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April 22, 2010 Front Page E-mail

Americans For Prosperity Hold Local Tea Party
By Suzan Ellis Jones
Over 300 people attended last Thursday evening’s Tea Party at Geiser-Pollman Park in Baker City. Poster packing citizens from Baker City, Bridgeport, Durkee, Huntington and even Ontario attended the event.

Flags and posters ranged from the classic yellow Gadsden flag from the first American revolution of the coiled rattlesnake and the slogan, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Homemade signs were in all varieties, many quoting Thomas Jefferson and others, and there were many originals as well. The mood of the night was positive and confident that there will be change to the liberal majority of Congress in November.  The freedom to assembly was being exercised.

High School senior, Kyle Knight, County coordinator for Americans for Prosperity planned the event, which has more than doubled in size from last year’s tea party.  Knight was master of ceremonies at the event and the night started off with the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer and then the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.”  

County Compensation Board Votes 2.6 Percent Raise For Elected Officials And 5 Percent Raise For Commissioner Warner
By Suzan Ellis Jones
Oregon Revised Statutes 204.112, requires a little known committee to meet annually to evaluate and compare the salaries of elected officials of Baker County government. They usually meet just prior to the budget board meetings each spring. This committee is so obscure that it doesn’t even rate a mention on Baker County’s web site in the listing of Commissions and Boards, even though this committee is one of the few committees which are required by Oregon statute.

Members of the Board are appointed by the Baker County Commissioners and serve four-year terms. Statute further requires all members of the committee to be “knowledgeable in personnel and compensation management.” Current members are Leroy Gornick of Baker City, new appointees Linda Silva of Haines, Jim Grove of Baker City and current Chair, Suzan Ellis Jones of Bridgeport. 

GSA Students Participate In Day Of Silence Promoting Tolerance, And Ending Bullying

By Eden Taylor
On Friday, April 16,  about 40 Baker High Students participated in the 15th annual National Day of Silence. The observance was sponsored by the Gay-Straight Alliance Club (GSA) at Baker High School.  Members organized the activity and posted flyers informing the student body of the Day of Silence. 

Gail Lemberger, advisor to the club, explained the purpose of the observance, “Students across the country took a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect on anti-Gay bullying and harassment in schools.”  She also noted that “The Day of Silence is the largest single student-led action toward creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Members of the GSA club and some of the other students who participated in the observance wore printed arm bands that read:  “Today, I am Silent.  Please understand my reasons for not speaking today.  I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies.  My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination.  I believe that ending the silence is the first step towards fighting these injustices.  Think about the voices you are not hearing today.  What are you going to do to end the silence?”

April 15, 2010 Front Page E-mail

Council Discusses Water And Sewer Rate Fees, Pipeline Replacement Funds Dwindling
by Mark Bogart
The Baker City Council adopted fees for services, permits and applications at its regular meeting on Tuesday night, but cautioned that capital improvement needs may result in further increases in the near future. The council also appointed members to the Planning Commission and Tree Board, approved a proclamation for Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and set an allocation for sidewalk improvement grants.

A fee schedule, which included an inflation adjustment of 2.8 percent for water and sewer rates, was presented by Finance Director Jeanie Dexter and approved by the council.  City Manager Steve Bogart responded to questions about the need to address capital improvement costs for water and waste water systems saying, “We’re running out of latitude… and could soon draw our reserve to zero.” 

Commission Hears Plans For Smith Ditch
By Eden Taylor
In their regular session on April 7, the Baker County Commissioners heard from Brett Moore of Anderson-Perry Engineering who explained options for the Smith Ditch. The historic ditch transports water from the Powder River to land owners mostly across the Freeway.  The ditch caused problems for homeowners in the Spring Garden area when it broke in 2003 and sent mud and water into people’s yards and basements.  The stakeholders in the ditch company received a grant to hire the engineering firm to rectify the ditch’s problems.

The 18-mile long ditch has significant water loss during transport.  In fact, it is determined that 50% of the water never makes it to its destination.  The stakeholders have sprinkling systems that water their fields.  They say they are really good systems if they can get adequate water.

The first option would be to pipe the whole ditch.  The existing right of way is 18 miles, but Moore said that the pipe could be cut down to 10 miles if a more direct route were used.  Property owners are generally in favor of the pipe because it would stop the basement flooding during irrigation season. 

Finalists Selected In Superintendent Search
By Eden Taylor
After three days of intense interviews of the six superintendent candidates, and more than two hours of deliberations, the 5J School Board selected three finalists for the position. The selection was made late Friday night, April 9.  Those three come from three different states.

