At the start of the Burns City Council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16, Mayor Craig LaFollette congratulated those elected to council positions in the Nov. 8 election.
Lynda Fine and Donna Liz Appelman were elected by write-in votes to Positions 1 and 2, respectively, Terri Presley was re-elected to Position No. 3, and Jerry Woodfin, who currently serves on the council, was elected mayor.
The newly elected council members will be sworn in and take their respective seats on the council at the first meeting in January 2017.
In her city manager’s report, Dauna Wensenk noted that at the last meeting on Oct. 12, an abatement process was brought before the council. It was determined by staff that the property at 178 South Fir Avenue contained nuisance conditions, and the tenant, Honey Schatz, did not submit a suitable plan to abate the conditions. The council then passed Resolution No. 16-631 declaring the property a nuisance and ordering the responsible person to abate the nuisance within 10 days.
Wensenk said that since that Oct. 12 meeting, she has been working with the Gadbury family, who own the property, and they have come up with a plan to take care of the issue.
Wensenk reported that the cities of Burns and Hines and the county have been meeting to discuss the proposed flood plain mapping provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The mapping takes some areas out of the flood plain, and puts other areas in. Wensenk said the cities and county are determined to work on it and provide FEMA with additional information with the hope that more land is taken out of the designated flood plain.
Wensenk told the council she had been appointed to the Housing Authority of Malheur & Harney Counties Board of Commissioners. She said the board will be holding air quality meetings throughout the winter months, and providing information to the public on how to reduce emissions from wood heat.
Wensenk added that the city Christmas tree will be located in the vacant lot across from Safeway again this year, and the city is continuing to work on cleaning up nuisance properties.
Nick Planinz told the council that he needed 26 square feet of property next to the building at 63 North Buena Vista so he could put in propane tanks, and he’s looking for any options the city could provide.
Planinz explained that the building was set right up to the property line, and the adjacent property owner didn’t have an interest in leasing or selling any property to him.
Planinz said he didn’t know if he could purchase the property from the city, if there could be a property line adjustment, or if there was another alternative.
When asked what the propane tanks would be used for, Planinz said, “For heating, for whatever you would do with propane.”
Councilor Dennis Davis inquired as to what type of heat source the building had before, and Planinz said it was electric heat.
“And that’s no longer installed?” asked Davis.
“There are some things you can do with electric, but you need propane to do other things,” Planinz said.
“Such as?” Davis asked.
“Cooking equipment, hot water… I mean if you put something in there that uses a lot of hot water,” Planinz said.
Mayor LaFollette said the property being discussed is city property, and he was having a hard time understanding why the city should act upon Planinz’ proposal.
“I understand you are in an unfortunate situation, but to me, when I initially heard this, we’re setting a precedent that I wasn’t comfortable with. And you haven’t convinced me as to why the city of Burns should consider this,” LaFollette said.
After some more discussion, Planinz asked if the city would be willing to sell the property?
LaFollette said the council wants to say, “Yes,” to business owners every time it can, but as a council, it is a duty and job to look at what’s best for the city.
“I want to be able to tell a business owner, ‘yes,’ if I can, but I haven’t heard anything that would convince me that it would be wise for the city to do that. My answer would be no,” LaFollette said.
Councilor Dan Hoke stated there were a couple issues he was concerned about.
“Number one, we would be setting a precedent. Two, I don’t know if we could do that, and if we did sell the property, we still have the planning commission variances, setbacks, and I believe liability issues,” Hoke said.
There was also some discussion about the permitting process to place propane tanks next to the building.
The council then decided to take no action on the proposal.
In other business:
• Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap told the council the Beaverton Police Department donated two black Dodge Chargers to the Burns Police Department, and the vehicles are now in use. Skunkcap said that Robby Tiller had completed detective school at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem, and would soon be certified in K-9 training with the new drug dog. He added that Officer Brennan Pilon would be back from the academy for about a week, and would graduate from the academy Jan. 20, 2017;
• Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson reported the new building for the fire department was also completed and they begin using it in about a week’s time. Williamson said he is working on grants for the department, and the “Burn-to-Learn” training held Nov. 5-6 went well;
• the council directed City Manager Wensenk to continue to work with legal counsel on the proposed land donation and report back to the council at the next meeting;
• the council approved Resolution No. 2016-633 declaring certain firearms owned by the city to be surplus property and indicating the intent and method for the disposal of such surplus property;
• the council expressed their thanks to Wensenk, Skunkcap, and Williamson for their work on getting the nuisance properties in town cleaned up.
The next city council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at city hall.