Sage grouse hearing draws large crowd

Posted on January 15th in News

 

USFWS to make decision on listing next year

 
by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

 
It was standing room only at the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center, Tuesday, Jan. 7, as hundreds attended a public meeting held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to discuss the draft Oregon Sub-Regional Greater Sage Grouse Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendment/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

 
According to the BLM’s website, an RMP is a “comprehensive land use plan” that is used to “guide management decisions and actions on public lands.”

 
An EIS is a detailed analysis used to insure that policies and goals defined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are used by federal agencies in ongoing programs and actions.

 
Brendan Cain, district manager of the Burns District of the BLM, explained that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) — which determined that Greater Sage Grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act in March 2010 — called for amendments to the BLM’s current RMP for Greater Sage Grouse habitat. He added that proposed amendments to the BLM’s RMP are intended to show the agency’s long-term commitment to conservation and habitat restoration measures for the species. However, Cain added that the BLM also hopes to keep private landowners in mind.

 
“We hope to maintain the widest possible range of options for managing public lands and for our neighboring landowners,” Cain said.
He added that, because the Greater Sage Grouse is currently on the candidate list for future regulatory action, federal agencies, states, tribes and private landowners have the opportunity to continue working cooperatively to conserve the species and restore its habitat.

 
BLM Wildlife Biologist Glenn Frederick explained that the candidate classification means that the sage grouse population has been declining in numbers over the years.

 
“The bird is obviously not in such dire straits that it can’t be hunted and that you don’t see it, but predictions are that it will continue to decline. For that reason, the BLM classified it as a ‘species of concern’ many years ago,” Frederick said.

 
He added that, because the sage grouse is listed as a candidate now, action needs to be taken to show that the species can be managed without the additional constraints of an Endangered Species Act listing.

 
“I think we can do that,” Frederick said.

 
The USFWS has until September 2015 to decide whether Greater Sage Grouse should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

 
Navigating the RMPA/EIS
Holly Orr, BLM planning and environmental coordinator, discussed the range of alternatives presented in the BLM’s draft RMPA/EIS and provided tips for navigating the cumbersome document.

 
“The first order of business is, if you can’t understand something or you can’t find something, call me. That’s my job, and that’s what you pay me for. I’ll help you through it,” Orr said.

 
She then explained the various chapters of the document and gave an overview of the proposed alternatives for sage grouse habitat management, which range from A to F.

 
Alternative A is the no-action alternative. If this alternative is chosen, the BLM will continue to implement its current management strategy. Alternative B is based on the multi-agency National Technical Team (NTT) report, which was created by the National Policy Team. Alternatives C and F are based on public scoping comments that were submitted from a variety of interest groups a couple years ago. Alternative E is based on the 2011 Sage Grouse Conservation and Assessment Strategy that was developed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

 

“That does not mean it’s the alternative we are definitely going to select,” Orr said regarding the preferred alternative.

 
She added that public input is being solicited to determine whether changes should be made to the draft RMPA/EIS.

 
“I want to, not only hear how [the RMPA/EIS] is going to affect you personally, but how will it affect you, your neighbor and the county? That’s the type of information that, once given back, can be incorporated into the final [RMPA/EIS] that will come out to the public and help the decision-maker make a decision,” Orr said.

 
She added that the decision-maker can take information from various alternatives to make a final decision, or a new alternative can be developed based on comments submitted by the public.

 
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty later asked who the decision-makers will be at the end of the process, and Joan Suther, Oregon Sub-Regional Greater Sage Grouse project manager, replied that, as of right now, the plan is to have the state directors of Oregon and Washington make the final decision.

 

Accessing information
During the question and answer period, Buck Taylor commented that the maps provided in the draft RMPA/EIS were not specific enough, and he offered suggestions for improving them. He then asked how the public can access more detailed maps.
Suther said detailed maps were available at the meeting, and links to digital versions of these maps are available online. However, she recognized that the digital maps are not easily accessible to everyone, adding that individuals would need to install GIS software on their computers in order to view them.

 
Later in the meeting, Judge Grasty said that, in order for people to make “good, solid comments,” they need access to interactive maps and hard copies of the draft RMPA/EIS. He explained that people need to be able to look at specific grazing permit allotments, hunting areas, and roads in order to understand what the impacts will be under the various alternatives presented in the document. Grasty said that he can’t commit the other counties, but he can commit Harney County to helping with this effort.

 
Suther replied that hard copies of the document are “extremely expensive to print,” but said she doesn’t mind printing the copies that are needed.

 
Orr offered to take a count of people who want hard copies of the draft RMPA/EIS, and reminded those in attendance that CDs are also available.

 
Suther suggested that interested persons request hard copies of maps from their district contacts.

