Grant County Court members confronted criticism from department heads over a lack of leadership and clarity amid the closure of the county’s offices during its May 27 session.
Justice of the Peace Kathy Stinnett told the court it has seemed like the members have been hyper-focused on the county’s COVID-19 response and happenings at the Emergency Operations Center since mid-March and have been ignoring other county departments.
Since mid-march, Planning Director Shannon Springer said they were not given specific guidelines about how to operate during closure of the county’s offices.
“Silence is killing the morale of your county employees,” Springer said.
County Judge Scott Myers said that all departments were given the opportunity to work from home and said Springer chose to come in to the office.
County Commissioner Jim Hamsher said the county wrote a telecommuting policy and that the department heads were given autonomy on how to implement the policy.
Stinnett said other departments have been dealing with issues and problems since mid-March, and they have rarely heard from their department liaisons during the crisis.
Hamsher said, while he understood where the employees were coming from, the county has been waiting for more direction from the state and its insurance company about how to reopen.
Stinnett said she tried working from home on a “10-year-old, hand-me-down” laptop. After learning the EOC purchased new laptop computers, she said had no idea federal reimbursements were available to the county.
“If I had any idea that my department could have come to the county and said its an emergency I need to have a new laptop, I would have been in here,” Stinnett said. “Don’t forget about these other department heads.”
“I’ll be the first one to admit I’ve been focused on a lot of different things and not so much things happening here at the courthouse,” County Commissioner and EOC Public Information Officer Sam Palmer said.
The best thing the court could do, Palmer said, is learn from these things and do better in the future.
Myers asked Grant County Regional Airport Manager Haley Walker whether the EOC, which is currently housed at the airport, and the county’s firefighting efforts could co-exist during a heavy firefighting season.
Walker said an increase in aviation activity and the airport terminal being blocked off could pose a problem during a busy fire season.
Currently the EOC rents out three offices, a conference room and storage space.
EOC Incident Commander Dave Dobler said the operations of the EOC are not hampering firefighting efforts.
Hamsher said adjustments can be made at the EOC to accommodate firefighting.
In other county court news:
• The court moved to reopen the county offices on Monday.
• The court approved $320,000 in funding to begin the construction project of Grant County Fairground’s Trowbridge Pavilion.
• The court approved $3,000 in funding for John Day Senior Center until the senior center can find another funding stream.
• The court moved to appoint Haley Olson to a position on the Planning Commission.