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School board to consider teacher contract

By Chris Collins

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The Baker School Board will receive the district’s 2012-13 audit report during a work session Tuesday night.

The session will begin at 5 p.m. at the District Office, 2090 Fourth St. Representatives of the Oster Professional Group of John Day will review its audit of district finances.

The regular meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the District Office.

The board is expected to act on a proposed one-year contract agreement with district teachers that calls for overall salary increases of between 2 percent and 2.5 percent, Superintendent Walt Wegener said.


Powerless? No

Help Available To Those Struggling To Pay Utility Bills

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald Lorraine Munkers, left, applies for energy assistance through Mary Jo Carpenter, who manages senior services at Community Connection in Baker City. Munkers says she is able to allocate the funding for both electric and natural gas services.

By Chris Collins

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Facing a below-zero night in Baker County without the comfort of electricity to ignite a furnace, power a space heater or even just to illuminate a dark room can be a frightening thought.

Help is available for those having trouble paying their power bills and facing the dilemma of receiving a shut-off notice in the mail.

Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) warns co-op members a couple of times before it takes the extreme action of shutting off power to their homes, says Steve Schauer, Oregon Trail Electric Consumers Cooperative director of member and program services.


Dick Fleming to challenge Fred Warner Jr. for county commission chairman

By Jayson Jacoby

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For the second time, Dick Fleming of Baker City will challenge incumbent Fred Warner Jr. for the job of chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners.

But this race will be different.

The two will face off in the primary election rather than the general.

That’s because Warner, a former Democrat who is seeking his fourth four-term term as commission chairman, switched to the Republican party earlier this year.

To retain his seat, Warner, 59, will have to defeat Fleming, 63, (and any other Republicans who register; so far none has) in the May primary and also prevail over any Democratic challengers in the general election.


City Council revives park smoking ban

By Doyle Perry

For the Baker City Herald

An ordinance banning smoking in Baker City’s parks has been revived more than six months after it was first proposed, and this time it appears the restriction will take effect.

The City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approve the first reading of the ordinance.

It prohibits smoking in city parks, on the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway, and within five feet of the Parkway.

The smoking ban does not apply to the city-owned Quail Ridge Golf Course.


Baker City fares far better than La Grande, Ontario in crime stats

By Pat Caldwell

For the Baker City Herald

Baker City revealed the lowest number of violent crimes of three Eastern Oregon cities situated on the Interstate 84 corridor, according to 2012 data released by the FBI.

Statistics from the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division for 2012, show that Baker City listed one violent crime case, while La Grande recorded 22 and Ontario documented 82.

By comparison, Woodburn — situated in the Willamette Valley and with a population of about 25,000 — recorded 73 violent crime cases in 2012, according to the FBI.


Bookish Brooklyn

Baker County Community Literacy Coalition gives away more than 500 books to local children

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald A Curious George book finds it way into the hands of third-grade student Emily Huffer during the Literacy Program's book giveaway Tuesday. Jim Tomlinson, seated at far left, organizes the event for students at Brooklyn Primary.

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

The third-graders couldn’t contain themselves, throwing out names of books hoping their favorites were on display.

Jim Tomlinson answered each question in turn, then invited the students to come forward, one table at a time, to pick out a new book. 

“You get a sticker to put your name in it, and it’s yours to keep. And you get to choose,” he told the class.

Students at local elementary schools were treated to a new book this week as part of REAL — Read Everyday and Learn.


County commissioners set special meeting Wednesday morning

The Baker County Board of Commissioners will have a special meeting Wednesday morning to discuss a possible policy about accommodating citizens who want to make long presentations during commission meetings.

Wednesday's meeting will start at 9 a.m. at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St.

Commissioner Mark Bennett suggested the discussion after the Dec. 4 meeting in which a resident made a lengthy presentation during a meeting that had a lengthy agenda.

The Commission does not enforce any time limit on citizens' presentations, including ones that are not part of the agenda. 


Broken pipe spills water into Baker High School classrom

By Chris Collins

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A Baker High School science classroom was damaged Monday when a broken pipe sent water gushing from the attic area.

Principal Jerry Peacock said the frigid temperatures caused water in a pipe’s elbow connection in the attic to freeze and then burst. Teacher Burke Smejkal was in his room on the east side of the high school when the pipe broke around lunchtime. 

Smejkal alerted maintenance workers who shut the water off and began the cleanup effort. 

Smejkal’s classes were shifted to another room in the afternoon to ensure student safety while workers assessed the damage, Peacock said. Water did not reach classroom computers, but there was some damage to insulation, sheetrock and walls.


Deep Freeze Fun

Baker City Braves Arctic Chill During Christmas Twilight Parade

Kathy Orr/Baker City Herald Girls Scouts weren't the only Twilight Parade participants trying to keep warm Saturday night in Baker City. The annual parade started at 5 p.m. followed by the Christmas tree lighting despite wintry temperatures hovering between 3 and 5 degrees.

By Jayson Jacoby

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Hot cocoa, if it can be said to have a flaw, can’t be easily tossed to eager children watching a parade.

Candy, of course, is the traditional parade handout.

But have you ever tried to eat a Tootsie Roll that’s been subjected to a temperature of 3 degrees?

Never mind what kind of gum four out of five dentists recommend.

All five would warn you off the frostbitten hunk of chocolate nougat (or whatever a Tootsie Roll is made of).


Search for airplane scaled back

By Chris Collins

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The search has been scaled back for a single-engine plane that went missing  Dec. 1 en route from Baker City to Butte, Mont.

The search had been centered around the remote Johnson Creek Airstrip near Yellow Pine, Idaho, in the mountains of central Idaho.

That’s where the pilot, Dale Smith, 51, a software executive from San Jose, Calif., was thought to be heading after seeking coordinates for the unpaved airstrip from air traffic controllers at Salt Lake City.

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