Telephone and Internet scams often target seniors

The Harney County Sheriff’s Office would like to inform the residents of Harney County of an increase in phone/email-generated scams that have been taking place in the area in recent weeks.

Some of the most commonly used scam are known as “sweepstakes/lottery” calls, in which the scammer contacts the victim and informs them they are the recipient of a large monetary prize, and the winner must pay a nominal fee via pre-paid credit card in order to collect their winnings. Popular sweepstakes, such as Publisher’s Clearing House, are being referenced in these calls.

One type of scam that is popular among scammers, and tends to target the senior citizen population, is one in which the scammer identifies himself/herself as law enforcement or other person of authority, informing the victim that a loved one has been arrested/detained in another city, state or country, and the victim must deposit bail money onto a pre-paid card to get the loved one out of trouble. With these types of calls, the victim may even be tricked into believing that they are actually talking to their loved one at some point in the call. The scammer will initiate the call and say something along the lines of, “Hi, Grandma. Do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer sounds most like, the scammer has established a fake identity without having any background research.

Unfortunately, during times of a loss, a victim becomes more vulnerable and an easy target. In one approach, the scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle fake debts.

Health care/Medicare/health insurance fraud is also high among seniors. Every citizen older than 65 qualifies for Medicare, so there is rarely any need for a scam artist to research which private health insurance company older people have in order to scam them out of money. In these types of scams, scammers may pose as a Medicare representative to get seniors to give their personal information, or they will provide fake services at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information provided to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

The Internet is another way that identities and personal information can be stolen. Common forms of Internet scams are pop-up windows that simulate virus-scanning software and will fool the victim into either downloading a fake anti-virus program, at a substantial cost, or an actual virus that will open up to the scammers whatever information is on the user’s computer. Also, a victim may receive an email that appears to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking them to update or verify their personal information.

The Harney County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind citizens, “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is,” and to protect yourself by not giving personal or financial information to these scammers or others like them, nor follow any instructions they might give on how to go about collecting prizes or helping loved ones. In the event that you become a victim/recipient of one or more of these types of fraud/scam calls, you are encouraged to contact the Oregon Financial Fraud Consumer Protection Section by calling 1-877-877-9392 to report the incident.


Police department obtains overtime grant

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

The Hines Common Council met for a public land use hearing at its regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday, April 28. The land use hearing on Ordinance 309 (a flood damage prevention ordinance, with included zoning changes) was called to order first to gather public input and provide an opportunity for discussion.

Ordinance 309 had been discussed at previous meetings, but councilors elected to delay a vote in order to have more time for review. City Administrator Joan Davies explained at the regular meeting of the Hines Common Council on April 14 that all cities are now being required to pass flood ordinances in order to qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program, and that the ordinance had been reviewed by a citizen committee and was recommended for approval by the Hines Planning Commission.

At the April 28 public hearing, Davies reiterated that the ordinance establishes processes for flood damage prevention, and changes single-family residential zoning for six privately-owned properties, in cooperation with the property owners.

One person in attendance asked if her property was in the flood zone. Davies explained that the ordinance does not change any flood zoning designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and that a flood zone map could be obtained from the Harney County Planning Commission.

As there were no further comments or discussion, and no written testimony had been received, the public hearing was closed. Councilor Hilda Allison moved to approve the ordinance, and it was seconded by Councilor Ron Williams. The motion carried with five “ayes,” and Councilor Loren Emang not voting.

•••

Ordinance 310, an amendment to the cottage development ordinance for the West Ridge II housing development, was also passed. The amendment clarifies the original intent of the planning commission, which was to require that a minimum of four cottages be built only when the development was first established, not each time a new cottage is proposed. Builders Pat Thompson and Ron Schirm were proposing to build two new cottages, and were in attendance to answer any questions.

Following the passage of the ordinance, Mayor Nikki Morgan advised the council that the clarification of the ordinance had caused a delay for the builders, and that they had requested a waiver of the 30-day waiting period normally required. Emang moved to waive the waiting period, it was seconded by Williams, and the motion carried unanimously.

