Efforts to raise funds are ongoing

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Hilander football fans can feast their eyes on a new pair of goalposts at Corbett Memorial Field this fall. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Hilander football fans can feast their eyes on a new pair of goalposts at Corbett Memorial Field this fall. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

This fall, when the Hilanders score a touchdown, it will be done in the shadows of new goalposts at Corbett Memorial Field.

The new goalposts, dedicated in memory of Mark L. Smith, are a result of donations and good timing.

Smith passed away Dec. 1, 2013, and was a fixture  on the sidelines for many years as a member of the chain gang during Hilander football games. After his death, donations in Smith’s memory could be made to the Burns High School Athletic fund, earmarked for new goal posts.

Then, last July, Cascade Athletic Supply in Medford contacted Randy Fulton of Burns, who had inquired earlier about getting new goalposts for the football field. Fulton was told that a set of goalposts were available at a discounted price, and that there would be no freight charge, which normally would have been a considerable amount.

The only catch was the goalposts needed to be ordered before the end of July to take advantage of the lower price and free freight. Although there wasn’t enough money in the Mark Smith fund yet, “friends of the football program,” with the approval of the Hilander Booster Club, couldn’t pass up the opportunity and went ahead and placed the order.

Faced with a total cost of $4,650, a “Gofundme.com” account was set up on Facebook, allowing Hilander fans to donate to the cause. As of last week, the Mark Smith fund had $1,500 and the Gofundme account sat at $1,750. Fulton said Cascade delayed the billing until October, and he’s confident they’ll have the money by then.

The goalposts have been set in place, thanks to the diligence and hard work of Rocky Wensenk and his crew, and are ready for the first Hilander score of the 2014 season.

While not as visible as the goalposts, a new sprinkler system was installed at the football field. The new system replaces a system installed in 1992 by Fulton and head football coach Terry Graham.

Harney County School District No. 3 budgeted for the new system, and it was installed this summer by Josh Kenyon Enterprises.

In addition to new goalposts, souvenir Hilander football programs are making their return this year. Representatives will be contacting area businesses to see if they would like to advertise in the program, and individuals may also be included.

The VIP parking spots at Corbett Memorial Field, overlooking the north end of the field, are for sale again this year, as well. Two of the five have already been sold. Anyone interested in being a sponsor for the program or purchasing a parking spot may contact Fulton at 541-589-3994.

Framing a space for art

Posted on August 13th in News

Local artist has a passion for presentation

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

Local artist Liz Voegtly stands in her downtown Burns apartment. Her flair for presentation and attention to detail is evident in her interior decorating as well as her art work. (Photo by STEVE HOWE)

Local artist Liz Voegtly stands in her downtown Burns apartment. Her flair for presentation and attention to detail is evident in her interior decorating as well as her art work. (Photo by STEVE HOWE)

When you’re looking at a painting, do you consider the frame around it as part of the composition? Does the positioning of a decorative object in your home affect your opinion of it?

For Liz Voegtly, presentation is an art unto itself. Whether it’s decorating her downtown Burns home, or framing one of her watercolor or collage pieces, she takes great care in the details of display.

Voegtly’s background as a draftsman, graphic designer, and database administrator for Motorola helps to explain her propensity for attention to detail.

She was born and raised in Tempe, Ariz. She and her husband, Carl, lived in Scottsdale for many years, both working for Motorola. Voegtly started as a draftsman for the company. She later got a degree in information technology, and became a database administrator there.

When her husband retired, the couple moved to Burns (where his parents were from originally and where he spent many of his summers). They bought the two downtown buildings that now house the Country Lane Quilts store and Moon Rise Books. The Voegtly family originally built the bookstore building, completing it in 1899. Its original function was as a hardware store. In the 1930s, the Voegtly family turned the second level into an apartment and offices for rent. They lived there until the 1950s. It was then converted into four apartments, which is what it was when Voegtly and her husband bought it in 2000.

In the past year-and-a-half, they have taken on a second level renovation, transforming the space into one apartment, including space for Voegtly’s art studio and gallery-style display space.

This is where Voegtly’s passion for presentation comes in. Over the years, she has amassed a collection of decorative items. She took these and organized them thematically around her home. There is a vineyard area with wine paraphernalia, game and movie walls, and a cooking and baking display near the kitchen. All of the objects are either attached directly to the walls or placed on shelves.

“This is my major art project,” said Voegtly.

“All the design ambition I have has been put into trying to figure out how to make this work,” she explained.

And it looks as if she is indeed making it work. Choosing rich, jewel-tone colors for paint and curtains, Voegtly has given the place a uniquely vibrant feel. She even plans to paint a trompe l’oeil (a realistic painting that creates an optical illusion) on one of the doors.


