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Book Cutbacks

Baker County Library District Budget

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Mom and son find good stories Thursday at the Baker County Library. Krista Carmiencke says she and Arlo, along with younger son Kai, come regularly to spend time in the children’s section.

By Chris Collins

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The Baker County Library District Board will consider a proposed 2014-15 budget that holds the line on employee raises and cuts $15,000 from the fund allocated to buy new materials when it meets June 16.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the library, 2400 Resort St.

The money-saving plan was introduced by Perry Stokes, library director, in his presentation to the library district’s budget committee during its May 21 meeting.

Stokes said the action is needed because of a 22-percent increase in health-care benefits for library employees, a total increase of $19,764. (Eleven of the 22 workers qualify for health-care benefits, Stokes said.)

Health-care costs had been rising 10 percent annually but did not increase last year, so this year’s double-hit was a catch-up expense, Stokes said.

See more in Friday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

Cross-country bicycle racers coming through Baker City

A group of 50 cyclists participating in a race that sounds more like a punishment than a sporting event will be riding through Baker City this weekend.

The Trans Am Bike Race started Saturday morning at 5 o'clock in Astoria.

It ends, 4,233 miles later, in Yorktown, Va.

And the fastest riders expect to finish the cross-country route in about two weeks.

Which, if you do the math, works out to a daily average of about 300 miles — a long day even in a car, much less on a bicycle that won’t move an inch unless you pedal.

Salt Lick Bronze Sculpture Takes Its Place At Court And Resort

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Whit Deschner’s artistic replica of an original salt lick has been bronzed and placed at the east side of Court Street Plaza in Baker City. Tyler Fouts, right, owner of the Blue Mountain Fine Art foundry, and foundry artist Eddie Beach, left, position the 344-pound bronze on its stand Monday under the watchful eye of Deschner, background left, and Steve Hardrath. Foundry artist Andrew Gettle was handling the lift truck operation. Commemorative bricks are being sold that will attach all around the stand along with a dedication plaque. The metal stand is a joint effort of Jason Yencopal, Baker Welding and Natural Structures. A formal ceremony will be scheduled soon, Deschner said.

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Baker City’s new public art display may garner second glances — and need an explanation.

The bronze salt lick, standing four feet tall, was installed Monday on the Resort Street side of Court Street Plaza downtown.

This was a project of the Ford Family Leadership Cohort 4 Group, and has been 18 months in the making.

“A year and a half ago its finish seemed unseen and distant but those involved stuck with it and here we are, a piece of public art,” says Whit Deschner.

It was cast at Blue Mountain Fine Art in Baker City.

“I want everyone to know what a gem this community has in having such a world class foundry here,” Deschner said.

The idea for a salt lick sculpture grew from the Great Salt Lick Contest and Auction, which Deschner started eight years ago to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research.

See more in Wednesday's issue of the Baker CIty Herald. 

A raise for Mark Bennett

By Pat Caldwell

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Not too long ago members of the Baker County Board of Commissioners could expect a specific workload when doing the people’s business.

The work focused on budgets, setting policy and overseeing the various county department chiefs. 

But times change.

Now a commissioner slot often translates into a large number of meetings, late nights and extended travel that stretches across the sage steppes of southeastern Oregon to the Willamette Valley and back again. And, as more and more issues tied to state and federal regulations — concerning everything from timber to water — descend on the local area, the role of commissioners has expanded.

The decision by the county compensation board to boost commissioner Mark Bennett’s hours — from a quarter-time position to a half-time slot — is just one of the more recent examples of how the political landscape in Eastern Oregon has changed.

The move boosts Bennett’s salary from $16,000 a year to $32,000.

See more in Wednesday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

Searchers find missing Halfway man

A Baker County Sheriff's deputy and a family friend found a Halfway man Saturday evening after he failed to return from a ride on his ATV.

Deputy Gabe Maldonado and Bob Torres, a friend, found Charles Larry Merriman, 77, about 8 p.m. Saturday.

Merriman had rolled his ATV, according to a press release from Baker County Sheriff Mitch Southwick.

A Halfway ambulance took Merriman to St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City.

Lea Preble, who is Merriman's stepdaughter, called police about 5 p.m. Saturday to report him missing after he failed to return from his ride. He had left his home about 11 a.m. He did not bring food or water.

Several family friends had searched for Merriman with no success.

After Preble's call, two sheriff's deputies and members of the county's Search and Rescue team began looking for Merriman.

