by Lindy Williams
The Hines Common Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 6:30 p.m.
The council approved the business license applications for six new businesses: JHR Construction, ASG Land Development/Snow Plowing and Debris Removal, Sage Hens Janitorial, Sage Supply, May Flowers Nursery, and Elkhorn Painting and General Construction.
Due to the influx of travelers who may need information as they make their way through town, it was decided during City Administrator Judy Erwin’s report that Hines City Hall would remain open during the eclipse on Aug. 21.
“There may be people, especially outsiders, who need directions or assistance of some sort,” Mayor Nikki Morgan stated.
During the eclipse, there will be an arts and crafts fair, and a farmer’s market, at the park. At the soccer field, the chamber will be hosting an event where local residents can bring a blanket to watch the eclipse.
“I’m going to put a sign up outside with emergency camping information in case there are people who get stranded,” Erwin stated.
Erwin reported that she’d attended a meeting on Aug. 7, concerning local preparations for the eclipse. She stated that fuel was set aside for emergency vehicles, and Governor Kate Brown activated the National Guard to assist during the eclipse. She also reported that three Blackhawk helicopters were assigned to the western half of the state, while one would be stationed in Baker to help the eastern counties. Erwin warned that traffic would be much heavier than normal the Friday before the eclipse, the day of, and the day after. To monitor traffic conditions, check TripCheck.com. She warned that emergency services would only be responding to emergency situations.
Erwin also warned that it’s likely that cellphones will not work on Aug. 21, as there will be too much usage for the cell towers to handle. Land lines will still function properly.
Police Chief Ryan DeLange reported that there was an influx of car break-ins.
“We had seven last week, all on the same block. They’re stealing anything that they can. Every one of the cars was open, not locked up. We know who it is; we just have to catch him,” DeLange stated.
He also reported problems they’ve been encountering with mental holds, as each hold takes 3-4 hours out of an officer’s time. Law enforcement officers are required to stay with mental health patients until they can be transferred to the hospital or Symmetry Care.
Mayor Nikki Morgan stated that when officers were tied up with mental holds, it left the rest of the force shorthanded for other calls.
DeLange then reported that, as of Aug. 15, meth, heroine, and cocaine were all decriminalized to misdemeanors by the state.
“If you have more than two grams of any of it, it will be a felony. But anything below that is a misdemeanor. That includes heroine, it includes oxycodone, ecstasy, basically anything that was a felony before is now a misdemeanor,” DeLange said.
Erwin asked if prior convictions had any bearing on the charge, and DeLange responded that they did come into play, but that the conviction was mainly determined by how many grams were in possession at the time.
He also stated that they’d been having issues with the Deputy Medical Examiner (DME) program.
“We have always used the hospital or the Harney County Home, Health & Hospice as our DMEs for all of our unattended deaths or fatal crashes. We can no longer use them. They have quit the program. Law enforcement is not allowed to call them any more,” DeLange stated. He reported that there were three law enforcement officers in the county who were DMEs, and that they would be adding two more next year. He added that they were working with the county to create an on-call schedule to ensure that an officer was always available to go on calls.
DeLange again warned the public to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, as he’d killed three in the last month.
In other business, the council:
• heard a report from Acting Maintenance Supervisor Jerry Lewellen. Lewellen stated that the bathrooms at the park were vandalized twice. P DeLange stated that the new camera system needed to be tweaked to record for longer, but they were pleased with how the camera was working so far.
Lewellen also reported that he’d been checking sewers to ensure that all water was running properly. He said the lagoons were doing well, despite the heat. Lewellen added that the flow meter on the lagoons had quit, but they managed to fix it by replacing a small battery within the meter. He stated that all three wells have now been tested, a process which must be performed every three years;
• approved a $250 donation to the Corbett Memorial Field Improvement Committee;
• approved a request from Erwin to attend two conferences: the LGPI Conference in Salem Aug. 10 concerning HR assistance and labor relations, and the League of Oregon Cities Convention in Portland Sept. 28-30;
• heard a report from Fire Chief Bob Spence. Since the last meeting, the department received 14 calls, including four structure fires;
• denied a conditional use application from Michael and Debra Carter. The Carters applied for a conditional use permit to continue living in a building that is commercially zoned. The Carters have lived in the building since 2015, which excludes them from the decision reached at last month’s council meeting. The decision stated that residents who could provide verifiable proof of living in a commercially-zoned building for five or more years could continue living in the building without a conditional use permit. The Carter’s conditional use application was also denied by the planning commission;
• approved a variance application for a 17-foot-tall roof from Ray and Kathleen Dunten. The council also discussed looking into the original ordinance to determine whether a change could be made concerning roof height requirements;
• received a thank you card from the Burns High School class of 2017.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Hines Common Council will be held Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m., at Hines City Hall.