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A group of friends that has it made in the shade



Baker City Herald


Laurene Chapman sits cross-legged on a thick pillow as she methodically weaves a Navajo-inspired design.

Beyond her loom, just a few yards away, pristine Eagle Creek rushes over rocks, creating that soft background noise so familiar to the woods.

Scattered around Chapman are other weavers who have claimed a shady spot for this annual event they call “Weaving in the Woods.”

These are the Threadbenders, a guild of artists who specialize in fiber arts. Members live in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties.

Council OKs contract with Kee

Baker City Herald

The Baker City Council approved an employment contract with incoming City Manager Mike Kee on Tuesday evening that includes a starting annual salary of $90,000.

Councilors voted unanimously on Aug. 10 to hire Kee, who’s worked as the Ontario Police chief since 1998.

Tuesday’s vote on the contract was 6-0; Councilor Milo Pope was absent.

Kee will replace Steve Bogart, who announced in late June that he will resign Sept. 23.

Bogart’s salary is the same as Kee’s (although Bogart, who was hired in January, will not work a full year).

Kee will start work in Baker City on Sept. 7. Bogart will assist Kee with the transition.

Three incumbents, Coles qualify for Council ballot

Baker City Herald

Baker City voters will have four candidates, not five, to choose from in the Nov. 2 City Council election.

Although five people had gathered signatures to qualify as candidates before the filing deadline at 5 p.m. Tuesday, it turns out that incumbent Gail Duman, who was appointed by the Council to replace Andrew Bryan after he resigned in late May, is not eligible for this year’s election.

The Nov. 2 ballot will include four candidates for the four openings on the seven-member council: Incumbents Dennis Dorrah, Beverly Calder and Clair Button, along with Roger Coles.

Coles is a member of the city’s budget board.

Forest Service fire in Enterprise wasn't arson, officials say

Fire investigators said Monday that spontaneous combustion of materials used to apply sealant to a U.S. Forest Service visitors center in Enterprise is the probable cause of the July 11 fire that destroyed the 20-year-old building.

No criminal charges are pending, according to a press release from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The fire destroyed the Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center, a prominent log structure on a hill just west of Enterprise. No one was hurt in the fire, which happened on a Sunday.

Sea Side Associates of Chelan, Wash., owned the 20,500-square-foot building and leased it to the Forest Service.

On the day the fire started, workers hired by the owners were applying a sealant to the building's exterior.

The Wallowa-Whitman has set up a temporary visitors center in the Chamber of Commerce office in Enterprise. Forest Service workers are housed in a former elementary school in Joseph, five miles south of Enterprise. 

Workers from two other federal agencies that used the former visitors center -- the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Services Agency -- are using the former Wallowa Memorial Hospital in Enterprise.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was the lead agency in the fire investigation. The FBI, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, Oregon State Police, Oregon State Fire Marshal and Wallowa County Sheriff's Department were also involved.

Doing the heavy lifting in the fight against fires


Pilot Darrel Folkvord examines the bucket that can drop thousands of gallons of water on wildfires. Folkvord pilots the Boeing Chinook helicopter, in background.


Baker City Herald

The U.S. Forest Service has enlisted some heavy-lifting help in the campaign to douse wildfires in Northeastern Oregon.

A Boeing 234 Chinook helicopter has been on standby at the Baker City Municipal Airport for about the past month.

The twin-rotor aircraft can dump more than 1,700 gallons of water on a blaze.

And that’s only one load.

The Forest Service usually contracts with a private company to supply a helicopter for firefighting work on the Wallowa-Whitman, but the aircraft typically is stationed at the La Grande Airport, said Judy Wing, public information officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Police to Wyden: Pot farms a growing problem


Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner, left, talks with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Wednesday in Baker City.


Baker City Herald

Gun-toting members of foreign drug cartels are endangering Americans and polluting forests and wilderness areas with chemical-intensive marijuana-growing operations, local police officials told Sen. Ron Wyden during a meeting Wednesday in Baker City.

