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I-84: A Tangled Mess


Don O’Grady says he thanks the Lord for keeping him and his co-worker, Chris Combs, safe as trucks and autos crashed all around them Saturday morning on Interstate 84 east of Baker City. (S. John Collins/Baker City Herald)
By Chris Collins

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Don O’Grady and Chris Combs walked away unharmed from a scene that found them caught in the middle of a massive pileup that closed the eastbound freeway lanes from Pendleton to Ontario Saturday.

The vehicle they were traveling in was wedged in by the wreckage of twisted trucks, semitrailers and passenger vehicles from about 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Combs drove his 2006 Dodge Durango away without a scratch about 4 p.m., leaving the two men to wonder how they’d been so lucky.

“The good ol’ Lord was looking out for us,” O’Grady said Sunday back at his home in Haines after another day on the job at Ash Grove Cement’s Durkee plant.

See more in today's Baker City Herald. 


New fire chief likes Baker


By Joshua Dillen

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Living life at a slower pace is just one of the attractions that led new Fire Chief Mark John to Baker City.

John is from Anahiem, California, and is excited about living in a rural area.

“There’s a very rich history here and that’s appealing,” he said. “The quality of life here is significantly better. The pace is very brisk (in Anahiem).”

John has been on the job for two weeks. He was hired in December. 

See more in today's Baker City Herald. 


Truck tangle snarls eastbound traffic from Pendleton to Ontario

Dozens of semi trucks and trailers collided on black ice at Pleasant Valley early Saturday morning stopping eastbound traffic from Pendleton to Ontario. (Photo courtesy of OSP)

 

The westbound freeway lanes were opened at Ontario at 3:30 p.m. today after nearly a day-long closure to allow emergency response crews to get to the massive pileup of dozens of trucks in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 near Pleasant Valley.

The snarl of wrecked trucks stopped eastbound traffic from Pendleton to Ontario beginning about 5 a.m. today, an Oregon State Police press release stated. Four people were transported by ambulance with injuries ranging from minor to serious, police said.

The pileup started about 4:54 a.m. at Milepost 318, 12 miles southeast of Baker City.

Police said about 20 eastbound vehicles hit black ice, collided and blocked traffic. About 50 vehicles were blocked at the crash scene throughout the day. 

Two vehicles were transporting hazardous materials and Hazmat crews have been dispatched to assess the scene and begin cleanup, police said. The eastbound freeway remains closed at Exit 304 in Baker City, Exit 265 in La Grande, and Exit 216 east of Pendleton, said Tom Strandberg, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Clearing disabled trucks from the eastbound freeway lanes is expected to continue for several hours and the eastbound freeway will not open until later tonight, Strandberg said. 

“Safety is the primary concern and ODOT, OSP and emergency response crews are working to open the freeway as soon as possible,” Strandberg stated in the press release.

More information about road conditions is available at TripCheck.com or by calling 511 or 800-977-6368. Outside of Oregon, call 503-588-2941.

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


Clean Up Class

Students studying a Baker City site contaminated by chemicals


Read more...
S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Mapping the property are Kaitlin Galdraith,right, and Torry Good.

By Chris Collins

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Students visiting the abandoned Ostwald Machine Shop Wednesday used their imaginations to picture what the property might have looked like back when the shop was built in the 1920s.

Teacher Megan Alameda referred to the nearby businesses that have grown up around the weathered shop and outbuildings at 2430 Balm St. 

“There was no Safeway, no Nelson Real Estate, no Taco Time,” Alameda reminded her students. “There were probably a few houses."


Phone scams focus on IRS


By Joshua Dillen

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Phone scams are becoming more and more commonplace these days.

Some Baker City residents are getting a new kind of scam phone call purported to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

There are at least two versions of this call.


3 finalists for school superintendent include South Baker principal


By Chris Collins

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Betty Palmer, South Baker Intermediate School principal for the past six years, is one of three finalists chosen by the Baker School Board as a possible  replacement for Superintendent Walt Wegener.

In addition to Palmer, the board chose Mark Witty, longtime superintendent of Grant School District No. 3 at John Day and Robert Vian from Orofino, Idaho. 

Directors will interview the three finalists during a half-day session starting about noon on Friday, Feb. 20. The day will end with a community open house at the Baker High School Commons from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. 


Off To Africa

Madison Hatfield, a 16-year-old Baker High School junior, raised $9,000 so she could study in Ghana, Africa


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S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Madison Hatfield of Baker City is traveling to Ghana, Africa, as an exchange student.

By Joshua Dillen

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“Experiences are more important than possessions.” 

That’s Madison Hatfield’s motto these days as the 16-year-old Baker City girl embarks on a trip to a foreign country more than 7,250 miles away.

Hatfield has raised $9,000 for her trip to Tema, a town in Ghana, Africa, where she will be a foreign exchange student.


Mosier elected Baker City mayor

MIke Downing elected as vice mayor 


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Kim Mosier, left, and Mike Downing

By Joshua Dillen

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Baker City, we have a new mayor.

After new councilors Rosemary Abell, Ben Merrill, Mack Augenfeld and Jim Thomas took their oaths of office Tuesday evening at City Hall, the first order of business was the selection of a new mayor.

Merrill nominated Councilor Mike Downing, and Augenfeld nominated Councilor Kim Mosier.

Mosier was elected as mayor with five votes — herself, Richard Langrell, Abell, Augenfeld and Thomas.


Who’ll be the mayor?

Baker City Council, with 4 new members, will elect a mayor when it meets Tuesday night


By Joshua Dillen

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Swearing will take place Tuesday night at City Hall.

Swearing in, that is.

No profanity allowed.

Ben Merrill, Mack Augenfeld, James Thomas and Rosemary Abell will take their oaths of office and become Baker City’s newest city councilors.


Public’s Power

80 people attend two open houses on Idaho Power Co.’s proposed Boardman To Hemingway Power Line Project


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Kathy Orr / Baker City Herald A display at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center includes depictions of what the Boardman to Hemingway power line would look like from the Center depending on the line’s route.

By Joshua Dillen

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About 80 people turned out for a pair of open houses that the BLM hosted last week in Baker County concerning the proposed Boardman to Hemingway power line (B2H).

Idaho Power Company wants to build the 500-kv line through Northeastern Oregon and Southern Idaho because its current transmission system is at capacity.

BLM is the lead federal agency and will play a major role in deciding the line’s route, which will cross both public and private land.

Officials from BLM, Idaho Power, U.S. Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) were on hand Thursday in Baker City and Friday in Durkee to answer questions about the project, which has been in the works since 2007.


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