High school staff request working intercom system

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Burns High School (BHS) teacher Jim Walker attended the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County School  District (HCSD) No. 3 Board of Directors on Oct. 13 to discuss the results of pretests that were administered to BHS sophomores at the beginning of the school year.

Walker reported that the students’ reading and grammar scores were “very low,” and, after conversing with parents and colleagues, he recommends offering a 10th grade remedial English course. Walker added that he taught a similar class in the past and has already developed a curriculum.

However, he said some of BHS’ course offerings would have to be altered in order to make room for the class, and he suggested prioritizing remedial English over personal finance and economics during the final trimester of the school year.

Board chair Lori Cheek questioned the efficiency and timing of offering the course at the end of the year.

“The last trimester is the only time that we can do it,” Walker replied, adding, “At least they [the students] would have an opportunity to have some review or have some remedial work.”

Cheek asked BHS Principal Brandon Yant whether the high school can offer the remedial course this year.

“I don’t think we can,” Yant replied, explaining that personal finance and economics are needed to fulfill curriculum requirements.

Cheek and board member Ralph Dickenson said they’d like the discussion to continue.


On behalf of BHS staff,  teacher Jimmy Zamora urged the board to install a “good, working intercom system.”

He explained that the high school is currently using its phone system for announcements, and it’s incapable of reaching all areas where staff and students are located. He expressed concern that this lapse in communication capabilities is a safety hazard, as emergency messages cannot be heard throughout the school, and he urged the board to prioritize the safety of students and staff.

Yant said an intercom system is at the top of his wish list. He added that improvements to the bells and phone system are also needed. He explained that announcements are not being heard in several classrooms, and some of the bells don’t work. He added that only one of the office’s seven phone jacks is functioning.

Yant said he believes the intercom and bells can be incorporated into a single system, but the phone system would have to be separate.

HCSD No. 3 Superintendent Dr. Marilyn McBride said there are many needs across the district that have to be carefully considered before a decision can be made.

“We want to move forward with some of the projects we feel are really important, but we want a process,” she said.


Upon recommendation from Slater Elementary School Principal Nancy Moon, the board agreed to offer Sarah Huckins a temporary fourth-grade teaching position at Slater for service beginning upon licensure through the remainder of this school year.

Huckins will be the class’ third teacher this school year.

Dickenson said, “Please tell me this isn’t just another warm body.”

Moon replied that this is not the case. In addition to listing her credentials, Moon said Huckins has volunteered at Slater and been engaged with the school’s staff.

“This is an emergency,” Cheek said. “We need to support this situation for the whole fourth grade, especially that class. Let’s help.”

Cheek also commended substitute teacher Wendy Bull for assisting in the interim.

The board also agreed to rescind its motion to hire Evan Franulovich for the fourth-grade teaching position, as he was unable to obtain his license.

Dickenson questioned the necessity of rescinding the motion, as it was made pending licensure.

McBride explained that Franulovich may receive his license at some point in the future.


Chad Boyd attended the meeting to provide an update on the BHS Site Council.

In his report, Yant explained that the council began a project to “improve and direct” the high school’s long-term vision and goals.

Boyd, who is a member of the council, said its mission is to “make education relevant,” explaining that the goal is to link high school education and career options. He outlined four core career paths, which include: attending a four-year college, attending a two-year professional program, joining the military, or entering the work force directly after graduating from high school. Through this model, education will be tailored to students’ chosen paths.

Boyd explained that this can be accomplished by providing adequate diversity in classes, high-level instruction, and counseling to support students’ career path options. He added that students and parents must also understand the school’s discipline matrix, and teachers must implement it effectively with strong support from administrative staff.

Boyd said another criterion for successful implementation of the model is aligning hiring to meet course offering needs. Additionally, he said staff and building administration should evaluate their progress annually and adapt as needed.

Boyd added that parent involvement is critical, explaining that parents should be a significant part of the career path discussion, which will begin when students are in 8th grade.

Yant added that students will evaluate their progress toward graduation and adjust their schedules to ensure that they’re on track.

The role of the school board and administration will be to support building administration and staff and empower and support implementation of the model.

“That’s a fancy way of saying, ‘It’s going to take some money,’” Boyd said, adding that funds may be garnered from nontraditional sources such as grants.

Boyd also emphasized the importance of community involvement, explaining that community members can act as mentors or provide technical training.

He concluded that this model will provide a framework for strategic decision making, increase empowerment, and curb nonproductive debate.

“Thank you. This is well laid out,” Cheek said.


In other business, the board:

• received reports from Yant, Moon, McBride, Hines Middle School Principal Jerry Mayes, Eastern Oregon Academy (EOA) and Monroe School Principal Ron Wassom, and Student Services Programs Director Chandra Ferguson;

• agreed to purchase a bus for $112,912;

• agreed to accept a bid from IntraLogic Solutions Inc. for a security system for BHS.

Board member Lisa King asked whether a new intercom system could be included with the security system, and Yant replied that an intercom system would have to be purchased separately;

• was entertained with musical performances by three EOA students.

