Rancher calls for filling natural resource advisor position

Sharon Livingston

In a personal and “from the heart” talk to the Grant County Court on Feb. 21, Long Creek rancher Sharon Livingston emphasized the need for protecting natural resources — water, timber and grazing land — and called for the court to fill the position for a natural resource advisor.

Livingston described the efforts she’s taken to maintain her ranch in a productive state and the various groups she has represented in Salem lobbying on behalf of agriculture.

She expressed her frustration over how government agencies manage natural resources in Grant County. She said the Forest Service has not properly managed the land adjacent to her ranch in 40 years, noting that she has to repair the fence between the properties to keep out cattle grazing on leased forest lands.

A natural resource advisor for the county needs to be capable of writing documents and representing Grant County in the legislature, Livingston said. She praised past Eastern Oregon legislators but noted that they often were outvoted in the state House and Senate.

County residents Jim Sproul and Sam Palmer thanked Livingston for her talk and supported her call for the court to fill the natural resource advisor position. Sproul said the person chosen by the court should be a local who makes decisions based on “good solid science.”

Commissioner Jim Hamsher asked that the matter be put on the court’s next agenda, and the court agreed. Judge Scott Myers noted that the county had received three responses to requests for proposals that it issued last year, and all three were locals.

• The court approved a request from Julie Ellison, county treasurer, to present the fiscal year 2019 cost-of-living adjustment wage increase to the county budget committee. The COLA is determined by the federal consumer price index, in accordance with a contract with the union representing the sheriff’s office, and then applied to the rest of the county’s wage earners, she said. The COLA for the next fiscal year will be 2.13 percent.

• The court approved a request from Josh Wolf, corrections manager for Grant County Jail, for two external hard drives to store body camera video files, several night-vision cameras for outside the jail and several rugged heavy-duty radio microphones with an estimated total cost of $5,224. The court also approved a request to lease a dishwasher from Ecolab at $94 per month for one year.

Myers said he had signed a $15,105 contract with North River Electric to update the lights inside the jail with LED fixtures. With a $10,574 rebate from Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative, the cost will be $4,532 to be paid from the jail expansion fund.

• Citing an unusual amount of juvenile delinquency cases, the court approved moving $5,370 from the county’s all-department contingency fund to the Community Corrections fund.

• The court approved creating a half-time county position for about 20 hours to assist Veanne Weddle, senior programs manager, clear a backlog on a list of inactive seniors and other office matters.

• A request by Mindy Winegar, fair manager, to change the job descriptions for a secretary and a groundskeeper that would save the county about $6,000 was approved by the court.

• The court approved a funding request by Katee Hoffman, veteran services officer, so she could attend a women’s veterans conference in April.

• The Grant County Court will meet again March 14.

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