Baker County commissioners on Wednesday approved a revised request for proposals for a contractor to manage Hewitt and Holcomb Parks near Richland.

Commissioner Mark Bennett made a motion to have the agreement labeled as a draft, to allow it to be subject to change during negotiations.

Commissioners voted unanimously to remove the position of parks director, which Karen Spencer has had since 2007.

“We are moving in a direction,” Commission Chairman Bill Harvey said. “We will no longer have that position and we need to set a timetable for this so everybody understands. So my motion is to remove that position on the last day of February so we can move down this next direction that we’re going to and that gives the position time to make plans and make changeovers.”

Commissioner Bruce Nichols, who was out of town and participated in the meeting by phone, said he is concerned that the county is eliminating the parks director position before it has a contractor.

“I think we need to have something in place,” Nichols said.

Harvey said he believes the county will have enough time to get the proposal out for people who are interested.

The county’s goal is to hire a contractor before the parks open April 1.

“I just need to allow somebody, other people, to know timetable wise so they can make plans and adjustments,” Harvey said. “And I don’t think it’s great to leave things hanging in the air. That’s the reason for the motion.”

Bennett said he believes that cutting the position, and soliciting a contractor, is “about the only option I see.”

“What we’re trying to do is to accomplish two things: First and foremost, keep the parks open, which is what we’ve committed,” Bennett said. “And second of all, to try and be fiscally responsible at the same time.”

Commissioners also approved Bennett’s motion to give the Human Resources department authority to spend up to $100 to purchase plaques to recognize outstanding employees.

“Currently we don’t really have any process or any policy guidance on this,” Bennett said.

In other business Wednesday:

• Sheriff Travis Ash updated the commissioners on the sheriff’s office, including Amanda Bunch’s recognition at the Chamber of Commerce as a hometown hero of 2019. Bunch was also recognized at the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association.

Deputy Brandon Mastrude in Corrections was honored for saving a person’s life at the jail in 2019 and recognized as a Hometown Hero.

Deputy Talon Colton has graduated from the public safety academy and will fill the empty deputy position after his 16 weeks of training.

•Baker County Veteran Service Officer Rick Gloria gave an update on his department.

Gloria said about 2,000 veterans live in Baker County, about 12.5% of the population. He said he is managing cases for 1,264 veterans or spouses.

Among the services Gloria offers are helping veterans apply for medical coverage, disabilities, pensions, home loans, educational benefits and transportation to medical appointments.

“Right now I’m tracking every homeless veteran,” Gloria said, adding that those he’s aware of are being sheltered.

Gloria said Lori Barker and Joe Hayes with Community Connection and Cliff Cole with the Northeast Oregon Compassion Center also provide significant help for veterans.

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