had a water leak near the corner of Bennett and North Saginaw, had replaced 11 water-meter heads, and spent time cleaning debris from ditches;

• the council approved donating $100 to Burns High School Project Graduation; $125 to Kids Club of Harney County Diamonds in a Glass; and $50 to Harney County Science Fair;

• the council accepted the application from Yturri-Rose of Ontario for a contract to act as the city’s attorney;

• the council agreed to move forward with a water rate study in the new fiscal year;

• Harney County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chelsea Harrison was present to ask for permission to use the Hines Park June 14 for a half-marathon. She said the run would coincide with Obsidian Days and the Country Music Jamboree to help draw more people to all the events. The council agreed to allow the use of the park;

• the council approved a livestock permit for Stacey Puckett for a 4-H steer, and a livestock permit for Jen and Forrest Keady for 4-H pigs.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, at city hall.


Board approves land exchange

Posted on March 5th in News

Public comments accepted until April 1

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The in-holdings that would be affected in the proposed land exchange

The in-holdings that would be affected in the proposed land exchange

On Oct. 8, 2013, the State Land Board approved an exchange of parcels of land between the Department of State Lands (DSL) and Tree Top Ranches LP.

The parcels of land are located in Harney and Malheur counties. The parcels being exchanged from DSL to Tree Top Ranches LP total about 1,220 acres.

According to DSL Eastern Oregon Region Manager Lanny Quackenbush, conversation on making the land exchange began about four years ago because there are several parcels of land owned by DSL surrounded by property owned by Tree Top Ranches LP, and vice versa.

Quackenbush stated that it is fairly common for the DSL to acquire in-holdings, and a land exchange is one manner to do that.

Near the end of February, DSL released this letter:

The purpose of this letter is to clarify notice of a land exchange between Tree Top Ranches and the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) in Harney and Malheur Counties.  The State Land Board has approved the start of due diligence studies and will accept public comment on the exchange.

DSL will order appraisals, endangered species studies of plants and animals, and cultural resource studies of the properties. DSL is interested in receiving public comment on the land exchange and will accept comments until 5:00 pm on April 1, 2014.

All of the information from the due diligence studies and public comments will be studied.  DSL staff will make a recommendation to the State Land Board who will make a final determination on the exchange no earlier than June, 2014. 

The reason for the exchange is that Tree Top Ranches is proposing to take DSL land that will improve management of their land in exchange for Tree Top land that is surrounded by DSL’s existing rangeland holdings. The exchange will improve the efficiency of DSL’s rangeland management.

Public comments can be mailed to the State Land Board, c/o Clara Taylor, 775 Summer Street NE, Suite 100, Salem, OR 97301 or emailed to clara.taylor@state.or.us.  More information on the exchange can be found by calling Shawn Zumwalt, DSL property manager, at 541-388-6033 [or sending an email to] Shawn.Zumwalt@state.or.us.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said the county court was a little surprised that the exchange had been approved by the board without any prior communication with the county.

“We do ask that the DSL talk to us before they make a decision,” Grasty said.

Regarding the exchange, Grasty stated that his concerns were that the public continued to have access to the South Fork Reservoir; the public have access to state lands, especially during hunting season; and current roads remain open. He added that the ranch house for Tree Top is in a narrow canyon, and he would like to see the property line moved to the top of the canyon rim, so hunters wouldn’t inadvertently be shooting in the direction of the ranch house.

Tree Top’s Oregon Ranch Manager Berry Anderson said, “Tree Top Ranches LP has been negotiating with the Oregon Department of Lands for several years on a land exchange that would make Oregon’s management of these lands and resources more efficient. The proposed exchange does not attempt to block public access to state lands for hunting, fishing or other permitted activities.”

He added, “Tree Top appreciates Oregon Department of State Lands’ efforts to move this exchange forward. They have been very, very thorough in protecting and improving Oregon’s resource interests. We look forward to resolving any concerns this proposed exchange may raise.”

Following the public comment period, DSL will go through an appraisal of the lands involved, balance the values, and then return to the State Land Board.


The exercise will take place in Burns-Hines area March 14 

On March 14, the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, Burns Police, Hines Police, Harney District Hospital (HDH), Burns School District, and other emergency services will be conducting an “Active Shooter” training at the Burns High School and HDH.

Training coordinators would like area residents to be aware of the training to ease any alarm or concern, as local law enforcement and other emergency responders receive critical training to protect local communities.

