M.C. Commissioners, Health District Board to Hold Joint Meeting

From left, Morrow County Administrator Matthew Jensen discusses ambulance service area plan changes Dec. 20, 2023, with county Commissioners Jeff Wenholz and David Sykes in Irrigon. All three commissioners will meet Feb. 8, 2024, with the Morrow County Health District board in an effort to move forward together. (Yasser Marte/East Oregonian, file photo)

Residents in Morrow County who are anxious about the ambulance service area plan received good news during the Wednesday, Feb. 7, Board of Commissioners meeting.

In it, Commissioner David Sykes announced the three commissioners and the Morrow County Health District board would hold a joint, public meeting in a renewed effort to resolve the ongoing conflict between the two entities.

The groups will meet Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. in the Gilliam and Bisbee Event Center and Suites at 106 E. May St. in Heppner.

The decision to meet face to face came about organically, according to Diane Kilkenny, the health district board chair. It comes after calls from residents to work together to resolve tension, and serves as an effort to find common starting ground between the two entities.

“We really aren’t going to look at the past, such as pointing fingers,” Kilkenny said of the meeting’s agenda. “We want a workable solution going forward. And Morrow County Health District is committed to finding a workable solution, but that will take hard work.”

Sykes said the same, calling it “counterproductive” to rehash everything that’s happened up to this point. Instead, he said, he’s hoping for “good things” to come of the two governing bodies coming together face to face.

Kilkenny said the meeting should help to rebuild trust between the two groups, which have been exchanging increasingly inflammatory press releases in recent months and had to get lawyers involved last year to assist in negotiations.

“I hope everybody is in a frame of mind to roll up their sleeves, get into the nitty gritty, and get it done,” Kilkenny said, “and to choose the best option for Morrow County residents.”

Sykes echoed that idea.

“I want the agenda to be for future meetings to talk about specific things and not talk about the past,” he said. “We’ve never had both the boards sit down face to face, so this is totally unprecedented.”

The joint agenda lays out the basic format of what the meeting will cover: the purpose of the meeting(s), the rules of the meeting(s), the framework of the meeting(s), a media and press release discussion and setting future meetings.

Sykes said he hopes to leave the meeting with “a road map to get this issue resolved;” Kilkenny said her goal is to make progress.

“Just meeting and looking each other in the eye,” she said, “I think is a great step forward.”


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