County sheriffs, police chiefs and other law enforcement officials from across Eastern Oregon told Wyden, Oregon’s senior senator, that they’re worried about the growing threat posed by pot farms in the region’s remote forests and rangelands.

The officials invited Wyden to attend the meeting.

Tiny odds turn out good for bighorn hunter

Baker City Herald

Fred Riggs was so sure he’d never draw a tag to hunt bighorn sheep that he dallied a good long while before even trying for one.

Until he was 83, in fact.

But he only had to wait til he was 84 to get lucky.

Riggs, who has lived in Richland since 1937, and been hunting in Baker County almost as long, will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to kill a bighorn ram.

His hunt, in the Lookout Mountain unit south of Richland, runs from Aug. 28 through Sept. 8.

To say Riggs beat long odds to obtain this coveted tag is to engage in egregious understatement.

Last year, the most recent for which statistics are available, 414 hunters applied for the first of the two annual Lookout Mountain bighorn hunts (the second hunt, also limited to a single tag, is set for Sept. 11-26).

“That’s not too good odds,” Riggs said.

Chris Dudley: Private sector jobs top task

Chris Dudley (standing, at right), Republican candidate for Oregon governor, visited Baker City Monday afternoon. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley outlined his vision of Oregon as a place where Republicans and Democrats “roll up their sleeves and work together.”

By listening to people in all parts of the state and working with lawmakers from all parties to change policies that discourage business development, Dudley said he will create jobs and restore a balanced statewide economy.

During a campaign stop Monday afternoon in Baker City, Dudley said his top priority as governor will be private sector jobs.

“We cannot have the quality of life without private sector jobs,” Dudley told a small crowd of supporters gathered on the lawn outside the Baker County Courthouse.

Dudley accused his Democrat rival, John Kitzhaber, who served two terms as governor from 1995-2003, of instituting policies that decimated natural resource industries, worsened the rural/urban divide and left Oregon’s economy overly dependent on high-tech businesses.

“There’s no reason we should be 14 percent below the national per capita income,” Dudley said. “There’s no reason we should live in a state where 66 percent of high school seniors are not going to graduate on time, where we’re 43rd in education funding and 47th in hunger.”

A soldier's special and solemn duty

Taylor Thamert of Baker City is a member of a U.S. Army colors guard that serves at military funerals

Taylor Thamert’s job is to help bury the men and woman who died serving this nation.

 It is a weighty responsibility for a young man who had dreamed of becoming a soldier since he was 4.

“When I saw my dad come home in his uniform, I knew I wanted to do that,” the 2009 Baker High graduate said.

Pfc. Thamert, 19, joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school.

“I didn’t want to go to college, but I didn’t want to work in a trade factory,” he said. “The military had more to offer: travel, $80,000 toward school, a constant paycheck, and a great career.”

Taylor is a fourth-generation soldier.

His father, Jeremy, the owner of Oregon Power Solutions in Baker City, served for 14 years as an Army flight engineer.


Council race draws 5 so far

With deadline six days away, the four incumbents, along with Roger Coles, are possible candidates

Less than a week before the deadline, five Baker City residents are gathering the signatures they need to qualify as candidates in the Nov. 2 City Council election.

That list includes all four of the incumbents whose terms end Dec. 31: Beverly Calder, Dennis Dorrah, Clair Button and Gail Duman.

The other potential candidate for one of the four positions is Roger Coles.

Only those five have filled out the necessary paperwork and picked up signature sheets from City Hall, City Recorder Becky Fitzpatrick said Tuesday afternoon.

To qualify for the Nov. 2 ballot, candidates must gather at least 41 signatures from people registered to vote in city elections.

The Baker County Clerk’s office will check each signature to ensure it’s valid.

The deadline for verifying signatures is 5 p.m. on Aug. 24.

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