Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jim Bishop has announced his upcoming retirement from Harney District Hospital (HDH).

He will leave his position with HDH in August 2015, just shy of 15 years of service to the hospital as both the chief financial officer (CFO) and CEO.

Over the last five years, the Harney County Health District Board of Directors and HDH administration have developed a succession plan, which provides an organized approach to filling open positions with qualified candidates. This plan allows current HDH employees to bolster their education through district-sponsored trainings and tuition support, and develops a process for recruiting external candidates. Both approaches provide assistance in filling open HDH positions with existing or new staff.

The CEO is the only HDH position that is hired by, and reports directly to, the Health District Board. The board has already contracted with an advisor who is well-versed in Oregon’s rural hospitals to facilitate the planning process for recruiting this important position.

A strong health district is valuable to our community, not only in terms of economic benefit and employment opportunities, but also in ensuring that top-quality healthcare is readily available in our remote area.

HDH has seen much growth under Bishop’s leadership. Among other accomplishments, the new HDH facility was built and moved into; 24/7 general and emergency surgical coverage is now the norm; a new electronic health record (EHR) system has been installed; the Swing Bed, Infusion Clinic, Cardiac Rehabilitation and Sleep Study programs were developed; and HDH Family Care and HDH Physical Therapy became departments of the hospital.

The CEO Recruiting Committee consists of three board members, two administrators, one physician, and two members of the public, in addition to the advisor. Recruiting, preliminary interviews, and reference checks will take place throughout the remainder of this year, with final candidate interviews and board selection in early 2015.

 


Board discusses EOCCO

 by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

During the Harney County Health District Board of Directors meeting (held March 26), the board agreed to approve the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Recruitment Committee charter.

The eight-person committee, which was approved by the board during its previous meeting (held Feb. 26), will work with an advisor to recruit a CEO for Harney District Hospital (HDH).

Current HDH CEO, Jim Bishop, announced that he will retire in August 2015, after almost 15 years of service to the hospital.

Board chair Dan Brown  explained that the committee will not make the hiring decision. Instead, it will make recommendations to the board. (See story titled, “Hospital CEO announces he will retire next year.”)

•••

During the March 26 meeting, CEO Bishop shared some of the information that was presented at the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO) meeting with the board.

Bishop reported that an “unusually large number of people” in Harney County signed up for Medicaid coverage, and most of them (more than 90 percent) are assigned to HDH Family Care.

Bishop also reported that the majority of patient costs are concentrated in a small number of people. In fact, only 5 percent of patients account for 55 percent of costs. For Harney County, that 5 percent represents 72 people, Bishop said.

Dr. Kevin Johnston explained that these are the patients who have required intensive, regular contact as a means of avoiding even more expensive treatment and wasted/duplicate testing.

Dr. Johnston said many of these patients have both mental and physical health issues, possess a limited subset of skills, and lack sufficient social support. As a result, many of them call the ambulance and go to the emergency room multiple times a week.

Dr. Johnston said these are the type of patients who may be ideally managed by primary providers and clinical care coordinators.

Clinical care coordinators are licensed health care professionals who, as part of a multidisciplinary team, provide daily care management services that are determined by individualized care plans.

However, Dr. Johnston added that the top 10 users of medical care would all have separate problems, and financial resources may need to be committed based on classes of disease.

Dr. Johnston said the goal is to find ways to save money, while helping these patients in a more appropriate way.

CEO Bishop added that patients will probably be selected based on their clinical needs, rather than just money.

“That’s what we need to do — select clinically, and the money will follow some time in the future,” he said.

Board member Tim Smith said it seems logical for care providers to focus on the conditions that they have the talent and skill set to deal with.

CEO Bishop also shared the inpatient maternity statistics from December 2012 through November 2013. These statistics, which were presented at the EOCCO meeting, show that HDH had the highest rate of Cesarean deliveries (C-sections).

However, Brown said that, because the statistics were taken from a small sample size, they aren’t really valid.

CEO Bishop agreed, stating, “If you changed three of those babies from C-sections to not C-sections, we are average.”

Dr. Johnston said, because HDH does not have a neonatal intensive care unit, doctors are willing to err on the side of calling a C-section early, rather than pushing an infant to the point that he/she has to be resuscitated or flown to another facility.

The statistics also showed that HDH had the lowest rate of infants requiring neonatal intensive care.

•••

The board received an update from the Paragon project managers regarding the hospital’s change to the Paragon electronic health record system.

One of the project managers explained that the goal of the change is to improve the patient care experience by aligning HDH with the St. Charles Health System.

Another project manager added that the system update is taking place on an “extremely aggressive time line,” but a third manager said the update is on track to meet the June 9 deadline.

HDH CFO Catherine White said a percentage of the money that was invested into the system will be reimbursed if project deadlines are met.

•••

Sammie Masterson (HDH human resources) said the hospital participated in the “active shooter” training that was held Friday, March 14.

“It was quite the undertaking with all the entities involved,” Masterson said. However, she added that it was “a great cooperative effort” and said she was glad the hospital participated in the training.

