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Making sure everyone has their own voice

Teaching Sign Language

Lisa Britton/For the Baker City Herald Elke Sharma is fluent in sign language.

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Scarlet fever stole most of Elke Sharma’s hearing as a child.

“They misdiagnosed it four times,” she says.

Today, as an adult, she is totally deaf in her left ear and has 30 percent “speech discrimination” in her right. A hearing aid helps boost that number to 80 percent.

Elke (her name is pronounced “Elk-uh”) earned her degree at Gallaudet University, a liberal arts university for the deaf in Washington, D.C.

Then she became a Methodist pastor. She now leads worship at Baker United Methodist Church in Baker City.

Dampest December day in 24 years

By Jayson Jacoby

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Santa would have needed pontoons on his sleigh had he flown in a few days early in Baker County.

Sunday was the wettest December day here in almost a quarter century.

The rainfall total at the Baker City Airport — and it was spared the storm’s full onslaught — was .58 of an inch.

That’s the most in a single December day at the airport since Dec. 2, 1980, when a deluge dropped .64 of an inch.

Sunday was also the fourth-wettest December day at the airport since at least 1943.

The weekend wasn’t a total washout, however.

It was more of a whiteout, in fact, high in the Elkhorn Mountains.

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

Restoring Forests

S. John Collins/Baker City Herald file photo A federal program offers money to private property owners to restore forests on the east face of the Elkhorn Mountains between Baker Valley and Grande Ronde Valley. This scene is from Baker Valley, looking southeast up the canyon of Rock Creek.

By Joshua Dillen

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Private landowners in Baker and Union counties have a substantial monetary resource to help reduce the threat of wildfire on their lands.

That resource is the East Face of the Elkhorn Mountains Partnership.

Warner ready for ‘next chapter’

By Pat Caldwell

For the Baker City Herald

He spent the past 12 years in a critical local political position but next month Baker County Commission Chairman Fred Warner will step away from the helm and move on.

Warner lost to challenger Bill Harvey in the May Republican primary, and a write-in effort never gained much traction this fall.

Harvey will take over the Baker County Commission chairman slot in January.

15-year-old Dillan Easley to spend 10 years at MacLaren for Granite hunting camp killings

From The Blue Mountain Eagle

CANYON CITY – Dillan Dakota Easley, 15, will spend up to age 25 in custody for killing his foster father and another man in 2013.

Circuit Judge J. Burdette Pratt issued that ruling this afternoon after defense attorneys and state prosecutors reached a resolution in the case.

Easley had been accused of the juvenile equivalent of murder in the shootings on the night of Oct. 2, 2013, in a remote hunting cabin near Granite, in northeastern Grant County.

Police called to the scene found Michael Piete, 43, and his uncle, Kenneth Gilliland, 64, both of Baker City, dead at the scene.

Facing a revised petition today, Easley admitted to two lesser allegations of first-degree manslaughter. The charges are felonies that, for an adult, would bring a maximum of 20 years.

The law for juveniles also provides for up to 20 years, but custody also is limited to age 25, which means Easley in effect faces 10 more years of confinement.

The state sought to get the case moved to adult court earlier this year, but the defense prevailed in keeping it as a juvenile matter. Officials said going to trial on the murder counts in the juvenile system could not have produced a longer sentence.

Relatives of the victim issued statements to the court, expressing dismay at the outcome. They felt the proceedings had focused more on Easley’s needs and the concerns about the cost of a trial, rather than the crimes.

Easley, who was 14 at the time, has been at the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections juvenile holding facility since the crimes. The judge ordered him to the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority, and he is expected to be transferred to MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn.

Building Skills

Baker City’s ‘Vocational Program On Steroids’

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Teacher David Frazey, center, checks progress on a wall frame project being constructed by freshmen Evan Bigler, left, and Preston Waggoner.

By Chris Collins

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What Jerry Peacock describes as a “vocational program on steroids” has been established at Baker High School this fall.

It’s called Baker Technical Institute (BTI) and it appears to be a hit with the students enrolled in programs aimed at helping set them on a pathway to success once they graduate.

Judge blocks logging

Ruling Affects Snow Basin Project In Eastern Baker County

By Pat Caldwell

For the Baker City Herald

A beleaguered Baker County timber sale is once again in legal limbo after a federal judge issued a ruling last week in Portland.

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s 29,000-acre Snow Basin project, once seen by some elected leaders as a model for forest restoration, is in a holding pattern in the wake of Judge Marco Hernandez’s 55-page opinion released Dec. 9.

Three of the proposed five timber sales that make up the project have been sold, but only one has been logged.


Progress is now stalled on the two that were sold.

County voters to decide in May whether to make commission positions non-partisan

Baker County voters will decide in May 2015 whether to make the three Baker County Board of Commissioner positions non-partisan.

Those are partisan positions now.

The change would apply to future elections. 

Randy Joseph, who lives near Sumpter, is the chief petitioner.

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

Wheel Watching

Garry McLin’s colorful Ferris wheel catches the eyes of passers-by on Main Street

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Garry McLin's 6-foot-4-inch-tall Ferris wheel spins in the window at Baker Gold and Silver 24 hours a day.

By Joshua Dillen

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One would not expect to see a carnival ride in Baker City at this time of year.

But there is one on Main Street.

Unfortunately, it’s not ridable.

Unless the passenger is a small mouse.

Or a Lego man.

Garry McLin, 70, who “hangs out” at Baker Gold and Silver most days, has built a 6-foot-tall electric-powered Ferris wheel in the establishment.

Baker School Board Superintendent Search: 6 candidates to replace Wegener

By Chris Collins

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An update on progress toward hiring a new Baker School District superintendent will be presented when the 5J Board meets Tuesday night.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the District Office, 2090 Fourth St.

Directors reviewed 12 applications in a special executive (closed to the public) meeting Thursday and pared the applicant pool to six, said Norma Nemec, executive secretary to the board and superintendent. Thirty volunteers will review the applications of those six between today and Jan. 6 as the process continues.

Superintendent Walt Wegener will retire on June 30, 2015.

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

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