Grant County Court minutes from Dec. 12, 2018:
Pursuant to notice made to the newspaper of general circulation throughout Grant County, the radio station, county website, and e-mail distribution list, a regular meeting of the County Court was held at the County Courthouse in Canyon City, OR.
9:00 am -- Call to Order. Present were Judge Scott W. Myers, Commissioners Jim Hamsher and Rob Raschio, Administrative Assistant Laurie Wright, Frances Preston, Matt Krumenauer, Commissioner-elect Sam Palmer, Judy Kerr, John Morris, Roadmaster Alan Hickerson, Beth Spell, Jim Spell, Katy Nelson, Rick Minster, Jim Sproul, Sharon Livingston, Reporter Rick Hanners, Economic Development Director Sally Bartlett, Elaine Smith, and Pastor Levi Manitsas. A Pledge of Allegiance was given to the United States Flag. The invocation was given by Pastor Manitsas.
CLAIMS. The court had reviewed and approved claims and extension district warrants #70-78.
AGENDA. MSP: Raschio/Myers -- to accept the agenda as presented.
ANNOUNCEMENTS. Judge Myers drove to Ontario on November 29th to pick up a new vehicle for the Veteran Services Officer.
9:05 am Roy Walker entered.
Myers attended a meeting via conference call with the BPA to discuss a project to remove a railroad grade on private ground owned by the Umatilla Tribe on the Middle Fork.
9:06 am Elise Delgad0 entered.
On December 4th Myers went to a John Day City Council meeting at the Airport. Myers conducted a performance review of the Fair Manager on the 10th and said she is doing an excellent job and that evening went to the Airport Commission meeting. Tonight he will go to a meeting at the Forest Supervisors Office from 5:30 to 7:30 pm regarding the Ragged Ruby project. Myers will attend a Mental Health Advisory Board meeting on the 13th and on the 18th will conduct a job performance review for the Emergency Management Coordinator. Myers reported the next court meeting will be next Wednesday due to the Christmas Holiday.
Commissioner Hamsher participated in a telephonic NaCO meeting regarding Waters of the US and the changes the EPA has made. He also called in for a telephonic meeting about creating a Forest Plan Implementation Team that is hoping to reach common ground and sort out issues.
9:09 am Reporter Logan Bagett entered.
Hamsher received an email from T-Mobile advising they would be installing 5 towers in rural areas of the county and the projects are slated for next year. Hamsher advised he and Nick Green have both been working on this. Hamsher reported the City of Prairie City received a $550,000 grant and $950,000 loan from ODOT for the water project and also a $100,000 small city allotment for paving. On Tuesday Hamsher met with the sewer contractor and they started work yesterday. Hamsher said most of the Wolf Depredation Committee members have agreed to remain on the committee and Wallowa County Commissioner Todd Nash has agreed to visit in January and speak on this issue.
9:11 am CASA Executive Director Hannah Hinman entered.
Commissioner Raschio also attended the John Day City Council meeting where discussion was held about the new sewage treatment plant and replenishing aquifers. Rashio went through the monthly county audit and expressed concern that employees must reimburse the county for over-tipping. He would like to see the policy reviewed next week regarding travel expenses.
9:14 am Joe Koerner entered.
Raschio thinks the mileage rate should follow the IRS rates and meals should be $51 per day per diem instead of the current reimbursement policy. Raschio thanked Nick Green and Commissioner Hamsher for their work on getting additional cell towers in our area.
Hamsher reported the cell tower discussion began at a meeting he attended last year where several cell phone companies were in attendance and it is nice to see some good things happen from attending meetings.
Raschio read a draft economic study that was completed about Grant County and summarized some of the findings. Raschio pointed out the majority of jobs in the county are in government and stated we desperately need another mill here.
9:19 am Treasurer Julie Ellison entered.
Myers said the current travel reimbursement policy is in place to hold employees accountable and doesn’t necessarily believe a per diem policy is the best solution. Raschio pointed out the underlying costs of employee time to review claims.
9:23 am Mark Webb entered. 9:24 am King Williams and Zach Williams entered.
Sharon Livingston suggested the court look into the water reclamation project in Powell Butte which has been successful and the re-claimed water is being used for irrigation.