Making room


Ginger Whitney, left, and Coby Mastrude help show off the new Women’s Breast Health Suite at St. Alphonsus Medical Center during an open house at the hospital Friday. (Chris Collins/Baker City Herald

By Chris Collins

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St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City welcomed the community to an open house Friday to show off its newly remodeled lobby area, Women’s Breast Health Suite and auxiliary gift shop.

The remodeled entryway provides easier access to the hospital’s admitting staff and a roomier waiting area for patients and visitors. The gift shop, which is operated by the volunteers of the hospital auxiliary, has moved to a new space straight down the hallway from the lobby.

And the Women’s Breast Health Suite is situated just across the hall from the radiology department in space formerly occupied by medical records.

See more in today's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

City installs mile markers on Leo Adler Pathway


City workers placed markers at quarter-mile intervals along the Leo Adler Memorial Pathway Friday. Powder River Correctional Facility inmates designed and built the markers in cooperation with the city’s parks department. (Photo by Lisa Britton)

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Now those who use the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway can easily track their distance with new markers that were installed Friday.

The markers are placed at quarter-mile intervals measured from Hughes Lane.

The spur to the Baker Sports Complex has its own markers, also measured from Hughes Lane.

For instance, if you start at Hughes, it is eight-tenths of a mile to the Sports Complex. 

See more in today's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

Home Grown

Community Garden Revival

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald A crew of volunteers prepare the former community garden, at the north side of the rodeo arena, for cultivation and planting. Teresa Schwab, right, organizer for the Baker City Community Garden, soaked the base of metal fence posts Tuesday to help with their removal. Laurie Wittich, left, with Mountain Valley Mental Health, works with Michael Fedderly to pull posts.

By Chris Collins

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A self-described “do-gooder” who is passionate about helping others has thrown her energy into developing a community garden.

 Teresa Schwab, 50, moved to Baker City 10 months ago to join her aunt, Susan Fleming, who works at Ace Nursery.

On Tuesday, Schwab led the first of many work parties planned to prepare, cultivate and nurture the garden site, which sits just north of the rodeo arena on Baker County Fairgrounds property. Small-scale gardens have been planted at the site in the past.

Schwab says her goal in developing the garden is to help people — who wouldn’t otherwise be able to — grow their own food.

And as she looks toward the future, Schwab hopes to build a second community garden in another area of town and a third after that to allow residents to walk to the one nearest their neighborhood.

Schwab said she attended the Fair Board’s meeting last month in the hope of launching the project.

“I told them my vision and was given their blessing,” she said.

That vision includes the creation of 10 garden plots measuring 15 feet by 50 feet — enough space to plant crops to feed a family of four or to be shared by multiple people, she says.

The plots will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis after an application is completed.

For this year, gardeners will share the cost of water to grow their crops. A sliding fee based on each person’s ability to pay, to a maximum of $25 for the season, will be charged, Schwab said.

See more in Friday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

BLM office: $2.1 million lease

By Jayson Jacoby

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About 30 local employees from the BLM are slated to move into their new office in Baker City this September.

The workers had been sharing office space for the past nine years with their counterparts from another federal agency, the Forest Service, in a compound of modular buildings at 3285 11th St.

The new BLM office is close — just across H Street to the north on the former site of the New Tribes Mission.

Don Thompson of North Bend said he and his brother, Dan, who are partners in a development company and construction firm, bought the Baker City property late last year.

The sales price was $300,000, according to the Baker County Assessor’s Office.

Don Thompson said he and his brother bought the former New Tribes site after reading a prospectus from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), a federal agency that helps secure office space for other agencies, including the BLM.

“The focus was to develop office space for the BLM,” Thompson said.

The GSA has signed a 10-year lease for $2.1 million for about 7,000 square feet of office space, said Stephanie Kenitzer, public affairs manager for the agency’s Northwest/Arctic Region.

See more in Friday's issue of the Baker City Herald. 

Road over Hells Canyon Dam closed part of the day June 2-5, and June 9-12

The road over Hells Canyon Dam will be closed to all traffic from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. PDT June 2, 3, 4 and 5, and again on June 9, 10, 11 and 12.

A traffic flagger will be on the Idaho side of the dam, and a message board will be in place across the Oxbow bridge.

The closure is necessary because heavy equipment will be working on the dam, removing the barriers that kept water from the spill gates while maintenance work was being done earlier this year.

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