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Council discusses encroachment on Burns’ streets

A number of Burns residents attended the Burns City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13, requesting that the council vacate a portion of North Hemlock Avenue.

Susan Ohlund, who lives on North Gordonia, told the council there is currently an electric pole, a shed, trees, and a portion of a house that are actually located on the street.

“Everybody that’s come here, that I’ve to talked to, we all agree on vacating that road because it hasn’t been used for so long,” Ohlund said.

She stated that the city streets in the same area are 80 feet wide, and asked if there could be a public hearing to see if the city would take the streets down to a width of 60 feet. She said most people in that area have built on city property not realizing they had gone too far off their property.

She added that other streets in the area are 60 feet wide, and they would like to see those streets reduced to 40 feet wide.

“Instead of coming in and telling everybody to move things and to get things cut down, especially the new members in our town, we would like to keep the whole area happy,” Ohlund said.

Several other residents in the area said that, when they purchased their property, they were misled as to where the property lines were, and they are finding out they don’t own what they thought they did.

City Manager (CM) Dauna Wensenk said the concern about Hemlock came up years ago when a resident in the neighborhood expressed concern about someone building a shed about 30 feet into an undeveloped road that was platted. She said there was no building permit issued, it was done probably in the early 1980s, and people have continued to encroach on the city right-of-way.

“It’s a 60-foot right-of-way, Hemlock is, that people have built on to it. They do not pay taxes on it because the city owns it, not the people, so we keep getting calls on it,” Wensenk said. “It’s not fair to make one person move their trailer, their personal belongings out of it without making other people move it.

“We’re not going to go around and make people move their existing buildings that are too close to the property line. That is not the intent at all.”

However, she said there are concerns about fences and safety issues, and the city is trying to address them and get residences cleaned up.

During the councilor comments portion of the meeting, Councilor Terri Presley said, “I’d like to have faith in my fellow human beings, but where we have a lot of people who are building out into the city right-of-ways and easements without getting proper permits, if we were to make the streets smaller, what’s going to stop them from encroaching further and further and further? Pretty soon, we’re going to have a bike path instead of an actual street.”

It was pointed out that the encroachment on city property isn’t something that just happened in recent years, but something that has been going on for 25 to 30 years and wasn’t addressed at the time.

Kelly Edmondson, a former member of the city council, suggested the formation of a citizens advisory committee to address the council with these sorts of issues.


Several residents attended to discuss the transportation fee being proposed by the city. The council planned to discuss the proposed fee, but because the city’s legal counsel was unable to attend the meeting, the discussion was removed from the agenda.

The proposed fee will be discussed at the council’s next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27.


CM Wensenk reported that engineers from Morrison Maierle were in town Aug. 30 to talk about future projects at the airport. One of the concerns that the city has had for some time is fuel tank storage. One suggestion was to add another tank for aviation fuel, but the engineers suggested the city put in a larger tank, and the engineers will look for funding for the project. Wensenk added that the city would contact the Critical Oregon Airport Relief Fund to see if it could provide some financial support.

Wensenk also reported that one of the three wells at the airport is pumping some sand, and the city is working on that issue.

Wensenk met with State Rep. Cliff Bentz when he was in town and discussed the funds that would be coming to the city from HB 2017, which outlines a new transportation package for the state. Wensenk said the city would receive $71,000 a year, and an additional $75,000 the third year. The city will also receive $3 million for pedestrian safety improvements in the city and $3 million from the U.S. 20 freight mobility enhancements that were included in the bill.


Under department head reports, Police Chief Newt Skunkcap said the department purchased new body armor thanks to an anonymous donation by a citizen, and he thanked the citizen for his/her help.

Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson said his department has received 102 calls so far this year.

Even though the weather is getting cooler, there is still a lot of dry fuel, so the burn ban will remain in place for now.

Williamson added that his department received a grant in the amount of $6,594, and he asked the council for permission to use it to purchase a forcible entry simulator. The cost of the simulator is $6,750, but there is money in the budget to cover the additional expense and shipping charges. The council approved his request.

Williamson also invited the council to attend a training, which will be held Oct. 2, regarding fighting vehicle fires.


The council held two public hearings during the meeting. The first was for a proposed vacation of West Adams adjacent to lots 1400, 4200, 4300, and 4400 of Tax Map 23-30-12DD for Marvin Hillman, and the second was for a proposed alley right-of-way vacation adjacent to Lot 6300 of Tax Map 23-31-7DD for Frank and Debbie Cronin. The council approved both vacations.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at city hall.

Randy Parks

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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