County Commissioners Pass ‘Open Public Access Plan’

Cnty Admin Bldg

The Grays Harbor Board of Commissioners moved forward to establish a hiring committee, create a county strategic plan and adopt an Open Public Access Plan at today’s morning meeting.

Open Public Access Plan

Authored and presented by Commissioner Wes Cormier in response to concerns voiced by Harborites at his recent town halls and other venues, the county’s Open Public Access Plan emphasizes “no net loss” related to public access to public lands and waterways. The plan states:

This proposal outlines a strategy to maintain and improve access to Grays Harbor County’s natural resources. The Board of County Commissioners agrees that a policy of ‘no net loss’ of public access is critical. We define ‘no net loss’ as a goal to maintain and improve all access points to public land and waterways. This proposal is intended to address strategies to maintain and improve what already exists, in an effort to ensure preservation and access to our public lands.

Basically, “no net loss” means that if one public access point is closed, another must be opened.

Plan 1

Commissioner Cormier said, “This (the plan) gives us (the Commission) the ability to move things forward … and take a stance on this.” By adopting the Open Public Access Plan, the commission now has a plan in place to protect public access to public land. For example, if the Forest Service decides to decommission a public road, the county can springboard off the plan and say, “No. This is our land. Leave it open.” Specific language and a specific policy will be forthcoming.

Commissioner Vickie Raines made a motion to approve the plan as a statement by the Board of Commissioners regarding protecting public access to public land. Commissioner Frank Gordon seconded the motion. It passed unanimously.

Hiring Committee and Accountability to the Public

Revisiting an item from last year, Commissioner Cormier opened discussion on the formation of a Hiring Committee related to county employment. Commissioner Gordon expressed concerns about “micro-managing” the county hiring process. Commissioner Raines said being part of the process wouldn’t be about micro-management, but oversight. Raines said all three commissioners vote on final hiring decisions. She suggested that committee service be attached to the chairmanship so it floats between commissioners as the chairmanship changes. Raines also noted that it should be up to the commissioners to recuse themselves from the process in the event that a conflict of interest arises.

Commissioner Cormier said the impetus for forming the committee was his concern about “unelected bureaucrats” making key hiring decisions for the county, and that commissioners who are accountable to the public should be part of the process.

Raines made a motion to establish the hiring committee, with the chair serving. The motion passed on a two to one vote. Commissioner Gordon opposed.

A Pro-Active Plan
Later, Commissioner Raines proposed creating a pro-active strategic plan for the county. “We can’t continue to be reactive,” she said, “We need to have a plan.” Key considerations may include where the county wants to be in two, five, or eight or ten years down the road and what steps the county can and should take to get there.

Referring to the $2 million “budget hole” facing the county, Raines said, “I think there’s a way we can get together and work this out.” She stressed improved communication between departments and suggested meeting with department heads “to discuss some of these outstanding issues” with an eye toward pro-active solutions.

Admissions Tax Repeal

In the afternoon, Commissioners Cormier and Raines voted to repeal Grays Harbor County Code Chapter 3.04, an Admissions Tax. Commissioner Gordon voted against the repeal, citing a tight county budget. He said throwing revenue away when the county has the potential of collecting same “does not sound like good business sense to me.” The tax would have primarily effected admission fees to the fairgrounds and race track.

General fund reduction options for the 2015 budget was removed from the afternoon agenda at the morning meeting. It will be revisited in two weeks.

And that, folks, is a wrap. Stay tuned.



Related: Full Plates for Commissioners on Pre-Holiday Monday