Larry Morrison

Larry Morrison

The Baker City Council welcomed Larry Morrison as the newest council member Tuesday night after four of the six councilors voted to appoint Morrison to fill a vacancy on the seven-member Council.

Morrison was one of four applicants to replace Ken Gross, who had to move out of the city for his job.

The other candidates were Richard Haynes Jr., Jason Spriet and James C. Thomas.

Councilors Lynette Perry, Mike Downing and Doni Bruland voted for Morrison, and Councilors Arvid Andersen and Randy Schiewe voted for Spriet.

Mayor Loran Joseph initially voted for Haynes, but he amended his choice, voting for Morrison to give him the required four votes to be appointed.

Morrison will serve through at least the first meeting in 2021. His seat will be open for election in November, with the winning candidate then serving a two-year term starting in January 2021.

Morrison grew up in Baker City, graduating from Baker High School in 1968.

He moved to La Grande in 1984 and served two terms on the Island City Council.

After retiring from a 40-year career as a teacher, including five years at Baker Middle School, Morrison returned to Baker City.

“I have nothing special I want to work on, I just had some time, I thought I’d give back a little bit to the place I grew up in,” Morrison said Tuesday.

Block grant application

In other business Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to proceed with New Directions Northwest’s request that the city sponsor New Directions’ application for a $1.5 million federal Community Development Block Grant to build a health and wellness center in Baker City.

The Council will schedule a public hearing on the project.

Andi Walsh, grant writer and public relations manager for New Directions, said the health and wellness center would be built next to the outpatient services facility that New Directions is building now at 13th and K streets, just west of the Powder River Correctional Facility.

The health and wellness center would offer services including a multi-purpose basketball court that will also provide a space for seminars, weights/cardio equipment use and storage, flexibility to allow dentists, physicians, or physician assistants to provide clinics to clients, and others.

According to a report given to the council, New Directions wants to apply for the grant to build a health and wellness center in part because “our clients have very few resources for physical activity as part of their treatment.”

Art Shabut, block grant project manager for the state, participated in Tuesday’s meeting via telephone. He said the city’s role would be to administer the application for New Directions.

“That doesn’t mean that the city has to do all the work,” Shabut said.

He said the city can use grant money to hire an administrator and hire someone to direct the environmental review.

Shari Selander, CEO for New Directions, said the ability to include physical activity for clients can help them during treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

“It’s very exciting for us to think that we would be able to expand the services that we currently provide to approximately 2,600 people a year,” Selander said. “And in our area we have a huge need to really be able to focus on the entire person, not just the mental health.”

In other business Tuesday, the Council:

• Endorsed a liquor license application from Sweet Wife Baking. Joseph recused himself from the matter because he and his wife are the owners of the business.

• Voted unanimously to accept a $45,000 technical assistance grant through the Department of Land Conservation and Development to do a housing needs analysis in the city.

Holly Kerns, director of the Baker City/County Planning Department, said the analysis will help the city make critical updates to the city’s comprehensive plan.

“Part of the Planning Department’s charge is to plan ahead for the future needs of our community as well as look at what’s happening in the present. And the housing analysis that is currently in our comprehensive plan is dated through 2019,” Kerns said.

• Authorized Public Works Director Michelle Owen to reallocate $500,000 budgeted to move a section of the Marble Springs water supply pipeline to construction of a different section of pipeline near the Elk Creek settling tank.

The Marble Springs work can’t be done this year because it depends on the Forest Service improving the Marble Creek Pass Road, and that won’t happen this year. Reallocating the $500,000 will allow the city to replace about 3 miles of pipeline this year, according to a staff report.

In a related matter, the Council voted unanimously to send a letter of support to the Forest Service for the agency’s plan to improve the Marble Creek Pass Road. That will facilitate logging and other work designed to reduce the risk of wildfire in the city’s watershed. The road passes through that 10,000-acre area.

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