Creating conversation

Voegtly helps to foster the local art community by hosting “Art Therapy” at her home art studio. A group of up to six people get together and work on individual projects, while getting a chance to talk. Voegtly has a large collection of art supplies that are available to participants, in part thanks to a grant from the Harney County Arts & Crafts association. She said she wants people to be able to “dabble” in different crafts before committing to investing in them.

She also hopes to transform the expansive wall space in her high-ceilinged entry hallway into a gallery area showcasing Harney County artists, and would welcome donations for the display.


Traditional arts

In addition to interior design and decoration, another one of Voegtly’s specialties is the Ukrainian decorated egg. She used to get together with her mother and her mother’s friend, in an earlier incarnation of the “art therapy” group she holds today, and on one occasion, her mother’s friend brought the Ukrainian egg project to their group.

“I hated the first day,” said Voegtly.

But she grew to love the systematic, analytical nature of the work, spending hours practicing.

“It all made sense because I was a draftsman,” she explained.

Ukrainian decorated eggs (called pysanky in Ukrainian), are made using a wax-resist method (batik). Melted wax is applied to the shell of the egg in the desired pattern where it is meant to stay white in color. It is then dipped in yellow, and again selectively covered in wax to maintain the yellow areas. This is repeated with successively darker dyes until it is complete.

Voegtly said it is an interesting process because it requires thinking backward. It also is a craft that is steeped in tradition, originating in ancient times and synthesizing with Christian traditions. Various shapes and symbols have a multitude of meaning. For example, drops of color were used to indicate stars in the night sky, or sometimes tears of the Virgin Mary. Voegtly said that although those aren’t her cultural traditions, she likes to inform people about them in order to give deeper meaning to the art.

Working with only a six dollar art set for four years, she perfected her skills using all different sizes of eggs. Some of the larger pieces take 40 to 60 hours to complete. She gets inspired from patterns she sees and applies them to her projects. Voegtly has even taken on a custom order.

Voegtly’s other art work includes watercolor paintings, collage, pottery and framing. She learned these skills while taking community art classes in Scottsdale, and by participating in Amos Burk’s “Play With Clay” group locally. She mastered the art of framing to a point that she was assisting her instructor. She now owns a miter saw, and styles her own frames for her paintings.

Her watercolor, collage and pottery pieces have won awards at the Harney County Fair, including “Best of Show” for her collage picture of a “Georgian tree,” which was inspired by a photo from a magazine. When it comes to painting, realism is her preferred style, but she hopes to learn the impressionistic style. Some of her favorite artists, Monet and Renoir, are Impressionists.

If you are interested in attending the “Art Therapy” group you can reach Voegtly by email at lvoegtly@yahoo.com or call 541-589-0043. The group meets Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m., but is currently on hold and won’t be starting up again until fall.

Court discusses livestock grazing

Posted on August 13th in News

Court rejects Blue Mountains National Forests RLMP/DEIS

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Denny Thomas and Brandon Baron attended the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held Aug. 6) to discuss issues concerning livestock grazing and wildfire control.

Thomas asked what the court’s priorities are regarding these topics.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said he’s been discussing these issues with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

“I’ve got say, the BLM in this district is very responsive to what needs to be done,” Nichols said.

However, he acknowledged that local staff have to act within the parameters of the federal agency.

Baron said, “While we may stand against some BLM policies, we will support the local office if they will stand with us.”

Nichols also mentioned that an Oregon Consensus project was started two years ago to help address these issues.

“We’ve made tremendous headway,” Nichols said regarding the project. However, he admitted that it’s a slow-moving process. “It takes time and patience and people putting everything aside to go to those meetings,” he said.

Baron asked how this progress jibes with research conducted by the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center (EOARC) regarding grazing and fuel load.

Nichols replied that efforts are being made to incorporate that science. He added that groups like the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) are also involved, and they are beginning to understand that grazing can be used as a management tool.

“They are starting to understand their fallacy in some of their ways of looking at things,” Nichols said. “It takes a lot of time. But the process is very much worth it in the end because you work together collectively in a progressive, forward, beneficial manner.”

But Baron replied, “We’ve heard that whatever may be happening isn’t enough.” He added, “We’re at the point where everyone has agreed that the process isn’t working.”

Baron said a small group has been meeting to discuss forming a local grazing board that could make decisions based on EOARC research.

Nichols said the court didn’t disagree with what Baron was doing or his intent.

“We are trying to do the same thing,” he said.