The training period will be between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 14, and area residents can expect to see police vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks at the school. Signs will be posted at the entrances to the high school prior to the beginning of training.

The training is not open  for media or the public. Any questions can be directed to Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup or Sgt. Brian Needham at 541-573-6156.

A video, produced by the Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security, titled “Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event” can be found online at: http://1.usa.gov/1a40gnD. The purpose of the video is to educate the public on how to respond during such an incident.


HCCC announces grant awards

Due to scheduling conflicts, the regular meeting of the Harney County Court that was scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 19 was rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18. The following is a summary of the unapproved minute notes, as well as input from Harney County Judge Steve Grasty:

The court reviewed comments provided by Harney County and the Eastern Oregon Counties Association in response to the sage grouse Resource Management Plan Amendment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RMPA/DEIS).

The following is a list of bullet points that were used as the basis for the Harney County Court’s comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding its sage grouse RMPA/DEIS:

• The land use inventory, planning and management activities of the BLM should be coordinated with county plans.

• The BLM is to provide the public with an appropriate opportunity to knowingly review and comment on proposed actions. The public meetings were not recorded, nor verbal comments accepted.

• Harney County also notes that the BLM has not coordinated or considered county plans, policies and programs, as required under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).

• Oregon’s local planning programs, including Harney County land use programs, were not taken into account when considering fragmentation.

• In addition to failing to act consistent with local plans and policies (as required by FLPMA), the BLM also failed to act consistent with the state of Oregon’s plans and policies.

• The BLM also failed to address whether it coordinated with the Crane Rural Fire Protection District; the Frenchglen Rural Fire Protection District; the Riley Rural Fire Protection District; or the Fields Rural Fire Protection District.

• The BLM failed to assess the economic impacts associated with the proposed alternatives within the Oregon Sub-Region.

• The full suite of regulatory mechanisms available to the BLM was not discussed or clarified.

•The BLM failed to address the May 2013 decision by the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association to enter into a Candidate Conservation Agreement relative to sage grouse conservation.

• The BLM also failed to address the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, which was proposed by the Harney Soil and Water Conservation District and is presently out for comment and approval by the USFWS.

• “Inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms” was identified as a significant threat in the USFWS’s finding on the petition to list the Greater Sage-Grouse, but the BLM failed to adequately review and list available regulatory mechanisms, particularly those related to grazing.

• While the RMPA/DEIS acknowledges that feral horses have an impact on the sagebrush environment (RMPA/DEIS  P. 4-15), none of the alternatives address this issue.

• Harney County requests that the BLM redefine its alternative to incorporate a more thorough analysis of West Nile virus impacts.

• BLM’s deference to the National Technical Team report is a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

• In reviewing the literature utilized by the USFWS in developing the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge Comprehensive Plan, Harney County notes that, with respect to the management of its own lands, the USFWS reached significantly different management findings relative to sage grouse management than those being considered by the BLM in this RMPA/DEIS for very similar environments.

• The BLM simply dismisses this empirical evidence as lacking science-based methodologies.

• Harney County requests that the BLM incorporate strategies to experimentally evaluate grazing impacts on grouse abundance and productivity into all alternatives.

• The BLM has overlooked survey data from 1954 to 1993.

• The RMPA/DEIS references that predator control is outside the scope of the decision, and that such control is under the authority of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The BLM has taken an overly-narrow approach to predator control, overlooking that it is within its control.

• There is a lack of actions related to addressing juniper expansion into sage grouse habitat.

• There is an overarching statement in the RMPA/DEIS that no action will reduce impacts to threats.

• There are issues concerning road management.

• There are social and economic issues that have not been adequately addressed in the RMPA/DEIS.

• The proposed closure of 118,000 acres to grazing is cause for concern.

• The county opposes the relinquishment of grazing permits as an administrative decision.

This bullet list is not comprehensive or in a prioritized order. To view the court’s comments in detail, please visit the county’s website at: www.co.harney.or.us. (Click the link titled, “Final Comments on Oregon Greater Sage-Grouse RMPA/EIS Submitted by Harney County.”)

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols moved to send the comments. Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously.

Comments regarding the RMPA/DEIS were due Thursday, Feb. 20 at midnight.

Nichols publicly and personally thanked Grasty for the thousands of hours that he contributed working diligently on this issue, and for taking on the leadership role in this arena. Nichols said he wholeheartedly feels that this warrants a “thank you” from the court and public. Runnels concurred.