The three finalists are:  Walt Wegener of San Juan Island School District at Friday Harbor, Wash., Earl Pettit of the Douglas Unified School District at Douglas, Ariz., and George Park of Garfield County School District at Panguitch, Utah.
School District Vice Chairman, Damien Yervasi, said that the selection was difficult.  
“We had six highly qualified candidates,” he said.

October 8, 2009 Front Page E-mail
Field to Fork: 5th Graders Learn Where Food Comes From

By Eden Taylor

In the 3rd Annual Field to Fork Program,  5th graders from Baker 5J School District learned where their food comes from.   The two-day event on Sept. 29 and 30 was presented by the Baker County Farm Bureau and Baker County Association of Conservation Districts.  Half of the 5th graders participated on Tuesday and half on Wednesday.  Marilyn Moore was the Program Coordinator.  Patty Shumway from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) is an Earth Team Volunteer who also helped with the program and gave recognition to all the volunteers involved.  The OSU Extension Service and Baker and North Powder FFA Students were also key players.

Those on the Field to Fork Committee are:  Laurie Owens, Josh Uriarte, Catie
Kerns, Cory Parsons, Janice Cowan, Holly Kerns, Amber Arritola, Holly McKim, Eugene Hawes, Patty Shumway and Marilyn Moore.

Ash Grove Cement To Lay Off 68 Workers In Durkee

By Mark Bogart

Ash Grove Cement Company has announced plans to layoff 68 of 115 employees at its Durkee plant. The suspension of production and the resulting staff layoff will begin about Dec. 14 and continue until market conditions improve, according to company spokesperson Jacqueline Clark.  The company is temporarily suspending production at nine plants around the country. The remaining employees will be involved mainly in filling orders from existing inventory.

The layoff was described as “seasonal” due to the normal slowing of orders

during winter months.  However, the nationwide decline resulting from
economic conditions made the situation much more serious.  “The economic downturn affecting the entire cement industry is the most severe that Ash Grove has experienced in our 127-year history,” according to a press release on Sept. 30.  The release went on to say that U.S. cement consumption dropped by an estimated 22 percent during 2009 and by 16 percent in 2008.

Council Narrows Pool Of City Manager Candidates

By Mark Bogart

Starting with 75 applicants for the City Manager position for Baker City,
the Council has narrowed its list to “a manageable number” for interviews
according to Tim Collins, interim City Manager.  At a special work session
on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 9 a.m., the Councilors will meet to work out a
schedule and details for that process.

“It’s going to be tough to get all seven together, but they all want to be
part of it,” said Collins.

After the Council interviews its selected candidates for the job, they will
trim the list to two finalists for background checks.  The final step will
be to negotiate “terms of employment.”  Collins avoided using the term
“contract” due to legalities, some related to the current issues of
termination and severance pay.  Setting a starting date for the new manager
will also be part of the negotiations.

City Street Projects Nearing End

By Mark Bogart

Baker City street projects are nearing completion, according to Mike Remilyof the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).  “D” Street and the Dewey Avenue underpass are expected to be open for regular traffic by Oct. 23.

Birch Street is open now, but final “cleanup work” is still under way,
according to Baker City Public Works Director Michelle Owen.

The Dewey Avenue Underpass project has intermittent flagging and a lane
closure while workers finish grinding concrete to smooth the surface, but
that will be completed soon. Except for a pedestrian handicapped access ramp on the east side of the underpass, work on Dewey will also be completed by Oct. 23.   Installation of the ramp and sidewalk is not expected until spring due to coordination between ODOT, Union Pacific Railroad and contractors, said Remily

October 1, 2009 Front Page E-mail

Kelly Tanzey adjusts a car seat during a safety inspection at Eastern Oregon Medical Associates. 

 Car Seats Save Lives
By Eden Taylor
Car seats save lives—that fact as been proven over and over again.  But car seats need to be installed properly, children need to be buckled in properly, and correct sizes of car seats need to be used.  That was the purpose of the car seat check conducted by the Baker City Police Department at Eastern Oregon Medical Associates (EOMA) on Sept. 9. 
Kelly Tanzey from Sterling Bank is a certified safety seat inspector.  She, along with police officers Valeria Hysong and Tyra Ruberti, helped EOMA patrons and others make sure their car seats were installed correctly.

