The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current, June 26, 2019, Page 3, Image 21

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Eagle fi le photo
A single-engine aircraft fl ies over the Grant County Regional Airport. A recently awarded federal grant will improve airport safety by decoupling two intersecting runways.
Grant County overcomes
challenges to improve services
airport, domestic
violence shelter
among key
By Richard Hanners
Blue Mountain Eagle
The challenges facing
Grant County are clearly
economic. Loss of timber
mill jobs has impacted all
sectors of the local econ-
omy. But there are suc-
cesses. County government
continues to provide for the
health, safety and welfare of
the area residents, balancing
budgets and keeping up crit-
ical infrastructure.
Tough numbers
Grant County’s popu-
lation has been declining
since the 1990s. This pat-
tern is projected to continue,
according to the most recent
forecast by the Population
Research Center at Portland
State University.
Nearly all the cities in
Grant County have expe-
rienced a similar popula-
tion loss since 2000, but the
decline has stabilized since
the Great Recession and
remained fairly steady since
2010. At the same time,
the county’s population is
aging, with a trend toward
more residents over 70, and
the active labor force has a
somewhat lower educational
attainment level than the
state, according to U.S. Cen-
sus data.
According to data in the
May 2019 draft Economic
report by Johnson Econom-
ics, cumulative employment
growth since 1998 for the
U.S. and Oregon has been
about 25%, while Grant
County has seen a decline of
Employment in the
county peaked in the mid-
1990s at more than 4,550
jobs, or an estimated 1.35
jobs per household, the
report states. Since then,
employment has consis-
tently fallen, reaching an
estimated 3,780 jobs in
2017, or about 1.2 jobs per
Local employment is also
seasonal, refl ecting agri-
cultural and forest-related
industries. The Grant County
employment base also has a
higher share of self-employ-
ment compared to the U.S.
and Oregon, including agri-
cultural and owner-operated
businesses, the report states.
Unemployment in Grant
County tends to be 2-3%
higher than the U.S. and
state averages, but this ele-
vated unemployment rate
persisted until 2013 follow-
ing the Great Recession, lag-
ging far behind the national
recovery, the report states.
The timber and forest-re-
lated industry has been a
signifi cant economic driver
in Grant County, with local
employment in natural
resource jobs running nearly
six times the national aver-
age, the report states. But
Eagle fi le photo
Eagle fi le photo
Wind Fields performs at the MoonLIT Music Festival at the Grant County Fairgrounds
celebrating the total solar eclipse in 2017.
A bill to increase the tax on phone bills to support local 911
dispatch agencies was passed in the Oregon House.
this local economic sector
has seen a sharp decline,
which is largely attribut-
able to falling production on
public lands since 1993, the
report states.
Working residents in
Grant County commute to
jobs inside and outside the
county. Local residents hold
about 73% of the available
jobs in the county, while
about 39% commute outside
the county for work. While
John Day accounts for about
23% of the county’s popula-
tion, about 63% of the jobs
are in John Day.
As a result of the gen-
eral population decline, the
county has seen little devel-
opment activity since the
1990s. Grant County Judge
Scott Myers said lack of
affordable workforce hous-
ing and family-wage jobs is
a signifi cant challenge for
the county.
New housing starts in
the county defi nitely have
slowed down from the bus-
ier 2006-2008 time period,
Grant County Assessor
Dave Thunell said. His
offi ce reported 25 new
“stick-built” single-family
residences and 16 manufac-
tured homes on Jan. 1, 2008,
but only eight “stick-built”
homes and four manufac-
tured homes on Jan. 1, 2018.
According to the Grant
County Planning Depart-
ment, 33 commercial build-
ing permits were issued in
2014 worth $1.3 million
and 44 residential building
permits were issued worth
$3.3 million. The numbers
for 2018 were 23 commer-
cial permits worth $2 mil-
lion and 47 residential per-
mits worth $6 million.
and Monument, Myers said.
Myers points to recent
projects at the courthouse
as local successes. Fluo-
rescent lights have been
converted to energy-effi -
cient LED fi xtures, and an
elevator installed in 2016
will help the public facil-
ity meet ADA-compliance
The Legislature pro-
vided the county with about
$150,000 for the elevator
project, and the county put
up about $70,000. Re-roof-
ing the courthouse could
cost from $100,000 to
$150,000, and Myers said
he has requested help from
Association of Oregon
Counties to lobby legislators
for assistance in this project.
Maintaining and repair-
ing existing courthouses
is more cost-effective than
building new ones, Myers
said, noting that Deschutes
County was looking at
spending $30 million for a
new courthouse.
The same goes for the
county jail. Built in 1997,
the facility has 41 hard beds
and options for up to seven
more temporary beds. The
daily jail population rarely
exceeds 20 inmates, accord-
ing to the county website.
An upgrade to LED light fi x-
tures is currently underway.
Last year, the county
court approved spending
about $4,500 to install a
new time-keeping hardware
and software system. The
upgrade will help the county
secure contracts to house
inmates from other juris-
dictions, Commissioner Jim
Hamsher said last year, and
the county’s insurer offered
to cover some of the costs as
it reduced liability.
Thanks for Your Help!
People in Golf
Dr. Scott Campbell
Silvies Valley
of the Year
Silvies Valley
County projects
Roads and bridges in a
4,500-square-mile county
with just 7,400 people can
also present a signifi cant
challenge. Myers said the
county tries to chip-seal 40
miles of county road each
This year’s chip-seal
project will take place on
a county road near Silvies
Valley. Some older bridges
present challenges, includ-
ing ones near Long Creek
Unfunded mandates
Hamsher sees East-
ern Oregon’s weak posi-
tion in the Legislature as a
serious challenge for Grant
County. He cited proposed
carbon cap-and-trade legis-
lation and stricter fi rearms
“Our voice is not big
enough,” he said. “That’s
why the court sends letters
See County, Page 13
Special Rates for All Our Grant
and Harney County Neighbors
1-800-SILVIES (745-8437)