 
Population decline
A member of the public asked if there is a reason for the decline in sage grouse population and whether anything suggested in the draft RMPA/EIS will help stop it.

 
BLM biologist Frederick replied that there are a myriad of reasons for the decline. However, he said the primary causes in Oregon are wildfires and evasive plant species (such as juniper) that destroy or replace sage brush, which is the staple of the sage grouse’s habitat. He added that predation on hens, chicks and nest is also a major factor.

 
Frederick said the RMPA/EIS identifies regulatory mechanisms that the BLM can administer  (such as managing vegetation, influencing the size of wildfires, restoring areas that were damaged by wildfires, and controlling the location of development) to help address the declining sage grouse population.

 
Another member of the public asked why sage grouse cannot be raised and hatched in a manner similar to other birds.

 
Frederick replied that, in order for a capture and release program to work, the sage grouse would need suitable habitat to be released into. He said efforts to release and transplant sage grouse have been unsuccessful because the birds tend to return to the land they originate from, even if their habitat was destroyed.

 
“For some reason (darn them) they like where they’re from, and they know their neighborhood, and they want to stay there. It’s amazing how, after a fire and everything is gone, they come back to the same spot,” Frederick said.

 
USFWS Fish and Wildlife Biologist Jeff Dillon added that the species will not reproduce in pens.

 
The same member of the public asked, “But what do we do about Mother Nature that burns everything up?”

 
This question was not answered.

 
Predators
Tim Smith commented that very little was included in the draft RMPA/EIS regarding the threat of predators to sage grouse populations.
“There is almost nothing about predation in there, which is a serious problem,” Smith said.

 
Suther replied that predation is one of the many threats to sage grouse that are listed in the document, but it is not at the top of the list.

 
Another member of the public asked whether the wolf should be considered a predator to sage grouse, and Dillon replied that not enough data had been collected regarding the threat of wolves on the sage grouse population.

 

Tax dollars
Smith also expressed concern regarding the cost of developing the RMPA/EIS.

 
“Now, I think it’s pretty clear from the turnout we’ve got here tonight that people are more concerned about the people management aspects of this than they are sage grouse management,” Smith said. “This study was done with tax-payer dollars. I would like to know how many tax-payer dollars went into this to actually implement activities that will harm the economy of the rural parts of Oregon and The West.”

 
Suther replied that she did not have a specific answer to Smith’s question because it has been a “very broad effort.”

 
However, she said, “It’s definitely in the millions of dollars.”

 
Smith asked whether a cost benefit analysis should be considered every time a major decision like this is made.

 
Suther replied, “Actually, when you’re talking about endangered species, there are some cost benefits, but it’s not always just about the dollars.”

 
Economic impact on veterans
Harney County Veterans Service Officer Guy McKay had a question about the economic impact that the RMPA/EIS would have on Harney County’s veterans.

 
BLM Socioeconomic Specialist Stewart Allen replied that the economic impact on veterans was not analyzed in the draft RMPA/EIS.

 
“The closest that it comes to that type of analysis is what we call Environmental Justice analysis that looks at the affects of the plan on minority and/or low-income populations. And that analysis is there, and one of the findings was that there would be a disproportionate negative impact on low-income residence in Harney County and two other counties,” Allen said.

 
Funding
Barry Anderson said there was a lot of information in the RMPA/EIS, especially in the preferred alternative, detailing what would need to be done in order to monitor sage grouse habitat. He asked how the BLM would fund these activities, considering that many BLM projects are currently underfunded. He added that the agency has not had the funds to manage its wild horse program or replace fences that were destroyed by wildfires.

 
Suther replied that  not a lot of additional monitoring would be required under the preferred alternative, but said there would be some.

 
Cattle grazing
Rep. Cliff Bentz asked, “What can these people here do tonight to assist you in reducing the chance of a listing?”

 
He also asked, “Why is it that your preferred alternative suggest that we not graze cattle?”

 
He added that the citizens are concerned because they’ve seen reports from the local agricultural research center suggesting that grazing does not have an adverse effect on the sage grouse population.

 
BLM Rangeland Management Specialist Bob Hopper replied that only some of the proposed alternatives consider livestock reduction. He said these alternatives include Alternatives C (which suggests that no grazing be allowed), D (which is the BLM preferred alternative), and F.

 
Suther said the preferred alternative “has a minor reduction in grazing.” However, she added that, “It can be a big deal if that minor reduction occurs on your allotment.”

 
Suther explained that the grazing reduction suggested under Alternative D specifies that certain, researched natural areas containing certain percentages of sage grouse habitat would be closed.

 
“And it totals about 118,000 acres out of the 10 million acres of sage grouse habitat that we’re talking about,” she said.

 
In response to Bentz’s questions regarding what people can do to prevent the sage grouse listing, Suther replied that current actions being completed on the ground, such as juniper management, should be showcased.

