by Lindy Williams
The Hines Common Council met on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m., for a special meeting, after their regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 12 was canceled due to lack of quorum.
The council heard a letter of resignation from Rod Bennett, who resigned from the council due to an ongoing illness.
The council then appointed John Mims to fill the open council seat for the remainder of Bennett’s term. The vote was 3-2. Councilors Diane Rapaport, Raymond Breshears, and Robert Beers voted in favor, while Councilors Dan Grigg and Ron Williams voted against. Councilors Williams and Grigg both suggested that the open council seat be advertised to the public before making a decision.
As part of the Master Water Plan in collaboration with Brandon Mahon, the council discussed raising water rates to assist in paying for the needed repairs and upgrades in the Hines water system.
A lengthy discussion between the council and the public followed; both for and against raising rates. The council welcomed members of the public to come to City Hall, look at the planned repairs and costs, and make suggestions.
Fire Chief Bob Spence reminded the public that the burn ban is still in effect. He stated that despite the cooler weather, the fuel is still dry and poses a fire danger. He stated that they had received five 911 calls, including: two automobile accidents, a flareup at the old mill pond, and a microwave incident at the Saginaw village.
Spence also reported that he is currently working closely with Howard Palmer from the Harney County Planning Commission, the deputy state fire marshal, and the owner of the new Grocery Outlet concerning fire hydrant placement.
Spence reported that the Burns and Hines fire departments are planning on jointly applying for a FEMA grant to purchase new turnouts and self contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA). He stated that both the turnouts and the SCBAs were outdated for both cities. He stated that new SCBAs cost around $7,500 per pack.
Acting Maintenance Supervisor Jerry Lewellen reported that his department had been changing oil in all the trucks and equipment –– including snow plows –– to ready them for winter. He stated that one of the plow trucks needed new chains.
Lewellen also reported that they had been working hard to keep sewers clear, as they tend to clog during the fall season.
Lewellen then asked the council about the possibility of installing an RV dump site –– similar to those at campgrounds –– at the Hines Park.
Mayor Nikki Morgan asked what the project would entail.
“Everything is already there, we’d just have to dig it up and tap the sewer line, pour a concrete slab, then put in a drop box,” Lewellen answered.
Lewellen stated that he thought that with hunters, campers, and other passers by, an easily-accessible RV dump could do well.
“What would it do to the aesthetic of the park?” Mayor Morgan asked.
Lewellen replied that it would do nothing as the dump would be in the parking lot. He stated that since there is already an existing sewer line for the bathrooms, installation would be easy, and the city maintenance department could complete the work. The only additional costs will be the cap for the dump site and the concrete slab.
Dag Robinson stated he was planning on replacing the current ballot box with a new, bigger one. He stated that Hines could have the old ballot box to use as a payment box.
The council voted unanimously to authorize the maintenance crew to commence building the RV dump.
Police Chief Ryan DeLange reported that there had been steady calls, including: thefts, domestic violence cases, and probation violations. He stated that there had been a few unattended deaths in the last month and that the police departments were still working on the designated medical examiner program (DME).
“It’s kind of a mess right now,” DeLange stated.
DeLange stated that the entire county only has two DMEs, and neither are a physician.
“We currently have no medical examiner for the county, so we’re already running into some issues with fluid draws,” DeLange reported.
He said that the departments had been involved in meetings with Harney County Home, Health & Hospice and progress had been made, but at the time of the meeting, no conclusion had been reached. He also stated that a contract with Malheur or Grant county was a possibility they were looking into.
“That’s what we’re trying to work out, some kind of compensation from the county for someone besides law enforcement to be the DME. We’re no good at it, I’ll just be honest. We’re no good at it, we don’t know what we’re doing, it’s just not what we’re trained to do. We can do the initial part of it and all the investigative parts, but when it comes to actually dealing with the deceased, it’s just not our job,” DeLange said.
DeLange also stated that the lack of a medically-trained DME is creating other problems as the state medical examiner’s office is six months backlogged.
“They’re the only ones in the state who can sign the death certificate. So now you have families who cannot have a funeral because the death certificate has not been signed,” DeLange explained.
He reported that the state of Oregon has now made it illegal for underage teens to vape or smoke e-cigarettes. He also stated that the tobacco and vaping age had been raised to 21.
DeLange reported that the Oregon House had passed a bill cracking down on distracted driving cases. The third distracted driving offense in ten years will be a Class B misdemeanor, with a minimum fine of $2,000, and the possibility of up to six months in jail. The bill goes into affect on Oct. 1.
He also reported that Officer Roxane Ellis had attended a forensic cell phone class for major crimes investigations.
“The class was very interesting and I learned a lot of information that I think will help all of our law enforcement officers in our community,” Officer Ellis stated.
In other business, the council:
• heard from City Administrator Judy Erwin concerning state-level marijuana money distribution, economic development, FEMA, and economic grants;
• discussed the future of the skate park with Councilor Rapaport;
• received a thank you from the Corbett Memorial Field Renovation Project;
• approved a bid for a Skid Steer and attachments;
• approved a request for the chief of police to attend training Sept. 27-28;
• retroactively approved a request for Officer Novak to attend training Sept. 18-19;
• approved a business license application for Alien Ice, a shaved ice mobile vendor;
• approved a business license application for Emang Design LLC, a gunsmithing and gun sales business;
• approved a business license application for Wright Taxi.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, at city hall.