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.

Wildfire scorches almost 400,000 acres

Mitch Siegner looks on at the blaze from the Buzzard Complex. (Photo by BROOKE NYMAN)

Mitch Siegner looks on at the blaze from the Buzzard Complex. (Photo by BROOKE NYMAN)

As of 6 p.m. Saturday, July 19, the Buzzard Complex was divided into east and west zones. The Northern Rockies National Incident Management Team, Incident Commander Greg Poncin, took command of the east side (Juntura Riverside Road south to Cob Creek Reservoir, south to Dowell Reservoir), and the west side remained under command of Oregon Incident Management Team 4, Incident Commander Brian J. Watts.

The reason for zoning the Buzzard Complex was because of the size of the incident, which has more than 380 miles of perimeter, creating logistical and safety concerns for long-distance travel of firefighters. Zoning of the incident will reduce exposure to driving hazards to incident personnel.

The east zone Incident Command Post (ICP) is located at the Juntura School. The west zone ICP remains at the Crane School.

As of Tuesday, July 22, the fire was estimated at 395,747 acres, and was 85 percent contained.

At a fire information meeting held Thursday, July 17, Incident Commander Watts stated the blaze began as six separate lightning-sparked fires on Monday, July 14, and the fires spread fast and merged, growing into the  Buzzard Complex.

Fire Behavior Analyst Todd Gregory told those in attendance that there were three factors enabling the fire to grow at a rapid pace: a large/dry fuel load, the topography where the fires started and high winds.

Gregory added that at times, the fire was spreading about 850 feet per minute, driven by the winds.

Watts thanked the rural fire protection associations, and noted their response to the fires helped quite a bit.

A transfer of command will occur on Wednesday at 6 a.m. when the Northern Rockies National Incident Management Team (Greg Poncin) leaves and Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team 4 (Brian J. Watts) resumes management of the entire fire perimeter in both zones.

Night shift operations have been discontinued on the east zone and the spike camp set at Stray Dog Reservoir has closed.

The firefighters temporarily camped at Crowley returned to the Incident Command Post at Juntura Monday evening.

East zone crews continued to mop-up the 50-100 acre spot fire that occurred after strong winds pushed embers across containment lines yesterday afternoon. On the remainder of the fire, crews continued to mop-up and patrol the fire perimeter.

It rained over a majority of the fire on Monday, especially in the southeast corner. Some areas received up to 2 inches of precipitation.

Scattered thunderstorms will bring potential for small areas of intense rain and gusty outflow wind.Potential fires in conjunction with the severe drought in Eastern Oregon are expected to continue to create hazardous conditions for property owners throughout the fire season.

As of July 22, there were 960 people assigned to the Buzzard Complex, down from 1,434.

Court to continue accepting public comments

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

The Harney County Court held its regularly-scheduled meeting July 16. During the meeting, the court held a public hearing to discuss a map of roads within the county.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty explained that the map project was started at the request of the Harney County Stockgrowers Association.

The association’s president, Travis Williams, said the Stockgrowers brought the idea to the court more than two years ago.

Williams added that input was sought from as many of the county’s landowners as possible. The landowners were asked to add their roads to the map and explain how they are being used.

However, because of the size of the county, Williams admitted that some landowners were missed.

“We still have a lot of work to do with the south west part of the county,” he said. But he added that, “We’ve got to get this moving,” explaining that additions can be made to the map after it’s recognized.

Grasty said the purpose of the map is to affirm what roads exist within the county.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols explained that identifying roads can help prevent wilderness designations, as these designations require 5,000-acre blocks of roadless areas.

Williams said groups like the Oregon Natural Desert Association are trying to lump together 5,000-acre areas, and putting roads on the map could curtail these efforts.

However, Barbara Kull said she recently attended a meeting regarding forest roads, during which some asserted that identifying roads could lead to their closure.

But Stacy Davies asserted that unmapped roads cannot be defended in the future.