He added that the “first, cheapest” thing you can do is increase the animal unit months (AUMs) that are allowed after a wildfire, but there are standards in place that prevent that. (An article published on the University of Arizona’s website defines one AUM as “the amount of forage required by an animal unit (AU) for one month, or the tenure of one AU for a one-month period.”

Nichols said, “Some changes will literally take an act of Congress.” He added, “We need a diverse group to make this happen.”

Baron replied that these changes would not require an act of Congress, but rather an act of the citizens.

“We’re going to throw open the gates,” he said. “If we have to, we’ll have a standoff…What we’re going to do is with cows and grass on real land with real people in Harney County. I think that’s the only way that things are going to happen here.”

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty replied, “If you get there, I won’t be there,” explaining that, if it comes to violence or a standoff, the court will not support it.

Addressing Baron, Nichols said, “I hear you. And, again, I don’t disagree with anything other than an out and out confrontation.”

Nichols then reiterated the importance of collaboration.

However, Baron replied that working with some of these environmentalist groups would be like befriending “the guy that’s beaten you up and stolen your lunch money.”

Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels said communities have been giving to special concerns since the spotted owl, and it’s time for these groups to start giving back. However, he reiterated that it will be a slow process.

Baron asked, “Do we have 10 years to fiddle around with this?”

Barbara Kull, who attended the meeting as a member of the public, agreed that action should be taken quickly.

Nichols said the court is willing to stand up, but it will do so respectfully and collaboratively.

Baron said his group would like to have a discussion with the BLM before anything is planned.

Grasty asked that the proposed grazing board form a mission statement and a list of standards. He explained that, if the board is diplomatic and collaborative, the court may be able to support it.

Grasty also asked the group to invite the court to its meetings.

“Let us know when the meetings are,” Grasty said. “We will attend if we are invited and try to put realism on the table.”

Grasty also noted that EOARC researchers should not be put in the middle of a conflict.


The court also discussed the United States Forest Service (USFS) Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision, which will impact the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests (collectively referred to as the Blue Mountains National Forests).

During a public meeting held March 18, Steve Beverlin, acting forest supervisor on the Malheur National Forest, explained that the National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires forest plans to be revised every 10 to 15 years. However, he said plans for the Blue Mountains National Forests haven’t been revised since 1990.

Numerous meetings have been held since 2004 to discuss the proposed revision, and public scoping began in March 2010. The USFS used comments gathered during that time to develop the Blue Mountains National Forests Proposed Revised Land Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RLMP/DEIS). The RLMP/DEIS offered six alternatives, ranging from A to F, for revising the plan.

However, during its Aug. 6 meeting, the court agreed to sign Resolution 2014-10, rejecting all of the alternatives presented in the RLMP/DEIS.

The resolution states that, “The Harney County Court finds all alternatives to be unfounded and requests that the Forest Service step back and reassess the conditions on the ground and develop a range of alternatives that address the on the ground conditions focusing on the need to improve and protect the forests; to secure favorable conditions of water flows; and to furnish a continuous supply of timber.”

Grasty said the resolution basically states that, although the USFS has been working on the revision for 10 years, they should throw it away and start over. He added that nothing in the RLMP/DEIS benefits Harney County and said he believes most Eastern Oregon counties will sign similar resolutions.


The court resumed its discussion concerning a map of roads within the county.

A public hearing to discuss the map was opened during the previous county court meeting (held July 16).

After a great deal of discussion, the court agreed to leave the hearing open and continue accepting public comments concerning the map’s disclaimer, as well as requests to add or remove roads.

During the Aug. 6 meeting, Grasty recognized that additional written comments were submitted by Allen and Stephanie Farnsworth, as well as Barbara Cannady.

The court agreed to leave the hearing open until Oct. 15 and make a decision Nov. 5.

Grasty also suggested that the court set aside time during the afternoon of the next county court meeting (to be held Thursday, Aug. 21) to discuss the map and review any testimony received up to that point.


In other business, the court:

• met with Kathleen Johnson, executive director of Coalition of Local Health Officials, to discuss national accreditation for the Harney County Health Department;

• was addressed by Herb Vloedman who expressed concern about economic development in Harney County;

• was addressed by Cannady who said she was notified by CenturyLink that the company is discontinuing dial-up Internet service Aug. 15. Cannady said she will have to find an alternate provider, likely satellite, which will be much more expensive.

