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Commissioners in March Part 1

3/2/23 Administrative Workshop

Commissioner John West said he had several complaints about permit fees being charged for projects less than 200 square feet so he wanted to see the fees looked at and possibly revised to be more fair. West said some of these fees are around $300 just to build a well-house or woodshed.

Community Development Director Mark Stevenson went over the fees and said they reflect the Board’s wishes to make each department as self-sufficient as possible. However, he said he was more than willing to see what the most efficient way to issue permits is and what that costs his department and possibly revise the fees based on that. He doesn’t have the power to do away with what he calls development permits because that’s part of the state of Oregon’s land use laws.

That inspired Commissioner Herman Baertschiger to complain about the “nanny state,” ask why anyone would want to invest here, and say “you don’t own your property in the state of Oregon.”

“We see that when we try to pass different levies people are just fed up with it so you can’t get anything done so here we are,” said Baertschiger.

Also at the workshop Commissioners inserted language into the complaint process that no longer guarantees someone submitting a code violation on a neighbor’s property to the Planning Department would remain anonymous if they wished. However, they did give the Director some discretion when allegations of criminal activity were submitted.

Commissioners later agreed to pay the county’s Grants Pass Irrigation District bill after working out a payment to the Fort Vannoy Irrigation District based on canal length in that district. That would have to be approved by the Fort Vannoy Board. Baertschiger and West voted to hold up action on the GPID payment until FVID was compensated for handling storm runoff from the city and county. After it was revealed Baertschiger’s farm company had a contract with FVID he said he needed to disclose his involvement:

“Um…first of all, um I need to be candid with the board I do live in the Ft. Vannoy irrigation District and one of our farm companies, just because the newspaper got it all wrong, again, one of our farm companies does contract with the irrigation district for all the office work and stuff. The reason for that is the irrigation district is a small district, they have no office, no office equipment, none of that, so they contract with one of our farm companies out there. The newspaper made it sound like I get a paycheck from the Ft Vannoy Irrigation District. I do not. OK? Do I benefit from the Ft Vannoy Irrigation District? Probably because one of my companies contracts with em, so I just wanted to make sure I disclosed that. So everybody knows the situation because the newspaper made it sound like I get a paycheck …and I don’t. They have one part-time employee that’s paid,” said Baertschiger.

Weekly Business Session March 8

Commission Chair Herman Baertschiger was absent. Commission Vice Chair John West filled in as Chair.

The Co-Directors of the Greater Applegate community development organization, Seth Kaplan and Megan Fehrman, gave a lengthy presentation to Josephine County Commissioners at their March 8 meeting. They said their mission is to build connections in the area that will assist the economic and social vitality of the Applegate area. The population of Greater Applegate is around 19,200, is attracting retirees and there is a concern now that “not everyone can afford to live there,” they said. Applegate extends into both Jackson and Josephine counties and a Jackson County Commissioner attends their every-other-month meetings. The largely rural area is attracting tourists with its cottage industries, wineries and activities on the Applegate River and Greater Applegate would like to help with co-marketing, advertising and event coordination. For more go to https://agreaterapplegate.org/

Commissioner Dan DeYoung brusquely pointed out that economical development in the area has been stifled by the people there who want to “preserve everything” and come out to protest anyone who wants to mine in the area or harvest trees. Then he asked if there is a “demarcation” line where people on one side shop in Medford and on the other side shop in Grants Pass.

Commissioner John West said perhaps Greater Applegate could invite Josephine County’s forester to their meetings.

During the Public Comment portion of the meeting Mark Jones spoke about ethics in connection with people in power:

“I believe the character of a person speaks volumes as to how they will conduct business when in a position of power. By character, I mean the combination of mental characteristics and behavior that distinguishes a person and highlights their moral strengths, ethics, and integrity. A person with a strong moral and ethical character would lean towards doing the right thing when that benefits the majority, not just themselves or their friends. They wouldn’t allow a grudge or a friend’s personal benefit to sway a vote when the positive outcome of that vote could benefit a large group of people instead of just a few. This leads to the ethical obligations that come with a position of power. An ethical obligation is something that one is required or compelled to do based on a predetermined set of standards of what is right and wrong. Now, when a person has a bad character, their personal standards of right and wrong are usually not the same level as those with good character. This is why many positions of power come with ethical obligations that are codified into law. This requirement usually doesn’t affect those with good character, as they mostly do the right thing. On the other hand, people in power who have questionable character are held to these requirements, yet look for ways to circumvent them. When any of you are faced with a moral or ethical dilemma, I hope that you have the moral compass and it isn’t broken. And I hope that your good character makes you do the right thing. A person with a good character will do what is best for the majority and not what is best for or benefits only themselves or a few. Webster defines moral compass as a set of beliefs or values that guide ethical decisions, judgments, and behavior, and internal sense of right and wrong. When you have a good character, your moral compass will guide you in the right direction. So pick up the compass and stay on the right path.”

Other speakers were there to urge the board to make a homeless emergency declaration so the county can qualify for funding to help get the homeless out of city parks. One speaker brought up the Animal Shelter and falsely claimed it soaks up money the sheriff’s department could use. Judy Ahrens was at the podium again to complain about Three Rivers School District’s plan to build restrooms and breathlessly warned Commissioners about the evils of Critical Race Theory and radical instruction in civics classes.

Amanda Metzger urged Commissioners and Josephine County residents to support Oregon HB2089 which would change the formula for the distribution of cannabis taxes.

“HB 2089 would take 11 percent or roughly 18.7 million off the top of the cannabis tax change the formula and give counties more. The new formula of the $63.7 million (in cannabis taxes) will give 30% to cities, 30% to counties, and 40% to state police. This would net cities $19.1 million, counties $19.1 million and state police $25 million. This would increase the amount of cities and counties from $9 million to $38.2 million,” she explained.

“The other drastic change is how that $19.1 million will be divided between counties. Previously it was population. The breakdown now will be 50% based on canopy size and 50% based on the number of licenses. This now directs money back to those producing counties that are bearing the burden. The Cannabis Advisory panel voted yesterday in support of 2089 and we hope that the Commissioners will consider support of this bill when it reaches your agenda. I would also like to ask the Josephine County citizens to support this. It will be a battle at the legislature to be able to divert any of that money away from Measure 110 and any sort of emails you can send to the House Revenue Committee explaining the desperate need that we need for money to come back to the county would go a long way,” she said.

DeYoung thanked Metzger for her information, then responded to the comments with a 12 minute soliloquy giving a lesson on the relationship between the Board and other elected officials only mildly connected to Jones’ statement on ethics. West offered that he thinks “this board wants to have the utmost character and moral,” then said “the homeless thing, that’s the million dollar question. It’s not that the Commissioners are taking a blind eye but the way I read it the city can go into that (emergency declaration) without us.”