Randell Drake, Oregon executive director of Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, wrote a letter that advocated for motorized access to public lands and against wilderness designations.

Mike Weil, Gary Marshall, Scott Franklin and Paul Bradley said they support efforts to maintain access to public ground.

Marshall added that landowners should communicate with each other and be good neighbors. He said motorists are welcome to use his roads as long as they respect his property.

Franklin said private land owners need to “ante up” and prove they have the right to deny access to roads on their property. He added that practices, such as creating illegal fences that have to be removed at the expense of the taxpayers, need to stop “right here and now.”

Bradley suggested calling the map an inventory. He also suggested that a transportation plan be developed to coordinate access to public lands.

Amy Woodruff and Javier Goirigolzarri submitted letters in support of the map project.

But Susan Bush said the map is not very “friendly,” explaining that it doesn’t distinguish between public and private roads.

She said the map is also incomplete, and Meadowlands roads should be added to it.

However, Grasty said the court was advised by its legal counsel that ongoing issues concerning Meadowlands roads would have to be resolved by area landowners.

Bush also said that she thinks the court should take more time on the map project.

“I don’t think you guys should vote on this map right now,” she said, adding that more input is needed from taxpayers.

Eddie Brown agreed that more time should be taken. He added that some roads have been identified on other maps that have yet to be recognized on this one. He said those roads should be added, and work on the map should continue until it is complete.

Patrick and Rose Marie McPurdy requested in writing that their road be added to the map.

Martin Davies said he is OK with motorists finding a legal access to public land, but expressed concern regarding trespassing on his property.

Grasty provided copies of a draft disclaimer that could be included with the map to explain its purpose. He emphasized that the county is not claiming ownership of roads listed on the map, allowing access to or across any private ground, or taking responsibility for the maintenance of non-county roads.

But Barbara Cannady disagreed.

In a letter written to the court, Cannady stated that the map is “inherently flawed.”

She wrote, “There is no distinction between private and public lands. Such a blurring of the lines can lead to common regulation at the expense of landowners. I believe that this tactic is to create confusion…The effect is a tool whereby the county can callously seize lands for public use without compensation.”

Cannady added that:

• applied to private property, this map creates a record that would remove the ability of the landowner to change [road] use;

• the legal process for establishing roads is being ignored;

• the map shows utility easements that are not roads and never have been roads;

• the map shows roads that have already been vacated;

• members of the Stockgrowers Association identified roads on others’ property, while exempting their own;

• all landowners should have the right to opt out;

• the map should include Meadowlands residents who want their roads identified;

• lines [on the map] that are incorrectly identified need to be removed;

• right-of-ways granted by federal agencies should be considered;

• road identification should have a legal foundation; and

• roads should be labeled in order to identify who is responsible for maintaining them.

In her verbal testimony, Cannady added that the thought of a neighbor having more control over her property than she does makes her angry.

Grasty replied, in part, that, “This court’s effort is a result of a request from our community members, and for you to attempt to turn it into some personal agenda on my part, or any other member of this court, is simply wrong. I have strongly encouraged you to tell us what it is you want, and we would attempt to address it. I still have no idea what it is you would like, short of not completing the request of our residents.”

Nichols said members of the court thought they were doing the will of the people, and the court does not have a hidden agenda.

He added, “Quite frankly, all the concern and paranoia blows me away.”

Grasty reiterated that the purpose of the map was to take an inventory of county roads — not open, close, change access to, remove, gain, or take over any road.

He added that the court intentionally omitted road designations (state, county, forest, private, etc.) because it didn’t want to enter into a debate regarding their proper designations. However, he said the lack of labeling may have been a mistake.

Stacy Davies said, “This is a huge issue. “I applaud the effort on one hand, and I am concerned on the other.”

He said there are laws in place to protect access to private property, and he does not think it is the court’s agenda to change those laws.