•••

Hines Police Chief Ryan DeLange told the council that he obtained a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) in the amount of $3,000 to pay for police overtime in writing traffic citations for speeding. Davies pointed out that the hours can’t be worked until after July 1 (the start of the fiscal year), because there is no revenue or expenditure line specifically for speeding citation overtime, and the grant comes with a $750 matching requirement. DeLange said they will have no problem satisfying the match with in-kind work.

In other news, DeLange reported that his department received a number of theft calls recently, and there continues to be a problem with methamphetamine and heroin sales and usage in both Hines and Burns. He said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently busted an exchange of one pound of methamphetamine behind a local gas station.

DeLange said he received a lot of information regarding the implementation of Measure 91 (allowing for the personal use and possession of recreational marijuana) at the recent Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference, but said there is a great deal of confusion surrounding it, as changes keep being made.

•••

In unfinished business, the topic of utility rates was addressed. Morgan asked if there were any comments about the water base rate, and asked if the water rates committee met. Emang reported that it had, and they would meet again the following day. He said they are looking into flow rates and line sizes to help determine a billing scale. The committee is made up of Councilor Rod Bennett, Councilor Dick Baird, and Hines residents Darrel Smith and Bob Daniel, with Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala participating.

•••

In her regular report, Davies said she attended the last Harney County Air Quality Task Force meeting for the season. It will reconvene in September, and it aims to focus on air quality education at schools.

Davies said she also appeared before the Harney County Budget Committee to request $15,000 for the city’s annual budget, which is $5,000 more than the county usually contributes. The money would go to the city’s street fund. Committee members said they would advise her of a decision when they complete their own budget.

Davies advised the council that the cans and bottles fund for Hines Park was at $4,529.52 for the fiscal year.

•••

Harney County Chamber of Commerce Director Chelsea Harrison was present to report on the free disposal day held at C&B Sanitary April 18. She said it was very successful, with a total of 48 loads dumped. She added that they may schedule it later in the year next year, however, to increase participation.

Harrison also reported on the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival in Honor of John Scharff. She said attendance was slightly down from last year, but participants booked more tours on average, which increased the time they spent in the county. She said the new owl and sage grouse tours were successful, and the youth art auction raised $900 for next year’s youth art program.

She said that six, 12-foot banners promoting the festival that were placed along Highway 20 at the Valley Golf Club disappeared, and they have not been recovered.

•••

In other business, the council:

• approved business licenses for Hannaford Creations and Paul Everett Bradley Landscape Services;

• approved a donation of up to $250 each from the Hines Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) and Hines Police Department to help pay for a chaplain training program for volunteer firefighter Bob Yunker at the Police/Firefighter Chaplaincy Academy in Seattle, Wash., May 16-23;

• approved a donation of $100 to the Burns High School senior class graduation party;

• discussed the utility worker job opening. Morgan said 14 applicants were interviewed, and that they are not ready to hire anyone yet, as background checks are still in progress;

• approved accounts payable for April 28 in the amount of $55,383.09.

•••

The next meeting of the Hines Common Council will be held Tuesday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Hines City Hall.


Raising funds for the fields

Posted on May 6th in News

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Front row, L-R, top two fundraisers and the bat winners: Kevin Peasley, Adam White. Back row, L-R, these three raised between $600 and $900 each: Masson Shaw, Matthew Drushella, Jaden Tiller. (Submitted photo)

Front row, L-R, top two fundraisers and the bat winners: Kevin Peasley, Adam White. Back row, L-R, these three raised between $600 and $900 each: Masson Shaw, Matthew Drushella, Jaden Tiller. (Submitted photo)

On Wednesday, April 29, Harney County Little League broke ground for the two new pressboxes to be built at the fields on West Pierce Street. The pressboxes are part of a number of improvements planned for the complex, including new fencing, warning tracks and additional fields.

On Saturday, April 25, Little League players took part in a 100-inning fundraising event to help pay for the improvements.

