Commissioners Update 11-14-2022

December 7 the public will have a chance to weigh in on proposed fee increases for the Josephine County Animal Shelter, Assessor’s Office, Community Development, the Fairgrounds and the Adult Jail. A public hearing was set by the Board of Commissioners for the 7th before action is taken on the fee increase requests. The increases reflect the rise in costs for the departments.

Commissioners questioned the Animal Shelter’s fee increase request, saying if the cost of adopting a kitten gets too high the shelter will become a “cat motel.”

“If our fees are too high nobody’s gonna want these animals,” said Commission Chair Herman Baertschiger, who noted that people can get free kittens from people giving them away in front of Safeway.

“That’s where we’ve always got ours,” he said.

Commissioner Darin Fowler, liaison to the Shelter, countered the adoption fee covers vaccinations, spay or neutering and a medical evaluation to make sure the kittens are healthy enough to adopt out. Finance Officer Sandy Novak said the fee is probably cheaper than getting a kitten from in front of Safeway since going to a veterinarian for vaccinations, spay/neutering and a general checkup would come to more than the shelter fee. Nevertheless, Commissioner Dan DeYoung worried about an overpopulation of dogs and cats in the county if the fees for adoption get too high. In a later contradiction DeYoung said cats at the Industrial Park limit their population themselves but he didn’t say how.

After the cat discussion Novak announced the county would be getting another round of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds. This infusion will bring $5.7 million, spread over two years and can be used in the General Fund, Novak said. Commissioners indicated the windfall will help the sheriff but made no mention of their failed attempt to get voters to pass a sales tax earmarked to fund law enforcement. Baertschiger said it’s risky to fund a department with one-time money. Fowler said sometimes you need one-time money and praised Novak for “keeping a lid on the agenda item” with a nod but not an explanation.

Novak also announced a process created by the state’s Finance Officers Association to help municipalities create financial plans with direction, so today’s decisions positively affect the future. She identified this process as “Financial First Aid.” Commissioners didn’t like that terminology. Baertschiger called it “accounting gymnastics.”

Novak said the process involves creating teams in each department to plan how they can become more fiscally sound. Commissioners liked that idea but when she said they should each be on a team, they pulled back, saying the teams can report to them. They agreed the goal for every department is to become independent of the General Fund.

Commissioners were asked to approve a street banner for the Right-to-Life march and wondered why, since that group puts up banners every year for their anti-abortion activity without their approval. It was suggested the group may be asking to add graphic pictures to their signs. After mumbling about whether this was a free speech issue, they decided to postpone approval until they get clarification from someone about what is allowed on banners and what isn’t.

During the November 15 Legal Council Meeting Commissioners saw the long, slow process of abatement finally coming to an end on property near Selma. The junkpile, including 26 vehicles and five boats was shown to Commissioners in photographs, which prompted them to say the neighbors must be happy about the cleanup after the several years it took to get to this point. The Community Development Department will be contracting with a company to haul off the vehicles and trash.

County Clerk Rhiannon Hinkle told Commissioners the Nov. 8 election will be certified Dec. 5. She said she is under a confidential directive from the Secretary of State and County Counsel Wally Hicks to not dispose of any records. This led to a discussion about Oregon’s mail-in balloting, which none of the Commissioners like. DeYoung asked how we could go back to appearing in person and do away with the mail-in process. Baertschiger said elections are the authority of the state legislature and it would have to be changed there.

“Citizens can’t initiate it,” he said.

The next discussion involved warming centers for the homeless. Emergency Services Director Emily Ring and Public Health Director Michael Weber said they needed guidance from the Board on just what they can and can’t do regarding the expenditure of resources to help shelter people during extreme weather events. Baertschiger said he was concerned about drawing down resources to shelter the homeless, then having a cataclysmic event where they would be needed. DeYoung said the majority of the homeless are in Grants Pass so it’s really their responsibility. They said Joseph Rice told them he has access to an “endless supply of tents” and they will check into that. DeYoung said there may be some generators around that were donated to the county a few years ago but didn’t say how they would be used.

Commissioner’s Weekly Business Session was mostly about the new Transportation System Plan presented by Rob Brandes from Community Development. It can be read here: https://cms9files.revize.com/josephinecountyor/11-16-22%20WBS.pdf It contains traffic counts that show when and where the most traffic takes place in the county, the status of some of our most dangerous roads and plans for improving them. Brandes said the plan was financed by an ODOT grant. During the public hearing on the plan only one speaker commented. Judy Aherns rambled on about grants and strings but didn’t say anything about the plan itself.

At a public hearing about a new fencing setback code just one person spoke.  He said the regulation, calling for a 30-foot setback for fencing drivers can’t see through “overreach” by the government and a constraint on the use of his property. Judy Ahrens got up and agreed with him. Fowler pointed out that because the code will obviously not fit every property the Director will have some discretion when applying it. After Baertschiger said he thought the code looked like it was written more for an urban area then rural Josephine County the Board sent it back to Planning “to have another look at it.”

During Public Comments Judy Ahrens spent her three minutes warning about digital currency because she heard on American Family Radio that is being used to control the world. She also said people should write their representatives in Congress about the Defense of Marriage Act because it allows gay marriage “or marrying your dog if you want” and it will be forced on Christian colleges. None of the Board members had a reply to that.