The Grant County Court voted 2-1 to move forward with a proposal from the sheriff’s office to provide a part-time deputy to conduct forest patrols. Commissioner Boyd Britton voted against the proposal, saying he hadn’t seen the final agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.
Grant County Undersheriff Zach Mobley brought back the proposal after it was tabled by the court at its Nov. 22 meeting. He said he met with Malheur National Forest Deputy Supervisor Ryan Nehl and Capt. Bob Field, a Forest Service law enforcement official based in Pendleton, to discuss the proposal. Nehl and Field were present at the court meeting to hear the discussion.
Mobley said the forest patrol deputy would be hired part-time, not 20 hours per week, to provide more flexibility. The position would be non-union, which is the same for some part-time staff at the county jail and has not been a problem there, he said.
The contract with the Forest Service will provide $6,000 to the county to pay for forest patrol through December 2018, Mobley said. The contract is nearly identical to the one drafted in response to the 2017 Rainbow Gathering and similar to contracts used in other Oregon counties, he said. Field said the contracts work well with the Forest Service.
“What will be different this time?” Britton asked.
Mobley said the forest patrol position would be filled by a trained deputy dedicated to that job. In the past, other deputies performed forest patrols as they passed through the area. He noted, under the agreement, sheriff deputies will enforce state and county law, and Forest Service personnel will enforce federal laws.
Mobley said he hoped to maintain the forest patrol program in the future with the same funding. County Judge Scott Myers noted that the county budget committee had asked Mobley to try to bring the program back, and Mobley was applauded for his efforts.
In other county court news:
• The court approved a new job description for the Grant County Regional Airport manager, which will be reviewed by the Local Government Personnel Institute before going into effect. Airport Manager Haley Walker noted that a feasibility study for commercial flights to the airport will be completed in December 2018.
• The court approved the purchase of a used car to provide a second vehicle for county employees to use when traveling to conferences or meetings around the county and the state. Use of the current county vehicle has saved the county about $800-1,000 per month in mileage expenses, and a second vehicle would pay itself off, Myers said.
• The court approved a $39,696 Emergency Management grant from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to be used to support the county’s Emergency Management office. The state and Grant County split the costs of the county Emergency Management office 50-50, Myers said.
• The court approved an agreement with Community Connections of Northeast Oregon to provide funding assistance for the Veterans Families Program, which is administered by Veanne Weddle, manager of the Grant County Senior Program.
• The court approved a request by the Grant County assessor to establish a system that will accept debit or credit card payments for tax payments. The cost of the system will be borne by card users, not the county, Myers said.
• The court approved purchasing desks and upgrading the internet connection for the county Economic Development office, which will move into offices formerly occupied by the Oregon State University Extension Office. The office also gained a part-time employee, Allison Field, who will work with Coordinator Sally Bartlett at 530 E. Main St., Suite 10, in John Day.
• The court’s next scheduled meeting is Dec. 27.