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About The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current | View Entire Issue (March 7, 2018)
Blue Mountain Eagle
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Attrition takes toll on John Day police
City down to two
By Richard Hanners
Blue Mountain Eagle
Eagle file photo
John Day Police Department.
John Day Police Chief Richard Gray
She also noted that “when you
spread them that thin, you burn them
out, you use them up.” People are
more important than that, she said.
The situation was not created by
city staff, Lundbom responded — “It
Councilor Dave Holland noted
that if the city doesn’t hire a certified
officer, “you’re still in the same boat”
because an uncertified officer can’t
respond to calls alone and needs to
Lundbom asked how late-night
calls in Prairie City are covered when
no officers are around.
John Day is the hub, Maynard said
— this is where most of the incidents
occur, and a police presence helps de-
ter such incidents.
Looking for options, Green sug-
gested that the Oregon State Police
may be able to help John Day police
cover the city’s calls, adding that
“we’re not going to solve this to-
night.” He said he’s been wrestling
with the problem for two years and
Former John Day electric
co-op employee promoted
Blue Mountain Eagle
Oregon Trail Electric Co-
operative has promoted Rick
Jensen to manager of safety
and loss control.
Jensen joined OTEC as a
journeyman lineman 14 years
ago, according to a press re-
lease. After working eight years
in the La Grande district, Jen-
sen worked two years in the
John Day district. Jensen was
promoted to reliability inspec-
tor in 2013 and, over the past
four years, has worked in both
the Baker and La Grande dis-
“I am excited to help ad-
vance our safety program. With
the participation of all employ-
ees, we will continue building
upon OTEC’s commitment to
safety,” Jensen said.
As the manager of safety
and loss control, Jensen will
oversee compliance with safety
rules and procedures, including
training requirements. Jensen
will also ensure OTEC meets
requirements for federal, state
and local regulations and stan-
dards for safety and loss control
Jensen, who is based in the
La Grande district office, be-
gan his new role March 1.
called the status quo “unsustainable.”
Councilor Gregg Haberly ex-
pressed his concerns about drug
crimes in the county. Oregon State
Police Sgt. Tom Hutchison agreed
but noted that drug crimes were not a
“nine to five problem.” A recent drug
bust was just a “drop in the buck-
et,” and the public needs to be made
aware of the scope of the problem, he
According to the annual report,
the Drug Enforcement Agency does
not consider Grant County to be a
high intensity drug trafficking area,
with the result that the county lacks
federal funding and resources to ad-
dress criminal drug activity.
The attrition will likely impact
contract services the department
provided. Prairie City paid the de-
partment for police services, and the
Grant County District Attorney’s Of-
fice paid for victim assistance. With
fewer person-hours, Green said the
city may no longer be able to offer
Haberly said he knew of people
willing to donate hours for the po-
lice department. Undersheriff Zach
Mobley, however, explained how
much time was taken up by certified
officers to train reserves in the sher-
iff’s office. Anna Bass, with Oster
Professional Group, pointed out that
volunteer officers still incur costs to
the city — for one thing, they need to
Green noted that a public per-
ception existed that John Day was
“flush” with cash, but property values
in the city are depressed the same as
elsewhere in the county. The total as-
sessed value in John Day increases on
average only $6,000 per year, he said.
The only solution is growth, Green
told the council, to get back the 300
people the city lost in recent years.
That is a long-term solution, howev-
er, and the city currently is facing a
short-term and mid-term problem, he
Following the Feb. 27 council
meeting, Prairie City Mayor Jim
Hamsher told the Eagle he’d like to
see a police presence in town, but it’s
up to the city council to decide how
much they can afford and how much
coverage they want. Prairie City has
contracted with the Grant County
Sheriff’s Office in the past, Hamsher
said, but he needed information from
John Day to present to his council.
“I hope they make a decision soon
and not leave us hanging,” Hamsher
In other council news:
• The council agreed to suspend
work on the South Canyon Boule-
vard sidewalk project because of es-
• The city is still trying to gather
survey results that could help qual-
ify John Day for a Community De-
velopment Block Grant of about $2
million toward a new wastewater
• The city is seeking applicants
for the city council seat held by the
late Donn Willey. An applicant will
be appointed by the council on April
10 to fill the position for the remain-
der of the term ending Dec. 31, 2020.
Applicants must reside within the in-
corporated city limits. For more in-
formation, call 541-575-0028.
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The John Day Police Department
is now down to two full-time, fully
The John Day City Council dis-
cussed issues presented in the city’s
2017 Public Safety Review at its
Feb. 27 meeting. City Manager Nick
Green told the council he didn’t
know the answer to the financial
problems facing the city’s police and
dispatch departments, but he had op-
tions to present and a likely outcome.
The $572,106 in net expenses to
the city for public safety — police,
dispatch and fire — used up the entire
property tax base in 2017 plus other
revenue sources such as franchise
fees, Green said.
An immediate problem facing the
city is attrition in the police depart-
ment. Officer Mike Durr left for a job
in Baker City, Reserve Officer Larry
Sherman retired last year and Sgt. Da-
mon Rand submitted his resignation
effective March 5.
“While natural attrition occurs
in every public agency, it places in-
creased strain on smaller departments
that lack the resources and financial
incentives to recruit experienced offi-
cers,” the annual report states.
Green recommended in a memo
to the council that the city decrease
its police force from four-and-a-half
full-time officers to three, but the
recent attrition puts the department
even below that recommendation.
Officer Andrew Martin graduated
from the Police Academy on Jan. 9
and is still completing his field train-
ing. He currently serves halftime as a
police officer and halftime as a dis-
patcher. Zack Carpenter, an employ-
ee at the Grant County Jail, has been
sworn in as a reserve officer.
Until Martin completes his train-
ing, John Day will be left with only
two certified police officers — Chief
Richard Gray and Officer Scott
Moore — along with two volunteer
Finding the money to bring the
force back to its former level will be
difficult, Green said. The unsustain-
able revenue levels should have been
addressed 20 years ago, he said.
“Well, I think some of the num-
bers were a shock to me,” Mayor Ron
Lundbom said about the report.
Dispatch manager Valerie May-
nard noted, when the city is down
to two officers, that leaves about 59
percent of the hours of the day uncov-
ered, a point that most residents were
Monday - Thursday
Friday 8am - 5pm
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One applicant will be appointed by the
City Council to fill Councilor Position #6
for the remainder of the term ending
December 31, 2020. Persons wishing to
apply for city council must reside within
the incorporated city limits.
Applications may be picked up at City
Hall (450 E. Main Street) during business
hours, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday -
Friday. Applications are due to City Hall by
close of business on March 30, 2018.
An appointment will be made during the
regular session of the city council
scheduled for April 10, 2018, 7PM at the
John Day Fire Hall
(316 S. Canyon Boulevard).
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The City of John Day is seeking applicants for a
vacant position on the John Day City Council
under the provisions of Ordinance 82-29-01.
Blue Mountain Eagle
Don’t get left behind, call today! Kim Kell 541-575-0710