 
Private lands
Dan Haak asked how the alternatives proposed in the RMPA/EIS will affect private lands.

 
Suther replied, “The decision is specific to BLM lands only. And that’s really important that people hear that and understand that.”

 
However, later in the meeting, Judge Grasty commented, “When you affect the public ground, these folks are adversely affected, vitally.”

 
He added that the first page of the draft RMPA/EIS discusses 15 million acres of sage grouse habitat, not 10 million.

 
“Fifteen million acres would be 5 million acres of private ground,” Grasty said.

 
Suther replied that the 15 million acres that are mentioned in the draft RMPA/EIS document include the planning area boundary, but she said the actual decision will be made on the 10 million acres of BLM land.

 
However, she added, “I think we have to make a decision on the private land and the impact to private land owners and the social and economic impact. And we have tried to do that, and I would like to hear some specific recommendations on how we can improve that in your written comment.”

 
Grasty replied, “I want to give you the specific one, and I guess I would like to hear why it wasn’t considered.  There’s an exact parallel with the combination of private and public land that was an economic disaster for the state in the spotted owl. Why can’t that be compared on a social-economic basis? There were tons of studies done afterward on that. And look at the final results of it — we’re out there killing a protected bird…Why aren’t we analyzing the spotted owl, which is such a direct parallel on economic and social?”

 
Mechanized access
Haak, who is a leader of the Open Roads Coalition, also asked how the RMPA/EIS’ proposed alternatives will impact mechanized access in Harney County.

 
Suther suggested that Haak study the travel management, transportation, and recreation sections of the draft RMPA/EIS.

 
She added that areas closed to OHV (off-highway vehicles) now would remain closed, and areas within priority sage grouse habitat would become limited to OHV use, meaning that these vehicles would be limited to existing roads and trails.

 
Ron Copeland, training officer for Harney County Search and Rescue, later asked whether any thought had been given to how the preferred alternative might impact search and rescue efforts, as mechanized equipment is used for rescue operations.

 
Suther replied that exceptions to the restrictions can be made “case by case.” She added that, “The OHV restriction is not a 100 percent kind of deal.” But added, “The idea would be to avoid the priority sage grouse habitat whenever practical.”

 
Transmission lines
Randy Whitaker, general manager of Harney Electric Cooperative Inc., said it was mentioned that transmission lines could be a problem for sage grouse, but it would cost $500 million to put Harney Electric’s transmission lines underground.

 
“That’s $400,000 per member out there. That’s a huge economic impact…And we can’t get the funding for that,” he said, adding that losing this source of electricity could be a public safety issue.

 
“There’s a lot of folks that are very dependent upon this electricity for breathing apparatuses and various other medical supplies,” he said.

 
Whitaker added that these concerns need to be included in the RMPA/EIS.

 
Rob Paramore later asked, “What happens when the power is gone? What are you going to do about the transmission lines?” He also asked, “At what point do farmers and ranchers become an endangered species?”

 
Suther said the specific action discussed in the RMPA/EIS does not require the burial of the lines. However, she said the document does state that, when the transmission lines come up for renewal, there’s an opportunity to determine whether it’s feasible to use some other method.

 
Fred Flippence, Harney Electric office manager, said Harney Electric has about 63 miles of transmission lines going through sage grouse lek areas that have been identified on the maps.

 
He said, “Our concern is, what happens when that easement comes up? Who is going to bear that cost? Since I’m the finance guy, I can tell you, we’ve invested about $40 million for our total system in Oregon and Nevada. So when somebody says, ‘Well we’re only going to ask you to do maybe $2 million,’ that’s a very large percentage of a $40 million company.”

 
In answer to Flippence’s question regarding who would bear the cost, Suther said, “When the right-of-way applicant comes in, if there are mitigation measures that we determine, then they [the applicants] are the ones that have to bear [the cost].”

 
Submitting comments
An electronic version of the draft RMPA/EIS can be viewed at: www.blm.gov/or/energy/opportunity/sagebrush.php.
Anyone interested in submitting comments may do so electronically by emailing: blm_or_so_gsg_planning_comments@blm.gov. Comments can also be mailed to: BLM-Greater Sage-Grouse DEIS 1220 S.W. 3rd Ave. Portland, OR 97204.

 
Public comments will be accepted until Feb. 20.


 

Tips to prevent spread of germs

 
To slow the spread of flu-like illness in our community, Harney District Hospital (HDH) will implement Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for its visitor policy. These recommendations include:

 
• All visitors must check in at the admitting desk;

 
• Patients may receive visits from immediate family members only;

 
• Those under 18 years of age may not visit patients or staff.

