The Grant County Court agreed to provide a $537 per month stipend to County Clerk Brenda Percy for her work handling payroll for county employees.

County Judge Scott Myers said Percy had informed the court she would no longer do payroll work without the stipend but agreed to handle payroll for January and February as a courtesy.

Myers noted he had asked for an opinion from county counsel on whether any ethical issues had been raised by Percy’s decision. Payroll is not included in the state’s statutory description of her job as an elected official.

Myers had been reluctant to approve Percy’s request in the past out of concern that a precedent would be set that might affect other county workers. He also noted that he performed numerous duties that were not included in the statutory job description for county judge.

Commissioner Rob Raschio pointed out that contracting the payroll work would cost the county much more than the $537 stipend Percy requested, and he motioned to approve the clerk’s request.

The motion passed unanimously with an effective date of Dec. 26. The court also discussed ensuring that payroll work is completed if Percy is unavailable by training her deputy clerk, Brooke Griffith.

In other county court news:

• The court approved a contract with Prairie City to provide law enforcement services through the sheriff’s office. As Prairie City mayor, Commissioner Jim Hamsher recused himself.

The county has been providing law enforcement in Prairie City since June without a contract. The county will charge Prairie City $40 per hour for an officer up to $41,600 per year.

The schedule will remain flexible so an officer can be available during peak periods in Prairie City, including the city’s Fourth of July event. The county’s response to minor crimes and complaints will depend on available manpower and other resources, the contract states.

• SAIF Vice President Chris Vrontakis and Eastern Region Director Mike Elliott presented a plaque to Grant County recognizing 100 years of service. SAIF is a state-chartered nonprofit that has provided workers compensation insurance in Oregon since 1914.

• The court approved the purchase of three iPads with accessories as the court agreed it was time to transition to a paperless office. The move will provide more transparency to the public by improving access to agenda documents while improving efficiency for the court members, who often work at home.

Raschio described how his law office operates through the internet, and he emphasized the need for security protocols. Documents requiring a signature that will be recorded with the county clerk will continue to be printed.

• Myers reported on a visit to Burns to meet with Harney County Court and Oregon State University officials about providing natural resource advisory services. The Grant County Court has discussed creating a natural resource advisory position at meetings this year.

While still in a preliminary stage, one idea called for Grant and Harney counties to each provide a half-time natural resource advisor, while OSU would provide a full-time advisor to serve both counties, Myers said. This would allow each county to choose a local person familiar with the county, he said.

• The court also discussed reinstating the county historian position. The last time the position was filled, Diane Browning worked under the county road department researching road histories.

Myers noted there have been three or four county historians since 1995. Raschio noted that he could have used the services of a county historian when he was reviewing matters related to Justice Court.

• The court approved a property line adjustment drawing for the sale of the county health building on East Main Street in John Day to Community Counseling Solutions. The change must go before the John Day Planning Commission.

Myers said the sale price at this point is $400,000. The money would go into the county’s general fund, with possibly $70,000 being used to pay for remodeling the nearby L Building, which will share a parking lot with CCS.

• The court agreed to a request from the Grant County Library Advisory Board to discontinue use of the bookmobile through May because of declining use. At that point, the court will reevaluate the need for the vehicle.

• Forest Service planners provided a presentation on the Ragged Ruby Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The project is located about 9 miles north of Prairie City on the Malheur and Umatilla national forests.

Visitors and court members requested information on special measures being taken to protect pine marten, which are a project indicator species and are still legally trapped. Portions of the project area will not be treated in order to protect pine martens.

NEPA Planner Sasha Fertig said the goal is to approve the Ragged Ruby Project before the Blue Mountains Forest Plan is approved. Otherwise the project will need to be modified to make it compliant with the forest plan.

Public comments on the Ragged Ruby Project must be postmarked or received by Dec. 17. An open house is scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Malheur National Forest Supervisor’s Office.

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