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Farm Bill includes payments to counties

By Jayson Jacoby

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The federal Farm Bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday includes a one-year funding extension for a program that’s a vital source of revenue for Baker County and other rural Oregon counties.

The bill, which is expected to easily pass the Senate and also has President Obama’s endorsement, extends the PILT program — Payments In Lieu of Taxes.

Under PILT, which started in 1976, the federal government sends money to counties that have large amounts of federal land, which is not subject to property taxes, within their borders.


Icy roads force school closure

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald Baker City paramedics, Jason Jacobs, left, and B.J. Lynch, along with Oregon State Police and the Baker Rural Fire Department personnel prepare to move Martha Tizcareno, 45, to an ambulance Wednesday morning. Tizcareno of Keating was traveling west on Highway 86 when she lost control of her vehicle on black ice. She was transported to St. Alphonsus Hospital with neck and wrist injuries. OSP Lt. Gordon Larson comforts Tizcareno’s daughter, Nallely Robles, who arrived later with her brother, Juan, standing center.

By Jayson Jacoby and  Chris Collins

Baker City Herald

A rare Baker County ice storm, perhaps the worst of its kind in the past 20 years, slathered streets, roads and pretty much any inanimate object with a slippery glaze overnight.

Conditions were sufficiently dangerous to prompt school officials to cancel classes in Baker, Burnt River in Unity, and North Powder.

Baker County Circuit Court also was closed today.

“It’s an awful mess out there,” said Tom Strandberg, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation in La Grande. “It’s just a sheet of ice on all the highways.”

Nor were the problems confined to highways.


Winter weather advisory for Baker County

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for Baker County as a potentially messy mixture of snow, freezing rain and snow is forecast to spread into the area late Tuesday afternoon and overnight.

The advisory takes effect at 9 p.m. PST today and continues through 4 p.m. PST Wednesday.

The forecast for Baker City is for a 30 percent chance of snow today, mainly after 4 p.m.

Snow or freezing rain is likely between 10 p.m. today and 4 a.m. Wednesday, then rain, possibly mixed with snow or freezing rain, the rest of Wednesday.

The storm should get rid of the temperature inversion that has dominated local weather for the past two weeks, meaning warmer temperatures for valleys and much colder temperatures in the mountains.

More information: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/boi/ 


Baker man who accidentally shot himself released from hospital, now in Baker jail

A Baker City man who spent more than a week in a Boise hospital after accidentally shooting himself in the leg is in custody today at the Baker County Jail.

Eric Lee Cavyell, 23, of 3270 G St., was arrested at 6:27 p.m. Sunday on a statewide felony warrant charging him with violating his parole.


Highway tree trim

Pruning Willows Along Highway 30 Between Baker City and North Powder

Kathy Orr / Baker City Herald Drivers traveling Highway 30 between Baker City and North Powder over the past couple weeks probably have noticed ODOT crews trimming roadside willows. Here, Rick Broadie consolidates a pile of limbs that’s burning in a gravel right-of-way just west of North Powder.

By Jayson Jacoby

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Baker County’s abnormally arid January has had at least one benefit.

With no snow to plow, crews from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have been able to tackle the considerable task of trimming willow limbs that overhang Highway 30 between Baker City and North Powder and pose a potential hazard for travelers.

“If it’s not snowing they’ll be out there,” said Brad Payton, who oversees ODOT’s Baker City maintenance station. “Every year we whittle away at it, and with this kind of weather we’re knocking out as much as we can."


Walden to BLM: More time on sage grouse

By Pat Caldwell

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The BLM should extend the comment period on a draft management plan for protecting sage grouse habitat, Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said in a letter delivered Thursday to the federal agency.

Walden, who represents Oregon sprawling 2nd Congressional District, including Baker County, said in his letter to BLM Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze that a large number of people who will be directly impacted by the management plan have not had enough time to review the proposal, which is longer than most novels.


Crews to start lining sewer pipes Monday

Starting Monday, a city contractor will be lining several wastewater mains.

There won’t be traffic delays, but drivers should expect to see equipment and warning signs in the areas listed below.

Michels Corporation of Salem is the contractor.

The company will use the “cast in place pipe” process, which doesn’t require excavation but helps pipes last 50 years or longer than they would without the treatment.

The work will take up to nine days. Crews are already working to inspect and clean pipes to prepare them for the lining.

More information is available by calling 541-523-2046 or 541-524-2020.

Wastewater Lines to be Rehabilitated

• Alley: First to Second; Madison to Campbell

• Valley Avenue: Resort St. to river

• Alley: Elm to Grove; Grace to Myrtle

• Alley: Elm to Grove; Myrtle to Cliff

• Alley: Elm to Grove; Cliff to Indiana 

• Alley: Grove to East; Grace to Myrtle

• Sixth Street: C to D; B to C

• Washington Avenue - Fifth to Sixth

• Campbell Street: Seventh to Eighth, Eighth to Ninth


Heated Exchange

City councilor chastises city manager for failure to make repairs at city pool


By Pat Caldwell

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A flotsam of good intentions gone awry and miscommunication trail in the wake of an effort to replace the domestic hot water system at the city-owned Sam-O-Swim Center, in a saga one elected official said is evidence the city failed.

The central issue in this nine-month situation revolved around uncertainty regarding what entity was responsible for a grant writing process, and input from the city on the endeavor.

The fallout from the repair project sparked questions from Baker City Councilor Roger Coles and Baker County YMCA director Heidi Dalton regarding whether the city was committed to infrastructure repairs.

The YMCA manages Sam-O, which continues to operate normally.


Couple charged with car theft

Two people were arrested in a motel room in Baker City Thursday night and charged with stealing a pickup truck from a rental agency in Spokane, Wash.

Baker City Police believe the couple might also be involved in a fraudulent credit card scheme.


Senate hopefuls gather

Five Republicans, hoping to challenge Sen. Jeff Merkley, attend forum in Baker City


By Pat Caldwell

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A large crowd greeted a group of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate Wednesday night at the Sunridge Inn in Baker City.

The candidate forum – sponsored by the Baker County Republicans – showcased five individuals vying for the Republican nomination in the May 20 primary.

The winner will challenge incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, in November’s general election.

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