“That’s a huge issue,” Grasty said. “I’d love to follow up on that with you, if you want;”

• discussed ongoing efforts to replace the 4-H/FFA grandstands at the Harney County Fairgrounds with Karen Moon of the 4-H livestock committee. Moon requested that the court fund the cost of building permits for the new grandstands. Nichols moved to cover the costs in the amount of $1,375, Runnels seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously;

• recognized a resolution from the board of directors of the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center, which officially donates the center’s building addition to Harney County;

• ratified Resolution 2014-09 in the matter of requesting an emergency declaration for Harney County, which was deemed necessary in light of the situation with the Buzzard Complex wildfire;

• agreed that Runnels should pursue membership on the Community in Action board;

• received notice of a signal replacement and upgrades project on Highway 20/395 in Burns. The project will replace existing signals at the intersection of Hilander and Oregon avenues (near the high school) and the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Monroe Street. Construction is expected to take place between June 1 and Oct. 31, 2015;

• agreed to sign an order of sale of county property that has been acquired by Harney County by foreclosure of delinquent tax liens, exchange, devise, or gift;

• discussed Oregon Department of Forestry fire patrol costs. The court will send a letter of inquiry concerning the increase in these costs.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the next meeting of the county court will be held Thursday, Aug. 21, at 11 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

Gifft receives 2014 NAEE award

Posted on August 13th in News

CUHS teacher selected as 2014 ‘Outstanding Young Member’

Bibiana Gifft, agricultural educator at Crane Union High School, has been selected as the 2014 Oregon winner of the Outstanding Young Member award given by the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE).

Outstanding Young Member award winners are agricultural educators who have been teaching for no more than six years and who have demonstrated significant progress toward establishing a successful agricultural education program. Applicants are judged on a variety of criteria, including teaching philosophy, effective classroom and experiential instruction, development of partnerships, and professional growth.

The Outstanding Young Member award was created to encourage early career agriculture teachers to both remain in the profession and become active members in their professional association. If selected as the Region 1 Outstanding Young Member award winner, Gifft will be recognized at the 2014 NAAE convention.

The NAAE Outstanding Young Member award program is sponsored by John Deere as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

NAAE is the professional organization in the United States for agricultural educators. It provides its nearly 8,000 members with professional networking and development opportunities, professional liability coverage, and extensive awards and recognition programs. The mission of NAAE is “professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service.” The NAAE headquarters are in Lexington, Ky.

Pickup crashes near Willow Flat

Posted on August 6th in News

Vehicle engulfed in flames

Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup reported that on Wednesday, July 30, at approximately 6:23 p.m., the sheriff’s office responded to a single-vehicle crash on U.S. Forest Service 47 Road, milemarker 10, near Willow Flat.

The sheriff’s office and Oregon State Police responded and found the 2002 Ford F350 pickup engulfed in flames. The driver of the vehicle was identified as Richard Burton Willeford, 57, of Hines.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of Oregon State Police.

The filing deadline for candidates wishing to run for council positions in both Burns and Hines is 5 p.m. Aug. 26. The following positions are up for election:

Burns Council Position 4, currently held by Linc Reed-Nickerson; Burns Council Position 5, currently held by Jerry Woodfin; Burns Council Position 6, currently held by Nona Popham.

Hines Council Position 4, currently held by Dick Baird; Hines Council Position 5, currently held by Tom Choate; Hines Council Position 6, currently held by Dick Anderson.

Candidates for council positions may pick up filing forms and petitions at Burns City Hall and/or Hines City Hall. Petitions for candidacy for Burns City Council require 11 signatures, and Hines Common Council requires seven signatures. Any registered voter in his or her respective city is eligible to sign petitions.

The only county office on the ballot will be county treasurer, in which Nellie Franklin is running unopposed. County Commissioner Pete Runnels was re-elected by majority vote in the primary in May.

Candidates wishing to file for Soil and Conservation District board must do so with the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

If you have changed either your residence or mailing address, you must update your registration in order to vote in the general election. Voters can do so online at www.oregonvotes.gov or in the county clerk’s office.

For any questions, please contact the Harney County Clerk’s office at 541-573-6641.

EOYCF plans new work crew program

Posted on August 6th in News

Expansion of Work Experience Program aims to promote vocational skills 

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility (EOYCF) held a public meeting last Thursday (July 31) at the Harney County Community Center. The purpose was to outline a plan to expand the Work Experience Program (WEP) to include work crews operating outside of the facility.

According to EOYCF Superintendent Doug Smith, the first phase of the plan would be to establish an on-site work crew. This crew would be assigned to jobs outside the perimeter of the facility walls, but would still be on the grounds of the facility.

In a later phase, Smith would like to see EOYCF  work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to create opportunities for juvenile offenders to work in various capacities, including clean-up projects and firefighting.

There are currently similar programs operating within the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) system. Brett Dunten, an instructor at RiverBend Youth Transition Camp in La Grande, was in attendance to describe the work crew program in place there, which includes a firefighting training program. He said there is also a construction training program – youth have worked for contractors and built a house for Habitat for Humanity. Works crews have done highway and park clean-up as well, he added.

