Sheriff Rick Scott Honored

Some milestones are bigger than others. Forty years is a big one any way you slice it. Especially when it’s for serving in one place, as is the case wth Sheriff Rick Scott. The Sheriff  was recognized via resolution at today’s BOCC meeting for serving 40 years with the county.

In the morning meeting, Raines noted that many people she’s talked to “have indicated that 40 years with law enforcement is a big deal. Forty years with the same agency is even bigger.”

This afternoon, Commissioner and Commission Chair Wes Cormier read the resolution, which expressed “appreciation and recognition” for Scott’s years of service and dedication to the county and the office.

Raines said she’s honored to be sitting on the Board as Scott reaches this milestone. She joked that Scott has served longer than Cormier has been alive.

Commissioner Randy Ross told Scott, “It’s been my honor to know you for the past ten years or so.” He said Scott is “well respected throughout the county and the state.”

Scott thanked the Board for the recognition. “I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been in law enforcement for 40 years, but even prouder that the whole time has been in Grays Harbor. It’s been an honor and a privilege to do this,” he commented. Scott clarifed that he’s “not retiring, just hitting the 40 year mark.”

Speaking of law enforcement – sort of – Bob Ferguson, Attorney General for the People’s Republic of Washington, is wearing a face omlette over today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Trump travel ban. Or should be. 

Want some cheese with that whine, Bobby?

Oh, yeah. Since we’re all about not discriminating these days – oh, the horror – SCOTUS finally got one right today:  Supreme Court Trinity Lutheran Decision – Say ‘No’ to Discrimination Against Religious Groups.

It’s about time.
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County Commissioners to State: Don’t Push Unfunded Mandates Down On Us

Grays Harbor County Commissioners are pretty much telling the state legislature where to get off when it comes to the latest harebrained idea out of Olympia: unfunded mandates related to ballot drop boxes.

In April the House passed Senate Bill 5472. The bill requires one ballot drop box per 15,000 residents in a county, with between 250 and 275 additional drop boxes expected statewide. According to the Spokesman Review, the measure “requires at least one ballot drop box for every 15,000 registered voters in a county and a minimum of one box in each city, town and census-designated place in a county with a post office.”

The problem, of course, is that it forces cash-strapped counties like Grays Harbor to fork out a significant chunk of change for the drop boxes with no $ help from the state. None of the Grays Harbor county commissioners are exactly turning cartwheels over another unfunded state mandate.

I’m really frustrated with this” said Commissioner Vickie Raines at this morning’s commission meeting. Noting that Grays Harbor isn’t exactly Fort Knox, Raines exprssed frustration with the expected price tag attached to the mandate. “You’re looking at around $7,500 to $10,000 per ballot box. There are 16 to 20 (drop boxes) on the (county) list” she said.

Do the math. (That’s okay. I’ll wait.)

Costs to the county don’t end with drop box placement. The new requirement will also cost the county – taxpayers – in staff time and wages. Raines continued, “Were going to have to have someone at each ballot box at eight p.m. on voting night” to ensure integrity of the drop boxes. 

Can you say ‘asinine’? Oh, wait. One of the commishes already did.

In fact, all three commishes expressed frustration with the unfunded mandate. Opined Commissioner Randy Ross, “There’s got to be a way through this, a way to appeal the decision.”

“I’m sure the state will pay for it,” joked Commissioner Wes Cormier.

Raines said she talked to State Rep. Brian Blake and State Senators Dean Takko and Kevin Van De Wege about the matter. She could not recall a conversation with (State Rep.) Jim Walsh. Raines said she’s fine with adding the drop boxes “if the state pays for it. But don’t push it (the costs) down on us.”

Supporters say the new law gives voters a way to cast ballots without paying for postage and increases access in rura areas. Opponents say the well-intended measure forces counties to spend thousands of dollars to serve small numbers of voters in remote communities.

What say you?

Commissioners Approve Marijuana Proposal 

A proposed moratorium on new marijuana production and processing permits passed unanimously at this afternoon’s regular business meeting  of the Board of County Commissioners. (See prior post for background.)

The proposed moratorium was brought forward by Commissioner Wes Cormier this morning. Commissioner Vickie Raines moved to approve the ordinance this afternoon. Commissioner Randy Ross seconded. It passed 3 to 0 and will now go through the public hearing process.

Stay tuned.

Photo: This is how the large meeting room looks during most BOCC business meetings.

