The Observer. (La Grande, Or.) 1968-current, October 15, 2020, Page 10, Image 10

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

THuRSday, OcTOBER 15, 2020
Daily LG school district refinances bonds
Planner Effort expected
Today is Thursday, Oct. 15,
the 289th day of 2020. There
are 77 days left in the year.
On Oct. 15, 1976, in
the first debate of its kind
between vice-presidential
nominees, Democrat Walter
F. Mondale and Republi-
can Bob Dole faced off in
In 1815, Napoleon Bona-
parte, the deposed Emperor
of the French, arrived on the
British-ruled South Atlantic
island of St. Helena, where
he spent the last 5½ years of
his life in exile.
In 1917, Dutch exotic danc-
er Mata Hari (Margaretha
ZelleGeertruida MacLeod),
41, convicted by a French
military court of spying for
the Germans, was executed
by a firing squad outside
Paris. (Maintaining her inno-
cence to the end, Mata Hari
refused a blindfold and blew
a kiss to her executioners.)
In 1940, Charles Chaplin’s
first all-talking comedy, “The
Great Dictator,” a lampoon
of Adolf Hitler, opened in
New York.
In 1945, the former pre-
mier of Vichy France, Pierre
Laval, was executed for
In 1946, Nazi war criminal
Hermann Goering fatally
poisoned himself hours
before he was to have been
In 1954, Hurricane Hazel
made landfall on the Caro-
lina coast as a Category 4
storm; Hazel was blamed
for some 1,000 deaths in
the Caribbean, 95 in the U.S.
and 81 in Canada.
In 1966, President Lyndon
B. Johnson signed a bill
creating the U.S. Depart-
ment of Transportation. The
revolutionary Black Panther
Party was founded by Huey
Newton and Bobby Seale in
Oakland, California.
In 1969, peace demon-
strators staged activities
across the country as part of
a “moratorium” against the
Vietnam War.
In 1991, despite sexual ha-
rassment allegations by Ani-
ta Hill, the Senate narrowly
confirmed the nomination of
Clarence Thomas to the U.S.
Supreme Court, 52-48.
In 2003, 11 people were
killed when a Staten Island
ferry slammed into a main-
tenance pier.
In 2017, actress and activ-
ist Alyssa Milano tweeted
that women who had been
sexually harassed or assault-
ed should write “Me too” as
a status; within hours, tens
of thousands had taken up
the #MeToo hashtag (using
a phrase that had been in-
troduced 10 years earlier by
social activist Tarana Burke.)
Megabucks: $3 million
Mega Millions: $69 million
11-44-45-46-70 —25 x2
Powerball: $62 million
5-18-23-40-50—PB-18 x3
Win for Life: Oct. 12
Pick 4: Oct. 13
• 1 p.m.: 2-1-1-1; • 4 p.m.: 2-6-5-2
• 7 p.m.: 6-7-0-9; • 10 p.m.: 7-3-1-4
Pick 4: Oct. 12
• 1 p.m.: 5-4-5-0; • 4 p.m.: 4-5-5-3
• 7 p.m.: 2-5-2-4; • 10 p.m.: 5-9-1-7
If you have any problems
receiving your Observer,
please call 541-963-3161.
to save taxpayers
$2.3 million
The Observer
La Grande School Dis-
trict’s improved credit
rating is helping property
taxpayers save millions.
The La Grande School
District recently refi-
nanced its general obli-
gation bonds, originally
sold in 2015, for a signifi-
cantly lower interest rate,
which will save taxpayers
almost $2.3 million over
the approximately 15-year
remaining life of the bonds.
Voters in 2014 passed a
$31.85 million bond mea-
sure. The district used
the funds from the bond
to build the new Central
Elementary School and
a new Career and Tech-
nical Education building
at La Grande High School,
remodel the high school
gymnasium and audito-
rium, and add classroom
spaces at Greenwood and
Island City elementary
schools. The money also
provided security upgrades
and facility improvements
throughout the district.
The bonds’ refinanced
rate is 1.69%, signifi-
cantly lower than the orig-
inal interest rate of 4.75%.
One of the reasons for the
lower rate is a substantial
improvement in the school
district’s credit rating from
A2 to A1, according to a
La Grande School District
news release.
“This improved credit
rating created a better
investment viewpoint for
bond buyers,” said the dis-
trict’s business director
Chris Panike.
