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Burns asking residents to clean-up

Cities, county work on earthquake emergency plans

It’s time once again for residents to clean up around their homes. At the Burns City Council meeting on Wednesday, March 23, City Manager (CM) Dauna Wensenk said city employees will be going around town and identifying properties that need to be cleaned up. They’ll be looking for abandoned vehicles, trash, overgrown weeds, and other hazards. Wensenk added that she will be issuing a press release to let residents know what sort of hazards they will be targeting in the clean-up efforts.

Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap stated his department has been busy with calls so he hasn’t had time yet, but he intends to make a plan to identify properties that need to be cleaned up, and then talk to the residents.

“We need to get people cleaning up,” Skunkcap said.

During the city manager’s report, Wensenk said she met with representatives of the city of Hines, Harney County Emergency Management Coordinator Loren Emang, and former Public Works Director Dave Cullens to discuss emergency plans should there be a major earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

A portion of the table-top exercise included a discussion on how to get water to city residents should an emergency shut off power to the area. Wensenk said there are both built-in and mobile generators to run the city water pumps to provide water. She added there is a water line that runs between Burns and Hines, but it needs to be flushed out to be sure it is ready in the case of emergency.

The cities are also planning to work with fuel providers so government agencies would have priority in receiving fuel to run the generators.

Wensenk said they are working with Harney County Health Department Director Darbie Kemper on coordinating emergency health services if needed as well.


Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson asked the council for approval to spend no more than $60,000 to put up a new building on the west side of the Burns Police Department, replacing the older building that stands there now.

Williamson said the current structure was built in the 1940s and is structurally unsound. Williamson said the new building, measuring 30’x60’, would allow the department to store the ladder truck there, providing more space for firemen in the fire hall. He explained that currently there is only about a two-foot wide lane of space for the firemen to put on the turnouts, and he’s afraid someone could get hurt in the close quarters. The amount of exhaust from the diesel ladder truck is also a concern, as it fills not only the fire hall when pulled away from the exhaust tubing, but also affects workers inside city hall.

“Having the ladder truck in the new building would be a safer environment for everyone,” Williamson said.

Williamson said there is $25,000 in the budget to use toward the new building, and he asked to borrow $35,000 from the city equipment fund, which would be paid back, with interest, over several years.

CM Wensenk told the council the equipment fund currently has more than $200,000 in it, and she checked with other departments to find out if they had any major projects coming up, and none do.

The council voted unanimously to authorize Williamson to put the building project out for bid.


CM Wensenk reported she has put the cemetery maintenance contract out for bid and received one proposal from Paul Everett Bradley in the amount of $86 an hour for two people.

Wensenk said after comparing the hours and rate of pay over the past two years, she would recommend having the position be a city employee rather than have it contracted out. She said the city could hire a full time employee, as well as a seasonal employee to help out where needed, and some of the other departments could help share the cost.

After some discussion, the council voted to make the cemetery maintenance position a salaried/hourly position under the direction of the public works department.


In other business:

• Public works Director Pedro Zabala said his crew would be out fixing potholes on city streets, and the process could take a while. He also asked the council for permission to put the North Cedar water line project out for bid. The city has all the materials and the project has been engineered, so the next step is to put it out for bid. The council approved his request;

• the council appointed Dean Draper, Sherri Modey, Mike Huseby, Kari Nelson, and Billie Applington to the budget committee;

• the council voted to make a $150 donation to the sponsor a meal entrée at the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center;

• during the public comment portion of the meeting, Jeff Sykes of Burns asked why city employees were allowed to use city equipment and tools on their days off. Councilor Charity Robey said another resident had approached her with concerns about city workers driving city vehicles home for lunch. Mayor Craig LaFollette  encouraged people to stop in to city hall and visit with the city manager with their concerns.

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

Randy Parks

Randy was born in Iowa, and spent most of his life growing up in the Hawkeye State. After a few years in college, he settled in Idaho for a decade, skiing, golfing, and working at Sun Valley Resort. He married in 1985, completed broadcast school, and moved to Harney County in 1989 to work for KZZR. After 16 years of on-air work, he left the radio station and went to work for the Burns Times-Herald.

One thought on “Burns asking residents to clean-up

  1. Why only do it once a year? If people know that they cannot junk up their house ANY time, maybe we won’t have to have a clean-up day!

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