Masterson and Chief Nursing Officer Barb Chambers recognized HDH Safety Officer Perrilyn Wells for her role in organizing the training.

Chambers said staff from all over the facility stepped outside their regular roles to participate.

“The team work that was happening was amazing,” Chambers added.

•••

In other business, the board:

• appointed CFO White as the budget officer;

• appointed six people to the budget committee;

• learned from HDH Development Coordinator Denise Rose that some HDH employees have expressed interest in enhancing their skills and moving to other areas of the hospital. She said some are even going back to school to earn additional qualifications. Rose said staff members’ desire to work internally to find better and more fulfilling jobs shows that they want to stay at the hospital;

• learned from Rose that HDH and Symmetry Care are working together to apply for a grant from the EOCCO to be used toward a licensed clinical social worker position. Rose said HDH has enjoyed building a relationship with Symmetry Care;

• learned from Chambers that feedback from patients regarding HDH staff has been positive.

“Staff here are doing an exceptional job in every department,” she said.

The next board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, in the hospital board conference room.


Formal complaint filed against superintendent

 by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

With a room full of concerned parents and citizens hoping for a resolution in a dispute between Harney County School District (HCSD) No. 3 and Silvies River Charter School (SRCS), HCSD No. 3 board chair Ralph Dickenson squelched any sort of input on the matter by declaring that there would be no public discussion allowed at the meeting.

Dickenson’s declaration came at the outset of a special meeting of the HCSD No. 3 board of directors on Thursday, March 20.

At the center of the dispute is a complaint filed Feb. 19 by SRCS Superintendent Katie Baltzor  against HCSD No. 3 Superintendent Marilyn McBride.

Dickenson stated that he would read the complaint and the response from McBride aloud, but wouldn’t allow public comment on the matter.

Baltzor pointed out that SRCS was put on the agenda under both reports and action items, and she asked, “But you won’t allow us to speak?”

“No. We’re not going to have a public discussion,” Dickenson replied.

SRCS board member Nancy Walker said, “We’re talking about kids in our community, and this is a bad example for kids and families. Our intent is for District 3 to be strong and viable. We don’t see it as a competition.”

In response, Dickenson said, “If it wasn’t your intent to turn it into a circus, you wouldn’t have brought this many people.”

Baltzor then asked the rest of the board members if Dickenson was speaking for them as well, when he stated that no one from the public would be allowed to speak, and there was no definitive answer to the direct question.

Dickenson then read the complaint and the response to those in attendance.

The complaint charges that McBride failed “to follow the provisions set forth in ORS 339.260 and OAR 581-021-0255. These laws require the former educational agency to transfer the student records no later than 10 days after a request is received from a school.”

The letter goes on to say that HCSD No. 3 secretaries indicated SRCS requests go directly to McBride, and the secretaries had been additionally instructed by McBride to not fax transcripts, as they must be sent to her office.

The letter noted, “Some of the records requested involved students who received denial letters by McBride a minimum of two days (maximum 14 days) after being enrolled and already attending Silvies. All of the students appealed the denials and the denials were thus overturned by ODE (Oregon Department of Education).”

Baltzor’s letter stated that SRCS would view the complaint as being resolved when:

“1. Superintendent McBride sends all of the delinquent records/transcripts immediately.

2. All future record requests shall be sent to SRCS to comply with the aforementioned statutes.

3. The superintendent shall cease the practice of holding records for students [that] the District intends to send SRCS enrollment denial letters [to].

4. Presuming the District intends to follow Oregon statutes for SRCS as they do for other schools, the superintendent shall allow building and district secretaries to process all SRCS record as received, e.g., eliminate superintendent authorization requirements for SRCS, fax transcripts when requested, mail records directly to SRCS, etc.”

In her response, dated Feb. 24, McBride  stated that, “Generally, according to ORS 338.125 the student who wishes to enroll in a virtual public charter school does not need the approval of the school district where the student is a resident before the student enrolls in the virtual charter school. Notwithstanding, the subsection and ORS 339.133, which may be information you have not had the chance to review, states that if more than 3 percent of the students who reside in the district are enrolled in virtual charter schools that are not sponsored by the school district, a student who is a resident of the school district must receive approval from the district BEFORE enrolling in a virtual public charter school.”

The letter then notes that enrollment of HCSD No. 3 students in SRCS has exceeded 3 percent of the students who reside in the district, and therefore, any new applications require the student to first seek approval from the district before enrolling at SRCS. Failure to do so would result in the student being enrolled at SRCS in violation of state law.

McBride wrote once the 3 percent limitation was reached, SRCS enrolled students prior to approval from either the district or the Oregon Department of Education, a practice that doesn’t meet Oregon statute standards. As long as the 3 percent limitation has been exceeded, the district will not send records for any new student seeking enrollment at SRCS unless the procedures described in the statutes are satisfied.

She added the district will make reasonable effort to send records with record requests following approval for enrollment either by the district or the state, and “I trust SRCS will no longer enroll students prior to approval and in violation of state law.”