He added, “We need these public land roads inventoried so we can fight to keep them open.”

However, he expressed concern regarding the map’s lack of clarification concerning road designations, and suggested developing a color-coding system.

He explained that, without this clarification, someone might assume that all of the map’s roads are paved or improved, which could impact the development cap that was proposed for sage grouse management.

Davies also suggested that the court take its time and explore all of the angles and implications.

Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels said he liked the color-coding suggestion and doesn’t have a problem with taking more time.

Grasty said he likes the idea of keeping the map flexible, and the court doesn’t need to hurry the process. However, he said he’d regret the delay if access to public roads is lost.

After some additional discussion, the court agreed to continue accepting public comments concerning the map’s disclaimer, as well as requests to add or remove roads.

Discussion concerning the map will resume during the next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (to be held Aug. 6).


Harney County Economic Development (HCED) Director Randy Fulton attended the meeting to provide an update concerning economic development within the county.

Fulton reported that HCED assisted a variety of individuals and businesses with business development, as well as loan and grant applications.

He thanked the court, especially Nichols, for assisting with the establishment of a thriving juniper processing business. Fulton explained that the business grew from two to 10 employees in three years. And thanks to the Western Juniper Utilization Act, the number of employees is expected to more than double in the next five to seven years.

Fulton also reported that the Economic Development Strategic Plan was recently updated, adopted by the Community Response Team (CRT), and approved by various governing agencies in Harney County.

He added that the Harney County Enterprise Zone was recently re-designated, explaining that the designation is important for recruiting new businesses.

A destination resort is currently under construction in the Silvies Valley, located just 35 miles north of Burns. The project is scheduled for a “soft” opening in 2017 or 2018, and it is expected to create between 50 and 75 new jobs in the hospitality field for residents of Harney and Grant counties.

Fulton said HCED has been working with Pacific Natural Foods to open a meat-processing facility in the area for four years, and these efforts are ongoing.

He added that, with help from HCED, a local machine shop was able to hire three new employees in the past six months. This company could be an asset to the Pacific Natural Foods project.

Grasty and Fulton also discussed possible uses for the Eugene D. Timms and Jeannette K. Hamby Computer Archive Center.

Fulton invited anyone who is interested in the county’s economic development to attend CRT meetings, which are held the first Wednesday of every month from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Harney County Community Center.


In other business, the court:

• received an update from Grasty concerning sage grouse;

• discussed the Buzzard Complex fire with Bureau of Land Management Public Information Officer Tara Martinak, Sgt. Brian Needham of the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, and Harney County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tom Sharp;

• was addressed during the public comment period by Herb Vloedman concerning veterans’ recognition signs;

• reviewed Resolution 2014-08 in the matter of supporting the designation of a new Local Workforce Investment Area to include Harney, Malheur, Grant, Wallowa, Union, Baker, Umatilla and Morrow counties.

Nichols moved to adopt the motion, and Grasty seconded it. Runnels stated that, since there is really no other option, the court would agree to the concept under duress.

The motion carried unanimously;

• reviewed the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department County Parks Assistance Program Application, which allows the county to receive $10,008 toward the county park fund;

• recognized the Harney County 2014 Assessor’s Certified Ratio Study Acceptance and Recommendations;

• discussed the Blue Mountains Coalition of Collaboratives mid-year meeting, which will be held July 29-31 in John Day.

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

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

Onyx (laying down) was impounded in 2012 and has since found a new home in Central Oregon. Harney County Save A Stray has saved hundreds of pets over the past six years by transporting them to no-kill shelters in Oregon and Washington. (Submitted photo)

Onyx (laying down) was impounded in 2012 and has since found a new home in Central Oregon. Harney County Save A Stray has saved hundreds of pets over the past six years by transporting them to no-kill shelters in Oregon and Washington. (Submitted photo)

It all started with two black Labrador retrievers.

