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Council mulls manager search

City Council members are researching different options for recruiting a new city manager, including hiring a private company to recruit qualified candidates.

But councilors won’t decide for at least two weeks which option to pursue as they seek to replace Steve Bogart, who announced last month that he’s retiring Sept. 23.

Mayor Dennis Dorrah this week mailed a letter to about 160 city managers and department heads from Oregon cities with populations between 5,000 and 20,000, notifying them of Baker City’s opening.

“I sent out a brief letter saying, ‘hey if you are interested, send us your resume,’ ” Dorrah said during Tuesday’s Council meeting.

The letter briefly describes the city and the job.

“The reason I did that was there would be real advantages in finding someone from Oregon that would be interested,” he said.

Dorrah told council members Tuesday that he thinks Baker City would benefit from hiring a manager who’s familiar with Oregon laws that could affect cities.


City’s eBay auction nets almost $11,000

The bigger items brought in the big bucks for Baker City in its eBay auction last week.

In all, the city disposed of 126 surplus items for a total of $10,924.59.

But almost 70 percent of the money — $7,486 — went for just five lots, each one a vehicle.

Including one very large vehicle.

That’s a 1981 Ford 700 five-cubic-yard dump truck, complete with 11-foot-wide snow plow.Carl Waltermire of Seattle paid $4,600 for the truck, which fetched more than three times as much money as any of the 125 other items.

The other vehicles, and their winning bids:

• 1988 GMC Jimmy four-wheel drive: $1,025.

• 2000 Ford Crown Victoria police interceptor: $710.

• 2003 Ford Crown Victoria police interceptor: $581.

• 1989 GMS Sierra S-15 two-wheel drive pickup truck: $570.


HBC receives $7,000 grant

Organization also certified by national Main Street program

Historic Baker City Inc. announced Tuesday that it’s been designated again as a National Main Street Program, and that it has received a $7,000 grant to support its Downtown Main Street Resource Center.

Ann Mehaffy, HBC program director, said the National Main Street Trust Center and its partners announce the list of accredited Main Street programs each year.

“This is the first year we had an opportunity to be accredited since the 1990s,” Mehaffy said.

She said the state Legislature cut funding for the Oregon Main Street Program in the 1990s, causing the state and local programs, including Baker City’s, to be dropped from the national program.


Fire destroys USFS office

Officials are searching for the cause of the blaze at the Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center in Enterprise

The U.S. Forest Service Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center in Enterprise caught fire Sunday and was a total loss. The building on Highway 82 housed the headquarters for the Wallowa Valley Ranger District, the Eagle Cap Ranger District, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the USDA Farm Services Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Wallowa Soil and Water Conservation Service. An investigation will begin today. (The (La Grande) Observer/Katy Nesbitt)
ENTERPRISE — A 20-year-old Wallowa County landmark was destroyed by fire Sunday afternoon — and with it a visitors center and several federal offices.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center, perched atop a hill northeast of Highway 82 at the entrance of Enterprise, was consumed during the mid-afternoon fire.

Inspectors from the state fire marshal’s office will conduct an investigation later today.

The Blue Mountain Fire Overhead team has sent a “short team” of seven to manage the incident, said Judy Wing, public affairs officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The team will manage the operations and logistics of restoring the communication and computer systems. Currently there is no electricity for the remaining structures.

The office building housed the visitors center and headquarters for the Wallowa Valley Ranger District, the Eagle Cap Ranger District, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the USDA Farm Services Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Wallowa Soil and Water Conservation Service.


City seeking $1.1 million for airport work

he Baker City Municipal Airport might be getting money for some needed improvements.

Jake Jacobs, an airport committee member, said he has written a grant proposal for the Connect Oregon III grant program, signed into law by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in 2009.

The $1.15 million grant, if received, would be combined with about $270,000 in federal dollars, and $16,000 from the city’s coffers, to fix safety hazards on the taxiway, install taxiway lights and make space for new hangars on the south end of the main runway.


