From 2009: Balloons, good food and music for dancing were highlights of the Firemen’s Ball. Organizers hope it will be a tradition.

Susanville miner burns to his death in his cabin

Mrs. Genevieve Saling, stage driver between Austin and Susanville, in the northeastern part of Grant County, grabbed her mail sacks and rushed to Austin Tuesday morning, where she called County Judge Jess Allen and informed him that the cabin in which Adrian Matteson lived near Susanville was almost destroyed by fire; that no trace could be found of the miner; that citizens feared that the old man had perished in the flames. Telephone communications from Susanville were temporarily out.

Within an hour, however, communications were had with Mrs. Gertie O’Rorke, postmaster of the mining town, who reported that the charred remains of Mr. Matteson were discovered in the coals of the burned cabin.

Coroner J. Carl Driskill, accompanied by Slim Curtis, county road master, went to the scene and the remains were brought to the Driskill Mortuary, John Day. Graveside funeral services will be held at the Canyon City cemetery, Sunday at 2:30 p.m., Rev. Ernest H. Brown officiating.

Coroner Driskill states that investigation revealed that the elderly miner’s death was accidental. The origin of the fire will probably never be known but the supposition of citizens of the Susanville community is that the old gentleman kindled a fire in his cook stove and that a defective stove pipe or falling coals from the stove set fire to the cabin. His body was found in the corner of the room opposite the door.

Mr. Matteson was born on August 12, 1873, in Heppner, Oregon, being 70 years of age at the time of his death. A brother, Elmer, resides in Monument and another brother, Harley, lives in Heppner. He is also survived by three sisters, Miss Eva Matteson of Boring, Oregon, Mrs. Estella Mulvaney of Seattle, Wash., and Mrs. Silva Casin of Heppner, Oregon.

Stork fails to arrive

As of press time today, the first baby of 1969 for Grant County has not arrived.

The Blue Mountain Hospital reported this morning that there is no indication that the stork would arrive in Grant County today. Several stork flights are tentatively scheduled, but no definite times are available.

The winner of the 21st annual Grant County Stork Derby will claim a variety of prizes from 16 merchants who are offering merchandise prizes or gift certificates.

The contest is open to any parents who have lived in the county for six or more months.

County and OTEC flip the switch on energy efficiency

The county last week agreed to team with Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative in an energy conservation project planned on an element in a $45,000 renovation project slated for the courthouse.

Under the Implementation Incentive Agreement signed last week, the county will receive $8,104 from OTEC to revamp the courthouse lighting fixtures.

John Stearns, customer relation’s representative with the Grant County OTEC office, told county court members last week that the funds are available through the Energy Smart Program created by the Bonneville Power Administration.

He said the BPA program is used for lighting efficiency, insulation and other conservation projects in commercial buildings.

Stearns said the underlying philosophy of the BPA is that it is less expensive to make money available for energy conservation projects rather than spending money to construct more dams and power plants to meet increased energy needs.

The lighting renovation portion of the courthouse project will involve purchase of the lights and fixtures by the county through the Education Service District at a projected cost of $8,900. Bids will be solicited on installation of the new lights.

Installation of the more energy efficient lights and fixtures will improve lighting throughout the courthouse at a reduced cost.

Although savings vary depending on the size of the building, Stearns estimated the county would recover its costs of improving the lighting system over a one to three year period.

Based on preliminary survey of the courthouse, it is estimated the county will save from $1,800 to $1,900 annually on lighting costs.

By entering into the agreement last week, Stearns said the funds would be allocated for the county project. Should the county not move ahead with the overall project, it is under no obligation to complete the lighting renovation portion.

Should the county decide to forego the project, Stearns asked only that it notify OTEC as soon as possible so the funds could be made available to meet other requests.

Among other local businesses that have participated in the Energy Smart Program are Chester’s Thriftway and the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles office.

The discussion to sign the agreement with OTEC prompted questions from Commissioner Bob Kimberling about any formal decision by the county to proceed with the courthouse energy efficiency project.