Melanie Epping was visiting family in the area when she and her sister, Angie Tiller, had to make a trip to Harney County Veterinary Clinic (HCVC). While there, they noticed two dogs that had been impounded. Upon inquiring about them, they discovered that the clinic was only able to hold impounded dogs for a certain amount of time before it was forced to euthanize them.

“It’s always hard once you look at them,” said Epping. She ended up taking the dogs to a shelter in Bend. But it didn’t stop there.

“I thought, ‘How can I not save the others?’” she said.

A native of Harney County, Epping currently resides in Long Beach, Wash. But the distance didn’t deter her from tackling the problem of stray dogs and cats in Harney County.

Harney County Save A Stray (HCSAS), a 501(c)3, all volunteer-run nonprofit, was founded in the fall of 2008. Its mission is “to re-home pets in need and reduce pet over-population through the promotion of humane spay/neuter practices.”

HCSAS has a system in place for rescuing unwanted animals in the area. In cooperation with HCVC, impounded dogs  are held for five to seven days at the clinic, at which point volunteer Michele Hamilton “bails” them out and takes them to a holding facility at her private residence outside of Burns, where they stay for about a month, on average. Cats, which HCVC is not able to impound, are taken to Tiller’s home, or another foster home. Both dogs and cats are held until they are able to be transported to a no-kill shelter.

Although HCSAS has held some adoption events, Epping says about 95 percent of the animals they rescue are transported out of the area. Epping and Tiller coordinate the relocation of these animals to either Redmond (Brightside Animal Shelter), Portland (Oregon Humane Society), or Epping’s local shelter, South Pacific County Humane Society (SPCHS) in Long Beach. Where the animals are taken depends on availability of space at each shelter. Tiller or Hamilton often meet Epping in Detroit, (the halfway point for them) and transfer the animals to her to take to Portland or Long Beach.

Because of the many miles of travel, fuel is a major cost for the organization. HCSAS funds go toward this, pet food, and veterinary services.

A major veterinary service that is vital to the mission of the organization is spaying and neutering. HCSAS has held several spay and neuter events. In the beginning, carloads of dogs and cats were taken to Bend for the procedure. In recent years, veterinarians from Bend have traveled to Harney County to help, and now Dr. Katy Wallace of Sage Country Veterinary Service does all of the spay/neuter clinics.

“She [Dr. Wallace] has been so good to us,” said Epping.

A portion of the cost is paid by the owner, and a portion comes from HCSAS. In a one-day event in 2012, 70 cats were spayed and neutered. An event is usually held in the spring when there is an abundance of kittens and puppies being born. It wasn’t held this year due to a lack of funds, but HCSAS is hoping to put on an event in the fall, pending receipt of grant or donated funds.

Hundreds of dogs and cats have been rescued through HCSAS. In fact, no adoptable dog has been euthanized in more than five years. Epping says that, even when the going gets tough, it’s worth it, knowing that so many pets are finding good homes.

“I get to see the happy tails when they get adopted,” said Epping.

She stresses that it’s not the animals’ fault – they have been abandoned or neglected, and deserve to find a “forever home.”

In its first year of existence, HCSAS assisted with three pet hoarding cases in the county. More than 200 dogs were rescued in those incidents.

“We learned a lot in a hurry,” explained Epping.

When asked why there is not a Humane Society or similar shelter facility in the county, Epping explains that because of the remote location and the high expense associated with such a shelter, it’s not a practical option at this point. Working with her local shelter, Epping knows well the level of commitment and endless fundraising that is required to maintain it.

Epping would, however, like to see more foster homes for cats. Currently, there are only two. This would strengthen the system already in place, allowing HCSAS more flexibility to hold animals longer when shelters are full.

If you need to report stray pets, have kittens or puppies that you cannot keep, or if you need help with getting your pet spayed or neutered, you can contact HCSAS. Urgent calls can be difficult to handle, so when possible, advance notice is appreciated.