Darrell Williams and the Harney County Parole and Probation work crew have made a huge contribution, putting in more than 700 hours working on the projects at the fields.

The goal for Harney County Little League and other community members is to attract the All-Star Tournament to Harney County in 2016, as well as to provide an attractive complex for the community to enjoy for years to come.

Team sponsors, banner sponsors, and donors for this year’s Little League season are Les Schwab Tire Center, Burns Ford, Rise & Run Construction, A Parts Store, Ken Thomas Real Estate, Robbins Equipment, Downright Drilling, The Children’s Barn, Thriftway, The Book Parlor, Burns Electric, Ruthie’s – In His Image Photography, Big R, B&B Sporting Goods, McDonald’s, Joe Davis Construction, Glory Days, Bank of Eastern Oregon, Family Eyecare of Harney County, Burns Dental Group, 7-K Ranches, Rick and Becky Thein, Harney District Hospital EMS, Central Pastime, Eddie’s Fast Break, Burns Fuel Good, Chevron, Jiffy Electric, Umpqua Bank, Keep Kleen Car Wash, RJ’s Restaurant, Subway, Crane Store and Cafe, Adam Kemper Construction, Harney Pump and Irrigation, Balloon Express, Alan’s Repair, LaFollette’s Chapel, Reid’s Country Store, The Truck Shop, C & B Sanitary Service, Harney District Hospital, ACW Rock and Ready-Mix, Joseph’s Juniper Inc., Darrell Williams, and the Harney County Parole and Probation work crew.

The Harney County Little League board of directors, parents and other volunteers appreciate the tremendous support from the community for the county’s youth activities,  including those who donated to the success of the 100-inning game. They are looking forward to the continued growth at the Little League complex and its positive impact on youth and the community.


Two board members indicate resignation

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

A chief executive officer (CEO) offer letter and CEO employment agreement were approved for Daniel Grigg during the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Health District Board of Directors on April 22.

Grigg is set to replace current Harney District Hospital (HDH) CEO Jim Bishop, who will retire in August.

Board member Preston Jannsen chose to abstain from voting, and board member Tim Smith explained that an abstention is neither an affirmative nor negative vote.

Smith, board chair Dan Brown, and board members Ann Vloedman and Shana Withee offered affirmative votes.

The motion included  language that will allow the board to add key person disability insurance (which would protect the hospital financially in the event that the CEO can no longer work due to a disability) if it’s deemed necessary.

The board may also consider obtaining key person disability insurance for other key hospital employees.

Prior to approving the offer letter and employment agreement, the board agreed to move discussion concerning the CEO’s salary into public session.

Smith explained that discussion of salary must be part of public session, but other negotiated items, which are not subject to public meeting law, could remain in executive session.

HDH Chief Financial Officer Catherine White presented the salary negotiations to the board, explaining how the proposed salary compares to what CEOs in similar hospitals receive.

Brown said the proposed salary is slightly under the 50th percentile for hospitals of a similar size, budget, etc.

Bishop said the starting rate should be somewhere between the 25th and 50th percentile, adding that more experienced employees will be paid “more or less” at the 50th percentile.

“That’s kind of where I am,” he said.

The board agreed to approve the salary of $165,000 per year.

•••

Brown stated that two board members indicated their intent to resign, and he asked the board for direction regarding accepting their resignations.

Smith suggested that the board wait until letters of resignation are received.

•••

The board received a report from Clinic Manager Stacie Rothwell regarding HDH Family Care.

Rothwell reported that 1,716 patients were served in March, which was a new high for the clinic. She said the increase can be attributed in part to an influx of acute patients (patients with colds, flu, etc) and roughly 50-75 wild land firefighters who needed physicals by the end of May.

Rothwell also reported that Dr. Heidi Vanyo received her Oregon license, and the credentialing process has begun. Vanyo is expected to start July 1.

An additional physician will be coming to visit at the end of April. She will finish her residency training this summer and would be available to begin in early fall, should she decide to accept a position.

