CANYON CITY – The Grant County Court agreed last week to keep the county’s wolf depredation committee in place but not to seek money for wolf damage in the second year of the state’s compensation program, 2013-14.

The county applied for the state wolf depredation money in the fund’s first year, and was granted $3,000 for non-lethal management and education and $495 for program implementation. The county did not have any verified livestock deaths due to wolves, unlike Wallowa County, home to most of the wolf activity.

Commissioner Boyd Britton said the group thought the money wouldn’t make much difference here but could help elsewhere. They opted to return the state check.

“We felt the money would be best served by sending it back where people who did have some losses could actually use it,” said Britton.

If Grant County begins to confirm losses to wolves, the county can apply in another round of funding.

He said only about $21,000 will be available statewide in the next fiscal year, considerably down from the $100,000 earmarked by the last Legislature to start the fund.

Other recent actions by the Grant County Court included:

• The Court decided to revisit its policy of paying employees at a reduced rate during their probationary period on the job, whether as a new employee or a continuing employee who takes a new position. The issue came up after recent requests that the Court waive the probationary wage requirement in cases where workers met experience or competency standards.

Commissioner Chris Labhart said he would work with County Clerk Brenda Percy, who is the human resources officer for the county, to come up with a proposal for the Court’s consideration.

• The Court and Sheriff Glenn Palmer signed an agreement with the state Department of Corrections to accept state inmates at the county jail.

Palmer said the contract allows the state access to up to 20 beds, and could bring as much as $300,000 a year to the county. However, he cautioned, that depends on the state’s needs.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get the number that they say here – 20 inmates,” he said. “It would be nice if we could.”

Palmer said the jail, which has 41 beds and eight portable bunks, has the capacity to take the added prisoners. Any state inmates housed at the jail would be returned to another facility or released into their home community, not Grant County, he said. In addition, the state would be responsible for transporting them to and from the county.

• The Court decided not to be the fiscal agent for the county’s Drug Free Communities grant after the end of the federal fiscal year in October.

The grant, totaling $100,000 a year, has been managed by the Commission on Children and Families for eight years, but the commission office will close this year due to changes in way the state is delivering services to children. The grant is expected to continue for two more years.

Devin Moan, commission director, said she will hold a meeting to explore other options for managing the grant. She said several other entities have expressed an interest in taking it on.

This week, she announced the meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Outpost Restaurant in John Day. It will cover the requirements that come with the grant, and information needed to decide on a successor to the commission in managing the grant.

• The Court in January approved a $1,625 cash match for a study on converting several public buildings to biomass heating.

Andrew Haden of Wisewood Inc. is seeking a federal grant to do the study, which could help continue implementation of biomass boiler projects in the local area.

He’s looking at buildings that could convert, including Humbolt Elementary, the Courthouse and the county jail.

The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Energy are offering grants to promote the concept of biomass “clusters.”

If approved, the grant would go toward feasibility and engineering work to see if conversion would make sense. It would not buy or install equipment.

The Court’s contribution is a 25 percent match for the grant. The money would come from the building maintenance fund.

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