Grant County Judge Scott Myers and Commissioner Jim Hamsher traveled the width of the state to attend the Association of Oregon Counties’ annual conference in Eugene in November.
Organized in 1906, the Association of Oregon Counties unites counties to advocate, communicate and educate through information sharing and consensus development, according to its website. AOC officers are elected during the annual conference, which draws representatives from rural and urban counties from across the state.
The three-day program began with a graduation ceremony for the County College, which meets five times a year and provides training for county officials in all facets of Oregon government, Myers said. Later that day, Myers attended a program on public records reform by the 2017 legislature – the most significant changes since the 1970s.
The next morning, Myers attended a program on a public-private partnership to develop an early warning system for earthquakes and wildfires. That was followed by a presentation in the afternoon by a panel of local public health officials about ways counties can save money and improve health.
The county government is still responsible for health and mental health in Grant County even though Community Counseling Solutions took over the county health department, Myers said, including hiring county employees and leasing the county building on Highway 26 in John Day.
Myers and Grant County Justice of the Peace Kathy Stinnett attended a program on steps counties can take to protect themselves from lawsuits filed by inmates in county jails.
The county still faces a lawsuit filed several years ago by an inmate who attempted to commit suicide using a safety razor provided by jail personnel, Myers said. The county’s attorney has been unable to locate the inmate, who Myers said was not seriously injured, and Myers expects the county will eventually be exonerated.
Myers said he met with congressional staff, where he mentioned the need to increase the telephone excise tax that supports 911 dispatch service. He and Hamsher attended a presentation by Valerie Johnson, of D.R. Johnson Lumber Co., about the growing cross-laminated timber products industry. The company’s mill in Prairie City is now shut down.
On the last day, Myers attended a presentation with a late-night talk show format about wildfires followed by the highlight of the entire conference — the County Product Tasting Reception, featuring food and drink from across the state.
“There was about 400 people in a room the size of a football field,” he said.