Dunten explained that it is important for the youth to be able to come out of the facility with the skills needed to get a job.

“They’re all going to go back to the community, so we need to train them to be successful citizens,” he said.

Public comment at the meeting was overwhelmingly supportive of the proposed program. Some specific logistical concerns were raised, but in general, those in attendance expressed the view that the work crews would be beneficial to the youth offenders and to the community.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty made reference to discussions held in 1996 before EOYCF opened. There was a lot of concern about the siting of the facility in the community, he said.

He explained that one of the things that helped lessen the concern was a promise to not let inmates outside the walls of the facility. EOYCF has stuck to that promise for the last 17 years, he said. For that reason, he said that in order for him and the Harney County Court to be in agreement with the idea of outside work crews, they would need to know that public opinion supports the change in policy.

“We really need to hear the people of this community say, ‘let’s do this, let’s try it’,” said Grasty.

Dale White, former Harney County Judge, said that it was time to move forward and that the new program would be beneficial in many ways.

“If you can teach them something that they can earn a living with, there’s opportunity for them to be good members of society,” said White.

Others in attendance made similar comments.


There were some concerns raised, however. Steve Ruzicka said that he worked for OYA for 27 years, and was at one point a work crew supervisor. He said that although he believes that the program would be beneficial for those involved, he knows from experience that there is always the risk of runaways.

“You can’t guarantee the public that they’re not going to run. That’s the only thing the public needs to know – that it may happen – and they should know what the plan is,” said Ruzicka.

Smith said the plan is included in the draft document detailing protocol for the proposed program. He said he agrees that there’s always a potential for runaways, but that the selection process for placement on the work crews helps to decrease that risk.

“The kids that we’re talking about specifically are Department of Corrections kids, and we’re talking about older kids, we’re talking about kids that have a lot to lose if they were to run,” explained Smith.

“We’re basically looking at about 12 kids potentially to be eligible for this,” he said.

“I’m not a Pollyanna by any stretch, I know this stuff could happen, but I guess I’m looking at the advantages versus the risk, and I do see the benefits,” Smith added.

Smith said another reason that the program is  important is that the state legislature has asked OYA to submit a 10-year plan. This is coming in the near future, and will determine which facilities remain open and at what capacity, Smith said. Six of  the 10 facilities across the state have a program like this already. Implementing it at EOYCF would help keep it competitive with these other facilities.

“If we don’t keep up and keep moving forward, we’re going to suffer,” said Smith.

He added that he sees the potential for adding more jobs at the facility with the implementation of this program.

Copies of a draft document detailing operating protocol for proposed work crews were distributed at the meeting. It described in detail the eligibility criteria, the selection process, and security and supervisory requirements for youth offenders on work crews. The following are highlights of the document, which is subject to modifications based on input EOYCF receives.




The requirements for eligibility of youth offenders to participate in a work crew include:

• Must be 17 years or older and have completed high school or GED;

• “Gold Tag” program status (highest level achieved  through a grading system evaluating work and education performance, behavior and treatment progress);

• Successful completion of core treatment goals;

• No history of escape from secure facilities.



• Superintendent approves youth offenders for on-site work crew;

• sensitive or high profile juvenile offenders and adult corrections offenders will need to be approved through the Agency Case Review (ACR) process;

• the Work Experience Program Coordinator is responsible for ensuring the approved outside work crew list is maintained in central control and with local law enforcement. The list will contain the youth offender’s name, date of birth, crime of conviction, alerts, photo, etc.


Security & Supervision

• Under no circumstances are youth offenders allowed to wear personal clothing during any work detail. All clothing worn during off site work crews will be easily identifiable as OYA property;

• prior to exiting the facility, the Control Officer will contact Harney County Sheriff’s Office and notify them that an OYA work crew will be outside the facility on the grounds;

• there will be a ratio of one work crew supervisor to four youth offenders;

• the work crew supervisor will have a radio and cell phone at all times. The cell phone will be password protected;

• in the event of an emergency, including escape, serious injury, or other medical emergency, the staff will call 911 on the cell phone and radio for assistance to central control immediately;

• in the event of an escape, staff will escort all remaining youth offenders into the intake areas of the facility and remain until they are properly identified and approved by the Officer of the Day to return to their living units.