There are many ways to help. Monetary donations can be made to the HCSAS account at US Bank, or checks can be sent to: Save A Stray, P.O. Box 403, Burns, OR 97720. Additionally, pet food may be dropped off at 132 S. Buena Vista in Burns.

For more information, contact Epping at 541-589-1104, or visit for more contact information.


Resident has concerns about unlicensed vehicles on streets

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The Burns City Council once again has a vacancy.

At the council meeting Wednesday, July 9, Mayor Craig LaFollette acknowledged a letter of resignation from Councilor Boyce LaForest. LaForest’s letter cited time restraints and work load as reasons for stepping down from the council seat.

LaForest said he would continue to serve for a limited time until a replacement can be appointed to the council.

During the citizens concerns portion of the meeting, Steve Ruzicka approached the council regarding unlicensed vehicles on the streets. He stated that driving is a privilege, and requirements include an operator license, license plate and insurance.

Ruzicka told the council he recently completed a defensive driving class where he was told one in five drivers are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or prescription medicine, another 20 percent of drivers are distracted by talking on cell phones, texting, laptops, pets, eating, etc., and another 20 percent of those behind the wheel are sleep-deprived.

He explained that he drives for the local Dial-A-Ride program, and that he is responsible for his passengers. Along with having to deal with drivers under the influence, distracted and/or sleep-deprived drivers, there are a number of vehicles on the streets that create a hazard, such as riding lawn mowers, golf carts, off-road vehicles and an unlicensed scooter. Ruzicka stated the vehicles are not licensed to be on the streets, and the operators don’t follow the laws of the roads. He said he had come to the council previously with the same concerns, yet nothing has been done.

“People say, ‘It’s Burns.’ I don’t know what that means,” Ruzicka said. “We’re an orderly society. And some people ask, ‘What harm does it do?’ Ask the kid who was killed on the bicycle last year. Those vehicles are hazards.”

He also questioned why bicyclists aren’t required to follow the rules of the road.

Burns resident Ron Carroll told the council that he has a concern about vehicles speeding in his neighborhood. “I think kids want to see how fast they can go down the street,” he said.

Councilor Terri Presley agreed that unlicensed vehicles and speeding are valid concerns, and added that the police are already busy every day. She suggested that maybe citizens could help out by reporting incidents to the police when they see them.


Becky Cunningham told the council that Wayne Baron of 4R Recycling had recycling bins out on the street once again, and she gave the council a copy of a contract that she said Baron was providing to businesses.

Cunningham reminded the council that it had told Baron he was not allowed to place bins on the street to collect recycling material, yet he seemed to be operating without any regard to the council’s direction.

City Manager (CM) Kraig Cutsforth said he would check into the matter.


CM Cutsforth reported the well for the fire suppression system at Burns airport had been dug and was producing clean water at 85 gallons per minute. The water tank had also been filled for testing, and the outside shell of the tank was to be installed over the next week’s time. “The entire thing should work out well.” Cutsforth said.

The cleaning up of nuisance properties is continuing, and Cutsforth said he had two residents come by city hall to express their appreciation of the clean-up efforts.

Fire Chief Scott Williamson stated that about 35 letters had been sent out to property owners asking them to clean up hazardous vegetation, and the process seems to be working.

Cutsforth met with the Department of Environmental Quality on several subjects, and is continuing to work on the issue of particulate matter exceeding allowable levels in the Burns/Hines area.


In other business:

• the council approved a $100 donation to the Harney County Arts & Crafts  Association in support of the annual Quilt and Art Show;

• Cheryl Hancock asked for permission to close West D Street between North Broadway and Alvord from 4 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 7 for a block party in front of the Harney County Library. The council approved the request;

• Councilor Presley asked the council for permission to bring in an outside contractor to look at the roof on city hall to see what could be done to stop the leaks. She stated that if the city could do some of the repairs, it would save some money, and the council agreed.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at city hall.