In closing, McBride stated that record requests must be sent to the district office, as school secretaries do not have information related to any denials due to the 3 percent limitation.

Baltzor then asked if her letter to the school board, dated March 5, was going to be read? She explained that SRCS was following the district’s complaint process, and because an adequate resolution had not been reached, the next step was to bring the complaint to the board.

Dickenson asked how the letter was substantially different from the first, and said he didn’t think it needed to be read.

Baltzor pointed out it was a rebuttal to McBride’s response, and deserved to be heard. “It cites law that is key to the entire argument,” she said.

Dickenson relented, and allowed the March 5 letter to be read. In it, Baltzor points to the Oregon statutes and administrative rules (OAR) that back her argument, and states that McBride is in violation of OAR 581-021-0255 by not providing student records in the time frame set by the OAR.

In response to McBride’s assertion that SRCS was in violation of state law with their enrollment practices, Baltzor states that SRCS has followed the law. She explained that once a student is denied enrollment by HCSD No. 3, and until overturned by ODE in the appeal process, the student is withdrawn from SRCS. That means SRCS does not receive basic school support  for the student during that time period, but they continue to provide educational services.

Following the reading of the letters, Dickenson stated that it was the board’s intention to meet the laws, as they apply.

When asked if the charter school would receive a written response from the board, Dickenson replied, “No. Our complaint policy says we may or may not. Our intent is to meet the rule of the law.”

Baltzor asked that the charter school receive some sort of response, so they could decide which direction to go next, and asked if the board could respond within two weeks time.

“No, we didn’t say that,” stated Dickenson. “We will respond, just don’t know when. Maybe through an attorney.”

“Our position is that we would like a response within two weeks,” said Baltzor. “If there’s no response by then, we’ll seek legal counsel.”

“There’s no time limit, but we will respond in some manner,” Dickenson replied.

•••

Burns High School (BHS) FFA Advisor Jimmy Zamora told the board the BHS FFA chapter went to Louisville, Ky., for the national convention, and gave a short slide presentation.

He then outlined three upcoming trips for the group, which are the Oregon State FFA Convention March 21-24 in Bend; the Strawberry Mountain FFA District Shop Skills competition April 10 in Ontario; and the Oregon State FFA Career Development Event May 4-6 in Corvallis.

The board approved a motion to allow the trips.

The board also approved the list of paid and volunteer coaches for the district, and teaching positions for Kathy Wassom and Gordon Black.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting for the school board is 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8.


Acting Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin led the public meeting to discuss the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE)

Acting Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin led the public meeting to discuss the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision. (Photo by SAMANTHA WHITE)

Comments accepted until June 11

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

A public meeting was held Tuesday, March 18, at the Harney County Community Center to discuss the United States Forest Service (USFS) Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision.

 

Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision

The Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision will impact the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests (which are collectively referred to as the Blue Mountains National Forests).

Steve Beverlin, acting forest supervisor on the Malheur National Forest, explained that the National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires forest plans to be revised at least every 10 to 15 years, but plans for the Blue Mountains National Forests haven’t been revised since 1990.

“In essence, these plans are old,” Beverlin said. “A lot of things have changed.”

Beverlin explained that economic, social and ecological conditions have changed; new laws, regulations and policies are in place; new information that is based on monitoring and scientific research is available; and amendments have been completed to incorporate the best-available science.

He added that the three primary goals of the proposed revision are to promote ecological integrity, economic well-being, and social well-being.

“The balance of those three things is what our decision should try to achieve,” Beverlin said.

Examples of desired conditions for ecological integrity include maintaining healthy forests, water and soil quality, species diversity, wildland fires, and plant species composition.

Examples of desired conditions for economic well-being include providing access to forest products, livestock grazing, recreation, and mineral and geological resources.

Examples of desired conditions for social well-being include maintaining a sense and value of place, culturally-important areas, recreational opportunities, scenic qualities and wildlife values.

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

 

The revision process

Numerous public meetings, as well as meetings with local, state, and federal agencies and tribes, have been held since 2004 to discuss the proposed revision.

Public scoping began in March 2010, and the USFS used comments gathered during this time to develop the Proposed Revised Land Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RLMP/DEIS).

Beverlin explained that the RLMP/DEIS offers alternatives, which range from A to F.

• Alternative A is the same forest plan that is currently in place.

• Alternative B encompasses the proposed action that was sent out for public scoping in 2010.

• Alternative C proposes the greatest amount of wilderness and least amount of public access.

• Alternative D was developed to address some of the counties’ concerns.

• Alternative E is the USFS’ preferred plan, and it doubles the outputs that are currently in place.

• Alternative F is similar to Alternative E, but F proposes a lower level of outputs than E.

Beverlin explained that the output levels refer to the Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ) for timber harvest.

The RLMP/DEIS was released to the public on March 14, marking the beginning of the 90-day, public-comment period.

Public meetings (such as the one held in Burns March 18) are currently being conducted to introduce the RLMP/DEIS, solicit public comment, and offer an opportunity for people to ask questions.

