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Court continues conversation concerning Eastern Oregon’s representation on LCDC


Joan Armstead and Cheryl Smith attended the regular meeting of the Harney County Court on Sept. 21, to discuss representation on the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) for counties east of the Cascades.

The LCDC is the seven-member volunteer citizen board that guides the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

In addition to adopting state land-use goals and implementing rules, LCDC assures local plan compliance with the goals, coordinates state and local planning, and manages the coastal zone program.

On behalf of a local group of concerned citizens, Armstead and Smith presented a draft letter that could be sent to Oregon’s governor and senators that would include recommendations for improving participation in LCDC land use decisions to Eastern Oregon counties. They also presented a draft letter that could be sent to county commissioners and judges that would introduce them to the project and seek suggestions and participation.

Both of the draft letters suggested that four additional members who are residents of Eastern Oregon counties be appointed to the LCDC.

Armstead stressed that she would like to garner the court’s support before sending the letters.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty suggested that the group meet with Rep. Cliff Bentz and Sen. Ted Ferrioli before moving ahead. He also suggested focusing on regionalizing the LCDC, instead of attempting to add four members to represent Eastern Oregon.

“If we think four for us…That’s a good idea. I like that a lot, but the coast is going to want three. Somebody else is going to want more. We’re going to have a 25-member board that will not function,” Grasty said. “Let’s talk about looking at the spread of the members across the state — regionalization. That’s a more likely possibility to sell.”

Armstead, Smith and the court engaged in a lengthy discussion regarding strategies for moving the project ahead.

“Seriously, I admire you guys for really pushing on this,” Grasty said.

“We appreciate your time and expertise, too,” Armstead replied.

Grasty will meet with the group to continue the discussion.


The court held a work session to discuss platted, historic, rural communities (such as Wellington and Harriman) that no longer exist.

Harney County Assessor and Tax Collector Ted Tiller explained that there are properties in Harney County with platted streets that don’t actually exist on the ground.

This can cause tax issues because platted streets are considered a public right of way, and they’re exempt from taxation.

Tiller said some of these so-called streets have been removed from the tax roll, while others have not, and he expressed a need for consistency. He added that changes to these “streets” could bring about changes to property owners’ total acreage.

Grasty noted that property rights issues could also arise if the areas that have been platted as streets are considered public.

Harney County Planning Director Brandon McMullen noted that there is a platted street in The Narrows that has a house sitting in the middle of it.

A lengthy discussion ensued concerning the nuanced ramifications of vacating the streets as well as the need for surveying. There was also some discussion concerning whether it would be legal to do away with the platting altogether.

The court will consult county legal counsel for further information.


The work session was also held to discuss Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance.

Grasty explained that some properties have been removed from the flood zone, while others have been added.

The possibility of establishing a local insurance pool was also discussed at length.


The court discussed Resolution 2016-17, which would declare local disaster and request to declare a state drought emergency for Harney County.

The court also discussed a draft letter requesting an executive order from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, declaring drought in Harney County.

A representative from the Farm Service Agency attended to discuss the agency’s drought declaration process. She also encouraged local producers to submit drought impact and condition reports via the Drought Impact Reporter, which can be found online at

The court will revisit this conversation during its next meeting.


The court reviewed the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) Citation and Notification of Penalty regarding the courthouse.

OSHA conducted an inspection of the courthouse and found violations of the Oregon Safe Employment Act and occupational health and/or safety rules.

Violations included:

• lack of a written hazard communication program;

• lack of monthly safety committee meetings;

• using extension cords as a substitute for fixed wiring;

• lack of separate injury logs for each of the nine locations where employees report to work; and

• plugging power strips into each other in series.

Only one of the violations (lack of a written hazard communication program) was considered serious, and the county was fined $180 for it.

Grasty said a written hazard communication program has been submitted, along with a $180 check.

The safety committee is now meeting monthly, and SAIF, a worker’s compensation insurance company, came in and helped with trainings.

Grasty added that the extension cords have been removed, the situation with the power strips has been remedied, and injury logs have been posted at each site.

He said he will ask OSHA to conduct a consultation at each of the county’s other work sites, explaining that citations cannot be issued during a consultation, site inspections cannot occur until after the consultations are complete, and the county would be given time to take corrective actions.

“We’re better off to just get them out here and take a look at it,” Grasty said.


During the public comment period, Barbara Cannady asked about Dan Nichols’ decision to withdraw his candidacy for county commissioner.

In part, Nichols replied, “I withdrew my candidacy because I did support Mark [Owens].”

Cannady also asked how the county commissioner position that is currently held by Pete Runnels will be handled now that Runnels has been elected county judge.

Grasty replied that it will be up to the newly-elected county court to decide how Runnels’ position will be handled.

Nichols stated, “I will be willing to serve for another two years to help with the transition on the court, should the new court decide I should be appointed. It’s totally up to them.”


Herb Vloedman asked when the boiler project will be complete.

Grasty said they hope to complete it by Oct. 15, explaining that the project got started later than intended, asbestos was discovered in the bottom of the old boiler, and an underground oil tank leaked.

Grasty received a letter from the Department of Environmental Quality regarding Oregon Administrative Rules for cleaning up the soil, groundwater, surface water, soil vapor, and any other media contaminated by heating oil to the appropriate standards or demonstrating that the contamination does not pose a risk to human health or the environment.

All of the immediate requirements have been addressed, but annual reports will have to be submitted for many years to come.


In other business, the court:

• was addressed by Rick Paul, interim fair manager, who thanked the court for its support of the Harney County Fair, Rodeo and Race Meet;

• was addressed by Louis Smith regarding the Harney County Committee of Safety.

He said the committee received first place for its float in the fair parade, adding, “We want to be part of, not part away. We’re wanting to help the county. We’re wanting to work with the county;”

• after reviewing and discussing changes, agreed to sign the employment agreement for Tim Colahan to serve as county counsel;

• agreed to have Grasty sign Intergovernmental Agreement 31681 with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)  for right of way services for Embree Bridge Road for a bridge replacement project;

• agreed to sign Intergovernmental Agreement 31496 with ODOT granting the state authority to issue Oversize/Overweight Single Trip Permits for travel over roads that are under county jurisdiction;

• reviewed the list of road funding priorities that the Association of Oregon Counties is putting together for Harney County. Grasty will provide feedback;

• agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Burns District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning the construction and maintenance of the Pike Creek parking area adjacent to the East Steens Road;

• reviewed water use request;

• received correspondence from the Vale District of the BLM regarding  emergency stabilization and rehabilitation actions in the area burned by the 2016 Cherry Road fire, including the use of herbicides to prevent the spread of noxious weeds;

• received a bid notice from Steve Beverlin, forest supervisor for the Malheur National Forest, regarding a timber sale (Rail Decks sale).

The next regular meeting of the Harney County Court will be held Wednesday, Oct. 5, 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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