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BHS junior going to Washington, D.C.

Charlotte Bowers


Baker City Herald

Charlotte Bowers will be leaving home this month to travel to Washington, D.C., for the adventure of her teenage lifetime.

Seeds for the adventure took root in August when she happened upon information about the House Page Program while browsing the Web looking at bills being considered by Congress (something the Baker High School junior says she does when maybe she should be directing her focus elsewhere).

Just out of curiosity, Bowers followed a link to a site for young people, which led her to a link for the House Page Program.

Next, she placed calls to the offices of members of Oregon’s congressional delegation and began receiving newsletters from each of them.

In October, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District which includes Baker County, announced in his newsletter that he was accepting applications for the House Page Program’s spring 2010 semester. Bowers decided to apply.

Precisely where he aimed to be

A 9 mm competition pistol is being brought to perfection in the hands of Daniel Bachelor. He owns and operates Powder River Precision in Baker City.


Baker City Herald

Daniel Bachelor broke in his new building in the Elkhorn View Industrial Park this week by working around the clock for nearly three days modifying pistols for a Las Vegas gun show.

Bachelor used parts he makes at his business, Powder River Precision.

The business keeps Bachelor and one employee, Bobby Merritt, busy manufacturing aftermarket parts for Springfield XD pistols, but Bachelor and doing custom machine work modifying pistol barrels and adapting custom sights and other components.

“Springfield has been making this pistol for several years, and it is a well-built pistol,” Bachelor said. “It is a really good platform, but it has room for improvement,” such as stainless steel trigger pins, titanium striker safeties and match-fit barrels.

“A match-fit barrel fits the gun tighter, so you get better accuracy,” he said.

Flu's down, but still around


Baker City Herald

Flu cases are not increasing in Oregon, but that’s no reason to stop worrying about the pandemic H1N1 virus or the seasonal flu.

“We really don’t want people to become complacent,” said Dr. Katrina Hedberg, state epidemiologist with Oregon Public Health.

Since Sept. 1 in Oregon, 1,303 people have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed H1N1, and 63 have died.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 200,000 people have been hospitalized with flu and almost 10,000 have died.

Those numbers, though, don’t include sick people who get the flu and stay home.

“What happens with flu is not every person who comes down with influenza is reported to us,” Hedberg said.

Only cases involving hospitalizations and deaths are sent for lab tests.

However, she said there are 25 to 30 clinics in Oregon that submit weekly reports of patients who seek care for influenza-like illness.

Wallowa-Whitman road plan decision likely in late spring


Baker City Herald

Supervisor Steve Ellis might decide by late spring how many of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s 4,200 miles of low-maintenance roads will be off-limits to motorized vehicles.

But forest visitors probably will have to wait until the fall of 2010 to get hold of the maps that show in detail the scope of the Travel Management Plan.

The road closures won’t take effect until the maps are published.

Ellis’ pending decision probably ranks as the most anticipated, and controversial, on the Wallowa-Whitman in at least a decade.

Since May 2007, when forest officials announced that as a result of a Forest Service directive they would revamp the Wallowa-Whitman’s rules on where motor vehicles are allowed (the plan won’t, however, affect snowmobiles), locals have followed the parade of federal red tape with unusual dedication.

People who like to ride four-wheelers and motorcycles worry that the new travel plan will prevent them from traveling their favorite routes and pursuing hobbies such as picking huckleberries and cutting firewood.

Slippery surprise from the sky

Freezing rain makes a rare appearance in Baker Valley

With the aid of slip-on traction devices on her shoes, Gayle Hammond is able to better navigate sidewalks and streets slickened by freezing rain Tuesday morning. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
Tom Fisk is used to dealing with ice that glazes Baker City streets.

Ice that falls from the sky is a peskier sort of problem.

Fortunately, freezing rain is an infrequent visitor here.

Tuesday morning was an exception, but a relatively brief one, said Fisk, who coordinates the city’s snowplowing, salting and sanding efforts.

“It was about as slick as our crews have seen it in town,” Fisk said Tuesday afternoon.

Meet Gavin, Baker's First Baby of 2010

Kathrina and Ely Myers welcome their son, Gavin Elija. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
Proud parents Kathrina and Ely Myers can’t get enough of their son, Gavin Elijah, who decided to arrive three weeks early — earning him the title as the first baby of 2010 born at St. Elizabeth Health Services.

