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"COMMISSIONERS REPORT"
JOSEPHINE COUNTY, OREGON
AUGUST 2007

 

 


By Commissioner, Jim Raffenburg

August 28, 2007

NewsWithViews.com

 

Editors Note: Jim Raffenburg is currently an elected Commissioner in Josephine County, Oregon. NWV will feature his column the last Tuesday of each month. The purpose of these columns is to open up the day-to-day functions of local government and bring it to you the people. Jim believes that an elected official should serve the best interest of the people and not the bureaucracy, and therefore you have the right to know what's being said and done that may effect your pocketbook and property. You will see how YOUR money is either being wisely managed or wasted.

Opening Commentary

Hello everyone.

I believe in the ideal of open government, warts and all.

I hope this report will be viewed by the public as a positive step forward and as a representative example of the openness in which government should regularly operate and communicate with those they serve.

Let me offer you a fair warning however. Most of the day-to-day activities of local government are quite “dry” and uninteresting to the average uninvolved person. But whether a topic is dry or not, the daily business that keeps the organization of local government moving is still important.

I believe anyone who has an interest in these activities should also have simple access to the discussions that lead to the decisions that directly or indirectly affect everyone.

Technically, the “records” of those discussions and decisions are already available, but you need to know which records, from what particular meetings to ask for. Currently, to know when a particular issue will be discussed or decided, you must watch every agenda, of every meeting, every day for a listing of topics to be addressed. If you do not have the time to devote to this type of vigilance, how will you know government is discussing something important to you? Easy availability of the information about what government does is a cornerstone concept of governmental accountability.

And governmental accountability to the electorate is the cornerstone concept for maintaining a free society.

Local government is the one sector in what most people think of as one big, all encompassing “Government,” where Citizens can still play a direct and important role in their own future. Direct influence becomes more problematic at the State level and nearly impossible with today’s Federal government.

It is a fundamental responsibility of my job to make sure you have access to this information, to assist you in influencing local government actions, if you choose to make that effort.

In an age where the average person generally distrusts government, I know of no better way to help repair that sense of distrust than by being candid and open in how I, as an elected officer, do my job. Since my job requires me to work with other elected and appointed leaders, readers will also have the opportunity catch a glimpse of how their entire county leadership votes and what they say (or fail to say) about their votes.

This report is not a comprehensive summary of everything that happens day-to-day. If I tried to provide that, my job title would need to change to journalist. Instead, it is meant to provide a general summary of the discussions and decisions I think are important.

It will also provide the reader with a list of dates where the Board of Commissioners met to discuss and/or decide matters. The monthly report generated for my review to write this report is a public document anyone can request for review or purchase. I call it “The Monthly Meeting Summary”.

This type of openness is not popular (within certain local government circles) because our county has had a long history of cryptic meeting agendas and sparse minutes from those same meetings. By my own initial experiences as a new Commissioner, more often than not, it was difficult to impossible to determine, from the minutes of past meetings, how decisions were made and who lead the effort to support or oppose those decisions.

Without openness, the government culture becomes such that it is nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable for anything. Thirty months ago, after I was sworn into Office, it quickly became clear that Josephine County Government had developed into an “institutionalized bureaucracy” that truly believed it was not accountable to anyone, especially the Board of Commissioners. That has now changed.

Institutionalized, bureaucratic lack of accountability, is not what I want in my government. I’m sure most of you feel the same way.

If we are to have real accountability in government, government employees must be accountable to the Elected Officials and those same Elected Officials must be in turn accountable to Citizens.

Before Citizens can hold their Elected Officials accountable, they must have a way to access information regarding how decisions are made by those Elected Officials and by the people they in turn appoint to high management positions.

I hope this column will make sure the average Citizen has access to that information, and I also hope many of you will choose to utilize it and become a regular readers of this monthly report. I know most of my co-workers will.

My reports will have two sections:

First, I intend to offer you the important facts, based on the written minutes of discussions and votes on the important day-to-day management efforts that directly and indirectly affect all of us. When I say “the Board” I am referring to all three Commissioners. When I name Commissioners, it means only those Commissioners participated in and/or supported the decision.

Second, I will offer insights and commentary on important issues.

