County Commission Looks at Weed, Third Courtroom, Weyerhauser (sort of)

County Admin Bldg 2Okay. Fess up. You’re dying to know what’s hot and happenin’ at today’s Board of Commission meetings. What’s hot is largely a matter of opinion. But at least county budget woes weren’t front and center today. For once. Marijuana and the third courtroom project took bigger bites.

A phrase that is – or should be – floating around related to marijuana these days is “can of worms.” Cuz yea verily, there are quite a few related to this stuff. This morning building inspector Mark Sigler said the process of adopting ordinances revolving around marijuana “created some issues on both sides” related to potential businesses and neighbors. He said the state implemented some “emergency rules” related to building codes and categories. “It’s been a moving target at the state level” said Sigler. Some of the marijuana-related issues discussed at this morning’s meeting included:

  • Building and planning issues
  • Like retail vs. production licenses.
  • Local and state regulations. That. Keep. Changing.
  • Medical vs. recreational marijuana issues.
  • (Lots and lots of codes.)
  • Code revisions.
  • Code fall-out.
  • Code oopses.
  • Code we-never-thought-of-this-isms.
  • Air quality issues.
  • Who gets what, when, and how?

The next adoption cycle of codes and categories is slated for July 2016. See? Told you grass it’s a can of worms.

Concerning taxes (oops, I mean revenue) as per the above, Commissioner Vickie Raines asked, “Are we seeing any revenue?” The short answer: Nope. Public Services Director Kevin Varness responded, “My understanding is that the state is keeping all the revenue.” Commissioner Frank Gordon said that revenue is to be divvied up from the state to the counties based on the population and number of stores in each county. “It’s a joke,” opined Gordon.

Betcha already knew that.

Oh yeah. Jeff Nelson, Environmental Health Director, discussed the Thunderbird Motel clean-up in Aberdeen and issues related to the “10 or 12” people displaced from this charming garden spot. Nelson said his department is working/talking with social services to minimize the impacts of displacement. Raines expressed concerns about displaced persons who’d like assistance being able to get it, as did the other commishes.

Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards was on hand this morning to discuss progress on the third courtroom project. In May, the commissioners agreed that a March recommendation from the “third courtroom committee” wasn’t going to fly. That proposal came with a $56.6M price tag that’s beyond the county’$ mean$. Instead, the commissioners proposed a plan essentially remodelling the legal library at the county courthouse into a courtroom.

It’s no secret that Grays Harbor County is struggling financially. But it also has to find a way to build or find space for a third Superior Court courtroom as per a 2013 settlement of a lawsuit filed against the county by the judges. (Remember that puppy?)

Judge Edwards said he wants to see the next step taken. He said he assumed it would be a floor plan drawn into a construction plan and contractors submitting bids. Judge Edwards cited concerns about losing storage space but was confident that those involved could “make it all work.” He wanted to make sure that the commissioners understood “that as far as the judges are concerned, they (we) are ready to move forward.”

Kevin Varness said a cost estimate is next + a scope of work and bid specs. “We still need to figure out what the cost is and how you’re going to pay for it” he said.

Commissioner Wes Cormier suggested a 90 day timeline “to move forward with the process as soon as possible.”

Commissioner Frank Gordon asked about what kind of general timeline is in play.

All parties want the project to move forward expeditiously. Walking over to a wall calendar, Commissioner Rainies asked about getting cost estimates on the calendar in about three weeks. She said she doesn’t want the project “to be pushed down the pike.” The commish asked for more concrete numbers from Varness. Varness said he’d get some numbers. He reiterated that he wanted to know how the commishes will pay for the project and what a financial plan might look like. Raines also cited cost concerns. “It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be painless” she said, “but we need to get it done.”

Judge Edwards mentioned using the final payment on the Oakhurst sale for possible funding (more on that later). Edwards also mentioned other potential funding sources including grants. He said he wanted to come back next Monday “for an update.”

The exchanges were amicable.

Oh yeah again. Jeff Nelson also reported that one death due to the West Nile virus has been reported, an elderly man on the east side of the state. Also a salmonella case related to pork that’s been traced back to a processing plant. The meat has since been recalled. Nelson said most illnesses of this type “are coming from private events.” So you may want to think twice before diving into that pulled pork sandwich at Aunt Beatrice’s wedding reception or Uncle Elmer’s birthday bash.

County conf rm 2

The afternoon meeting was pretty perfunctory. It was “over and out” in about eight minutes. It included the approval of seven Public Health and Social Services contracts. They included contracts related to youth substance abuse prevention, chemical dependency, assistance in transition from homelessness, opiate substation treatment service, a Coastal Community Action Program contract for employment and day program services for persons with developmental disabilities and one for youth outpatient chemical dependency treatment and outreach.

The “Weyerhaeuser lawsuit” was the talk of the afternoon media session. The timber industry filed a lawsuit last year over the county’s ordinance nixing property tax breaks for large forest landowners if they charge for access. The lawsuit was filed against the county in August 2014.

Regarding the lawsuit, Commissioner Cormier said the county is looking at a summary judgment, possibly in late January 2016. “We’ll know more after that” he said.” Rainesadded that there “hasn’t been a lot of movement… in any direction” on the matter since she came to the commission. Gordon said he’s “happy that we’re fighting it (the lawsuit),” but cautioned that “people have to realize that the legal process is slow.

So now you’re up to speed, right? Let me know when your head stops spinning