 
Those under 18 years of age are specifically noted simply because they transfer illness more easily than adults. In fact, children are often contagious for a longer period of time and may have no evidence of symptoms.

 
To prevent the spread of viruses at Harney District Hospital, hand-wash stations are available at hospital entrances for use by all who enter the building. In addition, masks will be available for use by patients with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. These masks will decrease the risk that the virus will spread to others.

 
It is important to note that simple actions will prevent the spread of germs that cause illness like influenza. These include:

 
• Getting yourself and family members vaccinated.

 
• Staying home from school or work, and avoiding contact with others if you do become sick with a flu-like illness. Avoiding visit HDH patients while you are ill.

 
• Washing hands often with soap and water.

 
• Covering your coughs and sneezes to prevent the spread of germs.

 
• Avoiding close contact (within six feet) with sick people.

 
• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

 
• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces at home, work or school.

 
While influenza can cause mild to severe illness, it is important to note that most people with the flu virus will recover without needing medical treatment, and their symptoms will resolve with plenty of fluids and rest.


Candidates file for re-election

Posted on January 8th in News

 

Last day to file is March 11

 
Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels and Harney County Assessor Ted Tiller have filed petitions seeking re-election in the 2014 primary election.

 
Ellen (Nellie) Franklin, Harney County treasurer, and William Cramer Jr., judge of the Circuit Court, 24th District (Harney and Grant counties), have also filed for re-election.

 
Voters approved Harney County Ordinance 2012-71, making county commissioner a nonpartisan position, beginning January 2014.
The last day to file for candidacy is March 11, 2014.

 
Candidates for precinct committeepersons may file beginning Feb. 1 through March 6.

 
The 2014 primary election will be May 20, 2014. For any further information, contact the county clerk’s office at 541-573-6641.


2014 New Year’s baby!

Posted on January 8th in News

 

Julez Three-Featherz Kelly with parents Jolene Purcella and Kelsey Kelly. (Photo by Ruthie's In His Image Photography)

Julez Three-Featherz Kelly with parents Jolene Purcella and Kelsey Kelly. (Photo by Ruthie’s In His Image Photography)

Julez Three-Featherz Kelly, 9 pounds, 9 ounces, was born Jan. 5, the first Harney County baby of 2014, to Jolene Purcella and Kelsey Kelly. Julez joins sisters, Laila Kelly, Kimara Kelly, Yolanda Snapp, Analicia Snapp, Victoria Purcella and Lae Vona Purcella, and brothers, Michael Purcella, Del Snapp, Damien Kelly and Anthony Purcella. The family received a gift basket from local merchants which featured an 8×10 photo from Ruthie’s In His Image Photography, $50 gift certificate from NAPA, $25 gift certificate from Gourmet and Gadgets, $25 gift certificate from Ericksons Thriftway, $5 gift certificate from Broadway Deli, $20 gift certificate from Studio 20, $25 gift certificate from Glory Days, soaps and lotions from Sage Country Inn, hamburger and sausage from Buermann’s Ranch Meats, toothbrush kit from Burns Dental Group, baby supplies from Safeway, blanket from King’s Variety, roadside kit from Les Schwab, stuffed animal from Ribbons and Roses, three gallons of milk from Reid’s Country Store, blanket from Country Lane Quilts, gift certificate from Balloon Express, lotions and supplies from Bank of Eastern Oregon, and a gift to be monogrammed from Eastern Oregon Stitch and Print.


A ‘Desert Dream’ come true

Posted on January 3rd in News

 

Store offers rare opportunities for young adults

by Samantha White Burns Times-Herald

(L-R): Sheila Cunningham (Burns High School life skills), Sandy Volle (Hines Middle School life skills), and Heather Sell (Slater Grade School life skills) each received a $600 donation from Lisa Tiller of Desert Dream Thrift Store. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE )

(L-R): Sheila Cunningham (Burns High School life skills), Sandy Volle (Hines Middle School life skills), and Heather Sell (Slater Grade School life skills) each received a $600 donation from Lisa Tiller of Desert Dream Thrift Store. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE )

Lisa Tiller had a dream. And that dream was to provide more opportunities for her son, Nicholas, and other people in Harney County who have developmental disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome, and other learning disabilities.

Tiller said students who have developmental disabilities may remain enrolled in high school until they are 21, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities for them to stay involved in this community after they graduate. As a result, some local parents of children with developmental disabilities have been forced to choose whether or not to move to areas where more resources are available.

But Tiller didn’t want to make that choice. She said Nicholas, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2, has developed relationships with people in Harney County.

“There are a lot of special things in this community,” she said, adding that Nicholas’ family lives here, and a lot of people have gotten to know him.

