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Great deal, EPA

The federal government has managed to make the possible closure of one of Baker County’s larger private employers seem downright merciful.

Ash Grove Cement Co.’s plant near Durkee, 27 miles southeast of Baker City, employs about 116 people.

The plant has an annual payroll of about $9 million. It’s also the county’s second-biggest taxpayer, putting $727,000 into the county’s coffers last fiscal year.

In other words, Ash Grove is a vital part of Baker County economy — more so since the county recently endured its highest August jobless rate (9.2 percent) in a quarter-century.


Thanks for nothing

We wish President Obama were as eager to help Baker County resuscitate its flagging economy as he is to ensure that an Idaho company gets to build a power transmission line through the county.

Pot and guns

There are good reasons to deny a person the privilege of buying a gun.

That a person has a card allowing him to legally use marijuana is a bad reason.


Playing a waiting game with Wallowa wolves

We’ve begun to reconsider our optimism about the prospect that wolves will return to some of their former habitat in Oregon in anything resembling a peaceful manner.

Based on the exploits this year of the Imnaha wolf pack — until recently the biggest of Oregon’s three packs — our earlier sense of hope is being replaced by skepticism.

Last week the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), which manages wolves in far Eastern Oregon, announced that its agents would kill two of the four remaining Imnaha wolves. One of the targeted wolves is the pack’s alpha, or breeding, male.

ODFW killed two other Imnaha wolves in May.


OTEC equality

There’s no way to sugarcoat the rate hikes that Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative announced last week.

But though we can’t sweeten the reality that, starting Saturday, we’ll pay more for a product none of us can do without, we can say this: OTEC’s board of directors made this ordeal less sour, for many of us, than it could have been.

Before we explain how, let’s deal with one major issue.

OTEC had to charge its customers more.


PERS, revealed

We’ve heard a lot of stories over the years about Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

PERS provides pensions to most local, county, state and public school employees in Oregon.



School board can't ban all guns

We don’t question that the the Baker School Board, should it choose to do so, can enact a policy that prohibits its employees who have a license to carry a concealed handgun from bringing a pistol to work.

The district’s legal authority to impose such a restriction is clearly established in a 2009 case involving a Medford high school teacher.

Trouble is, the policy the Baker School Board is considering adopting goes well beyond that authority.


Antiquities Act not obsolete

There’s an interesting discussion brewing in Congress that has to do with the president’s power to, in effect, manage federal land with his pen.

Interesting, and worthwhile.

The impetus for this debate is a group of six bills that would either limit the president’s authority, or repeal it altogether.

The issue is hardly a new one.

At its center is the 1906 Antiquities Act. The law allows the president, without congressional approval, to designate national monuments. That designation greatly limits how such land can be used, including restrictions on such things as logging and mining.


Deserving attention

We were pleased to learn recently that the veterans’ section at Baker City’s Mount Hope Cemetery is getting the attention it deserves.

The city, which owns and manages the cemetery, has set up an advisory group that will propose improvements to the section that includes more than 350 graves of military veterans.


Re-used in Richland

For more than a century, a piece of ground on the east side of Richland was put to one of the highest uses — it was the site of three public schools.

The first was built in 1888. It was replaced in 1912, and again in the 1950s with the building that still stands today.

Since 2007, though, when the Pine-Eagle School District closed Richland Elementary due to declining enrollment, the building has not fulfilled its full promise.

Yes, the Baker County Library moved its Richland branch into the former school.

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