Welcome to the start of a new year and a time of ambitious resolutions for the future. While the future can be full of surprises, 2019 is one for the history books. Grant County provided a year full of progress, projects, ups and downs, trials and tribulations, grant funding and an abundance of news. Here is a month-by-month recap of some of the highlights for the year.

January

A local effort was put together to get approval for use of ATVs on state highways in Grant County. Senate Bill 344, which passed in 2017, allows the Oregon Transportation Commission to designate specific routes on state highways where ATVs could travel. The John Day City Council gave consensus support to forming a working group with other nearby communities to identify proposed routes in Grant County and to consider a joint application for designation.

A relocation of wild horses to Malheur National Forest upset ranchers who said the area was already overstocked with the animals. Rancher Mike Moore encountered a Forest Service vehicle pulling a trailer on Dec. 14 in the Murderers Creek allotment of the national forest. Upon questioning the Forest Service worker, Moore was told that the trailer contained wild horses from Ochoco National Forest. Representatives from Malheur National Forest said they were coordinating with Ochoco National Forest to talk about the horses.

Grant County Undersheriff Zach Mobley was awarded the Enforcement Council Commander of the Year award at the Oregon State Sheriff’s Associations annual awards program.

Dean and Courtney Fox of Canyon City offered a helping hand to Camp Fire survivors in Butte County, California. It was a devastating wildfire that killed 86, destroyed 13,900 homes and displaced 50,000 residents. The Foxes started a fundraiser in November 2018, and many Grant County residents and businesses contributed.

Silvies Valley Ranch caught the attention of golfing professionals and publications across the U.S. Silvies was recognized by two nationwide magazines, and the resort’s chef was given a top award by the Oregon Beef Council.

The Dayville School Board planned to ask voters to approve a $700,000 bond for school improvements in the May election.

Prairie City Cemetery saw improvements and had plans for more improvements in the future such as a Marciel Drilling rig that will install an irrigation well for the cemetery.

Officer Zachary D. Carpenter received his police officer certification Jan. 23 at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards Training in Salem.

February

A new program supporting local veterans with coffee, haircuts, counseling and more was offered.

The Oregon Department of Transportation took extra time to protect fish in Canyon Creek during a flood mitigation project.

After 11 years as the Grant County Economic Development Coordinator, Sally Bartlett left for a new job, and Allison Field took the position.

Prairie City was awarded a $1 million emergency grant that could be used to offset a state loan to develop the Fainman Springs well site and the cost of hauling water during the water emergency in 2018.

The John Day-Canyon City Parks and Recreation District was awarded a $243,083 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Department. The money was planned to be used for a new kiddie park, splash pad and exercise station at the Seventh Street Complex in John Day.

Skye Fitzgerald, a former Monument resident, was nominated for an Oscar for his short film “Lifeboat.” His parents traveled from Grant County to attend the award show.

The Grant County Digital Network Coalition decided to update the previous year’s application for grant funding to run a fiber optic line from John Day to Seneca after the board received news that they did not receive a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Connect grant.

March

The century-old Community Hall in Dayville received a $1.45 million federal grant for a major facelift of the center.

John Day City Manager Nick Green told the city council he planned to apply for more than $10 million in grant funding in 2019.

Stephanie Briney of La Grande, Elizabeth Pace and Olle Starnes were arrested on methamphetamine charges in John Day.

Architects presented Innovation Gateway concepts during a special meeting of the John Day City Council held at the Grant County Regional Airport.

Grant County Commissioner Jim Hamsher traveled to Washington, D.C., and attended a National Association of Counties committee meeting and met with multiple government officials regarding natural resource issues and forest management.

April

John Day city staff had been reduced by one third by transitioning the 911 dispatch out of city government, City Manager Nick Green said in a state of the city address. The city’s commercial greenhouses and the grand opening for the city’s new trail network were both delayed.

The Community Counseling Solutions board of directors adopted the Zero Suicide initiative in February, which would help deal with the rising suicide rates in Oregon.

Oregon Department of Transportation crews kept busy inspecting and repairing stream banks, bridge abutments and highway shoulders undercut by the fast-moving streams during a recent flood.

Additional revenue and grant proceeds contributed to a proposed John Day city budget that was 21% larger than the previous fiscals year’s budget. The $13.9 million proposed budget was presented to the city’s budget committee during its first meeting on April 16.

May

The Grant County Digital Network Coalition and Oregon Telephone Corporation formalized a public-private partnership for grants to increase broadband access in Grant County.

The Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site was on track to add 1,000 more visitors each year with about 9,000 visitors expected in 2019.

Four Grant County schools were awarded Technical Assistance Program grants from the Oregon Department of Education’s Office of School Facilities. Prairie City School District was also awarded a $2.5 million grant from the state’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program.

Greg and Marla Armstrong were awarded a $200,000 Main Street Revitalization grant through the OPRD’s Heritage division.

The Grant County Regional Airport was awarded a $6.25 million grant through the federal Department of Transportation’s Airport Improvement Program. A match was not required for the grant, which will fund a decoupling project for the airport’s two runways.

Search and Rescue coordinated an interagency fire evacuation drill in Galena on May 11.

Grant County Court appointed Rob Raschio to a steering committee for a pool in Grant County.

June

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley was asked questions about impeachment, gun rights, abortion and more at a town hall meeting at the Madden Brothers Performing Arts Center in John Day.

Gary Gregg, a former rodeo rough stock competitor, rode as the grand marshal of the ’62 Days Parade on June 8.

Progress was made on construction of the torrefaction plant at the Malheur Lumber Co. mill in John Day.

