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Baker school board discusses qualities it wants in new superintendent


By CHRIS COLLINS

Baker City Herald

The Baker School Board has a better idea of the kind of person the community would like to see leading the school district into the next decade thanks to the work of a consultant who visited Baker City last week.

During a special meeting Wednesday, the board reviewed and refined a list of qualities and qualifications gleaned from meetings with staff members and community residents by consultant Forrest Bell of the Oregon School Boards Association.

All five board members participated in Wednesday’s session with Deon Strommer, board chair, and Bell meeting via conference call from the OSBA office in Salem.

Strommer, who has been working out of town for several months, assured the board that he plans to participate fully in the search process.

He said he believes his eight-year tenure on the board will be of value in hiring a new superintendent. Don Ulrey will retire in April.


Local groups gathering money, aid for Haitians


By LISA BRITTON

Baker City Herald

As the world watches Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake that killed 200,000 and left millions more homeless, groups in Baker County are rounding up donations.

The Baker City Rotary Club has sent $1,000 to purchase a ShelterBox, which contains a tent that houses 10 people as well as a stove, blankets and other items.

Rotary International had a presence in Haiti before the earthquake — 33 projects designed to provide water, sanitation, medical care and education.

Members of the community are welcome to donate to this cause, said Ken Krohn of the local Rotary Club.


Staying After School, and Enjoying it

Students do homework, before they go home

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Darin Havens takes his turn at bowling on the Wii as part of a school-wide tournament being sponsored and organized by the afterschool program at Baker Middle School. Teacher Larry Morrison is hoping to encourage more students to take advantage of the program, which is funded by the Union-Baker ESD and aims to help kids finish homework and improve their grades.(Baker City Herald/S.John Collins)
You hear the chatter first, and then the teenagers rush through the door, their cheeks pink from a walk in the cool January afternoon.

The exercise restores energy after a regular school day, and soon they will settle down for a couple hours worth of homework, and maybe a science project, in Room 13 at Baker Middle School.

These kids are spending three extra hours at school from Monday through Thursday to finish homework and improve their grades.

This is the afterschool program, operated and funded by the Union-Baker ESD thanks to a five-year, $1.8 million federal grant.

There are three programs in Baker School District 5J — at BMS, South Baker Intermediate and Brooklyn Primary. To be eligible, schools must have at least 50 percent of the student body qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunches. The afterschool program, though, is open to all students.

The ESD supplies the staff — a head teacher and an assistant — and the schools provide space, as well as dinner.


Council hires Steve Bogart

Bogart, a former city manager, replaces Tim Collins, who resigned as interim manager

Tim Collins resigned as city manager pro-tem effective Jan. 31, and the Baker City voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Steve Bogart to fill the position pending agreement on salary and other terms.

Tim Johnson, whom the Council offered the job to on Dec. 18, turned down the offer last week because a family member is seriously ill.

The Council scheduled a meeting for noon Friday at City Hall, 1655 First St., for councilors, city staff and the public to meet with Bogart, and to consummate a hiring agreement in time for him to start work Monday.

Collins, a former longtime city attorney who has been working as interim city manager since June, when the City Council voted 4-3 to fire Steve Brocato.

Bogart, a former head of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, also has worked as Baker City manager.

Bogart, who lives in Baker City, worked as the city’s interim manager from October 2004 through November 2005, when city manager Jerry Gillham was on active duty with the National Guard, serving in Iraq.


Fire destroyed a piece of Baker County history

Returning to Baker County from Oklahoma will never be the same for the Hammond family.

That’s because the house that had been home to several generations of family members was destroyed by fire on Jan. 16.

The structure, known as the Waterbury House, stood along Dry Gulch Road about a mile west of Richland and could be seen from Highway 86.

After reading the Jan. 18 Baker City Herald report of the home-leveling fire, 40-year-old Ross Hammond called the office to provide more information about the two-story, five-bedroom home he grew up in.

The house was built by a Mr. Waterbury for his schoolteacher wife and has stood as a landmark along Dry Gulch Road near Richland for many years. For more years, in fact, than reported by this newspaper and recorded at the Baker County Assessor’s Office.

Hammond said his family began researching the history of the house after finding the year 1870 etched into one of the sandstone pillars that supported it.

The Hammonds determined that construction probably began in 1869 and was completed in 1870.

Further research turned up Union County news reports from 1878 that referred to the home as the Waterbury Mansion.


Baker County voters turned out, but didn’t turn the tide

County’s voter turnout was more than 6 percent higher than the statewide tally

Measures 66 and 67 passed statewide by a wide margin in Tuesdays special election, despite a nearly 2-to-1 vote against the measures in Baker County and many others across Eastern Oregon and other rural areas of the state.