Quilts, Cars, & Coyotes

Posted on July 16th in News


The annual Quilt & Art Show was held Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, in Burns and Hines. Quilts of every style, color, and pattern, made by local residents, were on display at the Harney County Community Center and Chamber of Commerce, as well as 23 local businesses. The objective of the “Creature Competition” this year was to create a coyote (using any medium), and the art was auctioned at the community center. At the Burns Garage showroom, a quilt display accompanied an exhibition of antique cars. Other arts and crafts on display and for sale throughout the community included pottery, paintings, photography, and more. Several businesses in downtown Burns displayed merchandise on the sidewalks, which were decorated with chalk art and lined with quilt-themed flags. (Photos by STEVE HOWE)

Quilt Coyote3 web

County to look at leasing archive center

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

During the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held July 2), discussion continued on the realignment of Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB) boundaries, and the potential impact on county services provided through the Training and Employment Consortium (TEC). The court heard from the workforce policy advisor for the governor’s office, Agnes Balassa.

Balassa gave a brief background on the subject, including a history of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and The Oregon Consortium/Oregon Workforce Alliance (TOCOWA). The WIA provides funds to counties for services that help unemployed and underemployed people become employed. This includes training, job search assistance, and resume development, among other things. The WIA requires that counties join a local board that includes public and private representatives in order to receive funds. Currently, this is organized through TOCOWA.

In July of 2013, Governor Kitzhaber issued an executive order clarifying the role of LWIBs, and also invited counties to form new areas. Previously, there were seven boards statewide; that will grow to nine or 10. It is the role of county commissioners to select an area to join, choose board members to serve from their county, and possibly to serve on the board themselves, Balassa explained. Once a decision has been made to join an area, an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) must be formed to determine how the LWIB will operate.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty stated his concerns about the large size of the proposed Eastern Region LWIB, the long period of time needed to set up the new consortium, and what effect it would have on TEC, the county’s current service provider.

Teri Simonis and Tonya Fox, representing TEC, presented recent successful outcomes from several of the programs that have been offered. Grasty stated that he wanted assurances that these services will continue upon joining the new LWIB. Balassa explained that, in terms of service provision, TEC should not be impacted by the changes. She said that TEC could be “grandfathered in” until the new LWIB is fully operational, and then, in accordance with federal law, Request for Proposals (RFPs) will have to be issued again regularly.

The court will consider a resolution to join the new area at the next county court meeting July 16.


The court had a discussion regarding future use of the now vacant  Eugene D. Timms and Jeannette K. Hamby Computer Archive Center in Burns. It is likely that the county will lease the building for one dollar a year to market for economic development purposes.


Grasty received a letter from Governor Kitzhaber responding to a letter he had sent in March regarding state agency decisions. The governor recognized Grasty’s concerns, and said that he would consider, in the next budget, ways to try to help local governments with funding assistance for federal plan reviews.


The court heard from Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols about the July 1 Pioneer Hub advisory committee meeting. He explained that the group went over organizational expectations and structure. Nichols also noted that the Oregon Early Learning Council will meet in the area July 31, and the Oregon State Weed Board will meet here September  4-5.


Grasty reported on his meeting with the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The council asked whether assistance was needed with federal policy processes. Grasty said he brought in a hand truck stacked four feet high with the text of the sage grouse plan. He said that he felt his message had been received.


The court reviewed correspondence from:

• the Bureau of Land Management regarding the Glass Butte Communications Facilities Project. The court was invited to participate in consultation for the proposed construction of two additional communication facilities at the top of Glass Butte;

• the Forest Service, notifying the court of 30-day comment periods  for the Wolf Vegetation Management Plan and Aquatic Restoration Proposal on the Malheur National Forest;

• Grayback Forestry of John Day, announcing that it is hiring wildland firefighters and forestry thinning crew members, thanks to efforts of the Harney County Restoration Collaborative and Blue Mountains Forest Partners toward creating an abundance of forestry work on the Malheur National Forest;

• the Oregon Health Authority, giving  notification of approval to Symmetry Care as a community mental health program;

• the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, giving notice of a technical meeting July 10 concerning the proposed hydroelectric project at Warm Springs Dam;

• Eastern Oregon Counties Association, notifying them of the meeting being held August 1 in John Day.