In addition to enthusiastic applause, the performers received gift certificates to Dairy Queen;

• received a report from paraprofessional Monica McCanna regarding her trip to Washington, D.C. to represent classified staff. She said student nutrition and school safety were among the topics of discussion;

• approved Stefanie Haines for a volunteer head coaching position for the BHS dance team;

• was addressed by representatives from the high school’s art club regarding a proposal to raise funds for a mural project to be installed in the BHS hallways;

• took a virtual tour of the district’s new website;

• was encouraged to complete the Committee for Better Schools survey;

• accepted donations from Jett Blackburn Real Estate Inc. ($100), Dr. Leon and Susan Peilstick ($50), Robert and Janice Oswald ($40), Mary Ann Daniel ($20), and A.L. Brinkoetter & Daughters ($50) to the BHS band in memory of Deborah Smith;

• accepted the donation of a clarinet (valued at $200) from Brendan and Teri Cain to the BHS band;

• accepted a $1,467 donation from Zoetis Industry Support Program made on behalf of Harney County Veterinary Clinic ($175), Central Oregon Ranch Supply ($1,207), and Sage Country Veterinary Services PC ($85) to the BHS FFA;

• accepted a $1,000 donation from Nick Miller for BHS cross country;

• after some discussion,  agreed to table policy JHCDA “Prescription Medication;”

• accepted the second read on policies JECB “Admission of Nonresident Students,” KGB “Public Conduct on District Property,” and IK “Academic Achievement;”

• received an update from Cheek concerning the boiler project.

The next regularly-scheduled school board meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in the district office building.

Flags placed around the community will be used to inform the public about air quality. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Flags placed around the community will be used to inform the public about air quality. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Green, yellow and red flags will indicate day’s air quality

The Harney County Air Quality Task Force continues to meet every quarter, in a local multi-agency effort to keep air quality below the maximum allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency for particulate density. At a meeting on Oct. 6, representatives from Hines, Burns, Burns Paiute Tribe, Harney County Senior and Community Services Center, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) met and outlined the continuation of the program through this winter.

Hines City Administrator Joan Davies showed the group the flags that will be used to help inform the public if outdoor burning will be allowed, or if an inversion prohibits a permit being issued. “Green” means you can call city hall for an outdoor burning permit. “Yellow” means that outdoor burning is restricted, at least for that day. A rare, extreme circumstance, such as a lengthy inversion or heavy layers of smoke, would prompt the “red” flag to appear. On such days, the healthy choice for the whole community is to use an alternative heat source (other than a woodstove), if available.

“That does not mean that anyone with just a woodstove should not build a fire or suffer in any way,” Davies reiterated. “It would just mean that we would all notice the heavy smoke, and our neighbors or family with respiratory problems would be suffering greatly. So, in the interest of not adding to the haze, anyone with an alternative heat source should consider using it. Common sense and self-preservation are the keys.”

The air quality index flags will hang in front of  Hines City Hall, near the traffic light at Highway 20 and Barnes Avenue. Harney County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chelsea Harrison said they will have one in front of the chamber office on North Broadway in Burns. Jason Fenton, Burns Paiute Indian Reservation (BPIR), said they had not yet located a spot for a flag to advise members of the BPIR. Burns City Manager Dauna Wensenk is considering a flag in front of Burns City Hall, and maybe one on West Monroe. They will be following up with public announcements.

BLM Range Con Casey O’Connor gave a short presentation about the summer’s fire season and provided information on how they measure fuel density on the range or in the forest. Valerie Mills, senior forecaster from the National Weather Service in Boise, Idaho, also spoke, and will be providing 35 years’ worth of invaluable air quality historical patterns, as well as helping local agencies with the current year.

Larry Calkins and Randy Jones of DEQ gave updates on what they are working on to benefit the local community, including the progress made on a predictive advisory call staffed by Eastern Oregon University students. They will be providing advice and materials for community and school education.


DEQ provided the following regarding air quality:

Woodburning 101

Smoke from woodburning stoves contains tiny particles that are so small the body’s natural defenses can’t prevent them from lodging deep into lungs. These tiny particles can damage and change the structure of lung tissue and can carry harmful toxins directly to the bloodstream. This can lead to serious respiratory problems, asthma attacks, heart problems and even premature death.

Certified woodstoves burn cleaner

Oregon was first in the nation to require new certified woodstoves to meet air pollution standards, and all new stoves are required to be certified by the EPA. You can tell if your stove is certified by looking on the back for a certification sticker from Oregon DEQ or EPA. Woodstoves that are not certified waste up to 60 percent of the wood burned in them. Certified stoves are much less polluting than older, non-certified stoves, reducing fine particles by 70 percent. Pellet stoves and oil or gas furnaces or stoves are even cleaner than certified stoves.

Replace your woodstove and save money

If you own an old, inefficient stove, replacing it with a newer, cleaner heating system will pay for itself through fuel savings.

Wood burning tips

• Burn only wood. No garbage, plastics, rubber, paint or oil, briquettes, paper, etc. Burning these items releases harmful chemicals into the air.

• Burn Wise Program from EPA: Emphasizes the importance of burning the correct wood.

• Build small, hot fires instead of large, smoldering ones.

• Don’t “bed the fire down” for the night. Holding a fire overnight is a fire hazard and can create serious indoor and outdoor air pollution problems.

• Open your damper if the smoke is dark. Dark smoke indicates more pollution is being produced, and fuel is being wasted.

• Keep your stove clean and well-maintained. Have your chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year.

Use seasoned wood

The best fuel for woodstoves is dry, “seasoned” wood. Seasoned wood has a moisture content of about 20 percent or less. It tends to be dark in color, cracked on the ends, light in weight and has bark that is easily broken or peeled.