Dr. Henry Elder, a Canby-based psychiatrist, began seeing patients at the clinic via telemedicine April 13. Rothwell reported that the clinic hopes to add a behaviorist who would work directly with clinic providers and Dr. Elder to provide patient care. She added that there’s a list of patients who are waiting to see Dr. Elder, and the clinic anticipates that this will be a successful expansion of its services.

Rothwell also reported that, year-to-date, 557 patients have been served locally by specialists who traveled from Bend.

“It’s an amazing number of patients being seen,” Bishop said. “It’s saving people a trip across the desert.”

Vloedman said the community has responded well to the traveling providers, and Brown said he’s very impressed with the level of service.

•••

The board continued its conversation concerning space planning at the clinic.

The lack of available space was a topic of discussion during the Feb. 25 board meeting, and a clinic space planning proposal was approved during the March 25 meeting.

Efforts are underway to form a subcommittee to oversee the project as it moves forward.

•••

In other business, the board:

• learned from HDH Human Resources Manager Sammie Masterson that HDH Chief Operating Officer/ Chief Nursing Officer Barb Chambers will retire at the end of the month.

The board thanked Chambers for her service;

• received an update from Bishop concerning meaningful use.

At 98 percent compliance, Bishop said HDH is “doing extremely well” at meeting the requirements.

Meaningful use sets specific objectives for using certified electronic health record technology. Hospitals and eligible professionals must achieve these objectives to qualify for incentive programs.

White said meaningful use dollars will be received and used to pay down some of the hospital’s debt;

• learned from HDH Health Information Services Coordinator Toni Siegner that between 50 and 60 children attended the Reach Out and Read® Read and Romp, which was held April 18 at HDH to promote childhood literacy;

• reviewed policies 100.085 “Conflicts of Interest” and 100.090 “Board Retreats” and approved them without changes;

• reviewed policy 100.095 “Reimbursements of Board Member Expenses.”

Vloedman recommended that the sentence, “Board members shall also be reimbursed for their actual and reasonable travel and other expenses incurred in the performance of official district duties,” be amended to read, “Board members shall also be reimbursed for their actual and reasonable travel and other expenses incurred in the performance of official district duties and education and training.”

The board agreed to approve the policy as amended;

• received a report from Kelly Singhose, care manager.

Singhose reported that she works with patients’ primary care providers to develop a plan of care, which involves mental health and home health.  She explained that, in order to do this, she spends a lot of time visiting with patients, researching options, and reviewing patients’ medical histories.

“Most of my patients have several chronic diseases and multiple barriers to care including mental health, physical limitations, economic or social needs,” Singhose explained. “They likely need to see a specialist out of our community and support in our community.”

Singhose said she’s managed more than 200 patients in the last three months alone.

In her aforementioned report, Rothwell stated that the clinic would like to shift the number of staff Singhose supervises so she has more time to provide direct patient care.

The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 27 in the hospital board conference room.


by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

“An Evening with the Basques” will be held Saturday, May 9, at the Burns Elks Lodge, and this year’s event will include a special program for those in attendance.

Bedarra (Grass), an original screenplay based on a true story, by Douglas Copsey, will be read by local residents, and features actual history and dialogue by Harney County residents, both past and present.

Bedarra is the story of when the Taylor Grazing Act went into effect, and the cattle ranchers’ efforts to remove Basque sheepherders from public lands in the West, including Harney County.

It’s a chance to experience a time when the differences between the Basque culture and the ranching industry were in the national spotlight, and how the conflict played out from Washington, D.C. to Harney County to district court in Portland.

An authentic Basque dinner will be served from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., followed by the reading of Bedarra. The public is encouraged to attend.


Court approves variance for hangar

Posted on April 22nd in News

Court continues biomass cooperative discussion

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

A public hearing was held during the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held April 15) to review Nick Schott’s request for a flood plain development variance to construct an aircraft hangar at the Burns Municipal Airport.