Commishes Talk ‘Buds’ and Budget, Auditor’s $ a Concern

Sick of that ‘burning rope’ odor? Help is on the way via a proposed ‘marijuana moratorium.’

Brought forward by Commissioner Wes Cormier, the proposal is for  a six month moratorium on new applications for the production and processing of marijuana. Cormier said he’s “getting a lot of complaints about odor.” Commissioners Randy Ross and Vickie Raines indicated they’ve been receiving similar complaints.

The draft ordinance relates to new permits for marijuana processing and production, not retail. It also provides for a public hearing on the subject. Look for more discussion at an upcoming workshop. A copy of the draft ordinance appears below.

County revenues and expenditures were also on the table this morning. Budget Director presented a budget update as of May 31, 2017. The County Auditor’s numbers continue to be a source of concern. The basic ‘benchmark’ at this point is for county departments to have about 58% of their budget left through the end of the fiscal year. The Auditor’s office is about six points below the benchmark, with just over 52% of its budget left for the year.

Commissioner Vickie Raines asked why the Auditor’s office is so far below the benchmark. That office incurred significant spending overages related to the 2016 elections. Those costs splashed over into the 2017 budget. “He’s (County Auditor Vern Spatz) not going to meet budget as is going down this path,” said Raines. Citing this year’s upcoming elections, she said, “My anticipation is it’s (auditor spending/budget issues) going to get worse.”

Raines asked for a letter to be sent to Spatz asking how he’s going to resolve those issues. “I don’t want to wait till October, November, or December and have this big elephant in the room,” said Raines. 

Additional county budget info. appears below. There’s more where that came from. Just holler.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s ‘legislative summit’ with state legislators from the 19th and 24th LDs has been taken off-calendar. This change is due to the unavailability of Sens. Takko and Van de Wege. Watch for a reschedule, possibly this Friday. Tomorrow’s 1:00 p.m commissioners’ workshop is still on, with different topics.

A motion to cancel the July 3 BOCC meetings passed unanimously.

TTFN!

Top photo: (L to R) Commissioners Randy Ross, Wes Cormier and Vickie Raines discuss county budget matters with Budget Director Brenda Sherman.

Commishes Take a Bite Out of Excessive Noise

 The Grays Harbor County Commissioners acted to hush excessive noise at today’s afternoon meeting by passing an ordinance establishing maximum permissible noise levels. The move gives the sheriff’s office more room to enforce noise complaints.

Commissioners Randy Ross and Wes Cormier (pictured above) are listening to Monte residents chime in on the noise ordinance at this afternoon’s meeting. All four residents spoke in favor of the ordinance.

During the public comment period, one woman said the noise from a nearby grinding machine was “noise pollution. It’s irritating, it’s rattling, and you can’t even go outside” she said.

Commissioner Ross clarified that the purpose of the changes in the ordinance are “to put some additional teeth in the law” so the sheriff’s office can more readily enforce excessive noise complaints.

It passed unanimously, 2 – 0, and goes into effect upon signature(s).  (Commissioner Raines was excused and not in attendance.)

Later, Commissioner Cormier explained his vote in favor, calling it a “property rights” issue. “People have a right to enjoy their property” he said. “This is just a standard.” 

The amendments were “initiated” per the sheriff’s office, for reasons Ross noted above.

As for the remainder of today’s agenda. Well, easements, MOUs, or court ordered abatements don’t really spin my fins. I’m just funny that way. ‘Sides. Blue skies, sunshine and temps skimming the 70s are mighty distracting, aren’t they?

Oh yeah. Here are Lori’s birthday roses. Beautiful, aren’t they?

TTFN. (You’ll get that if you know A.A. Milne. And Tigger. That’s not a typo.)

Contract Dough, Condolences on Commission Plates

Recipe Kitchen Dough Italian Cook Flour

Contracts and how to fund them have been big on county commissioner plates lately. In the last couple weeks Grays Harbor County Commissioners have approved amendments/modifications related to medical/behavioral health contracts per the county jail. Amendments to a contract with Greater Grays Harbor Inc. are also on the menu.

At this afternoon’s regular business meeting, the commissioners approved an amended contract for County Jail Physician’s Services Behavioral Health. The amended contract includes an increase of nearly $54,000 through the end of the year.

The commissioners unanimously approved the increase for January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. The increase is from $170,916 to $224,910. That figure corrects a prior calculation that was incorrect.