These relationships are especially important considering that social interaction can be difficult for people who have autism. According to the website, autismspeaks.org, autism is a general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development, characterized (in varying degrees) by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Autism can also be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some people who have autism excel in visual skills, music, art and math. And statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that around one in 88 American children have been identified as being on the autism spectrum.

Tiller said she wanted her son (and people like him) to be able to get a job and be a productive member of society, without having to move away from his family and the community he was raised in.

She said she enjoys shopping at thrift stores and thought opening a thrift store was something that she could do to help her son.

Tiller opened Desert Dream Thrift Store July 12, 2012. Now located at 362 N. Broadway Ave. in Burns, the nonprofit, donation-based store provides both support and opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

Students from the Burns High School (BHS) life skills class learn job and social skills through their work at the store. For example, in addition to learning about money, the students work with volunteers from the community and life skills classroom to price, shelf, sort and tag donated merchandise. They also prepare materials for recycling and complete basic store maintenance tasks, such as sweeping, dusting and cleaning windows. The students also use BHS’ washers and dryers to launder some of the clothing items that are donated to the store. In exchange, the store donates laundry supplies to the school.

As a reward for their hard work, the life skills students earn vouchers that can be exchanged for store merchandise. Tiller said clothing, jewelry and video games are some of the most popular items among the student workers.

In an effort to add opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities, Tiller, who is the program director, said she would like to expand the program to include adults who are 21 and older.

Tiller said the overall mission of the thrift store is to “try to support anyone in Harney County with a developmental disability.”

Her long-term goal is to open a group home for developmentally-disabled adults. But in the meantime, she continues to donate to local community organizations that help people who have developmental disabilities.

In fact, on Monday, Dec. 16, Tiller donated $600 apiece to the BHS, Hines Middle School and Slater Grade School life skills classrooms. She also donated $600 to The Committee for Harney County Special Needs, and another $600 to the BHS Youth Transition Program.

Because Desert Dream Thrift Store is all volunteer-based and depends entirely on community donations, Tiller said it is hard for her to know how much she will be able to donate each year, but she plans to make annual contributions to these types of local programs. Tiller said she has also donated store merchandise for silent auctions to support other local organizations, such as Harney County Home Health and Hospice.

Tiller said Desert Dream Thrift Store is doing better than she anticipated, and she is “really excited about it.” She added that she would really like to express her gratitude toward the community and everyone who has graciously volutnteered to help support the thrift store.

Tiller said community members can continue to support the store by volunteering, spreading the word, and donating items.

“Come and volunteer,” she said. “We always need that support. And keep bringing donations. That’s how we operate.”

Desert Dream Thrift Store is only able to accept donations during store hours. Winter hours are Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. But Tiller said additional hours may be added in the future. The store does not accept donations of toys, stuffed animals, cribs, highchairs, potty chairs, infant tubs, car seats, gasoline cans, sharp tools, or any dirty or broken items.

In addition to operating the thrift store, Tiller strives to help promote autism awareness. In fact, she recently gave a presentation about autism and the store’s mission to her youngest son, Jaden’s, fourth-grade class. Tiller said increasing autism awareness helps change the way people perceive the developmental disability.

“Perceptions of autism have improved, even since [Nicholas] was born,” she said.

Tiller has a background in working with children who have special needs, but she said opening a store “is a new adventure.” She invites anyone who has questions about Desert Dream Thrift Store to “stop by and learn more about it.”


 

Meeting to be held at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 7 in Burns

by Randy Parks Burns Times-Herald 

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is holding public meetings throughout Eastern Oregon on the draft Oregon Sub-Regional Greater Sage Grouse Resource Management Plan (RMP) Amendment/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is under a 90-day public comment period until Feb. 20, 2014.

These public meetings will allow attendees the opportunity to review the draft EIS, maps, and other informational materials, talk with project team members, and submit written comments on the project.

The meeting in Burns will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center.

The draft RMP Amendment/EIS considers six possible management alternatives for maintaining and increasing habitat for Greater Sage Grouse on BLM-administered lands in Oregon. Approximately 10 million acres of Oregon’s Greater Sage Grouse habitat is on BLM-administered lands. The decisions in this RMP Amendment apply only to BLM-administered lands in Oregon. They do not apply to private land. However, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty encourages people to attend the meeting because of the impact that the decision can make on a large number of residents.

“If you’re wondering who should attend the meeting, the answer is lots of folks,” Grasty said. “Hunters, and anyone who recreates on BLM land. Anyone who makes a living off the land, including miners and permit holders. Anyone with kids who would like them to have access to public lands. And anyone interested in economics in conjunction with the environment.”

Grasty added that the public’s input is needed to select an alternative to manage lands for sage grouse habitat.

“The social impact needs to be taken into consideration,” Grasty said. “Look what happened with the spotted owl decsion. Small towns all over the state were affected by that decision. People need to ask themselves, ‘How will this decision impact me, my family, and the long-term future?’ Then they need to offer solutions, if they have them.”

