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Local districts ‘powerless’ to avoid ESD merger

Baker County school districts are not part of the “voluntary” effort to merge the Union-Baker Education Service District with the Umatilla-Morrow ESD.

“We’re powerless,” said Barry Nemec, Baker School District special education director. “We have to accept that we are merging.”

Nemec also helps the Pine-Eagle and Burnt River school districts in Baker County and the North Powder School District in Union County oversee their special education programs through an arrangement with the Baker School District known as the Southern Consortium.

The Huntington School District is served by the Malheur County ESD because of its location. The community sits about five miles north of the Malheur County line in southeastern Baker County.

Through the consortium, the Baker County school districts receive 90 percent of the state money paid to the UBESD to fund special education, diagnostics, speech and language and occupational and physical therapy services.


Motorcyclists revel in fine weather, fancy machines

Mike Buckner of Vale was among the participants in this year's Hells Canyon Motorcyle Rally. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr)
Mike Buckner was one of the Patriot Guard Riders who escorted Mike and Carol McKim's funeral at Halfway Saturday afternoon.

The Patriot Guard is an organization of veterans who come from all over Oregon to be a part of veterans' funeral. Mike McKim was a veteran of World War II, serving in occupied Japan. 


Volunteers help to keep Elkhorn Classic rolling

And you can never have too many, say organizers of the bicycle race

Jerry Peacock sounds like a salesman when he starts talking Elkhorn Classic and the volunteers needed to make the bicycle stage race a success.

“You never have too many volunteers for a thing like this,” he said. “It’s critical that we have a good volunteer list to keep this event going. It happens because people volunteer. If people don’t volunteer, it goes away.”

This is the race’s ninth year, and it happens June 18-20. All four stages begin in Baker City, and Saturday’s high-speed Gold Rush Criterium happens right downtown.

Registration closes today, but race director Ernie Conway said a late rush always increases the numbers — last year’s entries went from 250 to 400 the week of the event.

Peacock has organized volunteers since Nathan Hobson started the race.

Peacock has learned, over the years, that you can’t have too many volunteers.

“Having a waiting list is critical,” he said. “I’ve got people who schedule their vacation time around this. It’s amazing. I’ve got folks who show up every year, regardless of the weather.”


Flood & farms: What's next?

The floods that swept through Eagle and Pine valleys earlier this month left behind — in addition to a muddy, bouldery mess — considerably more questions than answers.

Many of those questions were posed Sunday evening to Rep. Greg Walden during a public forum at the Eagle Valley Grange in Richland.

About 100 people attended the forum, said Mark Bennett, Baker County’s emergency service manager.

A chief concern, to be expected in a county where agriculture is the biggest industry, is how this worst bout of flooding in more than a quarter century will affect farmers and ranchers in the two valleys.

Widespread damage to irrigation equipment is the main short-term threat, Bennett said.

Floodwaters washed out sections of ditches, destroyed headgates and other diversion structures, flushed away topsoil and and pried loose measuring gauges.


Twister spins through Medical Springs

What’s not clear is whether the funnel cloud touched down to become an official tornado

Wendee Morrissey, who lives along Highway 203 northeast of Baker City, photographed this funnel cloud about 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday. (Submitted Photo by Wendee Morrissey)
When Wendee Morrissey’s husband hollered for her to come outside “and look at this” she didn’t know what to expect.

But it wasn’t a tornado.

Except that’s exactly what it was.


The weather phenomenon that prompted John Morrissey to summon Wendee certainly was a funnel cloud, said Paul Flatt, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Boise.

Flatt has looked at some of the photographs Wendee took with her digital camera about 11:15 Wednesday morning from the Morrisseys’ home along Highway 203 near Medical Springs.

What’s not clear is whether the funnel actually touched the ground and thus became, officially speaking, a tornado.

The Morrisseys never saw the base of the funnel, so they’re not sure.

Flatt said meteorologists examined images from the Weather Service’s Doppler radar station at the Boise Airport.