 Tami Green, Baker County Clerk and chief elections officer, said the turnout in Baker County topped 65 percent, eclipsing the 55 percent turnout in the October Baker City Council recall election.

In reflecting on past special elections, however, Green said voter turnout is often higher for elections that affect voters’ pocketbooks and public services.

Interestingly, Green said, the Oct. 28 recall election produced a similar 2-1 margin of no votes cast against the recall.

Green said the turnout in general was higher in counties with smaller populations.

Wheeler County, the least populous of the state’s 36 counties, had the highest turnout at 71.7 percent.

“This is a sad day for Oregon,” said Kyle Knight, a Baker High School student volunteer who ran the No on Measures 66 and 67 campaign in Baker County.


‘Farm to School’ program starts

Students at Powder Valley and other Union County schools will grow food, visit local farms

Students at Powder Valley School and five other schools in Union County will soon see the vegetables they grow on their lunch trays.

The program is called “Farm to School,” and is made possible by a grant from Meyer-Memorial Trust. The three-year project is a collaborative effort with Oregon Rural Action and Union County Fit Kids Coalition.

Andi Sexton, who lives in Haines, is the coordinator.

According to www.farmtoschool.org, “The National Farm to School Network sprouted from this desire to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms, and improve student health by reducing childhood obesity.”

Sexton said the students will learn how to grow their own produce, thanks to several greenhouses, and get to see the process from seeds to edible vegetables.

“And hoping the kids get more of these foods in their diet,” Sexton said.


Moving forward on mental health

Agency officials and residents talk about ways to improve how the county serves people with mental health issues

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Steve Ryman of Iteneris Coaching and Consulting moderated a public meeting Thursday in which residents and officials discussed pressing needs in Baker County’s mental health treatment system. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
Mountain Valley Mental Health officials say there’s a need for a holding room where patients who might be suffering from a combination of substance abuse and mental health problems can stay until doctors can assess their needs.

That was one of several suggestions for improving mental health services discussed during a public meeting Thursday.

Others included:

• Hiring professional staff to provide more high-end mental health services locally

• A concerted effort to remove the stigma associated with seeking or receiving mental health services

• Increased integration with New Directions Northwest and other partners

• More outreach to schools, and mentoring programs to prevent youth with early signs of mental health, family or social problems from sliding into the criminal system

• Beefing up family support services and parenting classes to help families cope with children or other family members with mental health issues.


Johnson won’t take city job

City Council’s choice for city manager cites family member’s medical problem

The Baker City Council’s nearly eight-month search for a city manager will continue.

The Council’s choice for the job, Tim Johnson of Portland, has declined the city’s offer.

Johnson explained in a Thursday e-mail to Mayor Dennis Dorrah that although he wanted to accept the job, the illness of a family member forced him to say no.

“It would not be fair to you, the council, staff and the people of Baker City to accept the position specifically given that my attention would be divided with the support in providing for the health and well being of my family member, and given that I have a small family, it requires my singular attention,” Johnson wrote.

“You, the council and community have a full agenda. . .  You need someone who can devote the necessary time to these activities. I wish I could have been involved with these activities and been a part of your great community.”

The Council voted 4-2 on Dec. 18 to offer Johnson the job.

During the Council’s Jan. 12 meeting, Dorrah said he and Johnson had been negotiating terms of a contract.


Ranchers might have to spend more to promote beef consumption

The $1 per head payment to a national beef marketing program doesn’t go as far as it used to

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Kevin Smith was one of the speakers during the annual Cattlemen’s Workshop Saturday in La Grande. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
With consumer demand for beef down, and America’s cattle herd shrinking in response, officials from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association warn ranchers that an increase in the $1 per head National Beef Checkoff may be needed to bolster beef marketing.

That, along with advice on beef production practices, warnings about the potentially negative impacts of looming environmental regulation and the importance of ranchers telling their own stories of sustainable land, water and animal care and handling practices, was presented to 120 young ranchers from five Northwest colleges in Baker City Friday, and to more than 400 cattlemen attending the annual Cattlemen’s Workshop Saturday in La Grande.

Forrest Roberts, CEO of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said a 2003 case of BSE, or mad cow disease, sent beef demand plunging nationally and among export markets, which led ranchers to cull cattle, shrinking the U.S. cattle herd and slashing National Beef Checkoff funds from a high of $50 million a decade ago to about $40 million this year.

Cattlemen pay $1 on every head of cattle sold to National Beef Checkoff program, which retains half of the money to promote national beef sales, while state cattle associations retain 50 cents for in-state beef and cattle industry promotions.


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