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County passes eminent domain clause, but not happily

By Chris Collins

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The Baker County Board of Commissioners reluctantly approved a resolution at its meeting last week that would allow it to “exercise the right of eminent domain” regarding right-of-way acquisition on the Best Frontage Road project.

Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr. and Commissioners Tim Kerns and Mark Bennett all voiced their distaste for a declaration of eminent domain, which would allow the county to condemn property needed to complete the Best Frontage Road project if any of several landowners refused to cooperate. Landowners would receive “just compensation” for land acquired for the project.

The commissioners said they would not have agreed to the resolution without this statement that gives the county options: “Baker County expressly reserves its jurisdiction to determine the necessity or propriety of any acquisition, its quantity, quality, or locality, and to change or abandon any acquisition."


City Delays Decision On Downtown Dollars

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald The bulk of money raised through the downtown Economic Improvement District, from business licenses and property tax assessments, goes to Historic Baker City, Inc. Enough property owners voted against the tax that the city can no longer impose it. The City Council hasn’t decided what to do about business licenses.

By Pat Caldwell

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The Baker City Council ratified several ordinances during its Tuesday night session but decided to table a proposal regarding the main source of money for Historic Baker City Inc.

The council finalized new regulations on dangerous dogs, and approved the second of three readings of an ordinance banning smoking in city parks and along the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway.

But it was the proposed renewal of the downtown Economic Improvement District (EID) that sparked the most comments from a large number of people on hand for the meeting.


Baker man in fair shape after accidental gunshot

By Chris Collins

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Baker City Police officers are continuing to investigate an apparent accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the upper left leg of a Baker City man.

Eric Lee Cavyell, 23, was taken by Baker City ambulance to St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City and later flown by Life Flight air ambulance to Boise, according to a press release issued by police at about 7:30 Tuesday morning.


City seeks volunteer to fill vacancy on planning commission

Baker City is seeking volunteers to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission.

Commissioner Myrna Neumann announced Tuesday that she is leaving her position due to illness.

Neumann's term continues through January 2015.

The Planning Commission meets the third Wednesday of each month. 

The City Council will appoint her replacement from a list of volunteers and nominees submitted at the Feb. 11 Council meeting.

To volunteer, call Becky Fitzpatrick at City Hall, 541-524-2033 or email to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it before Feb. 6. The volunteer application form is also available on the city's website, www.bakercity.com.


Father of pilot proud of son for never giving up search

By Chris Collins

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Steve Smith of Baker City spoke with pride today about his youngest son, Dellon, an Alaskan bush pilot, who searched doggedly until he found his older brother Dale’s crashed plane in the mountains of central Idaho.

The Beechcraft Bonanza single-engine plane that went missing Dec. 1 after leaving the Baker City airport en route to Butte, Mont., was found Friday afternoon.

Steve Smith said he has been overwhelmed by the number of people who participated in the search even after the official effort was called off on in mid-December after harsh winter weather settled in.


Three cougar kittens rescued

Photo by Shervin Hess/Courtesy of the Oregon Zoo Three 2-week-old cougar orphans from Baker County are examined at the Oregon Zoo’s veterinary medical center. The kittens will be taken to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, N.C., later this winter.

By Jayson Jacoby

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The mistake was unavoidable, but Todd Callaway didn’t stop to worry about his reputation as a hunter whose integrity is beyond reproach.

He just wanted to save the three cougar kittens.

And he did.

Callaway, 64, is both a hunter and a retired wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Baker City office.

When he realized that the cougar he shot and killed on Thursday was a lactating female, he immediately started following the animal’s tracks in the snow, hoping to find its den and, possibly, kittens.


Downtown property owners balk at tax plan

For the first time since Baker City’s downtown Economic Improvement District (EID) was started in the early 1990s, enough property owners are opposed to a special property tax assessment that the city can’t continue to collect that money and pass it on to Historic Baker City Inc.

Not, that is, unless some of those property owners change their minds before the City Council has a public hearing Tuesday evening.

Under EID rules, the city can charge the property tax assessment unless the owners of at least 33 percent of the total property value in the district don’t object.

The current EID expired at the end of 2013.

When the city surveyed property owners, objections totaled 34.74 percent of the total assessed value.


Missing plane found in Idaho: no survivors

BOISE (AP) — The wreckage of a small plane carrying five people, including a Silicon Valley executive, was found Friday after vanishing in the central Idaho mountains on Dec. 1, the Valley County sheriff’s office said. There were no survivors.

Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Smith said Friday that an incoming storm may delay recovery efforts.

The single-engine plane was occupied by 51-year-old pilot, Dale Smith, a software executive from San Jose, Calif.; his son, Daniel Smith and his wife, Sheree Smith; and daughter Amber Smith with her fiance, Jonathon Norton.

The plane was flying from Baker City, where the family had been spending the Thanksgiving holiday, to Montana, where Daniel and Sheree Smith live, on Dec. 1 when it disappeared in the mountains 150 miles northeast of Boise.

Dale Smith reported engine trouble and sought information about a backcountry landing strip where he hoped to put the plane down safely.

Authorities had suspended the search for the aircraft in mid-December.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Smith, an executive and co-founder of San Jose-based SerialTek, obtained his pilot’s license in 2005.


Big (Effects) Bird

More than 100 people attend a BLM forum about the sage grouse

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife A male sage grouse performs the species’ elaborate courting ritual, which includes inflating air sacs in his breast and fanning his tail feathers.

By Pat Caldwell

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They brought in the extra chairs even before the meeting began.

Even after the session kicked off Thursday night regarding a proposed management plan for sage grouse on BLM land in Eastern Oregon, people continued to filter into the Baker County Events Center, sending a clear signal that for many the small bird carries the potential to make a big impact on the local economy.

The focus of the meeting revolved around the chicken-size bird that occupies rangeland in 11 Western states, including much of Eastern Oregon, and is now the subject of a proposed federal management plan.

“It is the farmer’s and rancher’s spotted owl. It is of that magnitude,” said Tom Sharp, a Burns-area rancher and chairman of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s endangered species committee.

Sharp joined more than 100 other area residents and officials at Thursday’s meeting, which was put on by the BLM, the federal agency proposing to revise its management plans for about 12 million acres in Eastern Oregon.


Harvey, Fleming swap spots on ballot

Bill Harvey will run against incumbent Fred Warner Jr. for the Baker County Board of Commissioners chairman, and Dick Fleming will challenge Commissioner Mark Bennett 


By Chris Collins

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Bill Harvey says he believes he and Dick Fleming would make a great team as county commissioners and he’s willing to put his career on hold to devote his efforts to the full-time chairman’s seat.

Fleming, on the other hand, has some other projects he needs  to complete that would conflict with the full-time job, Harvey said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

That’s what led the two men to refile their candidacies Wednesday for county commission seats.

Harvey, who will try to unseat Fred Warner Jr. as commission chairman in the Republican primary in May, originally had filed for the position held by Mark Bennett, who was appointed to the commission in May 2013 after Carl Stiff resigned for health reasons.

Fleming, 63, who had filed to run against Warner originally, instead will challenge Bennett.


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