County to settle with ODOT over runway project

Airport Manager Haley Walker provides details on an overpayment to the Oregon Department of Transportation at the Nov. 7 Grant County Court meeting.

A $100,000 overpayment claimed by the Oregon Department of Transportation for a 2012 runway repaving project at Grant County Regional Airport was whittled down to about $55,000, thanks to a careful line-by-line review by the airport manager.

Haley Walker told the Grant County Court at their Nov. 7 meeting that an audit revealed the payment discrepancy. She said she asked ODOT if they were willing to settle for half but was told the airport couldn’t show a profit for the runway project.

Walker, who took over as airport manager in 2016, said she went through the billing with a fine-tooth comb and was able to reduce the claim by about half. The overpayment had already been spent on a tractor and payroll.

Grant County Judge Scott Myers said Walker’s careful review amounted to the same result as a settlement. He also took note of Walker’s careful bookkeeping practices and felt assured a similar discrepancy would not happen again.

Commissioner Jim Hamsher noted that the project came to nearly $1 million and was worthwhile to the community. The county was fortunate to get the ODOT funding, he noted.

Hamsher agreed with Myers’ motion to settle with ODOT for $55,000, using the county’s contingency fund. Myers noted that the contingency fund was currently at a healthy $550,000 level as a result of a significant federal payment-in-lieu-of-taxes payment this year.

In other county court news:

• The court agreed to raise the pay for cooks in area senior centers. Senior Program Director Veanne Weddle said the cooks have much of the same responsibilities as cooks at private restaurants, including licensing and shopping for supplies.

But senior center cooks also must be ready for unexpected numbers of diners, interact with patrons and take feedback and clean the dishes and kitchen after each meal. The cooks at the Monument Senior Center have been there for two decades, she said, and relief cooks get paid more than permanent cooks.

Hamsher noted that senior center cooks could easily find work elsewhere. The court agreed to raise the pay for assistant cooks from $10.71 to $12 per hour and for head cooks from $10.81 to $12.50 with both effective Oct. 26.

• The court approved a $14,520 bid by Red’s Electric to upgrade lighting fixtures in the Grant County Courthouse to energy-efficient LED fixtures. The cost to upgrade the jail to LED fixtures cost about $14,000 with a rebate of about $12,000 from Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative. Savings from electric bills at the jail were expected to make up for the difference, Myers said.

• The court appointed April Bieber, a certified physician’s assistant at Strawberry Wilderness Clinic, as the county medical examiner after Dr. Raffaella Betza resigned from the position.

• The court’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Nov. 28.

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