•••

Jason Kessling, natural resource director for the Burns Paiute Tribe, was present to discuss the Tribe’s proposal to transfer Burns Paiute Tribe Malheur Basin lands and BLM grazing allotments to the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs in Trust.

The proposed land is in Malheur and Grant counties. Kessling explained that their intent is to keep utilizing livestock as a management tool. This will allow for more flexibility for the tribe to manage, without asking BLM.

A discussion ensued regarding access, payments in lieu of taxes, and economic benefit.

Kessling stated that, at some point, the tribe may ask for a letter of support.

Nichols stated that since these lands are in Malheur and Grant counties, it would be difficult to take a position until it is determined what the effect would be in Harney County.

The court deferred taking a position on this matter until additional information is gathered.

•••

Kate Marsh-Copeland, Barbara Skillman and Karen Hendrickson of the Harney County Cultural Coalition were present to announce $6,000 in grant awards to different local groups.

Those receiving grant awards this year include the Burns Paiute Tribe for cradle boards projects with families; Crane Union High School for art display units; Harney County Arts and Crafts Association for banners and sign boards; Harney County Arts In Education Foundation (HCAEF) for music and maintenance on school band instruments; Kids Club of Harney County for a culinary cultural awareness program; and Western Reflections for an event sponsored by the 4-H writers group, which is a cowboy poetry and music group.

The Cultural Coalition’s website is www.harneycountyculture.org.

•••

The court discussed a request from Andy Rieber to help fund a Wild Horse Collaborative meeting in Salem. Rieber requested $1,500 from Lake County and $1,500 from Harney County.

Nichols moved to contribute $1,500 to the Beaty’s Butte Wild Horse Collaborative, and Runnels seconded.

Grasty said he prefers that the check be made payable to Lake County, allowing them to distribute the funds accordingly. The motion carried unanimously.

•••

Representing HCAEF, Terri Cain, Ken Peckham and Debby Peckham provided an update on the Performing Arts Center and presented a feasibility study.

Debby Peckham explained that the study is a working document, and said there are sections that still need some work.

Cain said there are more steps, including pursuing many grants and creating a paid development position.

Cain and the Peckhams asked the court for a resolution in support of the project, and the court was happy to oblige.

•••

In other business, the court:

• reviewed Notices of Water Use Requests. There were no objections to any requests;

• received a report from Runnels concerning the town hall meeting on Feb. 15 with Sen. Jeff Merkley;

• learned from Nichols that the Frontier Hub was officially awarded the Early Learning Council Hub designation, and the funding request was accepted.

Grasty thanked Nichols for managing this effort on behalf of the court. He added that there is a bill in the legislature now that would allow for more flexibility in county youth development councils and stabilize the funding for juvenile departments;

• discussed the need for a change in the way all the federal draft EIS’s are developed nationally.

Grasty said this will be a topic of discussion when he meets with Neal Kornze, principal deputy director of the BLM, in Washington, D.C.

The commissioners said EIS’s used to be several hundred pages, but now they are thousands of pages, and there isn’t time to review them and provide a full analysis;

• learned from Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella that road department crews are still working on Double OO Road;

• was addressed by Barbara Cannady during the public comment period regarding communications tower sub-leasing and the related effects on landowners.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held, March 5 at 10 a.m. in Judge Steve Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


By Vicki L. Walker,

USDA Rural Development State Director

If you run a small business, farm or ranch in rural Oregon, you probably have excellent problem-solving skills. When something breaks, you fix it. When you see a chance to make your business better, you evaluate your options and make the right choice for you, your family and your employees. You’d probably carefully consider any opportunity to reduce your energy bills; eliminate energy costs; or generate and sell power to the grid as an added income stream.

If that’s true, then it’s time to take a look at rural business and on-farm energy solutions that could improve your balance sheet, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting applications for grant and loan support for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

Rural Energy for America Program

Since it was first authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill — and now reauthorized for another five years with dedicated funding through the Agricultural Act of 2014 — REAP has helped thousands of businesses, farms and ranches nationwide to plan and install a variety of energy projects.

These projects include wood-fed boilers, rooftop solar installations, small wind turbines, and micro-hydro systems at private, for-profit ventures. With REAP, geothermal systems, anaerobic digesters, wave energy and even algae-to-power projects are also on the table, provided the technology is commercially available. (The program does not fund research and development projects.) The energy produced can be sold to the grid or used on-site for business operations. On the efficiency side, projects may include energy-saving lighting, pumps, heating upgrades and more.