 

Judge Grasty offers his comments

During the March 18 meeting, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty shared his comments concerning the RLMP/DEIS.

In a written synopsis of his comments, Grasty explained that Harney County has been a cooperating agency in the development of this revision for the last 10 years.

“We have attempted to be a proactive participant and provided much input,” Grasty wrote. “That effort does not mean we agree with this final product. Simply stated, in my opinion, the Proposed Revised Land Management Plan does not work for this community. I see little, if any, opportunity for social or economic stability in this plan for Harney County.”

Grasty added that, with an ASQ of only 55 million board feet, he saw a conflict with the commitment made for the 10-year stewardship contract to provide 75 million board feet of saw logs each year.

“There are those out there who believe 55 million is the cap. I hope it’s the floor,” Grasty said.

He added that the economic and social needs of the people and communities were not adequately reflected in the proposed plan.

Some of Grasty’s other concerns addressed:

• the proposed plan’s lack of attention to hunting and fishing;

• campsite closures on the Malheur National Forest;

• the proposed plan’s failure to mention logging and timber work as a goal for promoting social well-being;

• management of county roads that predate the USFS;

• whether decisions will be made based on budgetary restrictions;

• miscalculations concerning the county’s Wildland-Urban Interface acreage;

• the proposed plan’s failure to address the social and economic impacts of forestry decisions that were made prior to the 1990s.

Grasty suggested that Dr. Jerry F. Franklin and Dr. K. Norman Johnson’s  recommendations concerning dry-side restoration of Eastern Oregon forests be included in the proposed plan.

“It’s good science, and it’s backed with years and years of experience,” Grasty said.

He concluded by stating that, because he was unable to confer with the court prior to the meeting, his comments do not reflect the court as a whole.

Beverlin thanked Grasty for his comments and complimented his ability to represent the people of Harney County.

 

Weed management

A member of the audience asked whether the RLMP/DEIS will address noxious weed management. And there was an additional question concerning whether the proposed plan will discuss which chemicals can be used to treat weeds.

Beverlin said a separate, site-specific EIS is being developed to address the actual treatment of weeds, and this EIS will address chemicals use.

 

Timber Contracts

Brad Clemens, a private timber contractor, expressed concern about large timber contracts.

“Big contracts feed the rich man and kill the poor man,” he said.

Beverlin said, in an effort to help address this issue, a small sales forester was hired to identify work areas with contractors.

Clemens also expressed frustration concerning the size of materials that are being put into brush piles.

“That’s a total waste in my opinion,” he said.

Beverlin said it costs money to burn these brush piles, and said allowing contractors to extract materials may be a cost-effective solution.

Clemens added that the USFS hires contractors from an itemized list, which takes away from smaller-scale contractors.

Beverlin replied that the USFS can help smaller-scale contractors get into the system by showing them the steps they need to complete in order to qualify. He added that the USFS can notify contractors when contracts go out, and prioritize benefit to the local community over price when awarding bids.

 

Public Comments

Beverlin encouraged the public to submit comments regarding the RLMP/DEIS stating, “We need help. You guys live in and are tied to the land. You have more of an intuitive understanding of this land.”

In addition to accepting written comments, members of the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision Team were available during the meeting to type and electronically-submit verbal comments.

Comments concerning the RLMP/DEIS will be accepted until June 11.

They can be submitted electronically at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/BlueMountainForestPlanRevisionComments, or mailed to: Blue Mountains Plan Revision Team, P.O. Box 907, Baker City, OR 97814. For assistance, call 541-523-1246 or 541-523-1302.

An electronic copy of the RLMP/DEIS can be found online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa-whitman/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprdb5247447.

Printed copies will be available at the local library and USFS office, and the document is also available on CD.

 

Making a decision

After June 11, the comments will be reviewed, analyzed and considered toward the finalization of the RLMP/DEIS.

The final plan/EIS will be available in the summer of 2015, which is when the objection process begins.

Anyone wishing to obtain standing to object, must submit a comment with their name and contact information during the public comment period.

Resolution of objections will take place in the fall of 2015, before Records of Decision are signed.


R.E.A.D. program began in 1993 

 by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Claire Larson, registered handler, and Nasika visited Mrs. Revak’s first-grade class to introduce students to Waggin’ Tales, a new program at the Harney County Library that grants children the opportunity to read with registered therapy dogs the first and third Saturdays of each month.

Claire Larson, registered handler, and Nasika visited Mrs. Revak’s first-grade class to introduce students to Waggin’ Tales, a new program at the Harney County Library that grants children the opportunity to read with registered therapy dogs the first and third Saturdays of each month.

A couple of competent canines are now available by appointment at the Harney County Library (located at 80 W. D St. in Burns) the first and third Saturdays of the month.

The local library launched its Waggin’ Tales program Saturday, Jan. 4, to give children the opportunity to read aloud to the attentive, non-judgmental ears of furry friends, Tova and Nasika.

These disciplined dogs are not your run-of-the-mill “Rovers.” They are both therapy dogs who have also been registered through the Reading Education Assistance Dogs ® (R.E.A.D.) program.

