State Legislator$ Talk $, ‘Vexacious’ at County 

Money, money, money, money was a recurring theme at this afternoon’s Legislative Summit in Montesano. The 90-minute discussion touched on a wide range of local issues from capital budget requests (hi, third courtroom project) to “vexacious” public record requestors to unfunded mandates coming down from the state and smacking the stuffing out of small rural counties like Grays Harbor.

The meeting, which was cordial, included state legislators from the 19th and 24th legislative districts and Grays Harbor County Commissioners Wes Cormier, Vickie Raines, and Randy Ross.  Legislators in attendance were Sen. Kevin Van de Wege(D-19), Reps. Brian Blake (D-19), Mike Chapman (D-24), and Jim Walsh (R-19). Sen. Dean Takko and Rep. Steve Tharinger were not present.

Commissioner Cormier opened the discussion with introductions. He asked each legislator to give a quick one to two minute round up of their expectations for the next legislative session which begins in January.

Continue reading “State Legislator$ Talk $, ‘Vexacious’ at County “

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County Commishes to Host ‘Legislative Summit’

State legislators from the 19th and 24th legislative districts will be in Grays Harbor next week to discuss local issues.  Initiated by the commissioners’ office, the October 26  ‘Legislative Summit’ offers Harborites a rare opportunity to interface with these state legislators at the same time, in the same place.

The 24th legislative district is represented by state senator Kevin Van De Wege and state representatives Mike Chapman (pos. 1) and Steve Tharinger (pos. 2), all Democrats.

State senator Dean Takko (D-Longview) and state representatives Jim Walsh (pos. 1, R-Aberdeen) and Brian Blake (pos. 2, D-Aberdeen), represent the 19th legislative district.

A phone call to the county commission office this morning indicated that all legislators from the 19th and 24th legislative districts have confirmed their attendance as of today, with the exception of Steve Tharinger. (That’s pretty much par for the course. In case you’re wondering.)

The Legislative Summit is set for October 26 at 2:00 p.m. in the large commissioners meeting room in Montesano.

Sound like fun?

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.)