By Joshua Dillen
Baker City restaurants want their customers to know it's safe to dine out in spite of the current cryptosporidium crisis.
More than a dozen local food and beverage establishment owners and managers met Wednesday afternoon with public health officials to discuss the issues they have been facing in the wake of the discovery of the parasite in the city's water supply.
Loss of business was a concern, as their most lucrative period for restaurants is nearly over.
Craig Geddes of the Malheur County Health Department, which is responsible for checking all Baker County restaurants to ensure they comply with health regulations, said during Wednesday's meeting that he or other inspectors have checked all Baker City food and beverage establishments since the crypto outbreak started.
"As far as I am concerned, right now, every place in Baker County is safe," Geddes said.
Kina Allen, owner of Paizano's Pizza in Baker City, started the meeting by talking about the status of her business.
"Right now, my restaurant is safe and good to go with the filter that we had installed this morning," Allen said.
She shared the information with her fellow business owners about the filter that can treat up to 25,000 gallons of water a day. The cost was about $200, Allen said.
Loran Joseph, whose wife, Jenny, owns Sweet Wife Baking, talked about a similar filter that would handle twice as much water.
Lissa Haun, who owns The Ice House in Baker City, a business that supplies ice to many local grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants, said her business has used a filter since before the crypto was detected.
Haun said an official from the Oregon Department of Agriculture said the filter is certified to deal with crypto.
State Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ont., who represents Baker County, also attended Wednesday's meeting along with Baker City Manager Mike Kee and Fred Warner Jr., chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners.
The restaurant owners asked the city and state officials if there is any avenue they could pursue that might offset some of the financial losses they have experienced since the crypto crisis started last week.
"What is the city and county going to do about this?" said Josh DeCarl, owner of the Corner Brick Bar and Grill.
Warner said the city has made an emergency declaration and sent it to Gov. John Kitzhaber.
"What that means is that it's in the process. It's what we're going to need to have this be taken seriously by the state," Warner said. "We're going to have to assess what the economic damage presently is and maybe we can make up for lost revenue."
Bentz had some not too comforting news from his office where he has a lawyer doing preliminary research about the possibility of the businesses getting reimbursed.
"The odds of there being money are slim. They're slim for a couple of reasons," Bentz said. "Those reasons are based upon what I had my staff in Salem look at."
He said the initial brief research by his staff suggests that it will be difficult to get reimbursed and suggested that the focus should be solving the crisis at hand.
"You should keep track of your losses, no matter what, because --- who knows - there may be a source of funds out there," Bentz said
County Commissioner Mark Bennett, who was not at the meeting, said the county is developing survey tools to gauge financial losses.
It's most likely federal funds would be sought for any reimbursement.
Business owners would have to prove "extraordinary costs" and provide documentation of average income in normal circumstances, Bennett said.