Watkins reflects on her dozen years at City Hall

The Baker City native said she hopes her hometown continues to make progress on the projects, such as Central Park, that she worked on

Working on Baker City’s Central Park project has been one of Jennifer Watkins’ tasks over the past few years. Watkins, who came to City Hall in 1997, lost her job when the City Council restructured the budget. Today is her final day.(Baker City Herald?S.John Collins)
Jennifer Watkins is a hometown girl who went away to college, returned to Baker City, and worked her way up to near the pinnacle of city government.

Today, less than two weeks after the City Council cut her job as part of a budget restructuring, Watkins is wondering what’s next.

“I grew up here, went to college at Oregon State and the University of Idaho, and then came back in 1992,” said Watkins, a member of the Baker High School Class of 1990.

Her husband, Chris Watkins, is also a local who graduated from BHS a year ahead of her and works in sales at P&E Distributing.

Jennifer Watkins worked as a gemologist at a local jewelry store until she was hired as an economic development assistant for the city in 1997. During the next 12 years she advanced to a combined position as assistant city manager and director of the community and economic development department.

Her career in Baker City government ends today, a result of the city shifting the responsibility for economic and community development to Baker County.


County ponders ski area deal

Commissioners plan to decide July 21 whether county will take over Ski Anthony Lakes

Every seat was filled and people lined the walls and stood in the doorway to participate in a public hearing at the Courthouse on Wednesday about the prospect of Baker County accepting as a gift the Ski Anthony Lakes resort and running the ski area to prevent its closure.

“On behalf of the Sumpter Junction and Barley Brown’s, I can tell you it is hugely important to us,” said Luke Brown, whose family owns those two restaurants in Baker City.

“It’s a huge asset to the tourism industry,” said Carl Town, an owner of the Best Western Sunridge Inn in Baker City.

Members of ski clubs from Pendleton and La Grande, Ski Patrol representatives and employees of the resort joined Brown, Town and other Baker City business owners in urging the commission to come up with a plan that saves Baker County’s lone ski area from closing.

Connie Kearney represented the three families that have owned Ski Anthony Lakes for 12  years.

The owners are Kearney and her husband, Lee, of Vancouver, Wash., Parke and Gail Ball, also of Vancouver; and Kim and Dana Kutsch of the Salem area.


Sumpter emergency response unit shelved temporarily

Powder River Rural District, which has a station less than two miles from Sumpter, is filling in

Sumpter’s quick response unit is prohibited from responding to medical emergencies, due to an order from the Baker City doctor responsible for ensuring the unit has up-to-date patient treatment policies in place.

In the meantime, the Powder River Rural Fire District, whose station is less than two miles from Sumpter, will handle medical emergencies inside the city limits, said Jerry Boyd, who manages Baker County’s Consolidated Dispatch Center.

That stopgap measure should be sufficient on a temporary basis because neither the Sumpter nor the Powder River unit is called on frequently, Boyd said.

Both agencies are run solely by volunteers, said Rod Isaacson, a Sumpter City Council member.

Quick response units (QRUs) are vehicles that emergency responders drive to scenes to treat patients, but the vehicles are not ambulances and so are not equipped or certified to transport patients to a hospital.

Sumpter and Powder River each has one QRU.


Two accused of mailbox vandalism

The Baker County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two men accused of taking baseball bats to at least 30 mailboxes around Baker Valley.

Cody Matthew Janzen, 19, of Haines and Josiah Marion Kenworthy, 18, of 2175 Colorado Ave., were taken into custody Wednesday and are being held at the Baker County Jail, Sheriff Mitch Southwick said.

Mailboxes from Lindley Lane to Mill Creek, Pocahontas and Brown roads were smashed in the vandalism spree, the sheriff said. Eleven mailboxes were reportedly damaged the night of July 1 and 19 more were bashed Tuesday night.

One wooden bat was broken as the suspected vandals drove through the valley swinging at the mailboxes, the sheriff said. They later substituted a metal bat, he said.


Men sustain only minor injuries after driving off cliff

Two Baker City men escaped with only minor injuries when the pickup truck in which they were riding went off a cliff near Mason Dam and rolled a third of the way down the embankment.

The driver, William R. Westmoreland, 21, was cited on a charge of reckless driving and furnishing alcohol to a minor. His passenger, 19-year-old Trevor Simmons was cited on charges of minor in possession of alcohol and failure of a witness to report a crash, according to an Oregon State Police report.

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