CASA. Hannah Hinman, Executive Director of CASA displayed a PowerPoint presentation and gave an update to the court on the CASA Program. Hinman explained CASA advocates for children while they are in the juvenile dependency system. CASA’s usually have only one or two children they work with at a time and the program has been shown to be beneficial to children. Locally the number of children in need has doubled in Grant County and tripled in Harney County. Hinman reported on the number of CASA’s that have been trained over the last year and some grants that were received. Mark Webb asked why the number had increased. Raschio expressed his belief that this is due to the Department of Human Resources (DHS) changing its policy and removing children right away from homes instead of providing deferential response as they used to in order to work with families prior to removal of children. Hinman reported on other issues she sees as possible causes of the increase. Hamsher said there is a shortage of foster families in the area as well. 15 new volunteer CASA advocates have been sworn in over the past two months. Discussion followed about the need for local foster care providers. Myers suggested combining the court’s efforts with Harney County and then bringing the issue to AOC to advocate for additional support for the CASA Program. Hamsher pointed out investing in the youth in our community could save money in the future. The CASA Program is state mandated, but the state funding only amounts to about 17% of the overall budget. Hinman requested support from the County in the amount of $6,750 and will be requesting the same amount from Harney County. Raschio is fully in support of the CASA program. Myers would like to discuss this at the next court meeting to allow time to decide where the funding would be paid from. MSP: Raschio/Myers -- to prepare a budget resolution for payment to CASA and review at the next court meeting. Myers suggested Hinman contact Senator Bentz and Representative Findlay to ask if they would advocate for CASA funding. Sam Palmer asked Hinman if she had presented this request to Harney County yet. Hinman reported she has not, but she intends to do so. Hinman pointed out that an investment in CASA is an investment in our most vulnerable population and local investment also assists with grant applications.
US ENDOWMENT FOR FORESTRY & COMMUNITIES. Matt Krumenauer with the US Endowment for Forestry & Communities updated the court on the proposed Torrefaction Plant. Krumenauer thanked the court and county staff for the support they have given during this process. He said they have been working diligently on the project and are now beginning to market the project. The US Endowment works to keep forests as forests for the economic benefit of communities. The US Endowment supports private industry. Krumenauer summarized some of the projects that they have assisted with in the area including the Torrefaction Plant project in Grant County. Krumenauer explained torrefaction is similar to creating charcoal. The finished product is largely water proof, extremely dense and can be used in the same manner as coal. Krumenauer reported they looked at several sites in the county and found the best partnership to be with Malheur Lumber Company. He explained the different reasons the site was chosen. The project itself is a $15.2 million dollar investment and discussed some of the equipment and modifications that will be completed during the project including a new boiler system, replacing the existing belt dryer and kiln. Depending on when the required permits and approvals are in place the hope is to begin producing the product in May or June of next year. The product will be test marketed in various locations such as domestic utilities within the state and Asian utilities. There has been a lot of interest expressed from Japan especially. Hamsher asked what the cost per ton will be. Krumenauer said they are trying to keep the cost at around what white pellets cost and are still working on cost negotiations. They are working with numerous brokerage firms to market the product. Frances Preston asked if this will be the first time the product has been tested. Krumenauer stated it is not, there have been numerous tests completed at large utility companies throughout the US and one in Canada. The decisions made for the mill here were based upon numerous tests. Judy Kerr asked why Malheur was chosen instead of Prairie Wood. Krumenauer explained they will be adding some new equipment to Malheur Lumbers existing pellet plant. Malheur Lumber was chosen because of the existing air permit and equipment, including the boiler. Prairie Wood’s co-gen plant would have required a much larger investment along with the need to run the co-gen boiler. Hamsher asked if they had looked at chipping the product in the woods and then trucking it in to allow for more volume. Krumenauer believes over time this will be considered and possibly implemented. Krumenauer reported they will have their own staff and are beginning this process right now. The projected maximum number of employees by the end of 2019 is expected to be 15 to 18. They will also be working with Malheur Lumber and other existing local companies to provide other work (welding, concrete work, etc.). Krumenauer answered questions from the audience regarding employment at the facility and the amount of biomass that is expected to be utilized. Webb asked if the Forest Service had been supportive and Krumenauer reported they have been. There will be community meeting on January 10th, 2019 at the Canyon City Community Hall.