Caboose on the loose

Posted on July 30th in News
Jeff Moore and Wayne I. Monger, authors of ‘Images of Rail: Oregon & Northwestern Railroad,’ are seeking information regarding Oregon & Northwestern (O&NW) caboose #100 for a new book they’re writing about the railroad. A subsidiary of the Edward Hines Lumber Company, O&NW hauled logs, lumber and (occasionally) livestock between Burns and Seneca from 1929 until 1984. Records show that the railroad retired the caboose around 1969, and photographs taken around that time show that the caboose’s body was in decent shape at that point. Although it’s possible that the caboose was scrapped, it’s equally likely that it was re-sold, possibly for use as a cabin or shed. If you have any definitive information regarding the status of the caboose, please contact the Burns Times-Herald at 541-573-2022. (Photo by JERRY LAMPER, courtesy of JEFF MOORE)

Jeff Moore and Wayne I. Monger, authors of ‘Images of Rail: Oregon & Northwestern Railroad,’ are seeking information regarding Oregon & Northwestern (O&NW) caboose #100 for a new book they’re writing about the railroad. A subsidiary of the Edward Hines Lumber Company, O&NW hauled logs, lumber and (occasionally) livestock between Burns and Seneca from 1929 until 1984. Records show that the railroad retired the caboose around 1969, and photographs taken around that time show that the caboose’s body was in decent shape at that point. Although it’s possible that the caboose was scrapped, it’s equally likely that it was re-sold, possibly for use as a cabin or shed. If you have any definitive information regarding the status of the caboose, please contact the Burns Times-Herald at 541-573-2022. (Photo by JERRY LAMPER, courtesy of JEFF MOORE)

Communication cited as solution

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

During the regularly scheduled meeting of the Hines Common Council (July 22), citizens brought concerns to the council regarding crimes committed by residents of Eastern Oregon Academy (EOA). Representatives of EOA were also in attendance to respond.

Recently, a flyer was circulated in the community listing 911 calls from EOA to dispatch over the past three years. The flyer asked citizens to attend the Hines Common Council meeting on July 22 to publicly comment on the issue.

Starting out the discussion, Patty Hodge addressed the council, describing her concerns with EOA and her desire to find a solution.

“I was hoping to get together a group of citizens from Burns and Hines to work with the owners of EOA and the state to get things changed, and get some security to take care of the safety issues in the two cities,” said Hodge.

“We’re not asking for them to be put out of business. We’re looking for a solution to the problem,” she explained.

Hines resident Charity Wensenk commented that her house had been burglarized July 4 by EOA residents. She told her story of that night and reiterated Hodge’s concerns.

Dauna Wensenk added that part of the concern is about accountability.

“Who’s going to pay back the losses? What’s the process?” she asked.

Hodge went on to describe the three years of dispatch reports that were listed on the flyer, including 75 calls regarding runaways, and said that it is  a pattern that is making people feel unsafe in their own homes.

“This is what brought me here – the safety of the whole community,” said Hodge.

Several others in the audience made similar comments.

The response from EOA included comments from owner Craig LaFollette, executive director Jen Hoke, and board member Steve Bull. Their focus was on encouraging communication, clarifying the role of EOA, and addressing the background behind some of the dispatch calls listed on the flyer.

LaFollette expressed disappointment in the lack of communication from those concerned. He said he received only one call, and that he was happy to be able to correct misinformation that the person had received.

“What can we do? Communication. We would welcome you to come in and talk,” he said.

LaFollette went on to describe the benefits of EOA in rehabilitating the male juveniles. He said that the 75 runaway calls cited on the flyer were actually a good indication that EOA was keeping close watch on their residents.

“The second someone leaves, we report it to the dispatch and say, ‘We have a youth that’s gone.’ We know where our boys are at all times. We have staff 24 hours a day, and it’s a ‘line-of-sight’ facility,” he explained.

He thanked local law enforcement for their support, and noted that the two juveniles who had recently broken into homes had been transported out of the area.

“Don’t let just a small, unfortunate – terribly unfortunate – incident that a couple kids chose to do tarnish it for so many young men that benefit greatly,” LaFollette added.

LaFollette also said that the statistics on the flyers are misleading. He said that the two sexual assault cases listed on the flyer were actually two EOA residents who had reported an assault experience that took place at a previous facility, and that situation required calling local law enforcement.

Hoke reiterated LaFollette’s message concerning the importance of the work that EOA does. She encouraged people to call or email her with any thoughts or concerns. She noted that she would be writing a regular column to be published in the Burns Times-Herald, beginning July 23.

“Open communication is vital. A lot of this is being fed by misinformation,” said Hoke.

“We’re opening the doors of communication, so that we can have a safe community, and help these boys at the same time – because it is possible,” she explained.

Bull added to the discussion, recognizing the concerns raised.

“I appreciate the comments that have been made, because we are concerned about safety,” he said.

Bull said that policy limitations affect the actions that can be taken with regard to runaways at the facility.

