You are here
Home > News > County Court > Court plans for upcoming commissioner vacancy

Court plans for upcoming commissioner vacancy

Shooting range transfer discussed

The regular meeting of the Harney County Court was rescheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 22.

During this meeting, the court discussed the process for filling the upcoming county commissioner vacancy. (Pete Runnels will vacate his position as commissioner when he assumes the role of county judge in January.)

An advertisement was placed in the Burns Times-Herald seeking county commissioner applicants as well as individuals who are interested in being on the selection committee. Resumés and letters of interest had to be submitted by the end of November. Once the selection committee is formed, members will be asked to choose the top two applicants.

The court will make a final decision in January.


The court, Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella, and Holly Orr of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) discussed transferring the Burns Butte Shooting Range from the BLM to Harney County.

According to the Plan of Operation, Harney County will operate the shooting range in conjunction with Burns Butte Sportsman Inc. to “maximize public use of the facility for shooting purposes while protecting and maintaining the range in a way that is a positive asset to the community.”

The range will be operated by the county and Burns Butte Sportsmen Inc. under a Recreation and Public Purposes lease from the Burns District of the BLM.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols made a motion to sign the Application for Land for Recreation or Public Purpose. The motion was seconded by Runnels, and it carried unanimously.

Burns Butte Sportsmen Inc. will be responsible for the $100 filing fee.


Fair Manager Rick Paul presented the preliminary financial report and a review of the 2016 Harney County Fair, Rodeo and Race Meet.

Discussion also included horse racing, layout of the fair, and board member appointments.

Jerry Staley has continued to be a member of the fair board, but in the confusion of last year, he was not reappointed. Additionally, terms will expire for the board positions currently held by Dawn Crafts, Karen Moon, and Zelley Dec. 31, and all three board members have asked to be supported for reappointment.

The court requested that all open positions be advertised and letters of reappointment be presented to the court during its next meeting.


Shana Withee of the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service presented a letter to the court regarding the fund balance for Harney County.

At the end of the 2016 fiscal year (June 30), the fund balance was $117,004.98. This total may be a combination of county appropriated dollars, workshop accounts, gifts, and fees for service.

Withee also shared an article that was recently featured in OSU’s Outreach and Engagement publication regarding the 30-year collaboration between OSU and the Burns Paiute Tribe.


Harney County Planning Director Brandon McMullen and Stan Foster, who is a consultant, discussed the draft Harney County Goal 5 Road Map.

The road map is intended to balance the values that Harney County citizens have identified as a priority with the opportunities that are available in the Goal 5 program, including law and administrative rules.

The first step outlined in the road map is to adopt a policy statement for the Comprehensive Plan that provides general guidelines for integrating Goal 5 in Harney County land use. The second step is to prioritize Goal 5 resources, and the third step is to identify resources that are available to implement priorities.

The court reviewed the road map and suggested several changes.


Brandon Baron attended the meeting to request assistance with the grant-writing process for a Forest Service Wood Products Innovation grant.

The court suggested that Baron meet with Foster to discuss the details of completing the grant.


In other business, the court:

• was addressed by Herb  Vloedman who requested an update on the biomass system.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty reported that the system is fully functional, but there are still a few items that need to be addressed;

• was addressed by Barbara Cannady who noted that Harney County had the highest voter turnout in the state for the 2016 General Election;

• was addressed by Paul Hyland regarding a recent auto accident involving three Harney County youths;

• reviewed the Harney County Employee Handbook, which will be tentatively approved during the next court meeting. The department heads will receive a copy of the handbook and have time to make any additional changes. The handbook will be adopted Dec. 21;

• appointed Runnels to the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) Forest Management Subcommittee. Runnels abstained from the vote;

• discussed the recent AOC conference;

• was addressed by Kriss Renfro of the Public Health Department regarding the duties and responsibilities of registrars and deputy registrars for vital records.

The court agreed to appoint Runnels as the registrar. Runnels abstained from the vote;

• received a warning letter from the Department of Environmental Quality regarding the county’s failure to have an asbestos survey conducted prior to renovation.

Some asbestos-containing materials were disturbed during the installation of the new heating and air conditioning system in the courthouse. However, the letter states that, “There is a very low possibility of asbestos exposure to staff and to the public in the courthouse;”

• received correspondence from the Burns District of the BLM regarding the environmental assessment (EA) and unsigned finding of no significant impact for the Diamond Craters Land Exchange Proposal.

The EA analyzes a proposal from Jeff and Sherri Hussey to exchange and consolidate lands adjacent to the Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area for public parcels intermixed and adjacent to their private lands near Drewsey;

• received a letter from Michael Wood, Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division (OSHA) administrator, regarding safety or health inspections that may occur at county workplaces.

“This is an opportunity for you to take appropriate steps in identifying safety and health deficiencies at your place of employment,” Wood wrote. “If you want assistance with this evaluation, you can request a confidential consultation from Oregon OSHA, contact a private consultant, or take advantage of a loss-prevention service provided by your worker’s compensation carrier;”

• received a letter from the Office of Emergency Management regarding the first quarter report;

• by consensus, nominated Runnels to Grasty’s position on the South East Area Commission on Transportation, effective Jan. 1;

• discussed Kids Club of Harney County’s request for a one-time donation to support the Friday Academy program for the January through May 2017 sessions.

Friday Academy is a program for Hines Middle School students who are struggling in their core classes and receiving failing grades.

Nichols advised that this request was previously approved;

• received a packet of information concerning timber sales from Steve Beverlin, forest supervisor for the Malheur National Forest;

• reviewed water use requests.

The next regular meeting of the Harney County Court will be held Wednesday, Dec. 7, 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.

Leave a Reply