Work is moving forward on several projects at the Grant County Fairgrounds in John Day.

Fairgrounds Manager Mindy Winegar updated the Grant County Court Sept. 18 about plans for upgrades and repairs at the facility.

The court approved the installation of five 33-foot metal light poles for the fairgrounds’ main parking lot for $20,000, which includes the cost of bases for each.

Winegar said 50-amp service at each pole will be added, using the fairgrounds’ reserve account, at a cost of $5,500.

“Eventually, we can get a pump for that front lawn — which would pay for itself pretty quickly — and summer irrigation,” she said, adding electricity would also give them an option to expand vendor booths and overflow from the RV park.

County Judge Scott Myers said Winegar should move forward with the bid.

Plans are moving forward for concrete work on approximately two-thirds of the pavilion floor affected by tree roots.

Levi Voigt of Strux Engineering recently assessed the pavilion and determined the building is structurally sound, Winegar said.

“That is good news,” she added.

The court approved by consensus to move forward with engineering drawings for replacing a large portion of the pavilion floor and constructing updated, ADA-accessible bathrooms. The work also includes fixing the stem walls and flooring near the large roll-up door on the north side of the building.

The court also suggested Winegar move forward quickly on hiring a concrete finisher.

“Time is of the essence, so we don’t interfere with your events,” said Commissioner Jim Hamsher.

Both Hamsher and Commissioner Sam Palmer recommended Winegar continue to work with Voigt since he is “prompt” and familiar with the project.

Four trees will be removed on the north side of the pavilion and their roots killed, Winegar said after the meeting. A tree at the flower circle, which is near the small animals barn, is dead and will also be taken out.

Winegar noted that she had reached out to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and they will assess the building with Ryan Palmer in October.

Winegar and the court had discussed the problem of the pavilion being down from two heaters to one.

A solution arose when Grant County Roadmaster Alan Hickerson, appearing before the court with lead mechanic Joe Bennett, requested a backup propane heater for their shop on Lower Yard Road. The court resolved the issue of heat for both buildings, calling on Winegar and Hickerson to seek a package deal for the fairgrounds and road department to have their heating needs addressed by one local business.

On Friday, Winegar said they were looking into heating sources, and they plan to stick with oil heat. She said Ed Staub & Sons recently looked at the current heating system.

She hopes the replacement will be done before winter and said, depending on when the work is completed, she may have to cancel some events.

“The majority of people, I think, will be understanding,” she said.

In other county court news:

• Grant County Regional Airport Manager Haley Walker requested $3,000 to pay an independent consulting engineer as part of the process of receiving the federal funding for the runway decoupling project.

A $6.25 million grant was secured through the federal Department of Transportation’s Airport Improvement Program, funded at 100% with no match needed.

The independent consulting engineer works out an estimate for the project and compares it to the estimate of the airport’s consultant of record.

The two fee estimates “have to be within 10% of each other before we can move forward,” Walker said at the meeting.

Friday, Walker said the two estimates were within 2.2% of each other, so she expects work will move forward during the 2020 construction season.

• The court approved increasing Planning Director Hilary McNary’s work hours from 30 hours a week to 35 hours a week through the end of the year. McNary’s request was read in the court.

“She has several different things that came in, including the new mapping with water in Silvies Valley and other water locations for flood maps. A lot of things are landing on her office at once, and I think she makes a good case for us to temporarily increase her hours,” Myers said, adding that if a specific accounting of how the extra hours are spent is wanted, they can make that happen.

• The court discussed and approved the signing of a $4,000 Grant Young Memorial Planning Assistance grant that can be used for staff time and staff pay but not office equipment.

• The court approved continuing with Sally Bartlett, who now lives in the Burns area, to provide their Title III administrative services through December. Myers said Bartlett is “very good” at coordinating the Title III, and Hamsher said during the extension period he would like Bartlett to prepare the new Grant County Economic Development Coordinator Allison Field to take over the Title III duties. Palmer said he would like to have an accounting of Bartlett’s time, adding the taxpayers would expect that.

• Myers picked up a 350-pound letter-board sign Sept. 4 from Bend for the Grant County Library. The height of the sign will be taller than the city of John Day allows, so a variance was obtained for $475.

• Palmer said Grant County Search and Rescue helped find a central Oregon man in his 70s who had been missing for 10 days in the area of Fields Peak. “He was alive, but on his last legs,” Palmer said. “Our hats off to our SAR.”

• Judy Kerr, in the audience, asked when the court discussed a new rule banning the use of used personal thumb drives to download the court proceedings via the court administrative assistant. Myers said it wasn’t discussed in court, but a new rule was made by human resources and Myers after a cyber security audit was made for the building. “We’ve been advised to either sell them a CD with the information on it or have them bring in a still-packaged, brand-new thumb drive each time,” he said. Hamsher said the rule is set up to prevent viruses from being introduced into the court’s computer system.

• The Veterans Service Office is planning a “Veterans Stand Down” fair for November 2020. The activity will connect veterans with helpful local resources.

• Myers attended a Northwest Housing Authority Board meeting, as chairman of the board, Sept. 17 in La Grande. There are 860 low-income housing units in Grant, Wallowa, Union and Baker counties, which are 96% full.

• A meeting about the future of a potential public pool was scheduled, past press time, Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Grant County Regional Airport in John Day.


Angel Carpenter is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. She can be contacted at or 541-575-0710.

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