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Bentz meets with constituents


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Kathy Orr / Baker City Herald Rep. Cliff Bentz met with Baker County residents Friday in a series of Town Hall gatherings. At Haines, Chuck Chase, seated left, of the Eastern Oregon Mining Association, listened to the presentation.

HAINES — An Eastern Oregon legislator was busy last week speaking and listening to his constituents.

District 60 Rep. Cliff Bentz held nine town hall meetings over two days Friday and Saturday.

At Haines, Bentz addressed a crowd of about 35 people at the Frontier Restaurant on Front Street Friday at noon.

“At the end of the day, I want to know what you guys are thinking and what you want me to do,” he said. “This is your chance to tell me what you’re thinking.”


Museum has new director


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S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Lea Hoover, left, is the new Baker Heritage Museum director. She says the volunteers, like 80-year-old Jeanie Wright, offer a wealth of historic information to museum visitors.

Lea Hoover doesn’t hesitate when asked what she likes best about the Baker Heritage Museum.

“The volunteers are all great,” she says. “This place doesn’t run without them.”

Hoover, 24, is the new director of the museum at 2480 Grove St. She replaces Chris Cantrell, who recently retired after five years in the position. Cantrell was recently elected president of the Friends of the Museum organization.

Hoover says the dedicated volunteers and their vast knowledge of the exhibits that reflect Baker County history combine to produce a museum that’s “a wonderful place.”

“It’s all from Baker County, about Baker County or from a person who lived in Baker County,” Hoover said of the museum exhibits.

She is a graduate of Oregon State University at Corvallis where she earned a degree in interior design and housing studies and a business degree. 


Harvey asks for delay in deadline for comments


Baker County Commission Chair Bill Harvey sent a letter Tuesday to Forest Service officials requesting that they delay the closing of the comment period for Subpart A of the Travel Management (Plan).

The letter to Wallowa-Whitman Forest Supervisor Tom Montoya and Regional Forester Jim Peña was titled “RE: Comment period for Subpart A.”  It was regarding another letter sent by Peña to Montoya dated March 17 that was provided to the county.

In his letter, Harvey stated “There has been miscommunication given to the public through the newspaper in Baker County and the letter dated March 17, 2015, that was provided to the County is unclear.”

When asked which newspaper, Harvey said “It was all the newspapers,” referring to publication of a press release in which Region 6 Regional Forester Peña announced the deferment of additional work on the Travel Management Plan until the Blue Mountain Forest Plan revision is complete.


Baker City native serves aboard USS New Orleans


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Submitted Photo Seaman Kasey Knaus is a boatswain’s mate aboard the San Diego-based San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship.

A Baker City native is sailing the high seas on one of the Navy’s most advanced amphibious ships.

A 2011 Baker High School graduate, Seaman Kasey Knaus is a boatswain’s mate serving aboard the USS New Orleans according to a press release from the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

21 year-old Knaus said it is an exciting time to be in the Navy, and serving aboard a ship has truly made him a better person. 

He stated that his service has “helped me become a better leader and it improved my social skills.”


Concussion Symptoms


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S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Kim Zinn, left, and Jodi Flanagan, right, finish a Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 3 test with Leonard Radinovich, Baker High School varsity baseball player. Baseball and softball players were tested during practice last week to create a baseline of fundamental information about players should they incur a head injury during the sports season.

The Baker High School varsity and junior varsity baseball and softball teams probably didn’t realize they’d be taking tests when they arrived at practice last Thursday at the Baker Sports Complex.

At various times during the practices, therapists Kim Zinn, Jodi Flanagan and Blake Marlia met one-on-one with the players.

Zinn is a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer at St. Alphonsus Rehabilitation Services (STARS). Flanagan and Marlia are physical therapists at Baker Valley Physical Therapy.


Council votes to ban sale of weed


Baker City councilors voted Tuesday night to adopt an ordinance that bans the sale of marijuana in Baker City.