Hammonds sentenced to five years

Posted on October 14th in News

Diamond residents convicted of arson

Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr., 73, and his son, Steven Dwight Hammond, 46, both residents of Diamond, were sentenced to five years in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken for arsons they committed on federal lands.

A jury sitting in Pendleton found the Hammonds guilty of the arsons after a two-week trial in June 2012. The trial involved allegations that the Hammonds, owners of Hammond Ranches Inc., ignited a series of fires on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), on which the Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them for their cattle operation.

The jury convicted both of the Hammonds of using fire to destroy federal property for a 2001 arson known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, located in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Witnesses at the trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out “Strike Anywhere” matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to “light up the whole country on fire.” One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight- to 10-foot high flames caused by the arson. The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations. After committing the arson, Steven Hammond called the BLM office in Burns and claimed the fire was started on Hammond property to burn off invasive species and had inadvertently burned onto public lands. Dwight and Steven Hammond told one of their relatives to keep his mouth shut and that nobody needed to know about the fire.

The jury also convicted Steven Hammond of using fire to destroy federal property regarding a 2006 arson known as the Krumbo Butte Fire located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. An August lightning storm started numerous fires, and a burn ban was in effect while BLM firefighters fought those fires. Despite the ban, without permission or notification to BLM, Steven Hammond started several “back fires” in an attempt to save the ranch’s winter feed. The fires burned onto public land and were seen by BLM firefighters camped nearby. The firefighters took steps to ensure their safety and reported the arsons.

By law, arson on federal land carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. When the Hammonds were originally sentenced, they argued that the five-year mandatory minimum terms were unconstitutional. The trial court agreed and imposed sentences well below what the law required based upon the jury’s verdicts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, upheld the federal law, reasoning that “given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense.” The court vacated the original, unlawful sentences and ordered that the Hammonds be resentenced “in compliance with the law.” In March 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the Hammonds’ petitions for certiorari. On Oct. 7, Chief Judge Aiken imposed five-year prison terms on each of the Hammonds, with credit for time they already served.

“We all know the devastating effects that are caused by wildfires. Fires intentionally and illegally set on public lands, even those in a remote area, threaten property and residents and endanger firefighters called to battle the blaze,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Billy Williams. “Congress sought to ensure that anyone who maliciously damages United States’ property by fire will serve at least five years in prison. These sentences are intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place fire fighters and others in jeopardy.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank R. Papagni Jr., AnneMarie Sgarlata and Kelly Zusman handled the prosecution of this case.

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

The Bonneville Power Administration sponsored a multi-day tour of the Columbia River for middle and high school students, as well as elders and staff, from the Burns Paiute Tribe. (Submitted photo )

The Bonneville Power Administration sponsored a multi-day tour of the Columbia River for middle and high school students, as well as elders and staff, from the Burns Paiute Tribe. (Submitted photo )

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) selected the Burns Paiute Tribe (BPT) for a pilot program to bring middle and high school students on a multi-day tour of the Columbia River.

Youth from the BPT joined elders and staff on an educational field trip Aug. 18-21 to learn more about the Columbia River, salmon, and hydropower by tracing the river from the mouth near Astoria to the lowest dam (Bonneville Dam). The trip also offered youth an opportunity to visit, and learn more about, important sites in Paiute history, as well as discuss the importance of salmon and water with tribal elders. The youth, ranging from 6th to 12th graders, also learned about scientific principles and fish and wildlife species that are native to the Pacific Northwest.

About BPA

BPA is a federal, nonprofit agency that supplies about one-third of the electric power used in the Northwest.

Although it’s part of the U.S. Department of Energy, BPA is self funded, covering its costs by marketing wholesale electrical power from 31 federal hydro projects in the Columbia River Basin, one nonfederal nuclear plant, and several small nonfederal power plants.

Its service territory includes Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Western Montana, as well as small parts of Eastern Montana, California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

In addition to promoting energy efficiency, renewable resources, and new technologies, BPA funds regional efforts to protect and rebuild fish and wildlife populations that have been affected by hydroelectric power development in the Columbia River Basin.

Locally, BPA funds the Burns Paiute Tribe Natural Resources Department (NRD). Through this funding, the tribe manages approximately 8,000 acres of property on the Malheur River to benefit fish and wildlife, including implementing native fish restoration projects.

“They are a great partner in our mitigation efforts,” Marcy Foster, a tribal liaison for BPA, said regarding the NRD. “They manage their programs effectively and efficiently.”

Salmon were once an important food source 

Erica Maltz, NRD fisheries program manager, said BPT has been attempting to restore runs of salmon and steelhead to the Malheur River for a long time.

She explained that salmon and steelhead in the main stem of the Columbia River once traveled through the system to reach the tribe’s current properties and ancestral homeland. Once abundant in the Malheur River, these species were a historically-important food source for Paiute tribes.

According to BPT’s website, “The current tribal members are primarily the descendants of the Wadatika band of Paiute Indians that roamed in Central and Southern Oregon.”

The site states that, thousands of years ago, the northern Great Basin area (which is now desert) was probably a series of very large lakes, and the ancestors of the Burns Paiute people lived in caves near the shores. In addition to birds, deer, small animals, plants and seeds, fish — including a great deal of salmon — made up their diet.