“The staff is doing a great job at applying and following the policies, and a lot of this has to do with what’s given to them, what’s mandated to them in terms of what they can and can’t do,” Bull explained.

He said he thinks it would be helpful to put together a forum to encourage a better understanding of these policies.

Hines Police Chief Ryan DeLange was asked to comment on the law enforcement side of the issue.

He said he understands the limitations that constrain the facility, but also notes the lengthy processing time required when EOA residents commit crimes.

“When these kids break laws in the city, it’s not tried here in this county, so that is one of the issues with the police department,” explained DeLange.

Every time there’s a crime, HPD has to send an officer to go to the trial, which is time-consuming for the department, he said. But he is going to bring up this issue with the state, as it isn’t something EOA can change.

“We’re just kind of stuck in the middle – we take calls as they come, and try to keep the community safe,” said DeLange.

Councilor Dick Baird expressed concern about the amount of extra time required to process crimes committed by EOA youth. He asked DeLange how much time the recent burglaries had taken to process. DeLange replied that it was around 30 hours.

Councilor Hilda Allison asked what EOA could realistically do as far as improving the security situation.

LaFollette said  first that the positive thing is that once a crime has been committed, those residents are sent away.

“We know who did it, and they’re gone,” said LaFollette, referring to the July 4 burglaries.

He said he doesn’t have an answer yet concerning the improvement of security conditions, but that the administrative team has been working on solutions.

Susan Bush, who said she was not a resident, but was looking to relocate to the area, added to the discussion, asking why residents are not prevented from leaving. LaFollette responded that the policies do not allow for staff to restrain the residents.

“If you have a facility, the facility should be secure,” said Bush.

“Not if it’s not a ‘secure facility,’” said Hoke.

“This is a residential treatment facility. It’s not a correctional facility – there’s a difference,” she explained.

Hines Mayor Nikki Morgan suggested that the concerned citizens and the EOA representatives should connect and discuss the issue further after the meeting.


Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala reported that the elevated water tank was cleaned and a small leak was repaired. A report on the tank condition will be provided in the coming weeks. Chemical test results showed that there were no water quality issues.

Zabala said his crew was called out to a sewer leak at a home recently.

He thanked the Harney County Road Department for finishing the fire line along the western edge of Hines.


Hines Volunteer Fire Department (HVFD) Chief Bob Spence delivered his report.

He said that HVFD assisted at a Highway 20 motor vehicle accident.

Spence and Burns Fire  Department (BFD) Chief Scott Williamson have agreed to have both departments notified by dispatch when there is a fire, due to many BFD and HVFD firefighters being called to rangeland fires.

Spence said they have been getting wildland fire gear and new boots with funding from a Volunteer Fire Assistance grant.


DeLange reported that there have been a lot of calls this month, including  multiple burglaries and thefts of at least 88 items in total, including jewelry and guns.

DeLange said that in cooperation with Burns, the police will be “cracking down” on the use of unlicensed vehicles on city streets, including golf carts and ATVs.


City Administrator Joan Davies delivered her report.

This year’s can and bottle deposit fundraiser for park projects has reached $810.30, she said, including funds from the mayor’s Hines Junket in the amount of $110,  as well as $390 from HVFD’s donation after Obsidian Days.

Davies told the council that she is applying for two grants: one from the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation for water projects, and the other from the Oregon Department of Transportation for a seal coating project.

Davies said they were busy at City Hall preparing for the 2012-13 audit taking place this week.

The office had received complaints about independent contractors filling fire tenders from Hines hydrants, without the permission of the city and without paying the fee. Davies said that while the city supports firefighting efforts, there is a charge for water and fire tenders are only allowed to fill from one particular hydrant.


In other business, the council:

• heard from Davies that she has been chosen to lead a project funded by the Department of Land Conservation and Development to digitize the comprehensive plans for Hines, Burns and John Day. The contract was approved unanimously by the council;

• approved $4,504.75 in accounts payable;

• approved a $100 donation request from Jon Caponetto to help him go to Australia for the Pacific Honours Ensemble Trip;

• was updated on the property clean up. Notices have been, and continue to be sent out warning those residents whose properties are in violation of city ordinance;

• approved a business license for the Big Bear Lodge (under new ownership);

• approved the sealed bid sale of the city’s 1972 International 1700 truck with snow plow and sander, with a minimum price set at $4,500;

• approved per diem and mileage for Davies to attend the Local Government Personnel Institute meeting on August 19 and 20. The meeting will focus on the effects of the expected passage of new marijuana legislation in November.


Council asks for cost of additional tank

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Should the city of Burns expand the fuel storage capability at Burns Municipal Airport? That’s the question facing the Burns City council after hearing  about the challenges that arose during the Buzzard Complex wildfire.