In other business, the court:

• reviewed Steens Mountain Advisory Council applications and recommended Stacy Davies for reappointment and Katherine Wilson for appointment;

• discussed the 10-year renewal on county landfill permits;

• heard from Barbara Cannady. She mentioned an upcoming meeting related to forest access, and thanked the court for posting the draft road inventory map in the courthouse foyer and on the website;

• heard from Herb Vloedman. He updated the court on the progress being made on new veteran recognition county entrance signs, and asked about a market study that was done for county employee salary increases several years ago;

• reviewed notices of water use requests – there were no objections;

• received a brief update on the sage grouse issue from Grasty.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, July 16, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.

High Desert Youth Range Campers learning about rangeland plants during camp June 18-21. (Submitted photo)

High Desert Youth Range Campers learning about rangeland plants during camp June 18-21. (Submitted photo)

It’s not every day that high school students get to spend a portion of their summer break rubbing elbows with leading researchers in range ecology. However, 20 students from Idaho and Oregon are getting that opportunity and so much more. Students who participate in the High Desert Youth Range Camp (HDYRC) travel to Northern Great Basin Experimental Range, outside of Riley, for three-and-a-half days of hands-on, experiential learning.

Once camp is set up, students spend three of their days learning about soil health, rangeland botany, invasive plants, fire effects, fuel management, wildlife management, the ability to use grazing as a tool, and other issues that affect ecological balance in the sagebrush steppe. Students hike, learn field methods, and are quizzed on rangeland botany basics. HDYRC offers students, not only an in-depth look at rangeland ecology, but also an opportunity to appreciate the complex rangelands surrounding them. On Friday evening, the students compose and perform their own “Rangeland Rap,” using the new rangeland vocabulary they acquired during the week. Camp culminates on Saturday morning with a hike to the top of the butte (the landmark of this property), and students present their management plans to their peers and field experts. With successful completion of camp, students are eligible to receive two free college credits in field studies from Treasure Valley Community College.

In addition to earning college credits, the students have the opportunity to earn the “Top Camper” award, which is awarded to an Oregon high school student. The Top Camper receives an all-expense paid trip to the Society of Range Management annual conference, to represent the Pacific Northwest section in the High School Youth Forum (HSYF).

This year’s overall Top Camper chosen to attend the HSYF in Sacramento, Calif., in February 2015 is Cheyenne Young, a senior at Crook County High School in Prineville. The Trail Boss award recipient is Sydnee Shelman, a sophomore at Burns High School.

Campers from Oregon and Idaho at the High Desert Youth Range Camp, which was held June 18-21 at the Northern Great Basin Experimental Range, 40 miles west of Burns. (Submitted photo)

Campers from Oregon and Idaho at the High Desert Youth Range Camp, which was held June 18-21 at the Northern Great Basin Experimental Range, 40 miles west of Burns. (Submitted photo)

Harney County youth attending the camp along with Shelman were Jordan Daugherty, Braedan Emang, Brandon Bingham,  Hunter Freitag, Randi Johnson, Warren Clayton Johnson, Hannah Moore, Halle Robertson and Kendal Thompson.

The HDYRC is conducted with staff from Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center in Burns, USDA-Agriculture Research Service, Oregon State University, Treasure Valley Community College, The Nature Conservancy, and Harney County Watershed Council. HDYRC is held each year due to the generous sponsorship from a number of local ranches, watershed and weed districts, and livestock associations in Eastern Oregon.

If you’d like more information about the High Desert Youth Range Camp, please call Brenda Smith at 541-573-4084 or email her at

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