10:37 am The court took a short break. 10:42 am Victim Assistance Director Andrea Officer entered. 10:45 am The court returned to session.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. Economic Development Director Sally Bartlett discussed the status of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application for the Heart of Grant County Domestic Violence Shelter. Bartlett also requested approval of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the county and the Heart of Grant County. The MOA had been reviewed and approved by County Counsel prior to the court meeting. The CDBG is moving along well and Bartlett said they have been working on this daily. The MOA assures the state that the facility will be used as intended for at least 5 years. Myers pointed out an error in the MOA which says Lake Creek, but should say Heart of Grant County. Bartlett suggested changing this and including it in the motion. Bartlett explained the community outreach and fundraising activities have been started for this grant. Bartlett is hopeful that the grant will be awarded sometime around February. MSP: Raschio/Myers -- to approve the Memorandum of Agreement with the change in paragraph 3(a) to the Heart of Grant County and removal of an additional letter in paragraph 2 and to authorize Judge Myers to sign.
VICTIMS ASSISTANCE. Victims Assistance Director Andrea Officer informed the court that she recently found out the VAWA Grant would assist with funding for the Victim Intervention Specialist position through September of 2019. Officer said the VOCA grant was extended until the end of December 2018, but after that funding would have stopped. Officer wrote to the VAWA grant monitor and reported the county court funding that was previously approved was why the additional grant funding of $42,120 was approved. The grant administrator was greatly appreciative of the county match. Raschio pointed out small commitments from local government can be used as leverage for larger funding. Kerr asked why trained advocates from the Heart of Grant County aren’t used. Officer said working in Victim’s Assistance for the DA’s office is different in that victim’s can speak to Heart volunteers confidentially, but the Victim Assistance staff are mandatory reporters and must report to police. Victims are given a choice on who they wish to speak with. Officer said they all work closely together.
CLERK. The court reviewed a revised job description for the County Clerk that does not include payroll and more accurately reflects the statutory requirements of the position. At the last court meeting a stipend was approved for completing payroll. Myers suggested just removing the payroll duties from the previous job description. Raschio believes the revised job description more accurately reflects the duties of the position. Hamsher added the revised description would allow for better understanding of the position. MSP: Raschio/Myers -- to adopt the revised job description for the County Clerk.
PUBLIC HEALTH ADMINISTRATOR. Myers reminded the audience that during the biennial review of the Health Department the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) found the county does not have a Public Health Administrator as required by the state. If this is not put in place it will become a finding at the state level. Several discussions were held with CCS Executive Director Kimberly Lindsay about the possibility of Commissioner-elect Sam Palmer filling this role. Myers suggested Palmer’s nursing background would be a good fit for this role and he and Palmer should have a discussion with Andrew Epstein from OHA about the duties of this position. Palmer said he would be available later this afternoon for the discussion. The court tabled this discussion until the next court meeting.
11:03 am Chad Allen entered.
VETERAN SERVICES. The court reviewed a request from the Veteran Services Officer Katee Hoffman to part-time office help. The part-time help would be approximately 16 hours per week at $16.44 per hour which is the same as other Department Assistants are paid. This would allow for office coverage when Hoffman is in Monument or visiting veterans in their homes. The VSO budget has the funding for the position. MSP: Myers/Raschio -- to approve a part-time Department Assistant for Veteran Services and to adopt the job description. Judy Kerr said Grant County Veterans have never been so well supported and fully supports her having assistance in her office.
TREASURER. Treasurer Julie Ellison presented a proposed Investment Policy to the court for approval. The policy had been reviewed by the Oregon Short Term Fund board and meets all statutory requirements. Ellison said she has been working on this policy to allow investments to be longer than 18 months. Ellison reported in order to add the Oregon Local Government Intermediate Fund to the policy there is information that has to be sent to the Oregon State Treasurer from the court for approval. Ellison believes this discussion should be tabled until the next meeting. Raschio wants the Treasurer to have as much flexibility as possible to invest county funds. Ellison noted the money she has currently invested is at the highest rate she can find. The court tabled this discussion until the next court meeting.