Since these reports are monthly, by necessity, they will deal with what happened last month, or July for this first edition. Since July is the first month of the County’s fiscal (Budget) year, so it is actually quite appropriate to begin these reports this month. The Facts

Weekly Business Session Actions

In July, one Ordinance, two Orders, two Resolutions, two Inter-governmental Agreements and four Contracts/Amendments/Grants were passed by the Board of Commissioners:

Ordinances: Ordinance No. 2007-001O, Amends Ordinance No. 81-20, the Jo Co Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) Area Comprehensive Plan. Adds 1.2 acres of land into the UGB of Grants Pass. Property owner- Robert Copeland. Legal Description 36-06-13-13, Tax lots 241 and 242, including the adjacent public road Right of Way. Passed by a Board Vote of 2-0, with Commissioner Raffenburg abstaining. Passed 7/18/07

Board Orders: Order No. 2007-040-O in the matter of authorizing a facility management agreement between Jo Co and Options for Southern Oregon, Inc. for the management of Jo Co real property at 900 Hitching Post Road (Hugo Hills Residential Treatment Facility). Passed 7/11/07

Order No. 2007-041, authorizing a Ground Lease between Jo Co and USCOC of Oregon RSA #5, DBA as U.S. Cellular for the placement of a cellular telephone tower. Passed 7/18/07

Board Resolutions: Resolution No. 2007-043R to accept the O&C Land Related Safety-Net Payment under Public Law 106-393. Passed 7/3/07

Resolution No. 2007-044R to accept National Forest Related Safety-Net Payment under Public Law 106-393. Passed 7/3/07

Inter-governmental Agreements: Inter-governmental Agreement #3554 between Jo Co and the Oregon Dept. of Corrections providing State funding in the amount or $9,983,857 for fiscal years 2007-2009, to provide supervision, treatment and housing of adult felons in Jo Co. Passed 7/11/07

Inter-governmental Agreement (Partnership Agreement) with the Oregon Commission on Children and Families for the funding of Programs for Fiscal Years 2007-2009. Revenue to Jo Co in 07-08, $352,689 and in 08-09 of $312,986. Passed 7/25/07

Contracts/Amendments/Grants:
Amendment to Contract dated 6/30/06, between Josephine County (JoCo) and Options regarding certain assets at the Hugo Hills Residential Treatment Facility. Passed 7/11/07

Contract Amendment to Contract No. 117535, to the 2006-2007 LPHA Financial Assistance Contract between Jo Co and Oregon Dept. of Human Services to provide additional funding in the amount of $56,017 for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Passed 7/18/07

Contract Amendment #2, to Contract dated 8/27/03, between Jo Co and Rogue Community College (RCC) providing funding from RCC for Josephine County Community Transit services. Passed 7/25/07

Grant Agreement No. 24340 with the Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT), Public Transit Division for the funding, in the amount of $225,000 to provide transportation service for the elderly and disabled. Grant required matching funds in the amount of $225,000, which come from other state revenues (Special Transportation Fund and Translink) and local rider revenues. Passed 7/25/07

County Administration Meeting - Actions and Discussion

July Administrative Actions by the Board:

Request for a new position, in the County Fleet and Public Works Fleet Programs. The Board denied the request on 7/6.

Request from the District Attorney, to start a new Legal Secretary with 12 years of experience at a slightly higher starting salary range than previously authorized. Commissioners Toler and Ellis agreed to the request on 7/10.

Request from the Sheriff, to add 17 new, (unbudgeted?) deputy positions. There was another “stack” of Sheriff’s Office position requests that were not considered because they were not ready. The minutes are unclear as to whether the 17 new position requests or this other “stack” would bring the Sheriff’s Office up to the their approved 88 full-time employee level. The minutes indicate Commissioners Toler and Ellis approved the 17 new positions on 7/10.

Request from the CFO, to fill the vacant I.T. Program Supervisor position. The Board agreed on 7/10.

COO presented “Exhibit B,” a request to approve $1,500, to pay for a County booth at the Fairgrounds during the upcoming Fair. Commissioners Toler and Ellis approved the request on 7/10.

CFO presented “Exhibit C,” a request to approve Invoices for the flat rate $21,000 commission fee for the County’s (insurance) Agent of Record. This is a decrease over the previous fee of $41,000 last year, due to the County seeking competitive bids last year. Commissioners Toler and Ellis approved the request on 7/10.

Request from the Assessor, to fill a “Property Appraiser 1” position. The Board approved the request on 7/17.

