At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 25, the Burns City Council approved a request from Chuck and Carol Lynde to vacate a portion of North Date Street.
In their written request to the city, the Lyndes explained that the continuation of North Date Street was plotted a number of years ago, but the property has always been used as a pasture for animals and seasonal cutting of grasses.
Municipal Judge/City Clerk Dawn Crafts reported that there were no objections to the request, and following a brief discussion, the council voted to approve the vacation request.
City Manager Dauna Wensenk informed the council that she met with Harney County Judge Pete Runnels, Andy Root of ACW, and a property owner regarding the clean up of Silvies River near the bridge on Highway 20/395, just north of town. She said the clean up was almost complete, and they were also looking at cleaning up a portion of the river on Riverside Drive to mitigate flooding.
“I think it’s going to be an ongoing project every year to budget some money and look at cleaning the willows and look at cleaning the other side of the river. It’s really overgrown and narrow in places, but we will keep an eye on that,” Wensenk said.
Wensenk reminded the council that, at the previous meeting, Councilor Gary Estep stated that there is a cat problem in the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) yard. There is a cat feeding station in the area, and as a result, the yard is covered with cat feces.
Wensenk said she was contacted by ODOT about the problem, so she went down to the ODOT yard and confirmed there was a problem. Wensenk then contacted Save A Stray and asked that the feeding station be removed.
Wensenk reported that the city’s legal counsel was still looking at the city’s proposed vacation ordinance and the transportation utility fee ordinance. They should both be ready for the council’s review at the next meeting.
A large grass fire behind Big R was reported on Oct. 17, and Wensenk thanked the fire department for its fast response to the blaze. She also thanked the police department and other entities for their hard work.
Burns Police Chief Newt Skunkcap reported that the law enforcement agencies in the county have been busy working on an investigation.
“I want to say Detective Tiller and Deputy Nisbet are doing an outstanding job of taking the lead on this investigation,” Skunkcap said.
Mayor Jerry Woodfin asked why law enforcement seems so tight-lipped about the investigation, and Skunkcap explained that they are trying to get the most accurate information that they can from the people who may know something about the incident.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Elizabeth Howerton asked the community to start planning now to help the elderly and people with disabilities should there be another harsh winter. She suggested having the parole and probation crew help with shoveling snow if needed.
Howerton, a homecare worker, told the council that, last winter, she was unable to get people out of their house, in a wheelchair, to their vehicle, over the berm of snow, and to their medical appointments. She added that Harney District Hospital Emergency Medical Services struggled at times to just get to patients’ doors.
Howerton asked whether the city or volunteers can help during the winter, adding that she has a list of people who could use an extra hand.
She also expressed concern about a ditch that runs through her property. She stated that the ditch is a hazard and a drowning danger, and asked if the ditch could be covered, or if a culvert or grate could be installed.
She said she would like to put up a fence around her property, but she needs a way to close off the two sides over the ditch to keep animals out.
After some discussion, the council agreed to look at the situation and see if it can come up with a solution.
Gay Walker asked the council if the proposed transportation utility fee was in place yet, if there is any guarantee that the fee won’t keep rising, and how the fee is assessed. She also asked if the city was going to decline the marijuana tax disbursement from the state because there was so much opposition to a dispensary from the community.
It was explained that the transportation utility fee was not yet in effect, and that the fee is assessed on water bills to occupied residences.
Regarding the marijuana tax, Councilor Terri Presley said, “We opted out of it. Why should we get the money for it? It’d be nice, but we opted out of it.”
Woodfin responded, “The only thing that I would chime in with is they did conduct business in the city of Burns, whether the city was for it or against it. And I think if the city wants to accept revenue for business that was done in their community, whether they were in agreement or not, I think the thoughts are rewarding to Burns, Oregon.”
Woodfin added that the city won’t receive any more funds from the marijuana taxes in the future.
Harney County Hospice Director Jodi McLean attended the meeting to ask for a donation to the annual hospice fundraiser. She said the event is the major fundraiser for the local hospice each year, and the funds are vital to supply medications, medical supplies, and care to those in hospice care.
The council voted to donate $100.
Because of the upcoming holidays, the council will meet only once in November and December. Those meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, and Wednesday, Dec. 13, at city hall.