In an effort to reduce costs, the Oregon Department of Transportation is in the process of closing their road maintenance facility along Highway 3, near the Flora turnoff about 32 miles due north of Enterprise.
The chairman of the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners, Mike Hayward, said at the board regularly scheduled meeting Monday that he had been on the phone with ODOT Area Manager Craig Sipp earlier that morning and received an apology because the board of commissioners had not been apprised of the pending closure.
A meeting between ODOT officials and Hayward to discuss the ramifications of that closure has been scheduled for June 14. The segment of Highway 3 to be discussed extends along the northern reaches of Wallowa County to the Washington state border partway down Buford Grade. Sipp told the Chieftain that, when the closure is enacted Nov. 1, the two ODOT employees currently working at the Flora station Kim Conrad and Denny Reed will retain their positions but be relocated to Enterprise.
Don Mallory of Flora, who says he worked at ODOT Flora station for 25 years, expresses concern that the true value of that station will be lost after the facility is closed. He worries that bad winter storms could in the future generate hazardous driving conditions on Highway 3 that now are prevented because of quick responses from the Flora ODOT station.
Too, Mallory says rocks that fall on Highway 3 at Buford Grade create an ongoing, yearlong problem that, at best, now will receive less attention without the Flora station in place.
Both County Commissioner Susan Roberts and Sipp stated that ODOT is seriously considering implementing such closures on outlying maintenance stations throughout Oregon. The station at Flora is the only such facility in Wallowa County.
Hayward, possibly thinking ahead, suggested that there is a comparable facility across the Washington border in Anatone, hinting that a future agreement possibly could be made with the Washington facility to address potential problems across the border into Oregon on Buford Grade.
In other business at the June 4 Board of Commissioners meeting:
• County Planning Director Harold Black apprised the commissioners of actions taken in 2011 by the county planning commission to officially define structures, bunkhouses, and short-term rentals.
• The commissioners approved a $3,000 request from the Wallowa Valley ice rink project to help pay for $15,000 needed for Phase Two of that organization’s effort, which would hire an architectural firm to develop plans for a combined ice rink/amphitheater structure.
• The commissioners authorized road work at Tucker Down Road, near its intersection with Kinney Lake Road, to allow an irrigation pipeline owned by Scott Shear to be placed under the road. The work will be performed either Aug. 20 or 21.