School Board Hears Grievance
By Eden Taylor
In a closed executive session, on Sept. 22, the Baker School Board listened to a grievance from BEA representatives.  The relief sought is for the district to honor the current contract and pay the association members for 191 days of service for the 2008/2009 school year instead of 186 days.  The district has 10 days to render their decision.  If the grievant is not satisfied with the disposition of the grievance at Level Three, or if no decision has been rendered within 10 days after the Level Three Conference, the Association may submit their grievance to arbitration.  The Board will meet in executive session Oct. 24 at noon in the district office for further discussion on the grievance.  Executive sessions are closed to the public and press.

Baker County Commission Approves Funding For Local Programs
By Eden Taylor
In their regular session on Sept. 23, the Baker County Commission heard updates from the Mason Dam project, Greenhorn, the Transmission line and the Commission on Children and Families.
Commissioners were informed that interviews were conducted and Sorenson Engineering was selected to conduct a feasibility study of the Mason Dam Hydroelectric Project and to complete the Preliminary Licensing Plan for FERC.
The Commissioners discussed the current events of Greenhorn and will visit the City of Greenhorn later that afternoon (Sept 23).

June 18, 2009 Front Page E-mail

Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally Riders Have Rainy Weekend

The Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally brought thousands of motorcycles of all shapes, colors and sizes to Baker City last weekend in spite of frequent heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Slick pavement accounted for a total of eight motorcycle accidents in the Baker City area during the event. Though there were no fatalities, four riders were life-flighted from St. Elizabeth Health Services after being brought to the emergency room. Two other accidents occured in the Richland and  Halfway areas near Hells Canyon.

There were two additional arrests that occured when a drunken biker knocked over a line of motorcycles on Main Street while trying to get on his own bike.  George Edward Twardus, 49, of Portland, was arrested for drunken driving. 19-year-old Derrick Erickson, of Baker City, was arrested during the same incident for attempting to ride off on Twardus’ motorcycle during the incident. Erickson was charged with unlawful use of a motorcycle and tampering with evidence.

Council To Begin City Manager Hiring Process

By Candie Campbell

After a heated and much debated City Council meeting last week where City Manager Steve Brocato was fired, council held a special meeting  Friday. The agenda included the consideration and possible implementation of city manager selection procedure; consideration and possible reinstatement of previous city Manager.
The room filled with Brocato supporters, however,  councilors did not take public testimony or consider the reinstatement of Brocato.

  At the meeting Tim Collins, interim city manager recommended hiring City Administration recruitment Service (CARS) to assist the city in their search for a quality city manager, stating that the “city can have a qualified right-fit for Baker in four to five months.”

School Board Decides To Stay The Course

By Eden Taylor

In a work session prior to the regular school board meeting on June 16, the school board voted to “stay the course,” as far as number of school days per week. 

Superintendent Don Ulrey asked the board to consider the 5-day week with early release on Fridays as the best schedule for student achievement.  Ulrey suggested that the district hold each school staff accountable to develop a written plan for Friday’s schedule.  He suggested to the board that they negotiate the article about professional development with the expectation of expecting professional development two Fridays a month. 

Ulrey said that seat time doesn’t make academic achievement. A well-trained staff, he said, has been shown to be the best way to improve student achievement. Ulrey emphasized that because learning is a very social thing that their needs to be more teamwork with the students.

Elkhorn Classic Bike Race This Weekend

Cyclists are planning strategy and anticipating sometimes grueling treks   through Baker County’s scenic Elkhorn Mountains in the eighth riding of the Elkhorn Classic Stage Race scheduled for June 19-21.

Dozens of bicycle racers from all over the Western United States and Canada will participate in this three-day, four-stage spectator-friendly event. Veteran riders will find the course challenging while a no time-out policy means that newer riders can focus on the task at hand.

Police Arrest Two At Baker Tower

Baker County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a 911 report of suspicious activity, Wednesday, June 16, at 2:34 a.m. Officer Davidson and Officer Bass responded to the Baker Tower in downtown Baker City, where sounds of footsteps, loud banging and two male voices swearing had reportedly been heard  in or around the Tower and the alley behind it.

The officers arrested one juvenile and another suspect for Criminal Trespass 2. Arrested was Michael Scott Thomas, 18, of 1675 East Street in Baker City. The juvenile was cited and released to his parents.

Problems with vandalism, tagging, and breaking and entering have occured at other times at this location, also resulting in police response.

The Historic Baker Tower is owned by Shayne and Angelika Olsen’s Hometown Management, LLC.

Wednesday, 07 July 2010