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City Council to consider water fee hikes during Tuesday night work session

By Pat Caldwell

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A proposal to boost city water fees will be a key item of discussion Tuesday night during the Baker City Council’s work session at City Hall.

The meeting, which is open to the public, is slated to kick off at 6 p.m.

Along with the water fee hike proposal, elected leaders will discuss Baker City Public Works capital plans and the 2014 pavement management blueprint.

New conservation law in place

By Pat Caldwell

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It is called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, or CCAA, and it may just be one of the most significant preservation tools for landowners and cattlemen that you’ve never heard of.

The agreements are the focal point of a bill passed by Oregon lawmakers — and subsequently signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber — during the Legislature’s short session that ended March 7. The legislation, spearheaded by Oregon State Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) produces exemptions to the public records law regarding written pacts — CCAAs — connected to conservation of sage grouse. Bentz represents Baker, Grant, Harney and Malheur counties along with a portion of Lake County

In a CCAA, a private property owner agrees to conduct certain conservation efforts under a special permit. Under the provisions of the agreement, a property owner is guaranteed that if he or she participates in specific conservation activities — also known as a site specific plan — for a species they will not be forced to implement extra measures beyond what is outlined in the CCAA. And, if a specific species included in the CCAA is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the landowner will not be forced to make more land, water or resource modifications unless they agree to.

Some business leaders frustrated by Council's decision on Resort Street LID

By Pat Caldwell

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The action Tuesday night by the Baker City Council to approve the first reading of an ordinance that levies assessment charges on a group of local business owners might signal the beginning of the end of a long local political ordeal but the decision did not sit well with at least one merchant.

The Council voted 4-3 to accept the first reading of Ordinance No. 3329, the legal mechanism the city will use to extract assessment payments from property owners involved in the Resort Street Local Improvement District (LID). Businessman Randy Daugherty said Thursday the Council’s decision Tuesday night sent the wrong message.

Police seize more than 3 pounds of marijuana valued at $7,500

An Oregon State Police trooper found more than 3 pounds of marijuana when he stopped a Portland driver speeding east on the freeway near North Powder Wednesday.

Jesus Macias, 35, is being held at the Union County Jail in La Grande on charges of possessing, distributing and manufacturing marijuana.

Macias was driving a rented 2013 Ford Fusion displaying Arizona license plates when he was pulled over for an alleged speeding violation at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, an OSP press release stated. 

The marijuana, with an estimated value of $7,500, was found in a suitcase in the back seat of the rental car, police said. The OSP Drug Enforcement Section is continuing the investigation.

Sam-O Swim Center reopens in time for spring break


Sam-O Swim Center re-opened Monday just in time for spring break from school. Devyn Efird, left, and Tanner Downing share a float tube during the open swim from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. (S. John Collins)

By Pat Caldwell

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An issue that grabbed the local city political stage in January is on its way to a solution after the new domestic hot water heaters were recently installed at the Sam-O Swim Center.

Along with the installation of the new domestic hot water heaters, a damaged gasket for the boiler was also replaced during the upgrade project.

The Sam-O Swim renovation issue flared in January after questions were raised by Baker City Councilor Rogers Coles and Baker County YMCA director Heidi Dalton regarding whether the city was committed to infrastructure repairs. One of the central issues revolved around uncertainty regarding which entity — the city or the Baker County YMCA — was responsible for a grant-writing process to generate funds for the Sam-O Swim Center renovation project.

McEwen church to send 150 ‘Operation Christmas Child’ boxes this year


Gwen Zacharias, near left, and Phyllis Hammer add more articles to the care packages that will be sent worldwide to young children as part of Operation Christmas Child. (Photo by Lisa Britton)

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

The dolls, measuring about 5 inches high, came with no clothes.

Not a problem for Lyla Young, who came up with a pattern to knit dresses and hats — in all sorts of colors and designs — for these dolls that will be tucked in care packages and sent around the world.

This is the sixth year that McEwen Bible Fellowship has participated in Operation Christmas Child, a program of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, which was started by Franklin Graham. People fill shoeboxes with supplies that are then shipped to areas hit by a natural disaster and distributed to children.

The church at McEwen, 23 miles southwest of Baker City on Highway 7, has a membership of 60 to 70.

The first year, the members made up 20 boxes. They’ve increased the number each year, and in November 2013, they sent 145.

“We’re going to do at least 150 this year,” said Gwen Zacharias.

The church has provided a small room to store all the items gathered for the boxes: notebooks, soap, toys, mittens, socks, shirts, combs, brushes, coloring books, washcloths, crayons and more.

The boxes — actually plastic bins with recloseable lids — are packed and labeled with “boy” or “girl” and the intended age range (2-4, 5-9 and 10-14).

Items are collected all year, and the finished boxes are mailed in mid-November. Postage costs $7 per box. Before the final shipment, a Bible story is tucked into each package.

This year will include those dolls with the fancy clothes.

“We’re so blessed to have so many talented people,” said Phyllis Hammer.


Bentz disappointed with short legislative session

By Pat Caldwell

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Oregon District 60 state Representative Cliff Bentz doesn’t mince words regarding how he felt the recent short session of the state Legislature went down.

The Ontario resident who represents Baker, Grant, Harney, and Malheur counties along with a portion of Lake County said the recent session that ended March 7 was a disappointment.

“I think that is a good word for it,” he said Friday.

Bentz, who voted against the effort to establish the short legislative session, said the narrow timeframe — just 25 days — often translates into an attempt to find quick fixes to intricate issues. Complicated legislative challenges, he said, deserve ample time to be reviewed by both parties. That means conducting hearings and furnishing public input. 

“When you count the number of bills, I mean you have bills all over the place,” he said.

The other challenge, Bentz said, a short session spawns is that often elected leaders utilize the legislative time to campaign for office.

Baker City’s Efforts To Attract ShopKo

By Pat Caldwell

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Recently Baker County Economic Development Director Greg Smith took a tour of Baker City. 

A late-afternoon tour. In a car. Going street by street.

Smith wasn’t participating in a laid-back excursion to see the sights. He knows Baker City fairly well as it is. No, Smith was looking for something that would fit the needs of a major firm considering making a big investment here.

“We were driving down every street in the city. Drove two hours,” Smith said.

In the end Smith’s effort to attract national retailer ShopKo to Baker City foundered.

Business balance

Economic Development In Baker City

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald Tabor Clarke, who owns a Main Street jewelry store, says finding your niche in a slow-growth population area like Baker County is a key to sustaining a business. He believes quality of life offered here should be a critical motivator when trying to attract new families and businesses to Baker City and the area

By Pat Caldwell

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Safeguarding successful local businesses while simultaneously focusing on potential leads regarding firms outside the area are the two key ingredients to success for Greg Smith, Baker County economic development director.

“Our primary focus is on assisting existing business owners in the county,” Smith said this week.

Smith said adopting a practical method to the effort to stimulate the local economy is also critical.

“What we are trying to do is to reach out to those small companies that would be a good fit to relocate into the county. What we are trying to be is realistic in our approach,” he said.

UV water treatment should start today

Starting as soon as today, every drop of Baker City’s drinking water will be bombarded with crypto-inactivating ultraviolet light before it gets to your faucets.

The temporary UV system the city installed last week was scheduled to be turned on today, City Manager Mike Kee said Tuesday.

City officials have hired a company to install a permanent UV treatment facility that is slated to be finished by the end of this year.

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