REAP-supported projects must be installed on for-profit operations and not in residential or public settings. Other programs provide assistance for residential and municipal energy projects. REAP, however, is specifically designed to assist small businesses, including agricultural and forestry operations, through the following options:

• REAP Renewable Energy Generation and Energy Efficiency Grants can cover up to 25 percent of purchase and installation costs. There is a $500,000 per project grant limit; however, applications requesting $20,000 or less are most competitive. A feasibility study is required to fund projects that cost more than $200,000.

• The REAP Guaranteed Loan offers a 60- to 85-percent guarantee for loans ranging from $5,000 to $25 million. In this case, there must be a commercial lender willing to provide the loan, which is then guaranteed by USDA. A guaranteed loan can be used in conjunction with a REAP grant, as long as the combined assistance covers no more than 75 percent of the project’s total cost.

While REAP will not cover a project’s entire cost, it’s important to know that applicants are allowed to leverage REAP funds with other non-federal financial support through the Oregon State Department of Energy, Energy Trust of Oregon, local electric cooperatives, public utility districts, or other programs. Together, these incentives make energy projects pencil out as a sustainable, money-saving or money-making option for a variety of small business ventures.

How to Compete for REAP Funding

The program is administered nationwide by Rural Development, the USDA agency dedicated to helping small towns and rural communities meet their goals for high-quality public services, modern infrastructure, healthy housing options, and thriving rural economies. While USDA Rural Development does not have an office in Harney County, you can find REAP contact information for Oregon, along with program tools and application materials, online at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ORbcp_energy.html.

USDA accepts applications on a continuous basis with funding decisions made once per year. The application cutoff date for 2014 has not yet been announced but is expected to be in the coming couple of months. If you are working on a project, you may be able to apply this year; however, only expenses accrued post-application are eligible for funding. We cannot reimburse for projects or components that have already been completed.

We advise interested applicants to contact our office now to determine the viability of completing an application by the 2014 deadline. You see, the application process is detailed and specific, and you will want to learn more about eligibility and other considerations before beginning the process.

It is also important to understand that USDA selects projects for funding on a competitive basis. Eligible projects with the greatest technical merit, greatest amount of energy created or saved, and other factors will receive priority for funding. To maximize their chances of success, many applicants work with consultants to develop their projects and applications.

Another strategy is to limit the funding request to $20,000 or less. These projects often score higher in the evaluation process, as do applications showing that the required non-federal funding is readily available.

The Bottom Line

You’re probably wondering if applying for REAP would be worth it. Only you know the answer, but I can tell you about one Eastern Oregon ‘Main Street’ business that cut its energy bills by 34 percent, or roughly $725 per month, by installing an efficient lighting system. A REAP grant, along with incentives from the Oregon Department of Energy and the local utility, offset nearly half of the $62,000 project cost. In addition to being an energy-saving measure, the owner is pleased with the better quality of light for shoppers and the reduction in background noise. (Those old fixtures made a constant humming sound.) Also, the owner recently told me the project paid for itself in less than four years, and “the savings go on month after month after month.”

In addition, Oregon’s renewable portfolio standard requires the state’s largest utilities to provide 25 percent of their retail sales of electricity from newer, clean, renewable sources of energy by 2025. This means that small operators are now selling renewable energy to the grid at rates of approximately $0.181 to $0.39 per kilowatt hour. (Please note this range is approximate for certain types of power. Actual rates are set with the utility at the time of enrollment.)

For example, a ranch in Eastern Oregon installed two 9.9 kilowatt solar photovoltaic systems to generate more than 35,000 kilowatt hours per year. With some of the energy used on site and the rest sold through a net metering agreement, the operator proposed to improve the business’ bottom line by a proposed $15,000 annually, based on local energy rates at the time of application.

USDA supports such efforts to develop more energy here at home, advance opportunities for rural economic development through clean energy, and take steps to address climate change and protect our environment. As President Obama has said, “We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”

REAP is one of many tools and programs to support these big-picture goals, and it’s making a difference. Between 2009 and 2013 through Oregon’s REAP program alone, more than 150 renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects were installed to create or save more than 36.9 million kilowatt hours. That’s enough to power 3,689 average U.S. homes annually.  This significant contribution to our domestic energy supplies was made by agricultural producers and rural small business owners.