According to its brochure, R.E.A.D. was launched in 1999 by Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA). Founded in 1993, ITA is a Utah-based, nonprofit organization that was created to “enhance quality of life through the human-animal bond.”

The brochure states that animals are ideal reading partners because they help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure; listen attentively; don’t judge, laugh or criticize; allow children to proceed at their own pace; and are less intimidating than peers.

The brochure also states that, “When a R.E.A.D. dog is listening, the environment is transformed, a child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation, and learning occurs.”

R.E.A.D. uses registered therapy animals that have been trained and tested for health, safety, appropriate skills and temperament. They volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team.

Tova and Nasika are teamed up with Claire Larson, assistant librarian at the Harney County Library, who is their registered handler.

Larson explained that, in addition to developing excellent obedience and behavioral skills, R.E.A.D. dogs need to be highly interactive. For example, they are taught to look at the books and put their paws on the pages. Some dogs are even taught to sneeze as a cue to encourage children to look difficult words up in the dictionary.

“R.E.A.D. wants a higher level of interaction,” Larson said, adding that dogs are taught cues to benefit struggling readers.

The pooches are clicker trained, which is a method of positive-reinforcement training that uses a clicking sound to inform animals when they complete a task correctly.

Larson said her dogs learned to associate the sound with rewards, such as food, a toy or a ride in the car. She added that clicker training changes dogs from “reactive” to “active and engaging,” as they become eager to repeat behaviors in order to obtain incentives. Larson added that, once dogs master simple tasks, several trained behaviors can be chained together to teach increasingly complex skills.

“They have to do four or five things in sequence to earn a click,” Larson explained. Adding, “It’s pretty amazing what they can be taught to do.”

But, much like people, dogs have unique personalities and character flaws that can interfere with the training process.

For example, Tova is shy, and she tends to get overwhelmed in large crowds. On the contrary, Nasika might be a little too outgoing.

Larson described Nasika as a “wild child,” adding that she “gets goofy” and likes to dance and chase her tail. Nasika also needs to learn how to be quiet in the library.

“She has a comment for everything,” Larson said, adding that she likes to “howl and talk.”

But Larson — who has been adopting rescue dogs and horses for several years; volunteered locally as a 4-H dog-club leader; worked at a greyhound track; raced whippets; and run her own dogsled team — will tell you that training animals is a constant, ongoing process.

Larson, who has been working with her dogs on obedience for quite some time, received help from youth at Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility. For example, the youth helped “socialize” Tova, teaching her how to interact with young people. They also taught her to wave and shake hands. River, another one of Larson’s dogs, has also been moonlighting at the facility. And, because the youth and dogs have enjoyed the experience, Larson decided to continue and expand the facility’s pooch program.

At the library, Waggin’ Tales will continue semimonthly until after April, and restart in October. There is still time to schedule an appointment with a proficient pup.

For more information about Waggin’ Tales, or to book a 15 to 20-minute reading session with Nasika or Tova, contact the library at 541-573-6670.


The Bureau of Land Management, Burns District Office, has prepared and released for public input, the Steens Mountain Comprehensive Recreation Plan (CRP): an Environmental Assessment (EA) for expected recreational activities and associated facilities that may be desired in the Steens Mountain area, including, but not limited to: campgrounds, trails, interpretive sites, access points, viewing areas and dispersed recreation opportunities. Among other things, if it is determined to be in the best public interest, the Steens Mountain CRP final decision may add to the non-motorized trail system and could close non-motorized or motorized routes designated under the Steens Mountain Travel Management Plan.

Eric Haakenson, CRP project lead, said, “Anyone interested in the future of recreation on Steens Mountain should give the CRP a read. The plan analyzes a number of things that could change or enhance your recreation experience in the area. We welcome any input – positive or critical – on the proposed activities and facilities.”

All documents pertaining to the CRP are available in hard copy at the BLM Burns District Office at the address listed below, online at www.blm.gov/or/districts/burns/plans/index.php, and at the Harney County Library, 80 W D St, Burns. If you have comments, questions or input regarding the EA, submit them postmarked by May 3, to Eric Haakenson, Outdoor Recreation Planner:

By mail: Burns District Bureau of Land Management, Attn: Eric Haakenson, 28910 Hwy. 20 West, Hines, OR 97738.

Email: ehaakens@blm.gov

Fax: 541-573-4411.

After consideration of your constructive, substantive comments, a decision outlining the action(s) to be taken within the scope of the EA will be developed and issued. For further information about the Steens Mountain CRP, or to have your name added to the project mailing list, contact the CRP Project Lead at 541-573-4400.