The $31.85 in bonds
were sold at a $4.1 million
premium in 2015, which
provided the district a total
Dick Mason/ The Observer, File
The La Grande School District opened the new Central Elementary School at the be-
ginning of the 2017-18 school year, part of the result of a $31.85 million bond voters
passed in 2014. A better credit rating now is helping the district save $2.3 million over
the 15-year remaining life of the bonds.
of $36 million to invest in
its facilities, Panike said.
And starting in 2015, the
school district’s popu-
lation began to grow by
2-3% a year. This boosted
the school district’s budget
because it receives at least
$7,000 a year per stu-
dent from the state. The
money from enrollment
growth helped make it pos-
sible for the school dis-
trict to install a new track
and tennis courts and
make other improvements,
while boosting its financial
The result of the addi-
tional funding, Panike said,
was a better rating from
Moody’s Corporation, an
American business and
financial services com-
pany. When interest rates
dropped to all-time lows, it
allowed the school district
to refinance the bonds and
save taxpayers more than
$2 million in debt service
La Grande School
District superintendent
George Mendoza called it
“good news for taxpayers
and our community.”
School board chair Robin
Maille said given the eco-
nomic uncertainty due
to COVID-19, the school
board “felt the bond refi-
nance was a fiscally pru-
dent decision that would
take care of our school
district and taxpayers in
the long term.”
With the successful con-
clusion of the refinancing,
the district will complete
a grant-funded facilities
study that will involve a
facilities committee, com-
munity input and long-
range plan. Then, the dis-
trict will submit a proposal
to receive a $4 million
bond matching grant by
July 2021. If the application
is successful, voters will
have to pass a matching
bond in May 2022 for
the district to receive the
The goal is to have $8
million in funds for facility
improvement without
increasing tax rates to
service the debt on both
bonds. Taxpayers will con-
tinue to pay around $1.91
per $1,000 of assessed
value to service the debt on
both bonds.
According to Men-
doza, the district has stayed
below the rate of $1.99 per
$1,000 that was estimated
when taxpayers approved
the bond measure in 2014
and will continue to stay
below that rate long term.
This puts the district in a
strong position when con-
sidering future bond mea-
sures because a $4 mil-
lion bond request would
keep the district near or
below the current $1.91 per
The La Grande School
District still has facil-
ities that need signifi-
cant improvements and
upgrades, according to the
news release, including
the 100-year-old annex
building at the middle
school and the 80-year-old
Willow building, which
houses the district office,
preschool classrooms and
a gym.
Oregon state trooper turns llama wrangler
The Observer
Oregon State Police
troopers train for plenty of
circumstances, but llama
wrangling may be a first.
Trooper Levi Macy
was monitoring traffic
Sunday, Oct. 11, on Inter-
state 84 near Baker City
when around 7:20 a.m. he
received a call from OSP
dispatch for a llama in the
road at exit 304.
“I got there and sure
enough a displeased mama
llama was lying on the
onramp,” Macy stated via
a post on the Oregon State
Police Facebook account.
Macy said the llama’s
owner was transporting
three of the animals from
Washington to Utah in the
back of a short-bed pickup.
A homemade livestock
rack was not able to hold
the llamas when the pickup
Trooper Levi Macy/Oregon State Police
Oregon State Police trooper Levi Macy snapped this
photo Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, of a “displeased” llama
in the road on Interstate 84 near Baker City. Macy kept
watch over the animal until its owner was able to get it
back onto the pickup from which it escaped.
took an uphill corner, and
one of the animals ended
up on the highway.
“Fortunately enough
for the llama and myself,
the speeds were slow,
and traffic was minimal,”
Somebody has to do it
according to Macy.
The driver noticed the
missing llama about a mile
later, and when he stopped,
Macy stated, the other two
animals “bailed out, run-
ning free on the interstate.”
Elgin city administrator
quits after 6 years on job
Sabrina Thompson
The Observer
Sabrina Thompson/The Observer
La Grande Public Works Department employees Dallas Stone (left) and Jared Huff
clean the city’s main sewer line Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 13, 2020, in front of The Ob-
server at 911 Jefferson Ave.
The owner bolted back
to Macy and handed over a
rope to hook to the llama’s
harness, the trooper wrote.
“Mama llama refused
to get up as you could see
by her displeased facial
expression … so I told
him that I would llama sit,
while he wrangled up the
Macy also reported he
snapped a photo of the
llama “because in my
tenure I’ve yet to be suc-
cessful in catching the elu-
sive I-84 llama.”
