Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

During the first month of 2018, Wallowa County city and county leaders reflected on their 2017 accomplishments and their goals for the coming year.


In Wallowa, Mayor Vikki Knifong listed three projects the city completed in partnership with the federal government last year. In 2017 the city signed another lease for its business incubator site, a
facility purchased with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture nearly 20 years ago.

Back Achers, a new and used building supply store, will continue to operate out of the old mill site on Wallowa’s truck route. Knifong said there was overwhelming support at a public meeting that convinced the council to re-lease the site to Back Achers.

“It is the only place in the lower valley where you can buy lumber,” Knifong said.

In 2017 the Wallowa History Center and the city signed a lease for the U.S. Forest Service Compound granted to the city through an act of Congress in 2013.

Finally, Knifong said, in 2017 a back-up well for the city’s water system was completed, another USDA-assisted project.

For 2018, Knifong said, “The city is moving progressively, working with voters, for the betterment of the city.”


Lostine Mayor Dusty Tippett said his city saw a lot of new faces on the council and the city’s staff in 2017.

“With new minds comes new ideas,” Tippett said. “City hall has been working hard to get all records digitized and all transactions moved from hand ledger to QuickBooks.”

Last year, Tippett said, the fire department acquired a new-to-the-city fire truck, and the city hall and fire hall roofs were repaired.

Tippett credited local artist Steve Arment for the hand-carved and painted Welcome to Lostine sign on Highway 82 he generously donated to the city.

“Most important, we had a wonderful year working with our community and enjoying our little piece of small-town Americana,” Tippett said.

In the coming year, the mayor said the city hall staff will continue digitizing city records and preserving historic documents, and further repairs are scheduled to beautify the interior of city hall.

“Our overall hope for the City of Lostine is to continue to stabilize the finances and grow as a community while maintaining our small town with deep roots,” Tippett said.


In Enterprise, Mayor Stacey Karvoski said most of the 2017 accomplishments related to ongoing council projects started a few years ago, including finalizing the employee handbook, developing an evaluation process for department heads and completing the city’s water project.

“It’s a huge deal for people in Enterprise — we have more fire hydrants, and water pressure is improved all over town,” Karvoski said.

July 10, the city council and staff were faced with an unforeseen challenge when a fire broke out in city hall, just minutes before a council meeting. Rebuilding the city hall and the fire hall will be a big focus in 2018.

City Administrator Michele Young said the design for a new facility to be built on city property at the corner of River and North streets will be ready for the insurance adjustor’s final approval by the end of January.

“(City County Insurance) will replace the old city hall and fire hall at no replacement cost,” Young said.

In April, the fire department equipment will be temporarily moved to Enterprise Electric’s new facility on Hurricane Creek Road until the new fire hall’s construction is completed in October.

As for city hall, temporarily located on East Main Street in the EMM Building, Young said it will be constructed after the fire hall is completed.


Joseph Mayor Dennis Sands said the major accomplishment in his city in 2017 was the community-built playground at the Joseph City Park, which was several years in the planning. A group of dedicated volunteers raised the funds and worked with the community, schoolchildren and a specialized design firm to build a playground especially for Joseph children. In April, a week-long, all-volunteer crew constructed the playground and the community celebrated with a potluck and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Sands said the council will be meeting later this month to update goals for 2018, but he listed some of his own for the upcoming year. First on his list — major street paving.

“We have money carried over from last year plus we just secured a $100,000 grant from ODOT for repaving,” Sands said.

The mayor’s second priority is determining how many feet of steel water lines need to be replaced, and he also said the city’s wastewater master plan must be updated.

Wallowa County Commissioners

Todd Nash, Wallowa County Board of Commissioners chairman, listed meeting with Forest Service officials, both locally and in Washington, D.C., among the county’s 2017 accomplishments.

Stricter grazing guidelines and too few acres outlined for timber harvest in the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision, a guiding document for the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla and Malheur national forests, prompted members of Eastern Oregon Counties Association to ask for meetings with Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. Nash and Harney County Commissioner Mark Owens made the trip east in December.

“Once the Blue Mountains Plan is implemented, I want true progress toward making our forest healthy,” Nash said.

Nash said during their meeting with Tooke the chief asked Nash and his fellow Eastern Oregon commissioners to make a list of closed and vacant grazing allotments they would like to see reopened. In 2018, Nash said, he will see what influence those suggestions may have.

Nash said this year he would like to see the county receive a fair and equitable Payment in Lieu of Taxes formula from the U.S. government that would total more than the current rate of $1.5 million a year. Otherwise known as PILT, the county receives a payment for federally managed lands inside the county’s borders.

Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce

Vicki Searles, director of the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce, said in 2017 the Chamber focused on helping local small businesses by sponsoring a social media workshop and supporting the county’s Small Business Development Center. Last year, Chamber staff attended the “Tune-up Your Marketing and Website” workshop and the Chamber is now working to bring it to Wallowa County.

To raise political awareness for the entire community, last spring the Chamber sponsored bi-monthly video conferences with Sen. Bill Hansell and Rep. Greg Barreto during the legislative session and a town hall in November.

For 2018, Searles listed five goals: bring the Guest Service Gold Tourism program to Wallowa County; develop techniques to improve membership services and support growth; increase awareness of community youth programs and outreach to encourage business and family relocation; create connections with education, workforce, business owners and Chamber members to emphasize youth programs and involvement; and attend the 2018 Oregon State Fair and assess new tradeshow and promotional opportunities.