Kids Club receives OCF bonus

Posted on March 12th in News

Club provides safe place after school

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Representing the Oregon Community Foundation, Fred Flippence presented a $1,000 bonus grant to representatives of the Kids Club of Harney County. From (L-R): Liz Taylor, Alicia Goodson, Sheila Angell, Amber Juhnke, Patty McNeil, Jeni Stevens, Fred Flippence and Chris Siegner. (Photo by Samantha White)

Representing the Oregon Community Foundation, Fred Flippence presented a $1,000 bonus grant to representatives of the Kids Club of Harney County. From (L-R): Liz Taylor, Alicia Goodson, Sheila Angell, Amber Juhnke, Patty McNeil, Jeni Stevens, Fred Flippence and Chris Siegner. (Photo by Samantha White)

During the Community Response Team meeting on Wednesday, March 5, Fred Flippence presented the Kids Club of Harney County with a $1,000 bonus grant on behalf of the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF).

The bonus is in addition to the three-year grant that the Kids Club is already receiving from OCF to help fund programs for local youth.

“The Kids Club has become a leader in the community for youth issues,” Flippence said, explaining OCF’s decision to continue providing financial support.

 

About the Kids Club

The club was originally established as the Boys & Girls Club of Harney County by a group of volunteers in 2001. However, when organizers decided to branch out on their own in 2008, the Kids Club of Harney County was created.

According to its website, Kids Club of Harney County provides “a safe and enjoyable place for children aged 6 to 17 to come after school.”

The club is open on school days (Monday through Thursday) from 3:20-6 p.m. It is also open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

In addition to providing healthy snacks, the club offers programs such as bully prevention, self esteem for girls, monthly cooking and nutrition classes, weekly arts and craft projects, and outdoor-play activities.

 

About OCF

According to its website, OCF is a permanent endowment for community-improvement efforts throughout the state of Oregon.

Flippence explained that money donated to the foundation is distributed via grants and scholarships.

OCF founder, William Swindells, started the foundation with a $63,000 contribution in 1973. Today, OCF has more than $1.4 billion under management, and more than $66 million in grants and scholarships were distributed in 2012.


Information center to be at courthouse

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Harney County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Tom Sharp was present at the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held March 5) to discuss the “active shooter” training that will be held at Burns High School (BHS) between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, March 14.

Sharp said the full-scale exercise will include multiple, local law-enforcement agencies, as well as Harney District Hospital (HDH) and EMS staff.

Approximately 40 students from the BHS leadership class will participate in the training, and a moulage makeup-artist will be on hand to create realistic-looking wounds.

“That experience is pretty graphic, even though it’s an exercise,” Sharp said, explaining that role-playing could cause issues for some students.

Thus, all of the students who will be involved in the exercise will receive crisis counseling when the training concludes.

Additionally, Sharp said a realistic information center will be set up at the Harney County Courthouse to field phone calls and provide consistent messaging to the public. Harney County School District No. 3 Superintendent Dr. Marilyn McBride, Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup, and HDH Development Coordinator Denise Rose will be involved with this effort.

“As you can imagine, if we were to have a real event of this type, within minutes, you would have media calling from all over the country,” Sharp said, explaining the importance of the mock information center.

Sharp added that, during the training, participants will repeatedly state that they are engaged in an exercise in order to prevent the public from mistaking the training for a real event.

Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels said he was glad the exercise will be conducted on a non-school day, and he expressed concern about a student committing a “copycat” or “hack” during the training.

Sharp said these concerns were addressed during the planning process, which began in December.

“There has been so much good in bringing agencies together in planning meetings since December,” Sharp said. “We’ve accomplished so much already.”

Sharp also informed the court about a Fiscal Year 2013 Emergency Management Performance Grant application. If secured, funding from the grant will be used toward the purchase of yellow, flame-retardant, long-sleeve shirts for Rangeland Fire Protection Association volunteers.

Sharp said, in addition to providing personal protection, the shirts would help identify the volunteers and  make them highly-visible to responders in the air.

The grant application is due March 12.

Sharp also informed the court that the Burns Interagency Fire Zone will meet Thursday, March 20 at 9 a.m. at the Burns Bureau of Land Management  (BLM) District Office.

In addition to discussing the August 2013 “Shooting Range Fire,” the meeting will address efforts to re-establish the urban fire line break to better protect the cities of Burns and Hines. Plans for the April 23 table-top exercise for inter-agency, radio-communication coordination will also be discussed during the meeting.

•••

The court discussed draft proposals for using Title II funding.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said Christy Cheyne, Emigrant Creek district ranger, will need the county’s priority recommendations soon.

The court agreed to recommend prioritizing the funding of two Oregon Youth Conservation Corps crews at a cost of $80,772, as well as hazardous-fuels reduction on 2,089 acres at a cost of $583,000. The court’s lower priority would be the Dry Creek Greater Sage Grouse habitat restoration project on 800 acres at a cost of $28,620. The court agreed that more information is needed about the sage grouse project.

•••

The court also discussed ongoing issues concerning sage grouse management.

Grasty said the court will stay on as a cooperating agency and remain heavily involved with providing comments concerning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision regarding whether to list sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

“We’ve got to stay at the table as long and as much as we can,” Grasty said.

The court, along with Sharp, discussed Rep. Cliff Bentz’s bill (House Bill 4093), which provides privacy protection for landowners who voluntarily enter into  agreements with soil and water conservation districts to protect sage grouse.

The bill passed, and it is on its way to the governor for his signature.