The meeting on Jan. 7 will be the only local opportunity for residents to comment in person on the draft RMP Amendment/EIS.

Written comments will be accepted until Feb. 20.


 

Grandma’s Cedar Chest claimed the top spot in the Hines contest. (Photo by Randy Parks)

Grandma’s Cedar Chest claimed the top spot in the Hines contest. (Photo by Randy Parks)

The city of Hines held their annual Christmas Lighting Contest on Wednesday, Dec. 18. The top three places receive a check from the city and an equivalent award from Oregon Trail Electric Co-op (OTEC).

 
The winners are as follows:
1st place — Grandma’s Cedar Chest, 525 N. Hwy 20, $100.

 
2nd place — Kevin and Cheryl Radinovich, 104 N. Hilltop, $50.

 
3rd place — Norma Hill, 342 N. Quincy, $25.

 
Honorable Mention —Dave and Betty Evertt, 304 E. Pettibone.

 
•••

The Jason Hill residence won the Burns lighting contest. (Photo by Randy Parks)

The Jason Hill residence won the Burns lighting contest. (Photo by Randy Parks)

The city of Burns judged the contestants of their Christmas Lighting Contest, sponsored by the city, OTEC and C&B Sanitary, Thursday, Dec. 19. The top three places receive $100, $50 and $25, respectively, and an equivalent award from OTEC.

 
The winners are as follows:
1st place — Jason Hill, 885 S. Egan.

 
2nd place — Roger and Sherry Kirkpatrick, 337 W. Lincoln.

 
3rd place — Max and Tina Mello, 845 S. Egan.

 
Honorable Mention —Patrick and Nova Wright, 168 E. D St.; Jeff and Kristi Cotton, 315 S. Diamond.


Grant funds for generator received

Posted on December 27th in News

 

Generator to power health department in emergency

 
by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

 
Harney County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tom Sharp attended the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held Dec. 18) to provide an update.

 
Sharp reported that the Harney County Public Health Department received a $10,000 special project grant, which will be combined with $13,000 of the county’s federal Emergency Management Performance Grant funds for a $23,000 electrical power backup generator upgrade project at the public health department.

 
Sharp explained that the health department currently relies on a portable generator to supply the facility with power during an outage. In addition to being more than 10 years old, Sharp said the department’s current generator has had some maintenance problems, and it is unable to provide power to the entire building, making it impossible to keep the  facility open during a power outage.

 
The new, 50 kilowatt, propane-fueled, electrical generator will automatically start up when it senses a loss of power, and it will be permanently installed at the health department.

 
Other county emergency management and public health department grant awards received in fiscal year 2013 total $189,631, and many of these grants require no local match funds. In fact, fiscal year 2013 grant awards represent a return to the county of $7.29 for each $1 of county match funds.

 
“Tom [Sharp] has done a great job of finding money,” Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said.

 
“So far, we have been 100 percent successful in [obtaining the grants that] we have gone for in Harney County,” Sharp said. “The state sees the county doing good things, and they are supporting us,” he added.

 
Sharp said he wanted to recognize Ron Copeland for his assistance, as well as, the volunteer groups that have helped with emergency management in Harney County.

 
•••
Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Coordinator Scott Fairley also attended the meeting to provide an update.

 
Fairley explained that the goal of Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions is to develop regional priorities by identifying similarities among local issues occurring in communities throughout the region. He said once regional priorities are identified, they are refined and presented to an advisory committee for review.

 
Commissioner Dan Nichols expressed frustration with this process.

 
“The whole process is wrong from the get-go,” he said, explaining, in part, that he does not think regionalization works in Eastern Oregon because the region is too large.

 
Nichols also expressed his belief that private business should dictate the direction that the state moves.

 
“It’s not a perfect system, but the intent is to move closer to perfection,” Fairley replied.

 
•••
Grasty provided an update regarding his review of the sage grouse Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

 
“I’ve got a couple dozen hours into reviewing this EIS, and I know I’m not unique,” Grasty said.

 
Grasty told the court that a professional writer is needed to help draft comments in response to the EIS. He said he inquired about the cost of these services, and received an estimate of “not to exceed $17,500.”

 
Grasty said he has asked multiple counties with sage grouse populations to help with funding, but he has only received a commitment for financial assistance from Lake County. He said he hopes Malheur County will also assist, as Malheur, Lake and Harney counties are “ground zero” for sage grouse.

 
Grasty said he wants to start the hiring process as soon as possible, but he warned the court  that, “We [Harney County] might get stuck with the bill.”

 
He added that he would like to have the Eastern Oregon Counties Association hire someone, and asked for court approval to appropriate funding to cover this cost up-front.

