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Burns Council considers city streets, donates to BHS athletic fields

About 35 volunteers were on hand to install the new aluminum bleachers at Corbett Memorial Field. The new bleachers are the first phase of a number of improvements planned for the facility. (Submitted photo)

With the goal of improving city streets, the city of Burns hired H.A. McCoy Engineering and Surveying of Redmond to evaluate the streets and make a recommendation for improvements.

On Wednesday, July 26, Hayes McCoy attended the Burns City Council meeting to present his report. He acknowledged that street maintenance is a challenging issue for most cities, not just Burns. He explained that essential services like police, fire, water, and sewer come first, and then cities do what they can with their budgets to maintain streets.

McCoy said the city is responsible for maintaining 32.7 miles of streets, of which 26.88 miles are paved, and just under six miles are gravel. To evaluate the streets, they used a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) that scores streets from 0 (complete failure) to 100 (perfect).

“A score of 55 or lower is considered poor by the PCI standard,” McCoy said. “Unfortunately, about 80 percent of your roads were scored poor.”

McCoy explained the different types of pavement failures, such as cracking and potholes, and gave examples using particular streets.

He then discussed the different options available to improve streets, from pulverization with pavement overlay to chip sealing to crack sealing, and the costs associated with each option.

“To repair every street with a crack seal, patching, and crack seal program, it would cost you two million dollars is my estimate. That’s a lot of money,” McCoy said. “To keep those under maintenance, I would estimate $350,000 a year to maintain them all. That’s also very expensive.”

Because the city has limited funding, McCoy recommended prioritizing streets for improvements, and those receiving higher priority would be those surrounding schools, hospital, etc., streets in commercial zones, and collector streets (such as North and South Egan).

For the current fiscal year, the city has about $25,000 available for street repair, and the county contributes $10,000 each year toward street repair, either in funds or work. McCoy said the best solution for the city would be to save money over several years and get a big project to attract competitive bidding.

The city is also considering assessing a $5 fee to water meter billing to build a fund for street repairs, which would raise about $90,000 per year.

Using the report, the council will continue to plan for maintenance of city streets.

•••

Dick Carter attended to ask the council for a donation toward the improvements being planned for the athletic fields at Burns High School.

Carter said the current football field went into use in 1981 and is now in need of repairs and improvements. A committee was formed last January with the goal of replacing the bleachers at a cost of $16,000. The committee then discussed other improvements that are needed and came up with a five-phase plan.

After the bleachers, the next phase would be the replacement of the halogen field lights, installed in 1985, with new LED lights, at a cost of $45,000 to $60,000. It was also determined that new light poles are needed, which would bring the cost to about $120,000.

Phase 3 is leveling a section of land behind the bleachers for the construction of a restroom and concession stand.

Phase 4 is the paving of both the south and north parking lots, and Phase 5 is beautification and upgrade of the entrance to the field.

Carter said the cost of all improvements would be about $300,000 over a four-year time period. Donations so far have totaled about $20,000, and they are in the process of looking for grants and other avenues of funding.

The committee is also discussing improvements for the softball field.

The council voted to donate $100 to the Corbett Memorial Field Improvement Projects.

Following the vote, Mayor Jerry Woodfin, Councilor Lynda Fine, and City Manager Dauna Wensenk, on behalf of Alan’s Repair, agreed to match the $100 donation.

•••

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Hines City Administrator Judy Erwin discussed the ordinance recently passed by the Hines Common Council to “prohibit the display, sale, distribution, possession, and use of unlawful intoxicating compounds and psychoactive substances.”

Erwin said the reason Hines passed the ordinance was to prohibit the sale of kratom, “a new drug on the scene.”

She said it comes from a tree in Thailand, is considered an herb, and in low doses, has effects similar to those of amphetamines.

“The higher the dose, the more different the effect gets. The higher dose becomes more opioid-like, and the higher the dose, the more likelihood of a death occurring,” she said.

Erwin stated the council passed the ordinance because it didn’t want kratom available to children, and believed it should be a controlled substance.

