Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


Baker City and Baker County are consolidating their planning departments beginning July 1.

The county will be the official service provider under the agreement that Baker County Commissioners approved during their meeting Wednesday morning.

The city already signed off on the arrangement. Ratification by both government bodies of their budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1 will finalize the consolidation.

County Commissioners ratified the county budget Wednesday. City Councilors are scheduled to ratify the city's spending plan on June 26.

Jenny Long, city planner, will move to the Baker County Courthouse basement, where county planning is located.

"The city wants to know what they're getting for their money," said Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr.

Mark Bennett, the county's planning director, will oversee the combined planning department.

The county will receive the fees paid for planning services the city has been handling for its residents and property owners. The city also pays the county $50,000 for providing planning services during the first year.

"It works well from a practical standpoint," Bennett said.

City planning matters alone aren't expected to take up enough time to occupy a full-time employee. And county planning expects to continue being busy with such matters as mining-related business and the various federal land-use plans introduced during recent months, Warner said.

The agreement would be negotiated annually. And the cost will be tracked as a budget line item.

The city and county will retain separate planning commissions to provide oversight on various plans and projects - necessary since each has separate zoning ordinances.

"It moves us closer to a one-stop shop," Bennett said.

Long said plans to update the city's development code and comprehensive plan will continue as envisioned.

She pointed out that having other planning experts to talk to would be advantageous for her and city residents. It also would benefit those seeking walk-in assistance because there would be someone available more often.

City residents needing planning assistance and building department help at the same time might find the new arrangement inconvenient because the city's building department, which handles inspections, will remain at Baker City Hall.

County budget ratified

The General Fund total revenue is estimated to be slightly more than $8.82 million. That's about $254,000 less than the current year's amount of $9.07 million.

Total revenue also is lower. This year the county estimates it will receive more than $30.6 million while next year it will have $27.9 million.

The county has adjusted to the less robust financial situation by reducing labor costs. It's eliminating hours equal to 3.5 full-time employees in this way: 3/4 FTE in the Assessor's Office; 1/4 FTE in Technology; 1/2 FTE for Justice of the Peace; 1/2 FTE in Justice Court; 1 FTE in Commission on Children and Families and 1/2 FTE in Consolidated Dispatch.

The property tax rate this year will be $3.7286 per $1,000 assessed value. The weed control levy collected will total $90,000.

There will be no commission meeting on July 4 because of the holiday. The next meeting is scheduled on July 18.

In other business:

andbull; Commissioners adopted a new health department fee schedule effective July 1. Some fees are set by state statute and others by cost analysis. The list includes a range of immunizations against such diseases as Varicella, Hepatitis A and B, as well as tdap, which prevents tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Family planning functions, laboratory services and registered nurse visits round out the list.

andbull; Approved contracts with several service providers. Dr. Jon Schott will receive up to $9,900, $825 per month, for serving as the county's health officer during this fiscal year. Duties include providing the health department with direction of clinical activities, medical consultations, liaison activities with the public and local health providers, and helping with disaster preparedness and emergency responses. Dr. Eric Lamb will receive $75 per hour for pharmacist consultation, and physician's assistant Gina Glaubke will earn $50 per hour for services to the county.

andbull; Bud Zunino will provide nurse-practitioner services at the county jail for $850 per month and Baker High School's health clinic for $50 per hour.

andbull; Wade Swiger will provide investigative services to the District Attorney's office for $25,000 and the Child Abuse Center for $10,000 during this fiscal year.

andbull; Approved the operating budget for the city of Unity of $160,443. The tiny community has no city council right now and Warner said he hoped residents would "take their city back." Bennett is the acting city manager of Unity. County officials plan to attempt recruitment of council candidates.

andbull; Talked about the city of Greenhorn remaining under an emergency declaration. According to Bennett, three people are necessary to form that governing body but only two residents are eligible to serve on a city council.

andbull; Announced that Damien Yervasi was named to officially complete the justice of the peace term of his wife, Lise Yervasi, by Gov. John Kitzhaber. A permanent successor will be chosen at the Nov. 6 election. The two candidates are Don Williams and Steve Bogart. The candidate who receives the most votes takes office Jan. 1, 2013, to begin a six-year term.

andbull; Cancelled "wholly uncollectible personal property taxes" totaling $2,160.34 during 2010 and 2011. The largest debtor was Paul Vaden, who owed $1,800.34. Vaden had been trying to sell the Lime cement plant site west of Huntington next to I-84. He paid the county $51,000 to secure an option to buy the property, but never completed the transaction. Utah resident Steven Golieb now is trying to attract developers to the location.