•••

In other business, the court:

• received a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding Grasty’s request to revert back to the flood boundary map from 1978. Grasty plans to respond to FEMA’s letter;

• upon recommendation from Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella, accepted a bid from Ed Staub and Sons Petroleum Inc. for fuel;

• approved the 2014 Fund Exchange Agreement between Harney County and the Oregon Department of Transportation;

• upon recommendation from Drushella, approved an application from Golden Rule Farms Inc. for an approach off of Miller Canyon Road in Riley;

• discussed open positions on the Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council and Steens Mountain Advisory Council;

• received an email from Lanny Quackenbush, Department of State Lands (DSL) Eastern Oregon regional manager, regarding the status of a proposed land exchange between DSL and Tree Top Ranches LP;

• received a notice of an Environmental Assessment from the Vale District of the BLM regarding a request to amend a ditch right-of-way in Malheur County;

• received an update from Grasty concerning his recent trip to the annual National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.;

• learned from Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols that a copy of the Early Learning Council hub contract has been received.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, March 19, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


Owners of RV park get go-ahead to expand

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Hines Common Council approved a business license for Left Coast Truck & Equipment Parts Inc., owned by Doug Murphy.

Murphy told the council the business will be located in the former mill saw shop at 207 Hotchkiss Lane, north of the smoke stack, and will be a truck dealership. The business will also sell new and used parts.

At the Hines Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 28, Murphy said his family purchased 11 acres surrounding the building, and they intended to remodel the building, as well as build another shop.

Murphy added that they wanted to clean up the area around the smoke stack, and asked permission to cover up the debris and make it into a pocket park. Because the land around the smoke stack belongs to the county, the commission encouraged Murphy to contact the county about the cleanup.

The council noted that the business would be located in an area zoned for industrial use, and supported the idea of cleaning up the area.

The council also approved a conditional use permit for Murphy, based on the recommendation of the planning commission.

The council also discussed a conditional use permit for the Hines RV & Mobile Home Park, which is also owned by Murphy. Plans called for adding 18 pull-through spaces at the park, and temporary holding pens for travelers that were hauling livestock.

The council approved the expansion and the permit.

During the Jan. 28 planning commission meeting, Tom Phelps, owner of Sands RV Park, requested an extension of the 30-day limit on RV park tenants. He explained that half of his income comes from the people who stay longer in the warmer weather, and then the park is closed for the winter. Phelps added that construction workers also use the park and don’t want to have to pack up and leave after 30 days.

The commission had concerns about guests who put up dog kennels or placed hay bales around the base of their RV, stating that those activities needed to be prohibited.

The commission recommended an amendment to the current conditional use permit to allow tenants to remain in the park for up to 120 days per year.

The council agreed that tenants should not be allowed to erect temporary foundations, dog kennels, etc., and voted to follow the commission’s recommendation to allow tenants to stay for up to 120 days per year.

•••

City Administrator Joan Davies reported she had attended a city managers meeting in Baker City, where a total of seven cities were represented. She said all the cities seemed to be dealing with the same issues, including flood plain issues and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) new requirements for flood insurance.

With regards to the Hines council’s plans to have a water rate study done, Davies stated that John Day and Enterprise are doing water rate studies at a cost of about $10,000.

Davies said while the local area is dealing with the sage grouse issue, areas like Baker City are going through similar issues with salmon.

Regarding marijuana dispensaries, Davies stated the city has language in the municipal code already that prohibits a business that breaks federal law. The Oregon Senate already passed Senate Bill 1531, which would let cities and counties regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, but not ban them, so cities are being cautious to avoid lawsuits.

Davies said that other cities are now contracting services out, as positions open up. From city hall to maintenance to law enforcement, cities are contracting out, so they can save money by not having to pay benefits.

Davies and others had written letters to FEMA five months ago detailing the adverse effects of the new insurance requirements and just recently heard back from the agency. The letters had asked that FEMA go back to the flood plain mapping from 1978, and FEMA replied that  was not an option.

Davies and other city and county officials attended a meeting with FEMA representatives on Feb. 24, and there was discussion on statistics from 1969 that showed a flow of 9,000 cubic feet per second in the Silvies River. No one could explain where that number came from, and it is so high that it skews the data.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty pointed out that FEMA representatives were unwilling to accept the data from the 1978 mapping because of a lack of technical data, but were insisting on keeping an unsupported, extremely high water flow number, without any technical data.

Davies said she and the mayor had submitted letters to the Bureau of Land Management asking them to reconsider listing the sage grouse as endangered because of the adverse effects it would have on the people and economy of this area.

She also requested the council extend the time limit on accepting bids for the surplus police vehicles because one of them was still in the process of having the police equipment dismantled, and she wanted interested parties to have the chance to view the vehicle before making a bid. The council agreed to extend the deadline to March 18.

•••

Police Chief Ryan DeLange reported that his department had conducted a 13-day safety belt blitz, and during that time, they made 55 traffic stops that resulted in 42 citations.

