April 26, 2002 11:00 pm

Those attending a public hearing Monday on Wallowa County's proposed purchase of a rail line in the county raised some excellent questions. It might not be necessary to have all these questions answered, however, before the county proceeds with the purchase.

WALLOWA COUNTY is proposing to buy the Joseph-to-Elgin line from Idaho Northern and Pacific Railroad as a way to keep the rails from being dismantled and sold for scrap. Details of the agreement have not been released because of confidential negotiations.

County residents have plenty of questions about how the railroad would be managed and maintained. They also want to know to what extent mills and agriculture interests will be shipping their goods by rail.

LOCAL RANCHER Doug Tippett wondered Monday who would operate the train. County public works employees obviously are not prepared to run a locomotive or switch tracks.

Wallowa County citizens should be able to see some basic financial information about the acquisition. The effort to protect the line from dismantling and preserving it for the future makes sense. Some details, such as the possible operation of a tourist train from Elgin to Wallowa or Joseph or the weekly schedule of freight trains, will have to wait until that information is developed.

Citizens are right in wanting to know how the county will pay for the line. They want assurances that financing and operating the railroad will not become an annual drain on the county's budget.


Congratulations to Patty Cutright, director of Eastern Oregon University's Pierce Library, who was recently named Oregon Librarian of the Year.

The prestigious award, handed down by the Oregon Library Association, reflects Cutright's hard work in bringing technological improvements to the Eastern library and helping other libraries in the region do the same.

Cutright, who has been Eastern's librarian for nine years, obviously has not been spending her days sitting off in some corner of the library reading books and magazines.

SHE'S PLACED HERSELF on the cutting-edge of library and information development in helping expand the Pioneer Library System. The service, based at Pierce Library, allows people to see on their computers what titles are available at 70 member libraries in Eastern Oregon. Patrons can borrow from member libraries at no charge.

Cutright's vision goes well beyond the counties of Eastern Oregon, however. She's been a key leader in the development of Connect Oregon, helping meet the needs of 500 libraries in the state.

Library patrons throughout Eastern Oregon and from around state will benefit greatly because of her efforts.