Wasco County Commissioners wrapped up three years of work by the county planning department at their Nov. 4 meeting in completing state-mandated periodic review of the county’s comprehensive land use plan. 

Public testimony had been taken at a number of meetings around the county, at the planning commission level and at the Oct. 7 commissioners meeting, at which some south county residents expressed concern about changes to the sensitive wildlife area maps used by the county. 

Certain land use restrictions apply within the mapped areas and residents whose property fell inside the area of the changed maps were upset. However, Dr. Kelly Howsley-Glover, who is long range/special projects planner for the county, explained that the maps of sensitive wildlife range used by county planners were out of date. 

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which monitors and updates the maps, had changed them in 2012 and the county has been using the ODF&W maps in making land use decision since that time, but had not updated the maps on the county’s comprehensive plan until now, which made for some confusion. 

A number of other changes were made to the 500-plus page plan, most of them mandated by changes in state land use law. 

Planners also made use of the change to streamline the plan, and put it in a form that is easier to read. 

The vote to approve the changes was unanimous.

Election results

Among other items on the agenda was an election report from Wasco County Clerk Lisa Gambee. She said things had gone smoothly locally, but there were still ballots to count that had been dropped off at other county courthouses. 

That practice is legal in Oregon as long as it gets to any county courthouses before the 8 p.m. deadline on Election Day. 

She said staff was sending off ballots for Sherman and Jefferson counties that had been dropped off at the Wasco County Courthouse as well.  

Those from outlying counties are generally few in number, and unlikely to change any local outcomes.

“What will change are things like Antelope where one woman ran for a council position and she got eight votes and then there were eight write-ins,” she told commissioners. “So now I get to tally whether those eight write-ins were all for the same person, and if they were, then we have a tie, which causes a recount, which then causes eventually, potentially, a flip of the coin toss to elect that person.”

Pandemic update

Commissioners also got a pandemic update from North Central Public Health District’s Dr. Mimi McDonell.  She gave some more details on the outbreak at Oregon Veterans Home in The Dalles, saying that two residents and four staff members were involved.

“I am very happy to report that it’s just been incredibly well contained by the practices that Oregon Veterans Home already have in place,” she said, adding that swift action by the staff with help from the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services OHA and DHS contained the spread.

Overall, she said, numbers in Wasco County are not where they would like them to be, but are relatively small because of a lot of good effort by everyone. 

“Though we all are getting tired of the restrictions, she emphasized, it’s not time to give up,” she said.

“I have a lot of trepidation going into the holiday season about people coming together in groups outside their nuclear family or their household in groups of 10 or 20,” she told commissioners, noting that’s a lot of people indoors. 

“It’s just a recipe to spread it across several family members. If you are able to celebrate with people who live in your household, please do that. 

“If you need to get together in some sort of physical way with other members of your family or friends, please, please, please be outside. It makes such a difference.” 

McDonell acknowledged that could be tricky given the chilly weather this time of year, but asked that everyone do their best.

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