Soon enough, the trio
of llamas was ready for the
road, and “mama llama”
received “some medication
to ease her mama llama
trauma,” Macy wrote.
Macy also issued
the driver of the truck a
warning for “operating
with a leaking or shifting
ELGIN — Brock Eck-
stein is leaving his role
as city administrator of
Eckstein announced
the decision Tuesday,
Oct. 13, during a meeting
of the Elgin city council.
Though he will stay on
until the start of 2021,
Eckstein said he felt it
was time to step back and
let someone with fresh
eyes take care of the city.
“Everyone was pretty
understanding,” Eckstein
said. “It is a stressful
position, and it had
been wearing on me for
Eckstein was hired
as city administrator in
November 2014. Born
and raised in Elgin, Eck-
stein said he felt frus-
trated with the way the
city handled council
meetings and wanted to
help make a difference.
“My mother gave me
some advice, which I
took to heart,” Eckstein
said. “She said, ‘If you
are not part of the solu-
tion, then you are part
of the problem,’ and that
stuck with me.”
In his six years as
city administrator, Eck-
stein has overseen several
changes to the city. He
noted several stand out,
including resurrecting the
municipal court, securing
a Union County Sheriff’s
Office contract for law
enforcement services and
bringing in more that $12
million in grants for var-
ious city projects.
“I also think we built
one of the best city staffs
in the county,” Eck-
stein said. “I think I
am leaving it in a really
good place for the next
He noted that the role
of city administrator,
while great for making a
difference in the city, can
be challenging.
News Briefs
Woodgrain Lumber
employee dies in
work accident
La Grande Police Depart-
ment reported an employee
of Woodgrain Lumber died
Tuesday night, Oct. 13, in a
workplace accident.
Police at 7:57 p.m.
received an emergency call
from Woodgrain Lumber,
1917 Jackson Ave., for a
worker pinned inside a golf
cart and not breathing. Offi-
cers and a La Grande Fire
Department ambulance
crew arrived moments
later, the police department
reported in a press release.
The first responders
found Shaun Hoyt, 56, of
Elgin, dead at the scene.
The preliminary inves-
tigation revealed Hoyt
missed his 7 p.m. lunch
break, according to police,
and coworkers shut down
the mill and went looking
for Hoyt. They found him
sitting in the golf cart
pinned against a steel beam
and not breathing. A worker
then called 911.
The investigation deter-
mined Hoyt was operating
the golf cart, which mill
employees use to travel
around the mill yard, prior
to colliding with the beam.
The Union County Dis-
trict Attorney’s Office, the
Union County Medical
Examiner’s Office, Oregon
State Police and the Union
County Sheriff’s Office
assisted with the investi-
gation. La Grande Police
Department also reported
it will work closely with
the the Oregon Occupa-
tional Health and Safety
Union County
Sheriff’s Office
arrests two for drug
The Union County Sheriff’s
Office reported a traffic
stop led to two arrests on
warrants and for drugs.
Shawn Presock, 37, of
La Grande, was driving
when deputies stopped
his vehicle Monday, Oct.
12, at 6:17 p.m. at Riddle
Road and May Lane, La
Grande. The sheriff’s
office in a press release
reported deputies made the
stop because Presock had
a warrant for his arrest.
Angela Farrell Thamert,
43, of La Grande, was a
passenger and also had a
Deputies began an
investigation and called in
Oregon State Police to pro-
vide its drug detection dog.
That led to law enforcement
finding methamphetamine,
heroin and one narcotic pre-
scription pill.
Deputies booked
Presock into the county
jail, La Grande, on charges
of felony possession and
delivery of heroin as well
as on out-of-county war-
rants, and booked Thamert
into the jail on charges of
felony possession of meth-
amphetamine, heroin and
Oxycodone and on a parole
Enterprise gets $58K
in COVID funds
city of Enterprise received
$58,350 from the fed-
eral Treasury’s Coro-
navirus Relief Fund to
address unforeseen finan-
cial needs and risks cre-
ated by the COVID-19 pan-
demic, it was announced at
the Monday, Oct. 12, city
council meeting.
Councilors Chris
Pritchard and Brandon
Miller volunteered to serve
on a committee to decide
how to disperse the funds.
City Administrator
Lacey McQuead recom-
mended up to $15,000 for
computer system updates
to allow for employees
who are working remotely
is needed, up to $15,000
for community partners
to assist families with
COVID-19 relief, and up to
$25,000 for small business
grant funding.
The council approved
the request.
— EO Media Group