Schott said he operates a crop dusting business and needs a place to store his airplane. He’s been renting an existing hangar at the airport, but the person who he rented from is expanding his business and no longer has room.

James and Wanda Goggin, who live next-door to the proposed site, attended the hearing to express their support for the hangar.

“I’ve got three words: Go for it,” J. Goggin said.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said a variance would be required to build the hangar because the proposed site is in the flood plain.

Current flood plain designations were established in the 1980s to give people the opportunity to obtain flood insurance. However, the court has been working to convince the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to change the designations, as they were not based in science and no base flood elevation (BFE) was established. Schott’s proposed building site is considered one foot below the BFE, even though this elevation has not been determined.

Grasty said a lidar flight was conducted to identify the location of the true flood plain.

He then warned Schott that he’ll have trouble selling the hangar if it remains in the flood plain after the re-mapping. Schott said he understood.

Next, Schott and the court engaged in a conversation concerning some of the flood proofing that will be required for the hangar.

Grasty then stated that the conditions for granting the variance were easily met.

“To me this is a no-brainer,” Grasty said. “But I want you protected.”

He added that the court would be granting something that FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program said it should rarely do.

But Airport Manager Jeff Cotton said others have expressed interest in building hangars at the airport.

This includes Keaton Molt, who attended the hearing to learn more about the process.

Grasty reiterated that the court is trying to get the flood plain re-mapped.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols added, “We hope to alleviate the problems so we can make the airport serve the public and be an economic benefit.”

The court agreed to approve the variance for Schott.

•••

During the public comment period, Mary Ausmus addressed the court concerning the High Desert Biomass Cooperative
(HDBC), which will supply thermal heat energy to the Harney County Courthouse and Slater Elementary School.

Ausmus expressed concern about taxation, but Grasty assured her that the cooperative will only consist of voluntary participants. He added that, as of now, the cooperative is only made up of the court and Harney County School District (HCSD) No. 3, but others can choose to join later on.

Grasty explained that the courthouse needs to pay for a new heating system, and the school system needs to fund some necessary upgrades.

“This model is about finding a different way to finance it,” he said.

Ausmus also expressed concern regarding the job description for the HDBC project manager and asked whether the project manager would be picking his/her own board.

Grasty said he/she will not. He explained that the board will be formed to give direction to the project manager, and it will likely consist of a member from the court, school district, and possibly Symmetry Care (which has expressed interest in joining the cooperative), as well as members of the public.

“We want to have people who are a little bit cynical to ask the right questions,” he said.

Grasty added that an intensive amount of time will need to be put into the cooperative in the next 60 to 90 days in order to move ahead.

Later in the meeting, Grasty announced that the court would meet with HCSD No. 3 Board Chair Lori Cheek the following day (April 16) to continue the discussion.

At that time, Cheek announced that interviews for the project manager would be held April 17, and she and the court discussed how the position will be paid.

The court and Cheek then engaged in a lengthy conversation concerning the cooperative’s finances.

An additional meeting to discuss, and possibly take action on, the HDBC will be held Wednesday, April 22 at 9:30 a.m. in Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

•••

AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer Charlie Ewing attended the meeting to announce that his last day will be April 24.

Grasty said Ewing was instrumental in assisting with projects at the Harney County Health Department, including preparing for the triennial review, continuing and coordinating well water sampling, and updating the department’s technology.

“Those things wouldn’t have happened without you,” Grasty said. “Charlie, thanks so much.”

•••

Candace Carpenter attended to discuss her application to purchase county-owned land.

During the previous county court meeting (held April 1), Grasty expressed concerns regarding the property’s location, relationship to low-density sage grouse habitat, and other land use implications, and he recommended that the court elect not to sell it. The court agreed to deny Carpenter’s application and refund the fee.

During the April 15 meeting, Carpenter explained that she planned to use the parcel to host a cattle drive for young adults who have disabilities.

Grasty said he saw some conflicts with this particular piece of property, but other parcels may be available.

Carpenter said she’d keep looking.