Also approved this afternoon was a $30,955 tran$fer from public safety sales tax $ to pay expenses associated with the jail for security.

Commissioners Vickie Raines and Randy Ross approved modifications to a professional services contract for jail medical services last Monday. The modified contract with Dr. Yong Ki Shin was approved unanimously by Ross and Raines. Commissioner Wes Cormier was out of town on county business.

The mods to the professional services contract with Shin represent an additional $350K/year over what the county is now paying. The mods are required to meet updated state and federal standards for said jail medical services. That contract includes medical staffing for two-thirds of the day. For additional background, see: Updated Jail Medical Services Contract Pinches County Pockets.

Questions about funding for these increases – how and from where – remain. “We need to have a workshop on it so we can all get our heads around it,” observed Raines.

Commissioner Raines also said she’s received significant feedback from health professionals on the professional services contract going out to bid. Look for a revisit in the fall.

$peaking of dough, the commissioners decided to shift an agenda item to rescind an Economic Development Funding Agreement with Greater Grays Harbor and authorize a new contract to June 5. This will allow for review and input from the GGHI Chair. (County offices will be closed next Monday to observe Memorial Day.)

The original funding agreement was approved on April 3. It spilled over into an April 18 workshop and discussions with Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson and GGHI CEO Dru Garson. 

At issue was Commissioner Wes Cormier’s proposal for specific performance benchmarks or ‘deliverables‘ GGHI is expected to meet in relation to receiving a record $88K in county support. Here are the “deliverables/reporting requirements” from a draft of the contract:

Cormier’s proposed addendum prompted Larson to pen a prickly letter to the editor in April calling the commissioner’s motives into question. 

For background, see: Commissioners Dig Into Deliverables, Ballot Boxes & Bucks. and  ‘Cold Calls’ a Sticking Point in County Agreement With GGHI.

One other thing. Commissioner Ross suggested inviting legislators from the 19th and 24th LDs for a workshop discussion on additional unfunded state mandates that may be coming down the puke. I mean… pike

Also, if you’re among the head-banging music at nose bleed volume contingent, an updated noise ordinance is also on the table. It will allow the sheriff’s office to issue citations for excessive noise in residential areas. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

During this afternoon’s public comment period, Commissioner Raines said Keith Olson passed away on May 18. Noting that Olson was a former rival for her commission seat, Raines said “We quickly became very good friends.” She said Olson “leaves quite a legacy of community service.” Also that Olson “fought for the little guy and stood up for property rights. I will miss him,” she said. The Board expressed its condolences to the Olson family.

One other, other thing. The courthouse flag is now “skimpishly” lit. And sunny, warm days like today have been as scarce as a slim sow around here lately. So I really, really hope you’re reading this pool side. Or in a chaise lounge somewhere in the Great Outdoors. In shorts. Maybe with an umbrella drink. And SPF 50. With a wide-brimmed hat. I am. 😉

Louie

Imagine you’re a little kid. You have to testify in court.

 Are you scared spitless? Anxiety level skimming triple digits? Are you stomach churning, palms sweating, ready-to-hurl stressed out?

Now imagine you’ve got a friend. A friend who wrote the book on loyalty and love. Unconditional support. Companionship. 

A friend with warm amber eyes. Floppy ears. A fur coat the color of toasted marshmallows.

That friend would be Louie. A specially trained two year old yellow Lab, Louie is a newly arrived “comfort dog” working with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Grays Harbor. 

Louie and the Center’s Executive Director Sue Bucy were making the rounds at county today, where he was introduced to judges and county commissioners.  (I’m not going to say Louie was the highlight of the afternoon. Oh, bother. OF COURSE he was!)

Isn’t he a beauty?

Louie’s job is to provide “comfort and support” to children with the Center. That includes working with abused children, accompanying  kids to court, and sitting in on their forensic appointments.

Louie was trained at Canine Companions in Santa Rosa, California, said Bucy. He also went to Chicago for additional training. He then returned to Santa Rosa for six months of “in-depth training.” 

Louie knows about 40 commands. He’s valued at about $50K according to Bucy. He comes at no cost to the county explained County Prosecutor Katie Svoboda. Local vets are also donating veterinary care.

Louie meets County Commissioners.

Louie’s a dead ringer for ‘my best girl,’ Eve. She passed away in 2013.

Is this place great, or what?