Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff told the board of commissioners Wednesday there are bills moving through the Oregon Legislature with potential negative consequences.

House Bill 3194 would allow judges discretion on sentencing for nearly 20 offenses - many of which fall under Measure 11 and 57 guidelines, which call for mandatory minimum sentences.

Crimes that could have reduced sentences under HB 3194 are first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree assault and second-degree robbery, Shirtcliff said.

The 54-page bill is based on recommendations the Oregon Commission on Public Safety made in December to Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Shirtcliff said passage of HB 3194 would result in "a lot of bad guys running around."

He's also concerned about a provision in the bill to give grants to counties for not imprisoning some offenders.

Specifically, the bill states that it would reward reduced "use of prison resources while preserving public safety or that incarcerate andsupervise offenders sentenced to term of incarceration of 15 months or less."

"Do we really want to take money, in essence, not to send people to prison?" Shirtcliff asked. "Some of these cases are very serious."

An alternative bill backed by Shirtcliff and other district attorneys doesn't reduce these sentences because it leave out changes to Measures 11 and 57, the latter of which focuses on sentences for certain drug and property crimes.

HB 3195 is based on an alternative report compiled by a dissenting member of Public Safety Commission, John Foote, the Clackamas County district attorney.

Another piece of legislation, HB 3031, would authorizes the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) to contract with or counties to provide parole and probation services.

Shirtcliff said it was proposed by larger counties but that it would "water down" the structure of the OYA and not benefit other counties, especially small ones such as Baker County.

The commissioners also heard about the Juvenile Department from its supervisor, Staci Erickson.

A typical juvenile offender her department deals with in Baker County is a male between 13 and 17 who has committed a property crime, Erickson said.

These youths doing work under county supervision has resulted in amassing an accountability block grant fund that compensated 27 victims. Payments to victims totals nearly $4,100, she said.

"We're getting accountability," she said.

Many of the things the crews do "really affect the community," she said.

They set up equipment and help stage an array of local events, including the attractions in Family Fun area within Miners Jubilee, as well as do such things as paint walls at the Baker Heritage Museum.

"Having them be seen is key," said Shirtcliff, who also directs the Juvenile Department. No youths are "out that shouldn't be."

Youths who commit serious offenses are sent to a holding facility in The Dalles.

The county would like to arrange for a closer site, such as in Walla Walla County, Wash., or Ada or Canyon counties in Idaho. Reaching an agreement is difficult because of different rules in those states, Shirtcliff said.

Another area of concern is making sure youths are well informed about the ramifications of certain inappropriate behaviors. That would include sexting and being in sexual relationships with partners who have an age span of more than three years.

Powder Basin Water

The commissioners heard from representatives of the Water and Stream Health Project - WASH.

Mac Kerns told the commissioners that the group wants to see 80 percent of the basin managed by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Plans to dam four areas have been halted. The sites are East Pine Creek near Halfway, South Fork of the Burnt River near Unity, North Powder River northwest of Baker City, and an enhancement of Thief Valley Dam near North Powder.

WASH reports that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would only consider dam construction for agricultural uses that also have a "positive cost-benefit ratio."

The group also wants to maximize such things in the basin as stream health, flood control, electrical power production, wildlife habitat, recreation and overall economic benefit to the communities that depend on the waterways.

WASH says the only options now are to work with reclamation so the projects cover all water uses and are financially viable, or to find another federal agency with which to partner.

The commissioners asked the group to come back with a well-defined purpose for dam construction and a viable partnership with a federal or state agency. This would make it more likely that the county would offer money or assistance, said Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr.

In other business, the commissioners:

andbull; Named Jeff Smith as the new county roadmaster. Ken Helgerson, current roadmaster, is retiring as of May 1. Smith is the assistant roadmaster.

andbull; Approved an interfund loan of $21,500 to the Transient Room Tax Marketing Fund from the county's general fund, "due to the fact monies to be received from a Lodging establishment has not been received ..." the resolution states.

andbull; Renewed leases with the Defrees and Warnock ranches for five years that allow them to graze cattle in certain sections of the Sumpter Valley Dredge Tailings area to control noxious weeds.

andbull; Appointed a recorder, Mark Bennett, to the city of Greenhorn so they could swear into office the new councilors.