Prominent rancher Bob Thomas dies

Thomas Angus Ranch near Baker City is renowned for producing top-quality animals

Robert J. Thomas, a leader in the cattle industry in Baker County and nationwide, died Tuesday at his home near Baker City.

He was 85.

Bob was preceded in death by his wife, Gloria, in 1999. The Thomases met in a 4-H club in Vail, Iowa, were married on Feb. 6, 1949, and moved to Baker City from New York in 1959 with their young family to start Thomas Angus Ranch.

The operation has grown into one of the most famous and respected purebred Angus seedstock-producing ranches in the nation.

“He was a great guy. He really was. He is in a better spot with my Mom right now,” said Bob’s son, Rob Thomas, who continues the family ranching tradition running Thomas Angus Ranch in the Baker Valley northwest of Baker City.

“The passing of Bob Thomas is a tremendous loss to the beef industry as well as Baker County,” said Cory Parsons, Oregon State University Extension livestock agent in Baker County. “I know that Bob was a pioneer and a visionary in the American Angus Association, as well as the U.S. beef industry, and that he will be missed greatly.”

When neighboring Harrell Hereford Ranch won the 2009 Seedstock Producer of the Year Award from the The Beef Improvement Federation, Bob Harrell Jr., president of the American Hereford Association gave the Thomas family and Thomas Angus Ranch part of the credit.

Thomas Angus Ranch won the Seedstock Producer of the Year Award in 1997.

Halfway man starting biomass plant

While politicians and activists debate global warming policies, a Baker County man is doing something to curb greenhouse gases: building a “biochar” processing plant.

Eric Twombly plans to build the region’s first such plant at the site of the former Ellingson Lumber Co. sawmill near Halfway.

The plant will turn biomass — logging slash and agricultural waste such as grass and wheat stubble — into a fertilizer that improves the soil and helps it store carbon, Twombly said.

The plant also will produce a liquid fuel that can replace stove oil and kerosene.

Bob Parker, Oregon State University Extension Service forestry agent for Baker County, said Twombly’s project opens the door to converting biomass into valuable products rather than burning the wastes, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The Baker County Private Woodlands Association is hosting a tour of the Halfway biochar processing plant, led by Twombly, on Jan. 14 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. A carpool will leave at 11:30 a.m. from the OSU Extension office, 2600 East St., in Baker City, or tour participants can meet at the former Ellingson mill site.

United Way hoping to gain momentum in Baker County

Local nonprofits say United Way’s money-raising is already helping

Michelle Osborn helps stock the shelves at the Salvation Army food bank during a previous holiday season in Baker City. United Way routes some of its funds to help the Salvation Army and other organizations meet their operating needs. (Baker City Herald file photo/S. John Collins)
Hal Huntington isn’t proud of the progress the United Way has made two years after its reappearance in Baker County, but the agencies who benefit from the fundraising organization praise the group’s accomplishments.

Huntington, a 40-year supporter of United Way, vows to make a more dedicated effort to solicit Baker County contributions as the new year begins.

“I’m a firm believer in it,” Huntington says. “It’s one-stop shopping. (United Way) makes it a lot easier to contribute — I’m a contributor as well.

“I’m not going to give up on it,” he says. “We just have to put more into it.”

But even if the United Way’s Baker County arm isn’t yet at full capacity, the organization’s ability to collect money for local nonprofits is appreciated, says Mary Collard, executive director of the Baker County CASA program.

“I’m pleased we have people like Hal willing to try to develop it,” she said. “I’d love to see more people getting involved and more people and businesses supporting it.

Runaways found in truck near Baker City

Police arrested a Kuna, Idaho, man on two counts of first-degree custodial interference Saturday after finding two missing 14-year-old girls, who reportedly had run away from their Washington homes, in his vehicle near Baker City.

Shawn Matthew Grady, 19, is being held at the Baker County Jail on the Class B felony charges.

Police said one of the 14-year-olds was found hidden in a compartment under the rear passenger bench seat in Grady’s 1995 GMC extended cab pickup truck.

District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said today that a grand jury will review the case for other possible charges.

The girls were first reported as runaways at 3:30 pm. Friday, Sgt. Mike Hallowell, a detective with the Longview Police Department said today.

The vehicle, which had Oklahoma license plates, was stopped about 10:45 a.m. Saturday in the eastbound lanes of  Interstate 84 about 10 miles south of Baker City by Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife trooper Brad Duncan, according to an OSP press release.

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