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Chet Smith, Chuck Schlingman die

Smith, 102, was a local historian; Schlingman the “talking pumpkin’ for 35 years

By Jayson Jacoby

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and Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Chet Smith preserved in his mind more than a century of Baker City history.

Chuck Schlingman delighted hundreds of local kids during his 35-year career as Baker City’s famous ‘talking pumpkin.”

Both men died this past week.

Smith, 102, died Monday at his home.

Schlingman, 90, died Friday at his home.

Locals grill Merkley on grouse

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley fields questions and concerns from about 80 people attending the town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon in Baker City.

By Jayson Jacoby

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Baker County residents peppered U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley with questions Tuesday that took the Democrat from their back yards to Capitol Hill to the factories of China.

A recurring theme during Merkley’s 70-minute town hall meeting at the former North Baker Elementary School was possible federal protection for the sage grouse, and in particular how such protection could affect the beef cattle industry in the county.

Among the approximately 80 people who attended, several asked Merkley about this chicken-size bird that shares habitat with some of Baker County’s most important public livestock grazing allotments.

Merkley actually had the first word on sage grouse, though.

YMCA CEO issues statement about contract dispute regarding Fitness Center work

Heidi Dalton, CEO of the Baker County YMCA, issued a written statement at noon today regarding a dispute between the YMCA and Gyllenberg Construction Inc. of Baker City over the remodeling of the former Wilson's Market, now the YMCA's Fitness Center on Pocahontas Road.

Dalton's statement reads: "The Baker County YMCA is currently in legal negotiations with Gyllenberg Construction, Inc. regarding our property at 3715 Pocahontas Road in Baker City, Oregon. Both the Baker County YMCA and Gyllenberg Construction, Inc. are taking the necessary legal steps to ensure that the financial and construction management responsibilities for cost overruns on the project are enforced as agreed upon in the contract. The liens that have been filed on the property are a direct result of the dispute regarding the cost overruns and will be resolved through the legal process. The Baker County YMCA will make no further comments regarding this matter until the legal proceedings are complete."

According to a claim of construction lien signed by Brent Gyllenberg on Nov. 4, 2013, the company claims the YMCA owes Gyllenberg Construction $385,262.70.

The total cost of the contract was $1,338,888.76, of which the company received $753,386.06 in credits, payments and offsets, according to the document.

A subcontractor, Powder River Electric Inc. of Baker City, filed a separate claim of construction lien on Nov. 12, 2013, seeking $31,450.08. 

The YMCA remodeled the former grocery store last year. The Fitness Center opened in September 2013.

The YMCA bought the building in 2012. 

Smith family plans memorial Saturday for plane crash victims

The Steve and Terri Smith family and the Baker City LDS Church have scheduled a community memorial and reception on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. at the LDS Church on Hughes Lane in Baker City.

The Smith family lost five of their family members in an airplane crash in Valley County, Idaho, as they were traveling from a Thanksgiving visit in Baker City. 

The Smiths would like to show their appreciation to the community for their support of the family during the December search and recovery of the airplane and occupants.

 A brief memorial of the victims will be followed by a community gathering with refreshments and the opportunity for the Smith family to thank Baker County residents.

 For more information contact Sel Mastrude, 541-403-0366. 

YHEC sign-ups scheduled Feb. 18

Sign-ups for the Baker City National Rifle Association-sponsored Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) will begin at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Powder River Sportsmen’s Club meeting room at Eighth and Broadway streets.

The registration fee is $25. Prospective students must already have been through a state-mandated hunter safety program or be already enrolled in one.

For more information, call Buck Buckner at 541-523-6108.

Avalanche risk is minimal at area ski resorts

The potential danger of an avalanche resonated tragically last week after two skiers died in the rugged back country of the Wallowa Mountains near Cornucopia.

One area where the avalanche danger may seem obvious is the steep slopes of regional ski resorts. Yet for many of the most popular winter recreation destinations in the region the avalanche danger is either minimal or nonexistent.

Some ski resorts — such as Bogus Basin near Boise — do not boast the kind of terrain that typically helps spawn avalanches while other winter getaways spend a great deal of time alleviating the potential threat.

“It is just not an issue with us,” Bogus Basin General Manager Alan Moore said.

The Boise-area resort — which along with ski runs also showcases Nordic trails and condominiums — is fortunate because of the type of terrain and the climate around it.

“We just don’t have the kind of slopes and snow that lead us to have avalanches,” Moore said. 

“I’ve been here 13 years and I know there haven’t been any avalanches.”

At Anthony Lakes, the staff expend a lot of time ensuring the groomed areas of the resort are as safe as possible, marketing director Chelsea McLagan said.

“Our ski patrol goes out early and patrols the entire mountain and skies every run to ensure safety,” McLagan said. “There is no history of slide here.”

Guides from ski touring company recover avalanche victims' bodies

Guides from Wallowa Alpine Huts of Joseph have recovered the bodies of Jake Merrill, 23, of Bellingham, Wash., and Shane Coulter, 30, of Seattle, the two backcountry skiers killed in an avalanche Tuesday in the southern Wallowa Mountains northwest of Halfway.

Both men's bodies were taken to Gray's West & Co. Pioneer Chapel in Baker City, according to a press release from the Baker County Sheriff's Office.

Coulter and five other clients of Wallowa Alpine Huts were on a multi-day skiing tour when the avalanche struck.

Merrill was one of the two guides for the Joseph company.

Bill could limit city's ability to ban medical marijuana dispensaries

By Pat Caldwell

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A legislative edict originally intended to allow Oregon cities and counties to ban medical marijuana dispensaries cleared the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday in Salem.

Yet Senate Bill 1531 departed the Judiciary Committee with fewer teeth and a softer bark than the version first sponsored by Sens. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) and Rod Monroe (D-Portland). That early version gave cities and counties the power to “regulate or restrict” the operations of a medical marijuana dispensaries.

Perfectly Polished

Volunteers Paint Fingernails At Settlers Park

Photo by Lisa Britton Danielle Collard, left, shares a laugh with Marilyn Cummings as she puts a new layer of polish on Marilyn’s nails. Collard and her mother-in-law, Mary, are part of a group of volunteers who paint nails every Monday night at Settlers Park.

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

What with the chatter, giggles and scent of nail polish remover, you’d think a slumber party was in full swing at Settlers Park every Monday night.

Except for the absence of pillow fights.

Every Monday evening volunteers arrive at Settlers Park to paint the nails of the residents at this assisted living home in west Baker City.

‘We risked 17 to save 6’

Baker County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue team leader describes effort to rescue survivors of deadly avalanche

By Chris Collins

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The effort to bring two injured backcountry skiers out of the Wallowa Mountains Wednesday was hampered by steep terrain, deep snow and ever-changing weather.

Chris Galiszewski, coordinator of the Baker County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team, said safety was the emphasis throughout the rescue.

“We risked 17 people to save six,” he said of the group that made its way on skis, snowmobiles and snowshoes into the mountains near Little Eagle Meadows, about 10 miles northwest of Halfway. “We did it as safely as we could. Risk management was very much on our minds."

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