DeLange stated he will be attending a police chief conference in April, with the main focus being on the anticipated legalization of marijuana. He said marijuana is now a Schedule II drug, and the penalties for possession have changed. Possession of less than an ounce is a violation, up to four ounces is a misdemeanor, and more than four ounces is a felony.

The council asked DeLange about their request to establish a no parking zone on Highway 20 near the high school. DeLange stated the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) would not allow any more signs to be posted in that area, so “No Parking” would have to be painted on the asphalt. ODOT also requires a letter from the mayor making the request.

Councilor Dick Anderson suggested the no parking zone extend from the Hines Shell station to Pacific Pride, and include the left-turn lane.

•••

In other business:

• Assistant Fire Chief Jonathan Manski reported that they had no emergency calls to speak of, but they were conducting weekly training sessions, and the maintenance on the Jaws of Life by a certified technician had been completed;

• Superintendent of Public Works Pedro Zabala reported the consumer confidence reports on water testing would be going out to residents in the mail. He said they had a water leak Feb. 6 near Harney Electric, and thanked the Burns Public Works for their assistance. He added that they also had a water leak near the corner of Bennett and North Saginaw, had replaced 11 water-meter heads, and spent time cleaning debris from ditches;

• the council approved donating $100 to Burns High School Project Graduation; $125 to Kids Club of Harney County Diamonds in a Glass; and $50 to Harney County Science Fair;

• the council accepted the application from Yturri-Rose of Ontario for a contract to act as the city’s attorney;

• the council agreed to move forward with a water rate study in the new fiscal year;

• Harney County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chelsea Harrison was present to ask for permission to use the Hines Park June 14 for a half-marathon. She said the run would coincide with Obsidian Days and the Country Music Jamboree to help draw more people to all the events. The council agreed to allow the use of the park;

• the council approved a livestock permit for Stacey Puckett for a 4-H steer, and a livestock permit for Jen and Forrest Keady for 4-H pigs.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, at city hall.


Board approves land exchange

Posted on March 5th in News

Public comments accepted until April 1

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The in-holdings that would be affected in the proposed land exchange

The in-holdings that would be affected in the proposed land exchange

On Oct. 8, 2013, the State Land Board approved an exchange of parcels of land between the Department of State Lands (DSL) and Tree Top Ranches LP.

The parcels of land are located in Harney and Malheur counties. The parcels being exchanged from DSL to Tree Top Ranches LP total about 1,220 acres.

According to DSL Eastern Oregon Region Manager Lanny Quackenbush, conversation on making the land exchange began about four years ago because there are several parcels of land owned by DSL surrounded by property owned by Tree Top Ranches LP, and vice versa.

Quackenbush stated that it is fairly common for the DSL to acquire in-holdings, and a land exchange is one manner to do that.

Near the end of February, DSL released this letter:

The purpose of this letter is to clarify notice of a land exchange between Tree Top Ranches and the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) in Harney and Malheur Counties.  The State Land Board has approved the start of due diligence studies and will accept public comment on the exchange.

DSL will order appraisals, endangered species studies of plants and animals, and cultural resource studies of the properties. DSL is interested in receiving public comment on the land exchange and will accept comments until 5:00 pm on April 1, 2014.

All of the information from the due diligence studies and public comments will be studied.  DSL staff will make a recommendation to the State Land Board who will make a final determination on the exchange no earlier than June, 2014. 

The reason for the exchange is that Tree Top Ranches is proposing to take DSL land that will improve management of their land in exchange for Tree Top land that is surrounded by DSL’s existing rangeland holdings. The exchange will improve the efficiency of DSL’s rangeland management.

Public comments can be mailed to the State Land Board, c/o Clara Taylor, 775 Summer Street NE, Suite 100, Salem, OR 97301 or emailed to clara.taylor@state.or.us.  More information on the exchange can be found by calling Shawn Zumwalt, DSL property manager, at 541-388-6033 [or sending an email to] Shawn.Zumwalt@state.or.us.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said the county court was a little surprised that the exchange had been approved by the board without any prior communication with the county.

“We do ask that the DSL talk to us before they make a decision,” Grasty said.

Regarding the exchange, Grasty stated that his concerns were that the public continued to have access to the South Fork Reservoir; the public have access to state lands, especially during hunting season; and current roads remain open. He added that the ranch house for Tree Top is in a narrow canyon, and he would like to see the property line moved to the top of the canyon rim, so hunters wouldn’t inadvertently be shooting in the direction of the ranch house.

Tree Top’s Oregon Ranch Manager Berry Anderson said, “Tree Top Ranches LP has been negotiating with the Oregon Department of Lands for several years on a land exchange that would make Oregon’s management of these lands and resources more efficient. The proposed exchange does not attempt to block public access to state lands for hunting, fishing or other permitted activities.”

He added, “Tree Top appreciates Oregon Department of State Lands’ efforts to move this exchange forward. They have been very, very thorough in protecting and improving Oregon’s resource interests. We look forward to resolving any concerns this proposed exchange may raise.”

Following the public comment period, DSL will go through an appraisal of the lands involved, balance the values, and then return to the State Land Board.


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