Ordinance No. 3336, besides banning pot stores, prohibits the cultivation, processing or consumption of marijuana (recreational or medical) in public places or within public view.

Councilors passed the third and final reading by a 4-1 vote, with Jim Thomas casting the dissenting vote (Councilors Ben Merrill and Rosemary Abell were absent).


Baker City man hurt in North Dakota crash

Braden Phillips, a Baker City man who is attending Trinity Bible College at Ellendale, North Dakota, was injured Sunday in an icy freeway crash while returning to school with two friends after spring break.

One of the young men he was traveling with, Cameron Byrd, 21, of Duncanville, Texas, died at the scene on Interstate 94 about 75 miles west of Bismarck, North Dakota, according to newspaper reports. The third young man, Marcus White, 19, of Coconut Creek, Florida, was seriously injured.


Congress moves forward with county funding


Elected leaders in Washington D.C. are moving forward with legislation to extend critical funding for Baker County and other Oregon counties.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., today announced that he has secured a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for local schools, roads, and law enforcement in Oregon’s rural forested communities.

“Last December, Speaker Boehner and I committed to extending this lifeline for rural Oregon communities by March 31. Today, we fulfill that commitment. My Oregon colleague Peter DeFazio deserves credit, too, for working with his leadership to support including this provision,” Walden stated in the press release. 

“This two-year extension gives us time to continue work on a long-term plan to reform federal forest policy to grow jobs in the woods, improve forest health, and provide certainty for essential local services like schools and roads,” he stated. 

The Associated Press reported today the House will vote on the bill Thursday.

In the Senate, an amendment to the federal budget bill that would reauthorize federal money tied into the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act has been approved by the Senate Budget Committee according to a press release from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s, D-Ore. office.

“It is good news the House Leadership has decided to stop playing politics with the safety net for Oregon counties,” Wyden stated in the press release. “Their decision is a concrete recognition that linking the safety net to unsustainable and unacceptable logging practices can never become law.” 

Wyden and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced a bill to extend the county payments program last month. He authored the original SRS program with then Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in 2000. Since then it has brought more than $2.8 billion to rural Oregon counties.

Last year the SRS program funded about $107 million to Oregon counties.

“As the author of the bipartisan Secure Rural Schools program, I’m pleased to report progress in the Senate: an 18 to 4 vote in favor of a three-year reauthorization of SRS in the Budget Committee and a bipartisan bill with Senator Crapo for three-year reauthorization and restoration of PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes,” Wyden stated. “I will continue to pursue at every opportunity and on every piece of must-pass legislation, this lifeline for Oregon counties.”

(PILT are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries.)


Baker City Town Hall with Greg Walden


U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.) held his 17th town hall meeting in Oregon Saturday at the Veterans Advocate Center of Oregon-Idaho in Baker City.

It was his 90th town hall meeting in the state since the beginning of 2012.

Walden started off by talking about how most of Eastern Oregon is in a state of emergency due to drought.

“I wish there was more snowpack out in the hills around here,” he said. “With spring officially here ... I think our opportunity for snowpack is pretty limited.”

Walden then talked about forestry issues in Eastern Oregon.

“There has been a lot of controversy about how they are managed -— or not managed,” he said.


SRS program in limbo


A fiscal storm hovers on the horizon for Baker County and whether or not that squall descends in the next year will depend on what elected leaders in Washington, D.C., do or do not do.

This particular fiscal gale revolves around federal money tied into the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act (SRS). The program, fashioned in 2000 and more commonly known as “county payments,” has evolved into a critical cash lifeline for rural counties across the nation.

The program was created in part to offset the loss of revenue generated from timber sales. 

Yet the Secure Rural Schools program is now in limbo. Bipartisan legislation to renew the program was introduced in February pushed by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, one of the architects of the program, and Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo.

Last week Wyden introduced an amendment to the federal budget bill that would renew SRS for another year as well as another crucial source of revenue for Baker County: PILT — Payment In Lieu of Taxes.


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