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Court discusses Penny Lane

Cheek provides update on juvenile department

Gregg Hayes, general manager of Thornfeldt Land and Cattle, attended the Sept. 7 meeting of the Harney County Court to discuss a road issue regarding Penny Lane, which is located between Highway 20 and Highway 78.

Thornfeldt Land and Cattle would like to gravel the road and requested that the county help with the costs.

Penny Lane is a private road, so the county cannot provide funding at this time.

However, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty offered two possible solutions. One would be to make Penny Lane a local access road, and the other would be to establish a road district.

The court provided information regarding the process of establishing a road district and will discuss the matter with its legal counsel before its next meeting.


Harney County Juvenile Department Director Lori Cheek attended the meeting to provide a department update.

In addition to summarizing the department’s services, Cheek discussed:

• new employee, Brooke Nyman;

• individualized and specialized programs for juveniles;

• juvenile justice services;

• cross training with the district attorney’s office;

• developing strong state partnerships;

• implementing Laserfiche for record keeping; and

• changes to the department’s office space.

She also discussed redeveloping the Harney County Teen Court program.

Cheek provided a handout, which states, “It has been proven time and time again that Teen Court has a powerful impact on youthful offenders by giving them a unique opportunity to have their cases heard by a jury of their peers, and to be prosecuted and represented by those same peers.”

A Teen Court Advisory Council has been formed to get more professional individuals involved with the program and to help keep it on track.

Additionally, efforts to incorporate the schools will be increased. For example, school truancy and tardiness issues may be addressed by the program.

A new tracking system is also being developed and implemented to improve case management throughout the program.


Grasty updated the court on the progress of the boiler project.

The trenches had not been filled in yet, as pressure testing was being conducted on the pipes. Staff was advised of the hazard and reminded not to jump over the trench.

In addition to heating/cooling units, thermostats will be installed, and all in-window air conditioners will be removed. The underground tank will also be removed in preparation for the cooling tower.

Grasty and Cheek discussed finances, a feasibility plan, grants, and expansion.

Heating for the jail is an issue that is still being addressed.


The court resumed its discussion regarding contracts for the Juntura Cutoff Road construction project. The court has expressed concern regarding a stipulation that would require Harney County to ensure that EP Minerals of Vale creates and maintains jobs.

Grasty will consult with legal counsel, and the contracts will be discussed in executive session before they are signed.


Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols asked Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Public Affairs Specialist Tara Thissell whether the agency could improve communication with rural businesses regarding the opening and closing of Steens Loop Road.


The court received correspondence from the Burns District of the BLM regarding:

• the Steens No Livestock Grazing Area (NLGA) Fencing Environmental Assessment (EA).

The EA analyzes construction, realignment, removal, and maintenance of fence along or near the Steens Mountain NLGA boundary;

• the notices of final decision to issue a grazing permit that were sent to Ross and Anna Defenbaugh, Heidi Guertin, Pueblo Mountain Land Company LLC, and Jim and Helen McDonald; and

• the Riddle Ranch Potable Well Water EA, which analyzes installation of a potable water well near the caretaker’s cabin at the Riddle Brothers Ranch building complex.


The court received correspondence from the Vale District of the BLM regarding:

• proposed herbicide and vegetation treatment portions of the emergency stabilization and rehabilitation actions planned for the area burned by the 2016 Owyhee Canyon Fire;

• emergency stabilization and rehabilitation actions in the area burned by the 2016 Juntura Complex Fire; and

• the Three Fingers Herd Management Area Wild Horse Gather.


In other business, the court:

• was addressed by Cheryl Smith of the Crane Rangeland Fire Protection Association regarding the 911/dispatch contract.

Grasty referred her to the sheriff’s office;

• reviewed an employment agreement for Tim Colahan to serve as county counsel.

After identifying some changes that need to be made, the court agreed to table signing the contract until its next meeting;

• accepted James Jordan and Val Hebener to the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization Local Community Advisory Council;

• reappointed Diane Smith to the Harney County Library Advisory Board.

Grasty abstained from the vote due to conflict of interest;

• received an update from Grasty regarding the Sagebrush Focal Area Withdrawal Environmental Impact Study;

• reviewed water use requests; and

• held a work session at 1:30 p.m. to discuss Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps and road improvement projects.

The next regular meeting of the Harney County Court will be held Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 10 a.m. at the courthouse.

Samantha White

Samantha White was born and raised in Harney County, and she graduated from Burns High School in 2005. After high school, she attended the University of Oregon where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in magazine journalism. White was hired as a reporter for the Burns Times-Herald in September 2012.

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