As the climate slowly became drier and warmer, the Paiute people began migrating with the seasons in order to take advantage of the plants and animals in certain areas, including fishing for salmon during the salmon runs.

According to the NRD’s web page, it’s likely that runs of salmon and steelhead began to decline due to the construction of the Warm Springs Dam (near Juntura) in 1919 and the Agency Valley Dam (near Beulah) in 1935. Both are U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dams.

“In 1958, wild runs were eliminated entirely from all tributary and main stem habitat in the Middle and Upper Snake with the completion of the Brownlee hydroelectric dam [located on the Oregon-Idaho boarder],” the NRD page states. “Today, three hydroelectric dams operated by Idaho Power block anadromous fish species (i.e. fish that hatch in freshwater, but mature in the ocean) from returning to their natural grounds in tributaries such as the Malheur.”

Foster said that, although species in the Malheur River were mostly affected by the Snake River dams, Burns Paiute Tribe is helping BPA meet its obligations to mitigate for the Federal Columbia River Hydropower System.

About the trip

Foster said she and her coworker, Corrina Ikakoula, were contacted by Maltz and Kris Crowley, NRD fishery biologist, regarding the possibility of a field trip.

“We thought this was a great idea,” Foster said, adding that the NRD is a “special organization” that has been “very engaged with the youth.”

Foster and Ikakoula teamed up to provide suggestions for stops along the four-day trip, which was sponsored by BPA and supported by NRD and Tu-Wa-Kii Nobi (BPT’s youth center).

Day one

The travelers departed from Burns on the morning of Aug. 18, arriving at the Astoria Column (in the city of Astoria) that afternoon.

According to its website, the Astoria column, which stands 600 feet above sea level, “unleashes an unrivaled view” of the “mighty Columbia River.”

Tribal elders and BPT staff capitalized on the opportunity to discuss salmon life history, the Columbia River, and Paiute connections to the area.

Maltz said, “Basically, we were trying to get the kids to think about how the tribe is, and was historically, part of a very large watershed across the Pacific Northwest.”

After leaving the Astoria Column, the group made its way to Cannon Beach to enjoy some free time on the scenic Oregon Coast.

Day two

The following morning (Aug. 19), the travelers arrived at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Wash.

Charlotte Roderique, chair of the BPT’s Tribal Council, led a discussion concerning the history of the Paiute people in relationship to the area.

Located in Portland, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) was the next stop on the field trip.

At OMSI, the youth explored the Renewable Energy and Clever Together exhibits, as well as the Wind Power lab.

Foster said the exhibits and lab gave youth an introduction to how energy is produced.

The Renewable Energy exhibit explained how wind, water and sun support energy needs, while the Clever Together exhibit offered advice for saving energy everyday.

During the Wind Power lab, youth discussed the societal effects of obtaining, using, and managing waste of renewable and non-renewable resources. They also evaluated natural processes and human activities that affect global environmental change and possible solutions to problems. The youth also conducted a scientific investigation, learned about science principles, and discussed how engineers create inventions to address human needs and aspirations.

“The kids were so engaged. It was really amazing,” Foster said regarding the OMSI experience.

From OMSI, the group traveled to the Oregon Zoo, where they visited the Pacific Shores and Great Northwest Exhibits  to learn more about the wildlife of the Columbia River Basin.

Day three

On Aug. 20, the group traveled to Cascade Locks, one of the oldest towns on the Columbia River, where they boarded the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, a triple-deck riverboat, for a one-hour sightseeing cruise above Bonneville Dam.

They were later treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the dam, hosted by BPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation are responsible for operating the dams.

In addition to learning more about how hydropower works, the youth were able to watch fish successfully pass through the system. They also learned about the types of restoration that hydropower revenue funds.

Next, the travelers toured the Bonneville Fish Hatchery with BPA and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.

Built in 1909, the hatchery raises 6.6 million fall Chinook, 900,000 spring Chinook, 750,000 coho, 250,000 summer steelhead, and 60,000 winter steelhead.

While at the hatchery, youth had an opportunity to meet Herman the Sturgeon. Herman is approximately 10 feet long, weighs 425 pounds, and is more than 60 years old.

The next stop on the field trip was Celilo Falls.

BPT elders led a discussion concerning the site’s significance to the Paiute people.

Day four

The fourth day of the trip consisted of making the 251-mile bus trip back to Burns.

Fosters said she hopes everyone who participated in the field trip came away with a better understanding of how the hydropower system works, how BPA is working with tribal communities, and how BPA is helping fish successfully pass over the dam to reach the Columbia River and its tributaries.

On behalf of the youth, Elise Adams, BPT youth services coordinator, expressed her appreciation to BPA for the opportunity.

Pilot program may spawn future field trips

Foster said, “We think the pilot program was really successful,” adding that she hopes it will continue with other tribes.

“It seems likely,” she said. “We got a lot of positive feedback.”

In addition to educating them about fish, wildlife, and hydropower, Foster said the trip provided youth a unique opportunity to connect with elders and learn more about their tribal history and cultural values.

“We would continue to encourage tribal elders to attend. We think it adds a very rich layer to the whole experience,” she said.

