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Burns approves transportation fee

Earlier this year, the city of Burns commissioned a survey of the city streets, which determined that nearly 80 percent of them were in poor condition or worse. The report included existing funding and possible revenue resources to improve the streets, but found there is not adequate funding available to maintain all of them.

The report stated that the city has limited funding to provide for street repair and has no adopted street maintenance program. Funding sources included less than $25,000 in the budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, and $10,000 from the county for street repairs. The city has about 27 miles of paved streets, and the annual cost for maintaining them all would be about $350,000.

To build a fund for street repairs, the city council began considering assessing a fee to water meter billings. A monthly fee of $3 per meter per month would raise $54,000 annually, and a $5 fee would raise $90,000 annually.

Without the water meter fee, the city’s budget of $35,000 per year is assumed to maintain 1.35 miles of streets, or 10 percent of the road system, and not fund any repair work. To meet the report’s recommended funding requirement for maintaining all paved streets, a water meter fee of $19.53 would be required, but that would not address repair costs.

A water meter fee of $5 per meter per month would provide funding for the city to maintain 8.38 miles of roads and address road repairs for more than 30 percent of the city.

After several months of discussions and public input, the Burns City Council voted to approve an ordinance establishing the transportation fee and authorizing collection of the fee through the city’s utility billing system.

The ordinance implements the fee of $5 per occupied unit, per month, with the funds being used to maintain the street system and perform necessary road repairs. All funds collected will be paid into a street utility fund to be used to pay the costs of operating the city’s street system.

Because the city bills every two months, Burns residents will see the fee show up as $10 on their utility bill.


City Manager Dauna Wensenk stated there was a request to close South Court from Monroe Street to Jackson Street on Dec. 9 for the bonfire following the Christmas parade. The council approved the request.

Wensenk reported that she received four proposals in response to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a city engineer of record. The proposals came from Civil Dynamics of Caldwell, Idaho, H.A. McCoy Engineering and Surveying of Redmond, Morrison Maierle of Montana, and Anderson Perry & Associates of La Grande. A committee was set up to review the RFQs before making a decision.

Wensenk also reported that she received a call from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) regarding the $3 million that the city will be receiving for pedestrian safety improvements. The ODOT representative asked for a list of the proposed projects to be submitted to ODOT by the end of December. The city’s transportation committee will meet to come up with the list.


Burns Fire Chief Scott Williamson requested permission from the council to spend a Homeland Security grant in the amount of $38,024 on communication equipment for his department. He explained that the money would be used for about 35 new hand-held radios, batteries, and other equipment. Williamson said the new radios would be equipped with GPS and Bluetooth capabilities, and would ensure that every fire fighter would be equipped with a radio on a fire.

The council unanimously approved the request.


Public Works Director Pedro Zabala reported that they found a dummy fire hydrant in the vicinity of the Burns RV Park. Zabala said someone put the hydrant in place a number of years ago, but it was never hooked up to the water system.

Williamson speculated that the hydrant was put up as a decoration, but he warned residents against doing that. Last year, the Burns Fire Department conducted a burn to learn in the area, and when they hooked up to the hydrant, they found it didn’t work.

“It’s a serious issue,” Williamson said. “We ask people not to do that because it does cause confusion for firefighters.”

The dummy hydrant has been removed from its location.

Zabala added that his department had been putting rocks near the lagoon, getting vehicles ready for winter, and cutting the grates around trees to allow for growth.


Alice Herauf, physical education teacher at Slater Elementary, and Amy Dobson, outreach and education manager at Harney District Hospital, attended to ask the council for a donation. Herauf said they are planning to construct a three-lane, all-weather track on the north field at Slater to benefit the students and the community. A fence has already been erected around the field, and the project includes putting in benches, trash receptacles, and dog “poo-poo stations” as people would be allowed to bring their dogs to the area.

The estimated cost of the track is $60,000, and they are continuing to look for grants, have sent off donation request letters, and are planning more fundraisers. The estimate also includes replacing the backstops at the baseball fields at the school.

The council voted to donate $100 to the project.


In other business:

• Burns Police Chief Newt SkunkCap reported a vehicle, already equipped, was being donated to his department, which would provide them with a spare vehicle should the need arise;

• a public hearing was held at 6:15 p.m. for the proposed vacation of a portion of the South Egan Avenue right-of-way. There was no correspondence regarding the vacation, and the council approved it;

• the council voted to donate $1 for every free throw made by Taylor Crafts at a fundraiser for Blue Mountain Community College women’s basketball program;

• the council will hold a workshop at 1 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, at the Harney County Community Center to work on economic development.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13, 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.

One thought on “Burns approves transportation fee

  1. Transportation fee comment-perhaps instead of using all the budgeted funds to service existing government employee salaries, pension debt and healthcare premiums, why not ask all elected and appointed “public servants” to serve for free, as a “public service”, that would certainly free up more funds. Anyone, anyone? crickets–

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