So you see, it is possible for you to help meet the nation’s clean, domestic energy objectives while also improving your operation and your bottom line.


Keadys uncover a few ‘artifacts’

by Samantha White

Burns Times-Herald

Forrest and Jen Keady  are busy refurbishing the former Masonic Lodge in Burns. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE)

Forrest and Jen Keady are busy refurbishing the former Masonic Lodge in Burns. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE)

“This has been a dream of mine forever,” Forrest Keady said over the cacophony of construction and amid the smell of sawdust.

Standing at the site of their future living room, Forrest and his wife, Jen, explained that they have been looking for a fixer-upper in the heart of downtown Burns since they moved back to the area with their sons, Travis, Jake and Will.

Jen said Forrest is a “big city boy” who likes listening to the sound of traffic. Forrest added that he’s always wanted to renovate the upper story of an industrial building to resemble the lofts found in metropolises like Manhattan.

“In moving back to Burns, we knew we wanted to take on a project like this,” Jen said, adding that they wanted a “two-story on Main Street,” and they liked the industrial loft concept.

After searching for more than a year, the Keadys closed the deal on the building that sits squarely at the intersection of West Washington Street and North Broadway Avenue (which is commonly referred to as “Main Street.”)

In addition to receiving warm beams of natural light, the building’s giant, 104-year-old windows provide a prominent view of downtown Burns, and their arched architecture adds to the building’s antique ambiance.

“The more we looked at it, the more we loved it,” Jen said regarding the building.

Forrest added that they were drawn to its location and character.

 

A bit of history

 This photo of the Masonic Lodge building was believed to have been taken in the 1920s. (Submitted photo)

This photo of the Masonic Lodge building was believed to have been taken in the 1920s. (Submitted photo)

Forrest, who has been researching its history extensively, said the building was built in 1910 as the Masonic Lodge. He added that, over the years, a number of businesses have occupied the building’s bottom story, including a dealership, drug store, hardware store, and, most recently, a quilt shop (Country Lane Quilts). He said it is also rumored that the bottom story was once a speakeasy, and there was a still upstairs that ran whiskey down to the bottom floor. Forrest said, in the past, part of the top floor was used for offices, while the other part served as the Masons’ meeting room. Known for their secrecy, the Masons only let approved members into that room.

In an effort to restore the building to its original design, Forrest has been working with current members of Robert Burns Masonic Lodge No. 97 to uncover some of the building’s history. The Masons provided the Keadys with the building’s original contract and blueprints, and Forrest is in the process of making copies of them.

The Keadys have found a few surprises in the renovation process. For example, they discovered that the building has a mezzanine that was not included in the building’s original blueprints. Forrest said he is not sure why this mysterious middle story was built or what it was used for. But Jen said she plans to use it for storage.

Forrest said the blue prints did include a skylight, which he uncovered during the renovation process. Other “uncovered treasures” include some old Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a “dirty magazine” that is probably from the 1950s. The building also contains a time capsule from 1910. Forrest said he knows where it is, but he hasn’t taken it out yet.

 

Elbow grease

The Keadys hope to restore the building to as close to its original design as possible, while ensuring that it functions as a living space for their family.

They are tackling the renovation on their own, with help from friends and Lee W. Davis Construction. Forrest has quite a bit of renovation experience, as he has remodeled about five homes to varying degrees.

“He is very good at demolition,” Jen said with a laugh, adding that the couple has enjoyed learning new skills from their friends.

Jen said Sue Kovar, who lives in the The Old Bakery building down the street, has been “a huge inspiration” and very helpful and encouraging.

The Keady children have also been very involved with the renovation.

“The boys are learning a lot,” Jen said.

Forrest said that, although the demolition phase seemed to take forever, it actually went faster than he thought it would, and they are “way ahead of schedule.”

However, it wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.

“The flooring has been brutal,” Forrest said, explaining that layers of carpet and tar paper had to be removed in order to reach the building’s original wood floors.

Another challenge was removing the building’s drop ceiling, which was a necessary step toward restoring the building to its original design.

Forrest said they are now starting to rebuild, and they are currently working on framing the bedrooms. He said they plan to move forward with the electrical and plumbing aspects of the renovation after they meet with the city to discuss their plans.

Jen said a picture, which she thinks was taken around 1920, shows that a series of small windows used to line the front of the building. She said she hopes to obtain a Diamonds in the Rough grant in order to replace them.