A virtual tour

For additional photos and information regarding the field trip, you can find a video edited by 17-year-old Cheyenne First-Raised  on BPT’s Facebook page. 2015 BPT Columbia River Trip

Team looking for volunteers to have water wells tested

by Kathryn Burns and Rhett Landon
for the Burns Times-Herald

The Crane freshman physical science class, the Harney Rockers, are conducting a project in conjunction with the rural schools within the Harney Basin. This project is a STEM earth science activity that helps the Oregon Water Resources Department to create a geological map. This will help them understand aquifer recharge, discharge, and help improve current water levels in the Harney Basin.

If you think about it, our water resources here in Harney County, and frankly, all over the world, are the most important resources we have… not just for the continuation of life, but economically and in maintaining our way of life. As many of you know, drought already has had a pretty devastating effect on our land with wildland fires and the well permit restrictions. That is why our team feels this project is an important one in helping us to understand exactly what is going on, underground in the Harney Basin. How is/are our aquifer(s) recharged?  How can we improve our water reserves? What can we do to conserve water now?

Our team feels we will benefit from this experience in many ways. We are learning to responsibly conserve water, while learning the earth science components of the Harney Basin. To accomplish this goal, we created a driving question to help us investigate the problem. Our driving question is, “How does drought affect the aquifer(s) in the Harney Basin?”

In this project, we separated into eight different groups: project organizer, Elizabeth Jenkins; website developers, Brian Clark, Jacob Dunn and Zach Davis; ARC/GIS, Kathryn Burns and Rhett Landon; well log organizers, Casi Canady and Casey Otley; PowerPoint developers, Kassi Defenbaugh and Elizabeth Jenkens; photographers, Rhett Landon and Mathew Epling; newspaper, Kathryn Burns and Rhett Landon; project  managers, Connie Robbins and Gwen Haigh.

You can help us in this project by contacting us to volunteer your water well(s) for our team to test. If you have any questions, you may call Connie Robbins at 541-593-2641 ext. 233 or robbinsc@harneyesd.k12.or.us. To see more information on this project, you can go to https://sites.google.com/site/waterintheharneybasin/home.

Vision screening camera used to detect eye problems

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The Elks Preschool Vision Screening Program held a free screening at the Early Childhood Center Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. (L-R)  Dick Fasteen (Elks volunteer), Cheryl Thornton (research assistant), Treva Spence, Robert Hornbeck, and Pete Cadena (Elks volunteers). (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

The Elks Preschool Vision Screening Program held a free screening at the Early Childhood Center Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. (L-R) Dick Fasteen (Elks volunteer), Cheryl Thornton (research assistant), Treva Spence, Robert Hornbeck, and Pete Cadena (Elks volunteers). (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Vision problems in children can cause many problems, especially in the educational field. To help detect vision problems early, the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic Preschool Vision Screening Program at the Casey Eye Institute travels around the state screening low-income children  who do not otherwise have access to screening.

On  Tuesday, Sept. 29, and Thursday, Oct. 1, Cheryl Thornton, research assistant with the Elks Vision Screening Program, visited the Early Childhood Center to perform screenings on a number of Head Start registered students.

Thornton was assisted by local volunteers from Burns Elks Lodge No. 1680 in the screening process.

Using a high-tech vision screening camera, Thornton took a picture of each student’s eyes, and had an immediate result on the exam. Thornton said the camera uses an infrared beam that fixates on the eyes’ pupils and bounces off the back of the eyes giving the photographer immediate results. The measurements can be used to detect astigmatism, near- and far-sightedness, amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) and blocked vision.

If a problem is detected, the child is referred to a licensed eye doctor.

The Elks Youth Eye Service, or EYES, was established in 1964, with the purpose of providing funding for the major project of the Oregon State Elks Association, the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic.

EYES provides the funding for the screenings, while the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health and Science Institute provides the manpower. Funds donated to the EYES foundation are never spent, but rather invested so the proceeds can be used to fund the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic, their state project.

According to the Casey Eye Institute website: “Nearly 15 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 5 have a vision problem that requires glasses. It’s best to screen children each year while their visual system is developing to avoid amblyopia and developmental delays. In Oregon, the legislature has mandated that all children entering public school for the first time show proof of a vision screening. Currently, this is an unfunded mandate.”

Because the state has not contributed to the mandate, the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic has become a key part in providing vision screening to preschool-aged children in Harney County and around the state.

Hines accepts water rates

Posted on September 30th in News

Council chooses to close city hall on Fridays

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

After several months of meetings and proposals, the Hines Common Council voted to accept the water rate increases proposed by City Engineer Doug Ferguson at their meeting on Thursday, Sept. 24.

Before Ferguson presented his proposal, City Administrator Joan Davies gave a brief review of the city’s water rates since 1992. She said that in 1992, the monthly base service charge for a 3/4” line, the most common in the city, was $18, and the current rate is $19. At one point in the 23-year time span the rate did go up to $21, but it was dropped back to back $19 in 2010. Davies added that in 1992, the council was advised that the rate should be $28.95 per month to keep the system solvent.

Ferguson told the council his proposal was what it would take to operate the present water system. He said the proposal doesn’t include any money for capital improvements or major breakdowns, which will need to be addressed in the future.

Based on the number of services and the potential performance of a 5/8-3/4” service, the recommended amount increases from $19 to $24 per month.

The  5/8-3/4” rate for out-of-town residences increases from $24 to $29, and for low-income residences, the rate goes from $12.15 to $17.

The ascending larger meter rates also increase, based on an American Water Works Association formula.