CFO request to fill a job opening in I.T. for a Tech position. The Board approved the request on 7/20.

COO request to fill two openings, one in Juvenile Justice for a Parole Officer and one in the Assessors Office for ? (position not noted in minutes). The Board approved both requests on 7/20.

COO request to fill four part-time, open positions: The first is a .6 FTE position to support the LADPC (Alcohol and Drug) Program, recently pulled back from “Options for Southern Oregon, Inc.” due to a financial conflict in having Options administer a program they receive money from. The second position is for a Tech opening in the Communications Program. The other two openings are in the Public Health Division for two part-time position in the school based Health Clinic at Illinois Valley High School. The Board approved the requests on 7/24.

Request from the County Building Official to add a “Plans Examiner” position. This is an non-budgeted position. The Board agreed to have the Building and Safety Program contract out this position to a private provider. The COO will draft a contract for future Board action.

Sheriff Request to raise the salary of the Undersheriff. Sheriff Gilbertson requested the Board increase Undersheriff Fasching’s salary three pay grades because he has just begun to pay the employee’s mandatory 6% PERS retirement contribution and the Sheriff does not want the Undersheriff’s take home pay to decrease or for the Undersheriff to make less money than the people he supervises. After lengthy discussion, with each Commissioner having a different view of the request, the CFO was asked to review the request for compliance with County policy and for accuracy regarding the Sheriffs assertions and report back to the Board on 7/27.

Property Manager Killian submitted “Exhibit B,” a list of County owned, tax foreclosed properties for the Board to consider for sale through a Sheriff’s Sale. These Properties would be “Declared for Parks”, which means the money from their sale would be used to make long deferred repairs and for other capital improvement projects for the County Parks system. The Board declared these properties for Parks on 7/27.

COO request for action on three Personnel issues: First, a position in the Clerks Office that requires action to settle a Labor Grievance. Second, a promotion, based on merit, in the Sheriff’s Office. Third, a demotion, based upon reassignment, in the Sheriff’s Office. The Board approved all three position changes on 7/31.

COO request for action on seven Contract Management position contracts, one each for the Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice Divisions, the Public Works and Public Health Divisions, one for the Facilities Division and for the Chief Operating and Chief Finance Officers. Significant discussion developed regarding three points for all contracts, monthly vacation accruals and possible cost of living increases and salaries. Once again, each Commissioner had their views on who should receive what and the minutes reflect those discussions. The final decision was to approve the contracts with minor increases (one or two hours per month) in vacation accrual for two contracts and minor pay increases for five contracts, which include a 1.5% cost of living increase this year and provide for a 1.2% increase next year. All of these positions (except for the CFO, which had seen a reclassification review last November) had been frozen for the past two years, receiving no pay or cost of living increases. The Board approved these contracts on 7/31.

Various July Administrative Discussions:

On 7/6, CFO Padgett presented “Exhibit A,” regarding a new pay scale for the County’s Professional/Technical and Management employees. This discussion is part of the ongoing effort of the County to implement a “Pay-for-Performance” program which will replace the current automatic pay raise system. This discussion centered around whether the County should provide a cost-of-living pay increase for the next calendar year. Final decision to follow later.

On 7/6, the Proposed Smokejumper Museum lease, at the Illinois Valley Airport was discussed. Several important aspects of lease remain to be determined.

On 7/6, Rob Brandes, Public Works Manager, informed the Board that unexpected ODOT Revenue, ($900,000) for road improvement projects would be transferred to Jo Co from ODOT this year.

On 7/6 Commissioner Toler presented “Exhibit C”, a proposal to use PEG funds to begin “Streaming” County televised meetings over the internet and to begin a monthly, one hour Commissioner hosted talk show. The idea was deemed to be worth further investigation and the Board asked Commissioner Toler to look into the costs and report back to the Board.

On 7/10, the CFO informed the Board she has completed the Board ordered transfer of the Risk Management Program from the Personnel Office to her direct responsibility in the Finance Office.

On 7/10, the COO asked the Board how they felt about including a Cost of Living (COLA) increase after one year for the six Contract Management Positions in their new two year contracts. A 3% increase was discussed.