Nichols said Carpenter’s idea is admirable and suggested that she talk to ranchers regarding jobs that could be completed on their property.

Carpenter said that was a good idea.

•••

In other business, the court:

• received an update from Grasty concerning sage grouse. Grasty said efforts to define “disturbance” are underway;

• agreed to sign an Order of Sale of County Owned Land for parcels identified as Assessors Account numbers 23559, 42587  and 59089.

The order directs the sheriff to sell the properties, which have already been approved for sale by the court;

• agreed to authorize Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels to sign a personal services contract with Evelyn Neasham for clerical assistance with the Local Community Advisory Council (LCAC) on behalf of the court.

Runnels explained that LCAC funds come from the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO) and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. (GOBHI);

• acknowledged Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order determining a state of drought emergency in Harney County;

• received a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concerning the lack of water that’s already being experienced in the 2015 irrigation season;

• received a copy of the timber sales that are being offered between April 1 and Sept. 30;

• briefly discussed the Rangeland Fire Protection Summit that will be held May 19-20 in Burns;

• reviewed the Schedule of Proposed Actions on the Malheur National Forest.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, May 6, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


by Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson 
for the Burns Times-Herald

Unable to see through their helmet visors, the firefighters had to rely on following the hose to navigate the course. (Submitted photo)

Unable to see through their helmet visors, the firefighters had to rely on following the hose to navigate the course. (Submitted photo)

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

The most frightening three words that can be heard over the fire ground radio. Everyone who hears the call knows that what was a public emergency has now become an emergency for us. Something has gone wrong and one of our own needs help.

Firefighting is dangerous work. The conditions are harsh and life threatening, the visibility poor, and hazards are around every corner. Within an instant (and often without warning), a floor or ceiling can collapse, or a firefighter could get disorientated and lost within a building. Firefighters are the ones called to help, so who helps the firefighter when they get into trouble, and how do they call for that help? In the fire service, the standard call for help from fellow firefighters is the Mayday call.

For the April 13 training for the city of Burns, the city of Hines and Burns Paiute  volunteer fire departments, “Calling the Mayday: Hands on Training for Firefighters” was introduced, discussed and drilled to give firefighters better understanding of when and how to call the Mayday.

The course consisted of a lecture portion where Mayday conditions (or parameters) were discussed and videos were shown illustrating the importance of calling for help. Ego and pride often get in the way for a firefighter having to call for help and the delay in doing so is often the difference to avoid serious injury.

There were several obstacles along the course that the firefighters had to work their way through. (Submitted photo)

There were several obstacles along the course that the firefighters had to work their way through. (Submitted photo)

After the classroom portion, firefighters donned full personal protective gear, with breathing apparatus. Each member had their mask/face piece obscured, so visibility through the hands-on training portion was zero.

The drill itself was within the apparatus bay in the Burns Fire Department. Members crawled on their knees following a hose line. Several situations were presented while following the hose line,  including being trapped or lost, having something collapse on them, being snagged on wires, and falling through a floor or roof, with members having to call for a Mayday before being “rescued,” and then they continued. Some key takeaways were knowing when to call the Mayday, getting to radios/microphones/communications, communicating clearly, remaining calm, managing air, and working with equipment under stressful situations.

A big appreciation to the members at Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, who are certified to teach and train the course, and delivered a fantastic training.


Council revisits variance request

Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

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

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

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

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

•••

In other business:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

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

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

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

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

About the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision

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

He added that the National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires forest plans to be revised at least every 10 to 15 years, but plans for the Blue Mountains National Forests haven’t been revised since 1990.

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

About the Travel Management Rule

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

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

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

•••

The court continued its ongoing discussion concerning sage grouse.

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

•••

In other business, the court:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Whaddya Think?

Which animal do you most resemble?

Loading ... Loading ...

Destination Harney County

Destination Harney County 2012

Archives

Litehouse Technology

Litehouse Logo

Ruthie's In His Image Photography

Ruthies In His Image Photography

Map of Burns