The proposal also recommended an increase on water use from $0.002 per cubic foot to $0.004 per cubic foot, which amounts to $0.534 per 1,000 gallons. Ferguson said the water use rate is reasonable, but it’s also high enough to encourage water conservation, which is needed. He said with the winter months coming up, residents won’t be using as much water as they do in the warmer months, and probably won’t notice the increase right away.

Ferguson’s proposal would bring in an estimated $318,332 for the city.

Ferguson stated the next step is to complete the water master plan, hopefully by the spring of 2016. The plan will identify the water system’s strengths and weaknesses, determine improvement needs, and what the costs will be for the improvements.

Councilor Rod Bennett stated the committee set up to study proposed water rates had submitted a proposal that would bring in more money for the city.

Ferguson replied that the city’s legal counsel didn’t approve the committee’s proposal, and that it wouldn’t work. “I was directed to do a fair rate study, and that’s what I did,” Ferguson said. “Using meter rates is as fair as we’re going to get.”

Bennett said he had a problem with the increase to $0.004 per cubic foot when there is no master plan in place.

“You can do anything you want, this is my recommendation,” Ferguson said.

Councilor Dick Baird said he was concerned about residents on fixed incomes not being able to afford the increases.

“We have to have this money or we’re going to come to a halt,” Ferguson said. “You came up with a plan and the attorney doesn’t like it. I agonized to get a plan that will work, and you guys don’t like it.”

“Doubling (the water use rate) sounds terrible, but it’s not that much on average,” Davies said. “We’re talking pennies or small dollars. And the city does have programs to help residents. We have to have it. He (Ferguson) did it and the attorney approved it.”

Davies added the city has had two water main breaks in recent days and “it’s not getting any better.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution setting the new water rates, with the omission of an automatic 2 percent increase each year.


The council reviewed a proposal to close city hall on Fridays throughout the winter months to save costs.

Baird said he was against the idea because city hall has always been open five days a week and “we owe it to our citizens.”

After some discussion, the council voted 3-2 in favor of having city hall closed on Fridays from Oct. 1 until Feb. 28 at the discretion of the city administrator to make adjustments if necessary. Councilors Bennett, Ron Williams and Hilda Allison voted in favor of the motion, with Baird and John Mims voting against.


In other business:

• the council voted to accept a bid from TopLoc Asphalt in the amount of $34,490 for crack sealing and hole patching work on city streets. Williams abstained from voting as he is the owner of TopLoc;

• the council approved business licenses for Burri Construction, owned by Jon Burri,  and Wright Taxi and Transport, formerly Elite Taxi, now operated by Pat Wright;

• Davies reported the auditors were in town the previous week and everything looked good, and the auditors had mentioned Rachael Robinson’s work at city hall had been “perfect.” Davies said the city had purchased air quality flags, green and yellow, to fly during wood-stove burning season to keep residents aware of air quality standards.

Davies announced the Department of Environmental Quality would be holding a household hazardous waste event from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, at Burns High School. Residents can take any old paint, antifreeze, fluorescent tubes, pool chemicals, etc. to the high school for free disposal;

• the council voted to pay for mileage costs for Captain Dave Riess to attend fire training in John Day.

The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, at city hall.

The vehicle crashed near milepost 114 (15 miles west of Burns), rolled multiple times, and ejected the occupants who were deceased when emergency crews arrived on the scene. (Submitted photo)

The vehicle crashed near milepost 114 (15 miles west of Burns), rolled multiple times, and ejected the occupants who were deceased when emergency crews arrived on the scene. (Submitted photo)

The Oregon State Police (OSP) is continuing its investigation into a double-fatal crash that occurred Thursday, Sept. 24, in Harney County.

Just after 8 p.m. on Sept. 24, OSP received a report of a westbound vehicle driving at a high rate of speed with no headlights on Highway 20. Minutes later, OSP was advised the vehicle had just crashed near milepost 114 (15 miles west of Burns).

OSP troopers and emergency personnel arrived on scene to discover a single vehicle had rolled multiple times, killing both occupants.

Preliminary information indicates the 2001 Chevy Tahoe left the roadway for unknown reasons. The Chevy rolled multiple times and ejected the occupants. Caleb E. Lynn, 22, and Danielle Shea, 42, both of Eagle, Idaho, were deceased when emergency crews arrived on the scene.

It is not clear at the time of this release who the driver of the vehicle was. It is believed there were no safety belts in use at the time of crash, and alcohol is believed to be a contributing factor. The investigation is continuing.

OSP was assisted on scene by the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, Hines Fire Department, Harney EMS and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

More information will be released when it is available.

Conservation efforts recognized

An unprecedented, landscape-scale conservation effort across the western United States has significantly reduced threats to the greater sage grouse across 90 percent of the species’ breeding habitat and enabled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to conclude that the charismatic rangeland bird does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This collaborative, science-based greater sage grouse strategy is the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made the announcement Tuesday, Sept. 22 on Twitter with a video that explains why the sage grouse decision is historic and sets the groundwork for a 21st-century approach to conservation.

The FWS reached this determination after evaluating the bird’s population status, along with the collective efforts by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), state agencies, private landowners, and other partners to conserve its habitat. Despite long-term population declines, sage grouse remain relatively abundant and well-distributed across the species’ 173-million acre range. After a thorough analysis of the best available scientific information and taking into account ongoing key conservation efforts and their projected benefits, the FWS has determined the bird does not face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future and therefore does not need protection under the ESA.