 
However he said, “I will do everything in my power to find other funding for this,” adding that he believed Rep. Cliff Bentz had some funding set aside to work on sage grouse, and he will find out whether any of that funding is available.

 
“If we have to do it, we’ll do it,” Nichols said, regarding covering the cost of the professional writer up-front. “At least we can hold our heads up to our constituents.”

 
The court agreed by consensus to fund hiring a consultant to draft the county’s response to the EIS.

 
Grasty also stated that public meetings regarding the EIS are coming up, and he would like to encourage the public to participate in them.

 
•••
During the public comment period, retiring Burns City Manager Don Munkers thanked the court for its cooperation and partnership during his tenure. He also introduced Kraig Cutsforth as his successor.

 
“I’ll tell you from the little bit that I have known Kraig [Cutsforth] that he’s going to do a great job. He’s going to be perfect for the city of Burns,” Munkers said.

 
The court welcomed Cutsforth and thanked Munkers for his years of service.

 
•••
Ron Copeland attended the meeting on behalf of the American Legion in order to propose transferring funds from the insurance payout that was received when a van that was donated by Teague Motor Company and an anonymous donor crashed. Grasty explained that the van accident resulted in a total loss, and the insurance settlement has been kept in a trust for use by veterans. The American Legion has proposed accepting those funds, and the county has received approval from Teague Motor Company and the anonymous donor to transfer the funds to the Legion. The Legion will bring a final, approved proposal to the next court meeting. Grasty thanked Copeland and Joe Oltman for their work on the proposal.

 
“I really want to say thanks to you, and I absolutely want to acknowledge Joe [Oltman] because I know he put a lot of time into this,” Grasty said.

 
•••
In other business, the court:

 
• received a letter from Tom Davis Livestock Inc. requesting that several county-right-of-way easements be vacated. Grasty suggested that Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella review the records and make a recommendation during the next court meeting;

 

• reviewed the 2012-2013 Workers’ Compensation audit, which reports that Harney County will receive a $22,727.66 credit. It will be a credit on the account for the fourth-quarter invoice;

 

• acknowledged a letter that was submitted by William Burstow, which announced his resignation from the Training and Employment Consortium Budget Committee. The court agreed to accept Burstow’s resignation and send him a thank you card;

 
• discussed recent changes made to the Brothers Oasis rest area. Grasty acknowledged that the changes were unfavorable to the public, and he said this is “a priority issue for our citizens;”

 
• recognized a letter received from Harney  Health District Board Chair Dan Brown regarding the hospital board’s desire to realign with the Central Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) and disconnect from the Eastern Oregon CCO. Grasty said the court will organize a meeting with interested parties to discuss the matter further.

 
Due to the New Year’s Day holiday, the next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


Smith named 2014 Grand Marshal

Posted on December 18th in News

 

Randi Johnson introduced as rodeo queen

 

Darrel Smith and his wife, Linda, with the bench crafted in his honor. (Submitted photo)

Darrel Smith and his wife, Linda, with the bench crafted in his honor. (Submitted photo)

Darrel Smith was introduced as the Grand Marshal for the 2014 Harney County Fair, Rodeo and Race Meet Sunday, Dec. 15, during the Volunteer Appreciation Christmas Party.

 
Smith served as vice-president of the fair association in 1977 and 1978, and president in 1979 and 1980. He was fair association director from 1974-1982, and again in 1986 and 1988.

 
Smith was appointed to the fair board by the county court in 1983 and 1984.

 
Smith was working for Les Schwab when he moved to Burns in 1969. His boss at the time, Orville Cheek, was on the fair board, and Cheek persuaded Smith to help out with the very first demolition derby, which at the time was held Friday night of fair week. Smith continued to stay involved with the derby for many years.

 
In introducing Smith, Harney County Fair Manager Don Slone noted that Smith gave many hours of his time, energy and experience to the fair, along with his wife, Linda.

 
Randi Johnson was introduced as the 2014 Harney County Rodeo Queen, and the fair theme for 2014 is “How the West Was Fun!”

 
Slone presented the 2013 fair report that cotained the following information:
Exhibits — 201 adults entered 1,198 open class exhibits; 160 youth entered 528 open class exhibits; 186 4-H and FFA youth entered 919 exhibits.

 
Fairgrounds events — There were 135 youth events, with 6,317 people attending. That is 24 more youth events, but 426 less people than in 2012.

 
There were 175 public events, with 24,236 people attending. This is three less events, but 1,956 more people attending than in 2012.

 
There were 80 private events, with 3,641 people attending. This is 25 more events and 1,325 more people attending than in 2012.

 
There was a total of 390 events, with 34,194 people attending. That is 46 more events and 2,855 more people.