The project description and plans have been available at the courthouse for review for several weeks. Bids will be opened at the Jan. 12 meetings and it’s expected the bid will be awarded the following week.

“The bottom line is do we want to take advantage of it or not?” Judge Kevin Campbell asked other court members about the agreement with OTEC.

Commissioner Sondra Lino voiced support for the agreement with OTEC and with the overall concept of improving energy efficiency at the courthouse. The agreement was approved on a unanimous 3-0 vote.

Discussions on making the courthouse more energy efficient started approximately 18 months ago when the Oregon Department of energy at no cost did an analysis of energy use that showed the courthouse was using approximately twice as much energy per square foot than it should be using.

That analysis led to an offer by the state to loan the county $16,000 to make the changes that would make the courthouse more energy efficient.

The county declined the loan, in part because use of the funds were restrictive and other repairs — such as the front doors — needed to be done as well.

When the Grant County Day Care Center received an Oregon Community Development Block Grant to purchase and renovate the Kiddie Kastle, the architect for the project was hired to develop a plan of renovation for the house.

The cost to complete the plan was $9,700 plus expenses. The cost to complete the plan and money to complete the project will come from the county’s Capital Improvement Fund.

The fund was started to provide money for repairs and renovation to the courthouse. Its funds come from each department in the county, which in theory utilize a portion of the courthouse to operate their departments.

The plan developed for the courthouse is multi-faceted and can be awarded as one complete project or as smaller projects depending on bids. In other action:

• The court unanimously approved up to $2,750 for replacement of the kitchen countertop and improvements to the shower in the county jail.

Jail Manager Frank Herrera told the county he called to ask for quotes on the two projects from area contractors rather than go through any formal bidding procedure. Herrera said he received just one quote on the project from Dan Stinnett.

Both items were among those criticized in a recent annual report on the county jail prepared by the grand jury.

Firemen’s Ball raises money while having fun

A New Year’s Eve Firemen’s Ball rang in 2009 at the Mt. Vernon Community Hall last week and helped raise money for emergency equipment the department needs.

The wish list included pumps, saws, radios, and wildland fireman clothing — a necessity for fighting wilderness fires the district faces in the summer months.

Fire Chief Bill Cearns says the Mt. Vernon Fire Department, established in 1948, currently has a good core of 10-12 volunteers, but more are always needed.

“It takes a commitment from someone to go to school,” he said.

Currently a Firefighter I class is being held in John Day and in February a training will be held in Long Creek.

In the spring, Grant/Harney Training Association will offer training for entry level-volunteers with weekend classes held in Long Creek and Hines. This training is required for firefighters to enter a house fire.

Cearns says the biggest fire-starter problems for houses he sees are woodstoves and candles. Then in the summertime their biggest fire “nemesis” is burn barrels and people burning when they shouldn’t be.

“Lightning is another one,” he said. “We get quite a few of them — more than other districts in our area.”

One of the department’s stations holds five wildland pickups and the ambulance.

Another station on Widows Creek has a structure engine, one wildland engine and one tender (a water tank truck).

The new station has three structure engines, one medium rescue, a tender and a portable Self-contained Breathing Apparatus compressor and fill station within a trailer — this fills the air tanks the firefights use to breathe when they are surrounded by smoke.

The Fire Defense Board, which includes all the Grant County fire chiefs, Oregon Department of Forestry and the Malheur National Forest, owns the SCBA station and it’s placed in Mt. Vernon because of its central location, Cearns says.

He welcomes the future U.S. Forest Service firebase, to be built as part of the Grant County Regional Airport terminal project in John Day.

His department works closely with ODF and the forest, and they help each other under mutual aid agreements.

Two fires on Aldrich Mountain last year required some outside assistance due to the steep terrain inaccessible to equipment, Cearns said. He enlisted the help of Malheur rappellers for those jobs, and smoke jumpers worked on another fire.

On Dec. 31, any worries about fires were put on hold while about 100 people attended the Firemen’s Ball, held at the community hall where renovations were completed last summer. Cearns hopes to see the Ball become an annual event.

“That way there’s something to do in the wintertime,” he said.

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