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Court updated about available veterans services

Veterans Service Officer Guy McKay attended the regular meeting of the Harney County Court on Feb. 15 to present a quarterly report and discuss veterans programs.

McKay also updated the court regarding legislative action concerning veterans and veteran issues and provided copies of House Concurrent Resolution 6.

The resolution recognizes and honors Lance Cpl. Dale G. Peterson for his service. Peterson, who was raised in Burns, enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from Redmond High School in 2005. He was deployed to Iraq in March 2007 and killed in action April 23 of that year.

McKay also discussed veterans claims that have been granted.

Harney County Commissioner Patty Dorroh commended McKay for his work on behalf of veterans.

She reported that, over the course of nine years, McKay garnered $4,108,576 of monthly benefits and obtained $1,267,971 in retroactive benefits for veterans.

In addition to assisting veterans with compensation and pension claims, McKay administers education and training programs, federal home loan programs, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical and life insurance applications, burial and memorial benefit programs, and military record searches and record retention. He also assists veterans with reading and understanding federal legislation, including the interpretation and implementation of new laws.

He’s also a member of the Harney County Food Bank board, Harney County Emergency Management Steering Committee, and the Harney County Chapter of the Band of Brothers.

On top of that, McKay co-facilitates Living Well workshops with Harney District Hospital Outreach and Education Manager/ Nutrition Educator Amy Dobson. These free workshops assist veterans and community members who are living with chronic conditions, chronic pain, and chronic diabetes.

Addressing McKay, Dorroh said, “You may not know it, but I hear great things about your work and what you’ve done for people.”

She added that McKay is also “a kind person who helps vets on his own, out of his own pocket.”

Subsequently, McKay received a round of applause from the court and audience.

McKay was accompanied by Peggy Yarbor of Community in Action who attended the meeting to discuss the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.

Through this program, the VA awards grants to private, nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives that can provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families living in or transitioning to permanent housing.

Yarbor reported that the VA awarded SSVF funding to Community Action Partnership of Oregon in April 2015 to serve homeless or at risk veterans, adding that the goal for Harney and Malheur counties is to serve a combined total of at least 12 veterans. Six veterans have been served in Harney County so far, and efforts to assist additional veterans are ongoing.

Yarbor said those who are interested in applying for assistance should begin by filling out a service request packet.

In addition to assisting with housing, the program connects veterans to services, including guidance from employment specialists.

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The court reviewed and discussed the Rimrock Recycling 2016 Report.

Harney County Judge Pete Runnels explained that the information presented in the report is based on data that was collected in 2015.

The report states that, due to a lack of funding needed to hire employees and a lack of volunteers needed to prepare materials for shipping, the recycling center’s hours were reduced to six hours per day, two days a week.

Twenty-two youths volunteered for a total of 200 hours, and 52 adults volunteered for a total of 1,772 hours.

The center was open to the public for drop-offs for 101 days. There was a total of 4,080 drop-offs, with an average of 40 cars per day.

Rimrock received grants from the Combined Federal Campaign, Oregon Community Foundation, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and USDA Rural Development. The funding was used to hire three part-time employees from July to December. It was also used to order 30 brand new cardboard collection bins for Harney County’s merchants and 16 new bins for the facility. Rimrock expects the bins to be delivered in March 2017.

Harney County’s solid waste recovery rate was 23.2 percent for 2015. A total of 220.67 tons — consisting of 9 percent metals, 10 percent plastics, 13 percent electronics, 28 percent paper, and 40 percent cardboard — was recycled.

Fifteen trucks of materials (including six full semis) were shipped out of the county; 137 refrigerators were emptied of freon and recycled; and C&B Sanitary Service sorted 33.75 tons of comingled recyclables.

The Oregon recovery rate for 2015 was 50.39 percent, which was above the federal mandate.

The report also states that:

• new systems are in place to return donated refundable beverage containers;

• relationships  have been explored and built with new buyers of recycled materials;

• Rimrock will continue to be approved as a community service location by the Parole and Probation Department; and

• the board will continue to search for grants.

The court also reviewed a letter from DEQ regarding Senate Bill 263, which was passed June 22, 2015.

Although the bill makes numerous fundamental changes to the Recycling Opportunities Act, none of the new rules require Harney County or any of the disposal sites to make any changes.

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In other business, the court:

• postponed appointing members to the Weed Board until its next meeting. The deadline for submitting letters of interest was Feb. 17;

• discussed the audit process with George Wilber, Cara Wilber, and Kari Ott of Oster Professional Group;

• reviewed water use request;

•  reviewed the Harney County Cultural Coalition’s (HCCC’s) Cultural Plan and discussed the coalition’s request for quasi-county status.

This status would allow HCCC to use the Memorial Building at the Harney County Fairgrounds for an event on Nov. 4 without having to pay the liability insurance fee.

After some discussion, the court agreed to approve HCCC’s quasi-county status in order to waive the insurance requirement, pending review by county counsel;

• learned from Runnels that Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) funding for predator control could be pulled.

Runnels said he reached out in support of maintaining this funding;

• was addressed during the public comment period by Barbara Cannady.

Cannady complimented the court on a job well done and requested that the Meadowland issue be discussed during a work session.

After some discussion, Harney County Commissioner Mark Owens volunteered to meet with Cannady and impacted land owners to discuss the matter, and Runnels said he will follow up with county counsel;

• was addressed during the public comment period by Hines City Administrator Judy Erwin who thanked Runnels for helping a local business owner with an issue regarding Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC).

Runnels reported that he attended the OTEC board meeting with the businesses owner and met OTEC’s new general manager who was “very friendly” and “forthcoming”;

• received an update from Owens regarding the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision.

Owens said he met with Steve Beverlin, forest supervisor for the Malheur National Forest, and some of his staff, and it “went well;”

will hold a public work session March 15 at 5 p.m. in Runnels’ office at the courthouse. Another public work session will be held March 22 at 5 p.m. at the school in Drewsey.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the next two meetings of the Harney County Court have been rescheduled for March 8 and 22 at 10 a.m. in Runnels’ office 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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