At the council meeting Wednesday, July 23, City Manager (CM) Kraig Cutsforth said the airport went through a “huge amount of fuel” during the days of the fire, and had fuel coming from as far away as Idaho Falls, Idaho,  to keep up with the demand. The airport has a 9,000-gallon tank, and they were going through 4,000 to 4,500 gallons a day. Cutsforth pointed out that they need 24 hours to order fuel and that lead time helped to create a fuel shortage at the airport.

Airport Manager Jeff Cotton told the council that since July 7, the airport had gone through about 34,000 gallons of fuel and had run out four times. He added that if a state of emergency hadn’t been declared, they would have run out even more often. Cotton also said that a full truckload of fuel is 10,000 gallons, and because the airport can’t handle a full load, the cost of a partial load is sold at a higher rate and a load fee is tacked on. He said installing an additional tank at the airport would cost about $63,000, but it would pay for itself in about two years with the savings from paying a lower cost for the fuel and not having to pay the load fee.

“If we don’t have the fuel, they have to divert the planes to other airports and that takes time — time that could have been spent fighting fire,” Cotton said.

Councilor Terri Presley noted the airport has a deficit now, and asked how much money was brought in from the fires?

Cutsforth answered the airport took in about $24,000 from the fire suppression efforts and another $9,000 on a lease agreement with the BLM. He added that the airport deficit in the budget is from the fire suppression system being installed and not from the operation of the airport.

Presley said she sees the need for more fuel storage at the airport, but has reservations about purchasing an additional tank. “My concern is fire season doesn’t happen very often. There’s the cost of the tank, and how do we recoup the cost?” she asked. “Right now, we have a deficit and we don’t know if we’ll have another fire.”

Cotton stated that the airport ran out of fuel three times last year, and was close to running out at the time of the Shooting Range fire, which was burning close to town.

The council asked Cotton to provide figures of fuel sales from the past five years or so, as well as an up-to-date estimated cost of installing a new tank, and they would revisit the issue at a later meeting.


CM Cutsforth reported he had met with Perrilyn Wells, safety officer for Harney District Hospital (HDH), regarding placing flashing lights on North Egan to warn individuals when a medical helicopter was landing at the helipad across from the hospital.

Because the city doesn’t have funds available to install flashing lights, it was suggested that portable detour signs could be put out, and the council could give their consent to allow the hospital to place the signs.

Cutsforth provided the council with a map of the proposed detours and the affected streets.

Mayor Craig LaFollette said the plan looked problematic, partly because of the area it would include, and asked who would be responsible for putting the signs out and bringing them back in?

It was suggested that the council meet with representatives of HDH to see if they come up with a solution, and the council agreed.


Newt Skunkcap of the Burns Police Department told the council he had spoken with the individual that has been riding an unlicensed scooter around  town. He said the scooter is an electric-powered toy, and the operator was advised that it was not supposed to be used as a vehicle on city streets.

Skunkcap said the Burns and Hines police departments spoke with the parents of the  individual using a golf cart to sell ice cream in the community and explained the hazards of doing so. “That will pretty much be going away,” Skunkcap said.

During the citizens concerns portion of the meeting, Steve Ruzicka, who drives for the Dial-A-Ride program, stated he was encouraged by the police department’s efforts, and the steps taken to make the streets safer.

He then addressed the mayor and city manager, and said that the council had previously denied a request to operate ATVs on city streets. Then recently, a report came in that someone was operating an ATV on Broadway Avenue, and it turned out to be a city employee spraying weeds. He suggested that there are other methods that can be used to spray for weeds.

Ruzicka told the council bicycles were a hazard in the city because of the way they’re being operated. “Is it because they’re careless? A lack of knowledge? Or just disregard for the law?” Ruzicka asked.

He then listed the bicycle accidents, one of which resulted in a fatality, in the past year. He noted that a number of youth are not wearing helmets, even though they are required to do so if under the age of 16. Ruzicka said it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure their children are wearing helmets, and he suggested putting public service announcements on the radio and an ad in the newspaper to raise awareness.


In other business:

• Fire Chief Scott Williamson said the city was fortunate to not have any big fires nearby when the extra resources were out of town on the Buzzard Complex. He also reported that work on the fire line above Burns and Hines had been completed;

• Veterans Service Officer Guy McKay told the council he was planning to hold a Veterans Stand Down during the fair in September and asked the council for a donation to help bring a mobile dental unit to the event. The council approved a $50 donation;

• the council passed Resolution 14-586, regarding making the final payment on the city’s street sweeper.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at city hall.

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