“This is truly a historic effort – one that represents extraordinary collaboration across the American West,” said Jewell. “It demonstrates that the Endangered Species Act is an effective and flexible tool and a critical catalyst for conservation – ensuring that future generations can enjoy the diversity of wildlife that we do today. The epic conservation effort will benefit westerners and hundreds of species that call this iconic landscape home, while giving states, businesses and communities the certainty they need to plan for sustainable economic development.”

Jewell made the announcement at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge alongside Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Bonnie, FWS Director Dan Ashe, BLM Director Neil Kornze, USFS Chief Tom Tidwell, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller, and U.S. Geological Survey Acting Director Suzette Kimball.

“Today’s decision reflects the joint efforts by countless ranchers and partners who have worked so hard to conserve wildlife habitat and preserve the Western way of life,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Together, we have shown that voluntary efforts joining the resources of private landowners, federal and state agencies, and partner organizations can help drive landscape-level conservation that is good for sage grouse, ranching operations, and rural communities. Through the comprehensive initiatives on both public and private lands, the partnership has made and will continue to make monumental strides in supporting the people and wildlife that depend on the sagebrush landscape.”

The FWS’s Sept. 30, 2015 deadline to review the status of the species spurred numerous federal agencies, the 11 states in the range, and dozens of public and private partners to undertake an extraordinary campaign to protect, restore and enhance important sage grouse habitat to preclude the need to list the species. This effort featured: new management direction for BLM and Forest Service land use plans that place greater emphasis on conserving sage grouse habitat; development of state sage grouse management plans; voluntary, multi-partner private lands effort to protect millions of acres of habitat on ranches and rangelands across the West; unprecedented collaboration with federal, state and private sector scientists; and a comprehensive strategy to fight rangeland fires.

“We’ve written an important chapter in sage grouse conservation, but the story is far from over,” said Ashe. “By building on the partnerships we’ve forged and continuing conservation efforts under the federal and state plans, we will reap dividends for sage grouse, big game and other wildlife while protecting a way of life in the West. That commitment will ensure that our children and grandchildren will inherit the many benefits that this rich but imperiled landscape has to offer.”

The BLM and USFS announced Tuesday that they have issued Records of Decisions finalizing the 98 land use plans that will help conserve greater sage grouse habitat and support sustainable economic development on portions of public lands in 10 states across the West. The land use plans were developed during a multi-year process in partnership with the states and local partners, guided by the best available science and technical advice from the FWS. The BLM and USFS also initiated today the public comment process associated with their proposal to withdraw a subset of lands that are sage grouse strongholds from future mining claims.

The future of the sage grouse depends on the successful implementation of the federal and state management plans and the actions of private landowners, as well as a continuing focus on reducing invasive grasses and controlling rangeland fire. The FWS has committed to monitoring all of the continuing efforts and population trends, as well as to reevaluating the status of the species in five years.

The greater sage grouse is an umbrella species, emblematic of the health of sagebrush habitat it shares with more than 350 other kinds of wildlife, including world-class populations of mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and golden eagles. In 2010, the Service determined that the greater sage grouse warranted ESA protection because of population declines caused by loss and fragmentation of its sagebrush habitat, coupled with a lack of regulatory mechanisms to control habitat loss. However, the need to address higher-priority listing actions precluded the Service from taking action to list the bird. Since that time, actions from state, federal and private partners have added needed protections, increasing certainty that this important habitat will be protected.

Roughly half of the sage grouse’s habitat is on federal lands, most of it managed by the BLM and USFS. These tend to be drier uplands where the birds mate, nest and spend fall and winter. While the federal plans differ in specifics to reflect local landscapes, threats and conservation approaches, their overall goal is to prevent further degradation of the best remaining sage grouse habitat, minimize disturbance where possible, and mitigate unavoidable impacts by protecting and improving similar habitat.

About 45 percent of the grouse’s habitat is on state and private lands, which often include the wetter meadows and riparian habitat that are essential for young chicks. Efforts by private landowners in undertaking voluntary sage-grouse conservation have been an important element in the campaign. While private lands programs differ, each works with ranchers, landowners and other partners on long-term agreements to undertake proactive conservation measures that benefit sage grouse.

Through the NRCS-led Sage Grouse Initiative, more than 1,100 ranchers have restored or conserved approximately 4.4 million acres of key habitat. Through the recently-announced SGI 2.0 strategy, USDA expects voluntary, private land conservation efforts to reach 8 million acres by 2018. On private and federal lands, the FWS and BLM have received commitments on 5.5 million acres through Candidate Conservation Agreements. Many of these projects also improve grazing and water supplies for ranchers, benefiting cattle herds and the long-term future of ranching in the West.

States in the sage grouse’s range have been engaged in this collaborative process. For example, Wyoming has been implementing its “core area” strategy for more than five years. Montana has committed to implement a similar plan that would set standards for managing private and state lands to meet sage grouse conservation goals. Similarly, Oregon has adopted an “all lands” strategy for greater sage grouse conservation. Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho have also developed strategies to improve state and private land management to benefit the sage grouse.

Greater sage grouse once occupied more than 290 million acres of sagebrush in the West. Early European settlers reported seeing millions of birds take to the skies. But the bird, known for its flamboyant mating ritual, has lost almost half of its habitat since then.