She urged the council to research kratom and its effects, and added that it was banned in Thailand.

During his report, Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap said he looked at the ordinance, but his department hasn’t made a decision on proposing the same for Burns.

Skunkcap said kratom, in low doses, can be used as a pain reliever, but higher doses can cause effects similar to heroin, and between 2014 and 2016, there were 15 kratom-related deaths according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Later in the meeting, Burns resident Vianney Hartvisen addressed the council regarding the Hines ordinance and kratom.

She said the ordinance outlaws the possession and use of kratom, not just the sale of the substance.

Referring to the ordinance, Hartvisen stated, “I’m not sure who wrote this, and it worries me. I don’t want you, as our representatives, to waste your time and money on a document like this.” She added, “I don’t mean to be critical, but I don’t know who made this list. If this list is what they need to outlaw, they need to add LSD, heroin, PCP, mescaline, peyote, and a whole bunch of other things, because on this list… there are 13 things that Hines has listed as it’s an emergency — that they have to ban these right now. Ten of these have been on the DEA’s Schedule I list for five years. So, whoever wrote this law, and made this list, didn’t know the law, and it’s outlawing things that are already illegal.”

Hartvisen presented the council with two baggies containing a green, powder-like substance. She explained that one baggie contained green tea, and the other was kratom, and she challenged the councilors to tell the difference.

She added that kratom can be beneficial in treating some ailments.

She acknowledged that there have been 15 deaths associated with kratom, but said each of the victims were already taking other drugs, so they already had other substances in their systems.

Hartvisen added, “Yes, Thailand did ban kratom 75 years ago. They banned it because people were not buying opium because they were using a naturally-occurring plant. That’s the whole story. Yes, they did ban it, but they banned it for economic reasons because people weren’t buying opium.”

Hartvisen went on to say there are clinical trials under way to see if kratom can be used to treat anxiety, and asked why is there such a rush to ban kratom?

“The DEA, last August, banned this and put it on Schedule I, and there was such an outcry from people who were using it to get off opioids, and doctors and other people, they took it off the Schedule. They’re researching it. They’ve asked for clinical trials to move ahead,” Hartvisen said. “So, if the DEA doesn’t think this is worthy of Schedule I, why are we doing it? Let’s let the experts figure it out.”

•••

In other business:

• City Manager Wensenk reported the city is continuing the clean-up efforts, and she received concerns about ducks and goats in town, as well as garbage, and they are working on those issues.

She said a 6,000-gallon fuel tank at the airport is now ready to use for storage when needed.

Wensenk said the sidewalk project with the Oregon Department of Transportation is moving forward, and she reminded everyone to be prepared for the influx of people expected around the eclipse on Aug. 21;

• Chief Skunkcap told the council that the Burns and Hines police departments have been working well together, and the number of traffic citations has been increasing, and they have seen an increase in calls regarding public disturbances. Skunkcap added that they have received a lot of calls about dogs running loose, and they will be issuing more citations. Skunkcap also encouraged residents to put identifying tags on their dogs, so, if they are picked up, they can be returned to their owners;

• Public Works Director Pedro Zabala said the paving work around town was completed.

On July 13, a tree limb fell on a vehicle parked at Washington Park, so Zabala contacted a tree-trimming business to get an estimate on trimming the trees. Zabala said the bid came in around $6,600 to remove one tree and trim the others.

He added that the water test results are now coming back, and everything looks good;

• the council approved the new search and seizure policy for the police department;

• the council agreed by consensus to not allow a request to fence in a portion of the sidewalk on West C Street;

• the council approved a motion to proceed with the vacation of North Juniper.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9, at city hall.

Randy Parks

Editor
Randy was born in Iowa, and spent most of his life growing up in the Hawkeye State. After a few years in college, he settled in Idaho for a decade, skiing, golfing, and working at Sun Valley Resort. He married in 1985, completed broadcast school, and moved to Harney County in 1989 to work for KZZR. After 16 years of on-air work, he left the radio station and went to work for the Burns Times-Herald.

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