Baker County commissioners’ efforts to influence how the Tri-County Cooperative Weed Management Area operates are reasonable, and we largely agree with the county’s approach.
We endorse the county’s request that Tri-County, which also works in Union and Wallowa counties, station one employee in Baker City.
This is only logical — the agency, which started in the early 1990s, was based in Baker City until it moved its office to La Grande several years ago. And a majority of the work the agency supports — its main task is to secure grants for weed-control projects — takes place in Baker County.
But after Wednesday’s Commission meeting, we’re not so confident that Baker County’s campaign will yield net benefits to the county in its important work to control the spread of noxious weeds that can reduce the value of land for livestock grazing and as wildlife habitat.
When commissioners voted last fall to withdraw from Tri-County we considered it a negotiating tactic, considering the contract requires a 90-day notice for withdrawal. The deadline is Feb. 1.
In the meantime, Commission Chairman Bill Harvey has promoted a plan by which Baker County would seek grants to hire an employee who would in effect replace Tri-County. The county has already approved a $3,000 contract with a grant writer.
Commissioner Bruce Nichols said Wednesday that he thinks the county is “putting the cart before the horse.” His concern is based in part on conversations he has had with members of Baker County’s Weed Board. Although that board doesn’t oversee the county’s relationship with Tri-County, its members obviously are well-versed in weed-control issues. Nichols said all but one of the Weed Board members told him they think Baker County should remain a member of Tri-County. They also told Nichols they’re concerned that if Baker County creates its own agency, it would compete with Tri-County and potentially leave Baker County with less money to combat noxious weeds.
That’s a legitimate concern, and a serious one.
Although we agree with commissioners that Tri-County should station an employee in Baker City, we don’t believe that goal is more important than keeping the county’s weed-control budget intact.
Nor do we find persuasive Harvey’s complaint that Nichols, by talking with Weed Board members, exceeded his duties.
Harvey is the commissioners’ representative on the Weed Board. But that doesn’t — and shouldn’t — mean that Nichols is restricted from seeking answers when, as he said Wednesday, constituents asked him about the Tri-County situation.
Nichols isn’t overstepping his bounds.
He’s doing his job.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.