Despite losses, sage grouse populations are still relatively large and well-distributed across the range. The FWS anticipates that some sage grouse populations may continue to decline in parts of the range, as conservation efforts begin to take effect. Other populations appear to be rebounding as they enter a rising period in their decadal population cycle, which can fluctuate by as much 30 to 40 percent. The FWS has found conservation measures will slow and then stabilize the loss of habitat across the range, securing the species success into the future.

For more information about the greater sage grouse and this decision, including reports, maps, myths and facts and Secretary’s Jewell’s video announcing the FWS decision, please see www.doi.gov/sagegrouse.

Funding sought for Goal 5 process

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

During its regularly-scheduled meeting on Sept. 16, the Harney County Court unanimously approved Resolution 2015-11, opposing the designation of the national conservation area, as proposed in the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal, as well as the establishment or designation of any additional national monument, national conservation area, scenic river, or wilderness area on public lands within Southeastern Oregon, including Harney County.

The Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal (also known as the Owyhee Canyonlands  Monument) seeks to protect 2.5 million acres of public land in Malheur County through a combination of national conservation area, wilderness, and wild and scenic river designations. Advocates of the conservation proposal hope to designate these lands under the American Antiquities, Wilderness, and Wild and Scenic Rivers acts.

However, the resolution argues that special interest groups have used these acts “to advance their economic and political agendas to the detriment of the local communities,” resulting in “disparate social, cultural, environmental, and economic impacts on the local communities within Harney County.”

Some of examples of the impacts listed in the resolution include increased risk of wildfire, invasive species, adverse impacts to farming and grazing units, loss of tax revenues, and increased cost to operate local and federal government.

The resolution also asserts that the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal — which would designate 2,579,032 acres as a national conservation area (with 2,012,350 acres as wilderness and more than 50 river miles as wild and scenic rivers) — would not be “confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” which is a requirement for national monuments under the American Antiquities Act of 1906.

The resolution also points out that, in land area, the proposed 2.5 million acre monument would be greater than the entire states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

“Any of the special use designations on the 2,579,032 acres within the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal is not in the best interest of Harney County and will have a detrimental effect on the vitality of our rural communities,” the resolution asserts.


The court agreed to direct Harney County Planning Director Brandon McMullen to seek funding to start the Goal 5 process.

Originally adopted in 1974, Goal 5 and related Oregon Administrative Rules describe how cities and counties are to plan and zone land to conserve resources listed in the goal.

As part of the Goal 5 planning process, the court hopes to list Harney County’s people among its resources.

During the public comment period, Barbara Cannady asked the court to hold off on Goal 5 planning, arguing that Harney County Judge Steve Grasty will not be seeking another term, and there may be additional changes to the court.

Grasty replied that he will continue to do his job as judge as thoroughly and as well as he can until his term ends.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols added, “For us to just back off and not do anything is totally irresponsible. We’ve got to start and do the research and go from there.”

Nichols added that it may be an expensive, long, and drawn out effort, but it may have some benefit in the future.

Grasty agreed, stating, “If at the end of this, the federal agencies pay attention to the county comprehensive plan, we may have a nail to hang our hat on.”

Cannady asked that the public be included in the Goal 5 process. Grasty replied that this is required by law.


Oregon Employment Department Director Lisa Nisenfeld and Jim Pfarrer, business and employment services director, attended the meeting to discuss employment, training, and economic development in Harney County.

Nisenfeld said, “We are working on trying to bring in a distance learning portal that will allow us to have some programs here for credit that haven’t been here before.”

She said, “People can stay here and train, rather than having to go to other locations,” adding that, “When people have to go away to train, they are more likely not to come back, and that’s not what we want.”

Grasty said, “Sadly, most of our efforts have been training people to leave.”

He explained that this is not the intent, but many people have had to move out of the area to seek employment opportunities once they completed their training.

However, Grasty said he remains “really optimistic and hopeful” about the possibility of new industry coming into the area.


During the public comment period, Herb Vloedman addressed the court regarding economic development in Harney County. He asked the court to name two things that Harney County can offer employees looking to move to the area.

Grasty said he could name 50, but he emphasized the county’s “great medical facilities,” “proactive schools,” “wide-open spaces,” and “great land.” He added, “I happen to think we have the best people.”

Grasty encouraged Vloedman and Cannady to participate in community efforts such as the Harney County Community Response Team.


In other business, the court:

• agreed to seek funding from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development for a consistency review regarding Bureau of Land Management sage grouse habitat plans;

• briefly discussed Oregon Revised Statutes and Administrative Rules for Local Government Liquor License Issuance and Renewal. The county renewal fee will remain $15;

• agreed to sign and send a letter to Dave Leland, program manager for the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program, regarding the county’s decision to return its drinking water program back to the state;

• discussed the Oregon Department of Transportation Canyon Creek Fire Damage Assessment;

• reviewed an invoice from the Eastern Oregon Counties Association for 2015-2016 dues in the amount of $15,800. The court will pay the budgeted amount of $7,500.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

Whaddya Think?

Which is your favorite kind of pie to eat on Thanksgiving?
  • Pumpkin (35%)
  • Lemon meringue (17%)
  • Chocolate cream (17%)
  • Apple (10%)
  • Pecan (10%)
  • Mincemeat (11%)

48 total vote(s)

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Destination Harney County

Destination Harney County 2012


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