DISPATCH SERVICES. The court reviewed an agreement with the City of John Day to provide dispatch services for Fiscal Year 2018/19. The cost to the county for the services was $10,000 for the fiscal year instead of around $65,000 as it has been in the past. MSP: Raschio/Myers -- to approve the agreement with the City of John Day and circulate for signatures.
ORDER OF SALE – FORECLOSED PROPERTIES. The court reviewed Order of Sale 2018-09 for tax foreclosed properties. The redemption period for these properties has ended and the properties are now vested in Grant County. The Order directs the Sheriff to sell the properties at public oral auction to the highest bidder on January 17, 2019 at 10 am in the County Court Courtroom. Assessor David Thunell had prepared an exhibit listing the properties and minimum bids and it was attached to the Order. MSP: Raschio/Hamsher -- to approve Order of Sale 2018-09 and circulate for signatures and to authorize Judge Myers to sign deeds for property sold at the auction on behalf of Grant County.
ROAD DEPARTMENT. Roadmaster Alan Hickerson presented a request to the court for approval to purchase a 2017 Motor Grader. Hickerson explained the age of the current Motor Graders the Road Department uses. Western States is offering a $30,000 rebate along with a $65,000 trade in for one of the departments used Motor Grader and with these incentives the cost for a new 2017 Motor Grader would be $198,979.43 including delivery. Hickerson has been working with Chad Allen from Western States who presented the offer on the 2017 grader to Hickerson. Allen introduced himself and explained they had six 2017 grader models that they have until the end of the month the sell. Allen described some of the features of the machine and the support provided for the machine including a 5 year warranty, buy back protection within the 5 years of $195,000 (with under 4000 service hours) and filters for service. Hickerson believes this would be a great opportunity to update some of the department equipment along with a great savings to the county since some of the graders they have are experiencing issues. The department has funding in the current budget of $900,000 and no other planned purchases for this budget year. MSP: Myers/Hamsher -- to approve purchase of the 2017 Motor Grader from Western States in the amount of $198,979.43.
JAIL. The court reviewed an Incentive Payment Memorandum of Understanding (IPMOU) with the Social Security Administration. The IPMOU would provide payment to the county for information furnished about certain individuals who are confined in the jail in connection with a criminal offense. Raschio believes this MOU is nothing more than a bounty and someone who is held for 30 days and not convicted would lose their benefits. He is strongly opposed to the agreement and would only support something like this if it was for someone was convicted. Hamsher asked if the benefits would be reinstated once released. Raschio said they would need to re-apply for benefits after release. MSP: Myers/Raschio -- to decline approval of the IPMOU with the Social Security Administration.
RESOLUTION 18-38. Ellison had prepared Resolution 18-38 for court review & approval. Myers read the resolution to those in attendance. The resolution transfers $42,000 from the general fund to emergency management and $30,000 from the fair to fair reserve fund. MSP: Raschio/Myers -- to approve Resolution 18-38 and circulate for signatures.
RESOLUTION 18-39. Ellison had prepared Resolution 18-39 for court review & approval. Myers read the resolution to those in attendance. The resolution transfers $4,482 from contingency to clerk personnel services to pay for the payroll stipend previously approved by the court. MSP: Raschio/Myers -- to approve Resolution 18-39 and circulate for signatures.
MINUTES. MSP: Myers/Hamsher -- to approve the November 28th minutes as amended.
PUBLIC COMMENT. John Morris stated there is a tremendous amount of dead, dying and burnt trees within the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness area and said the County Court needs to keep things like this in mind when the Forest Service proposes new wilderness areas. Myers advised he testified against new wilderness designations at the Forest Plan Revision meeting. Preston believes the Forest Supervisor allowed a private citizen to cut some trees on the wilderness after the Canyon Creek Fire and suggested Morris might look into this option.
11:53 am – Adjourned.
**** Please note the court minutes are a summary of the court proceedings. An audio recording of each court session is available, after approval of the minutes, by contacting Laurie Wright at 541-575-0059 or firstname.lastname@example.org ****