As part of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office’s Preserving Oregon Grant Program, Diamonds in the Rough grants are used to restore and reconstruct the facades of buildings that have been heavily altered over the years. The goal is to restore them to their historic appearance and potentially qualify them for historic register designation.

 

Looking toward the future

If everything goes smoothly, the Keadys hope to inhabit the upstairs this summer.

In addition to providing a home for the Keady family, the building will house Family Eye Care of Harney County, which is Jen’s optometry practice. Jen said the practice will occupy about two-thirds of the bottom story, and the remaining third will be available for rent as a commercial space.

“Hopefully, with any luck, we will move my practice by the end of the year,” she said.

But if that doesn’t work out, Jen said her ultimate goal is to set up shop in the new location by 2015.

 

New life

Jen said she and her family want to be part of an ongoing effort to revitalize Main Street and “bring life back” to the buildings downtown.

She and Forrest joked that they are pushing all of their friends to buy property on North Broadway Avenue, and Forrest even offered to help them with demolition.

But the Keady family is still plenty busy with their own project. Although they’ve accomplished a lot already, they recognized that there is still a lot of work to do.

For now, Jen is encouraging everyone to “stay tuned.”


Historical society program to be held Feb. 20

by Karen Nitz

for the Burns Times-Herald

The Harney County keepsake pin. (Submitted photo)

The Harney County keepsake pin. (Submitted photo)

Imagine for a moment that you are standing in the middle of a wide, dusty street, haphazardly lined with a dozen or so wooden buildings, sagebrush and rocks. Loaded freight wagons lumber past in clouds of dust. Thirsty cowboys linger on the wooden porches of the post office and saloon while awaiting the next cattle drive. A scene in Burns much like this greeted the early settlers 125 years ago at the time that Harney County was born.

In celebration of the anniversary of the creation of our county in 1889, on Thursday, Feb. 20, the Harney County Historical Society (HCHS) will be taking a lighthearted look back at the battle for the county seat at its February gathering. A battle of words was waged over the merits of cities that were, cities that weren’t, and cities that might have been. Did you know that our county seat could have been located at Bird’s Nest or Silvies City? Following the lively debate, the second part of the Oregon Trail documentary that was shown last month will be continued, due to popular demand.

The program will take place at noon at the Burns Elks Lodge on Thursday, Feb. 20. It is free and open to the public. You do not need to be a historical society member to attend, but membership forms will be available if you wish to join. An optional $6 lunch will be served beginning at 11:30 a.m., and the program will follow at noon.

In commemoration of this special anniversary of the county, everyone who attends the gathering this month will receive a specially designed Harney County Historical Museum keepsake pin, featuring local iconic images of a homestead and windmill, backed by Steens Mountain, and framed by sagebrush. The historical society will also be giving away two individual yearly memberships to be drawn at random from all who attend. The winners may choose to keep the memberships for themselves or give them away as gift memberships

This month will also kick off a fundraising drawing for “A Window in Time,” a beautiful hand-made quilt, crafted by Linda Beck, featuring pioneer scenes and warm earth-tone colors. The quilt will be on display at this month’s historical society gathering. Tickets will be available for $1 each or 6 for $5 at the Harney County Chamber of Commerce, The Western History Room at the Harney County Library, from HCHS board members, and at the monthly gatherings on the third Thursday of each month. The drawing will be held during Pioneer Days weekend in June.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the official anniversary of the county, the Harney County Historical Museum will be holding a special pre-season open house with free admission to all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have not visited the museum in a while, or if you have not visited at all, take advantage of this opportunity to browse through the exhibits and old photographs. Later, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., during the special open house the same evening at the Harney County Courthouse, the historical society will feature a display of local historical publications which will be available for purchase.

In preparation for the open house at the museum, volunteers are needed on Saturday, Feb. 22, for a general work day. If you are interested in helping, please contact the museum at 541-573-5618. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization and we are always looking for people who are willing to contribute as little as one afternoon a month to help us keep the doors open. Whatever your interests and talents, we need you! No previous experience or special knowledge is required — just an interest and some enthusiasm. Do you like to greet visitors, plan and arrange displays; perform living history, tinker with antiques, and putter with landscaping? There is something that everyone can do. If you would like more details about how you can help, email harneymuseum@centurytel.net or westernroom@harneycountylibrary.org. Our new website is up and running at  www.hchistoricalsociety.com. Give it a look and let us know what you would like to see on it. You can also find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarneyCountyHistoricalMuseum.


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