Lightning strikes caused four forest fires in the Malheur National Forest on June 12. Each fire was contained at one-tenth of an acre or less.

All Grant County employees, from elected officials to hourly workers, received a 2.55% cost of living increase, according to the 2020 fiscal year budget approved by the court on June 12.

Seneca secured funding for a $3.5 million wastewater project. The city also received a grant for the fire station, and planned to apply for park upgrades.

July

The 911 tax bill passed in the Oregon Senate to increase funding for dispatch centers.

BMW motorcyclists came to Grant County for the 41st Chief Joseph Rally at the Grant County Fairgrounds.

An explosive device was found during a traffic stop in John Day. Highway 26 near milepost 163 was closed for 2.5 hours as the Oregon State Police Explosive Unit responded and rendered the device safe. Jeremiah Alsop, 37, of Prairie City was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants and two felony warrants. The registered owner of the vehicle, Alycia Howes, 22, was arrested on a felony warrant. The third passenger, Tanner Prock, 22, of Prairie City was arrested by John Day Police due to an earlier investigation.

The city of John Day planned to submit an application for the BUILD grant, a $15 million dollar grant that could help fund several improvement projects.

A bomb threat was reported at the Bank of Eastern Oregon on July 18. Law enforcement went to the bank and then cleared the scene, finding nothing.

The Inland Street bridge over Canyon Creek was planned to be repaired and lifted 2 feet higher to protect it from future flooding.

A large crowd showed up for the Whiskey Gulch Gang’s annual demolition derby at the Grant County Fair.

August

Five bulls were killed and found mutilated at Silvies Valley Ranch.

Smokey Bear turned 75 and showed up at Chester’s Thriftway in John Day on Aug. 9.

Dean and Joyce Nodine celebrated 60 years of marriage and were the Grant County Fair grand marshals Aug. 14-17.

Grant County has paid more than $18,000 for five months of administrative leave for Grant County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Abigail Mobley.

The Grant County Court approved a coordination ordinance, and discussions on the Natural Resource Advisory Committee soon followed.

Grant County Sheriff Sheriff Glenn Palmer announced his resignation on Aug. 14. The following week, Palmer withdrew his resignation amidst a theft complaint filed against him, which he said was false.

September

The public was asked to provide input for an update to a Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan for Grant County.

A final Innovation Gateway plan was presented to a joint meeting between the city council, planning commission and two advisory committees but not yet adopted.

Grant County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tyler Smith was arrested on multiple charges including adult rape, child neglect and fourth-degree assault.

Commissioners Sam Palmer and Jim Hamsher traveled to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9 to lobby for Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools funding.

Valerie Maynard was named the state Dispatch Manager of the Year by the Association of Public-Safety Communications.

A feasibility study for the pool was announced to determine many factors, such as who would pay for the pool, how big the district will be and what will be put before voters in 2020.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $950,000 discretionary grant to reconstruct the north apron at the Grant County Regional Airport.

October

John Day received the excellence award from League of Oregon Cities for the Innovation Gateway Project and Riverfront Recreation Area. The city was also one of 10 in nation to be chosen for the EPA revitalization assistance.

Sen. Ron Wyden talked with Grant County community members at Prairie City School for his town hall on Oct. 7. He answered questions regarding the national debt, climate change and the 2020 election. After the town hall, Wyden visited the torrefaction plant for an update on the project.

Allison Field, the Grant County Economic Development director, presented Oregon RAIN to the Grant County Court and to the John Day City Council. This is a venture catalyst program that will help connect entrepreneurs to resources.

The city of John Day distributed its first round of housing incentive rebates.

John Day Fire Chief Ron Smith retired for a second time after serving in John Day for 15 years. He was succeeded by Don Gabbard, who was the assistant chief to Smith.

November

Oregon state Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, announced he will run for the seat in Congress being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Greg Walden. With the Senate District 30 seat open, Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, announced on Oct. 31 that he will run for the seat being vacated by Bentz in the Oregon Senate.

The Grant County Court voted to have a contractor replace the courthouse’s aging roof after years of repairs.

Plans for a 60-room, $6 million hotel were announced on Nov. 12 during a John Day City Council meeting.

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrived on an old-fashioned horse and buggy at the Prairie City Teen Center with a long line of children waiting on Nov. 23 for Christmas on the Prairie.

The city of John Day’s hydroponic greenhouse delivered its first products to local stores and restaurants.

December

Grant County People Mover Executive Director Angie Jones was awarded Outstanding Transportation Manager of the Year in Salem at an Oct. 30 Oregon Public Transportation Conference.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program awarded a $6 million grant to Oregon Telephone Corporation to construct 89 miles of fiber optic line, connecting the cities of Long Creek, Monument, Seneca and Spray to the company’s high-speed broadband network that already connects other cities in the county. OTC and the Grant County Digital Network Coalition created a public-private partnership to improve broadband access in the county.

Mark Owens, a Harney County commissioner who is running to be the state representative in Oregon’s House District 60, met with community members and leaders Dec. 5 at The Outpost Pizza, Pub & Grill in John Day.

The John Day City Council shared on Dec. 10 that the city has applied for and received 23 grants adding up to $12.5 million since 2017. There are also 10 potential grant opportunities pending with award decisions coming in the next fiscal year.

The John Day City Council on Dec. 10 updated the public on the progress of 23 various projects that are in different stages of development.

Sgt. Danny Komning won the Enforcement Command Council Supervisor of the Year Award, and Deputy Dave Dobler received the Search and Rescue Deputy Sheriff of the Year Award from the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association at its annual conference Dec. 1-4.

Reporter

Rudy Diaz is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at rudy@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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