But because that station is more than 100 miles away, with mountains in between, the radar beam can “see” only the upper parts of the storm cell that spawned the funnel cloud, Flatt said.


Kulongoski: Prison stays open

Governor rejects proposal to close Powder River in Baker City, two other prisons

A proposal to close the Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City announced Wednesday by the Oregon Department of Corrections was dismissed on arrival by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

DOC officials proposed to close Powder River and two other minimum-security prisons, eliminating 232 jobs and releasing nearly 1,000 inmates, in response to Kulongoski’s call for agencies to submit plans to cut 9 percent from their budgets.

The governor made that request last month after state officials estimated Oregon’s budget shortfall at $577 million.

Out of 14 prisons statewide, the DOC chose to target the three smallest minimum-security facilities: Powder River, which opened in 1989, and the Mill Creek work camp and the Santiam Correctional Institution, both in Salem.

Powder River, which has a capacity of 286 inmates, houses 271 prisoners now, said Ron Miles, the prison’s public information officer.

Miles said that had Kulongoski approved the DOC plan, it’s not certain that every Powder River inmate would have been released by Sept. 15, as the agency proposed.


Walden: Fix Loop Road

Rep. Greg Walden is urging the U.S. Forest Service to re-open the washed out Wallowa Mountain Loop Road “as fast as possible.”

“The Loop Road is a critical link between Baker and Wallowa counties and is a major tourism corridor that bolsters local economies,” he said Thursday in a press release.

Walden, a Republican who represents Eastern Oregon in Congress, plans to tour flood-damaged Eagle and Pine valleys on Sunday afternoon and then attend a public forum in Richland hosted by Halfway Mayor Sheila Farwell and Richland Mayor Dick Petterson.

The forum is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Eagle Valley Grange.

A 500-foot section of the paved Loop Road was obliterated by North Pine Creek last week when a combination of torrential rain and melting snow from the Wallowa Mountains more than doubled the creek’s volume.

The road was severely damaged in four other places along the creek.

The affected section is between the Loop Road’s southern end at Ore. Highway 86 and its intersection with the Fish Lake Road.

Walden met Thursday with Mary Wagner, regional forester at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Region headquarters in Portland.


Grant pays for two summer school sessions

In the week before classes ended June 4,  the Baker School District learned it would have extra money to fund a summer school program aimed at helping students meet math and reading benchmarks, says Betty Palmer, South Baker principal.

The $52,000 grant will fund two separate “intensive three-week” programs with the first session starting Monday.

Class time is 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Monday through Thursday, with the first session continuing through July 1, Palmer said.

Breakfast will be served daily from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:45 a.m. to noon.

Students who were in Grades 1-3 this year will attend summer school at Brooklyn Primary, 1350 Washington Ave. Those who were in Grades 4-5 this year will attend South Baker Intermediate, 1285 Third St.

A transition program for kindergartners and sixth-graders will be added during the second session, which is scheduled Aug. 2-Aug. 19, Palmer said.


Bikers with a cause: Fighting cancer

The Bikers Fighting Cancer will be out in full force this weekend to further their goal of raising money to help children fighting cancer.

“It’s all about the kids — helping the kids and families through a very tough time,” said Jim Brougham of Baker City.

The Eastern Oregon chapter of Bikers Fighting Cancer started three years ago. Reg Madsen, a retired Oregon State Police officer, is the Oregon president.

According to the Web site, the national Bikers Fighting Cancer was established in 2002 by Ray, an 11-year-old boy, and Patrick Healy, 49. Both were fighting cancer,  and Ray told Pat when he grew older he wanted to belong to a bike club. Pat suggested they start their own club immediately.

Ray designed the patch, name of the club and the slogan “Never Give Up.” He died at age 12, and was buried wearing his vest and patch.


Motorcyclist dies en route to rally

A California motorcyclist traveling to Baker City for the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally died in a single-vehicle crash south of Riley Thursday.

Glenn Scott Joyce, 58, of Alturas, Calif., was killed in the crash, according to Oregon State Police.

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