 
Volunteers — There were 558 volunteers and sponsors working directly for the fair board in 2013. That is one more volunteer than in 2012.

 
Estimated hours by those volunteers were 8,242, or the equivalent of 3.96 full time employees.

 
At minimum wage, those volunteer hours would cost $84,668.

 
Financial statistics — The expense of the 2013 fair was $180,000. The income was $187,000.

 
The estimated gross dollars earned by 35 community organizations during the fair is $449,942, or $119,892 more than in 2012.

 
The 4-H and FFA auction alone grossed $239,724, or $56,294 more than in 2012.

 
The estimated gross dollars generated by community organizations at the fairgrounds during the off season was $110,432, or $6,821 more than in 2012.

 
The economic impact of the 2013 fair to Harney County is $5.5 million. Economists say, on average, money rolls over 7.5 times.


 

Former Burns resident makes move from Olympia

 
by Lindy Steeves
Burns Times-Herald

 

Kraig Cutsforth

Kraig Cutsforth

Kraig Cutsforth has been appointed the new city manager (CM) of Burns. Cutsforth will work with former CM Don Munkers until Friday, Dec. 20, to learn the ropes and acquaint himself with the position.

 
Cutsforth, who, until recently lived in Olympia, Wash. and worked for the state, said he is excited to get away from the city and return to Harney County.

 
“I was here in the ‘70s for five or six years,” Cutsforth said. “I went to grade school, junior high, and part of high school here. So I have an idea of what Burns is, and I think that will help me out.”

 
Cutsforth graduated high school in Pendleton, then eventually found his way to Washington. He stated that he is especially excited for his house to sell, so that his wife can join him in Burns.

 
“When I worked for the state up in Washington, I did a lot of HR and things like that for the state for different agencies,” Cutsforth said.
He also commented that in the 12 years he lived and worked in Olympia, he had also worked in the state unemployment department, but wanted a change of pace and scenery.

 
“I applied for this job because I have a daughter that just turned 18, and it’s time for me to be able to take back my life,” Cutsforth said with a laugh. “A lot of the reason I was up in Washington was because of her, to give her a place to be and a place to grow up. Now I think it’s my turn to come back and help some of the communities I’ve been at. And I really wanted to get out of the traffic and out of the people. That’s a lot of the reason I came back.”

 
With CM Munkers stepping down and three newly elected city councilors, Cutsforth admitted that it would be a learning process for the whole group, but said he was excited to get to know the council and the community so that they could best serve the needs of Harney County.

 
“The one thing you have about Burns, or any other small community, is you can’t come in and never make huge changes. I think that’s a fallacy in many people’s minds. My goal is to make the day-to-day operations as efficient as I can, not to say they’re not efficient right now, because this is my first week, and I just don’t know yet. But, this first year, my goal is to look at what Don [Munkers] has done, and bring some of the things up to the 21st century, like personnel policies, computer systems, some operations, etc. I’ll probably take a lot of ideas from the city council. It looks like they’ve got a good one now that it’s all full. And then I want to slowly put changes in as they occur. I imagine that they’re going to be pretty minor at first. And many changes will depend on the opportunities that come around,” Cutsforth said.

 
He did state that he wished he had a little more time with Munkers before he took the reins, just to learn as much as possible, but that he was looking forward with what he’d learned already.

 
“I have a very short period of time to work with Don to learn what he’s doing, what he’s done, what he forsees, and where I’ll find my challenges and opportunities,” Cutsforth said.

 
Cutsforth said that he didn’t expect or plan on any large changes, and  he didn’t feel that was what the city of Burns was looking for.

 
“Being on a city council is not something new to me; I was on the Hermiston City Council for seven years during the ‘90s, in a very robust environment. So it will be interesting to take it a little bit slower here. But that’s what I like,” Cutsforth said.

 
Cutsforth said that he  mainly planned to concentrate on policy and operations.

 
“The main areas you have here are your airport, the fire crews, the police, and the relationship with the city, county, and Hines. I assume that’s where I’m going to spend a lot of my time.”

 
He also stated that one of his main goals was to make minutes, budgets and meetings more transparent to the public. “We have nothing to hide,” he said. Cutsforth hopes to do this by working with the council and upgrading the council’s website by posting the information online. Cutsforth also said that he was excited to learn and “figure things out” with the new council members.

 
“It’s going to be a learning process for all of us, but I think that this will wind up being a good time to start because I get to develop with them,” he said.

 
Cutsforth commented that he was looking forward to input from the community and hoped that there would be more from Harney County than areas he had experienced in the past.

 
“I think you’ll see me at quite a few of the other meetings that are occuring at first. At least to introduce myself with the county commisioners, Hines and the chamber. And I plan to understand what’s happening at the planning commision and be as accessible as possible. I’m not going anywhere,” Cutsforth said.


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