On 7/13, Commissioner Toler told the Board he is not comfortable with the previous decision of the Board (before he became Commissioner) to agree to allow the City of Cave Junction to form a Limited Improvement District (L.I.D.) on the North side of the city. Toler believes the County needs to take further action to approve the L.I.D. The Board agreed to look into the matter further.

On 7/13, Commissioner Raffenburg informed the Board that the lawsuit filed by former Sheriff Dave Daniel challenging the lawful authorities of the Board of Commissioners, had been decided in its finality by the Court of Appeals in a very firm 3-0 vote by that Court. The Court of Appeals ruled entirely in favor of the Board of Commissioners. When current Sheriff Gilbertson asked the Court to reconsider its initial decision, the Court refused, reaffirming its’ decision in favor the Commissioners. The final appeal period has passed and the matter is now settled. (The cost of this lawsuit to the Sheriff’s Office is around $50,000. The Commissioners negotiated with their attorney to a pay a flat fee of $12,000. Total cost to tax payers from former Sheriff Daniel’s lawsuit is more than $60,000.)

On 7/13, COO requested more discussion on a COLA for Contract Management employees. Discussion was brisk and divergent among the Commissioners.

On 7/17, County Forestry Supervisor requested the Board review an existing County Ordinance that allows mining on County land. Request is that the County repeal the Ordinance. The Board will look into the issue and will discuss it again at a later date.

On 7/17, the Board reviewed the various organizational membership/dues of Josephine County, including the Association of O&C Counties and in the Association of Oregon Counties. The annual dues for membership in these organizations is about $31,000 for the former and $21,000 for the later. Commissioner Toler does not believe the County should continue to pay to belong to the Association of O&C Counties and questions paying the bill, but would support remaining in the Association of Oregon Counties. Commissioners Ellis and Raffenburg disagreed with him, believing this would be the worst time to withdraw from either organization, as they are the main lobbying organizations in both Washington, D.C. and Salem that work very hard to see that the County Payments re-authorization efforts continue. Commissioner Toler agreed to support these memberships for one more year only.

On 7/17, the Board discussed the CAFFA Grant received by the County each year from the Oregon Dept. of Revenue to help Josephine County pay for some of the costs for the Offices of Assessor, Treasurer and Clerk. The State requires the County to guarantee a set budget amount for these Offices before the County goes through it’s Budget Hearings. This creates problems when the money the State says the county needs to budget are not available at budget time. This year, due to budget uncertainties, the amount submitted in the Grant application was not the amount actually budgeted. The county is faced with losing about $500,000 in extra revenue for these Offices if it does not backfill the $100,000 decrease required for the County to balance it’s budget and maintain some type of financial reserves. After an in depth conversation with the Director of the Department of Revenue, Commissioner Raffenburg and CFO Padgett, the County now understands that there is some room for adjustments in the future, but the opportunity to use that option is no longer available this year. Next year will be different. The decision whether to backfill or not will be made later.

On 7/17, the COO presented a Report regarding her regular monthly meeting with County management personnel. The COO informed the Board that many managers feel unappreciated. The CFO commented that they are going through an adjustment period, from the cultural change where they used to function as independent pockets and are now subject to a defined Chain of Command. The Board agreed to begin attending these monthly management meeting (one Commissioner at a time) in an effort to help with overall communication within County management.

On 7/20, the City of Grants Pass requested that the County vacate a public road Right of Way the County owns which crosses the City owned property that is the location of the new Police/Fire Station on East Park Street. The City was very late in making this request and it has become an emergency for the City in that they are ready to place concrete for the foundation of this building, which is located in that Right of Way. The Board had directed the Public Works Division to clarify this issue with the City many weeks ago and was surprised by this emergency situation. The County had intended to bundle this potential Right of Way vacation with other issues outstanding between the City of Grants Pass and the County, but in the interest of the greater public need to see this construction proceed, agreed to sign the vacation request as soon as it can be noticed properly.

On 7/20, the CFO presented “Exhibit D,” regarding the Cave junction L.I.D. This is a follow-up to the Discussions on this same subject on 7/13. CFO to pursue matter with Cave Junction City Recorder Polk and get back to the Board with more information.

On 7/24, CFO Padgett presented “Exhibit A,” a list of potential projects to be funded with Federal Title 3 money. Projects include money for fuels reduction work on County Forestry and Parks land, and a host of other projects. Final decisions on which projects to fund will come in October.

On 7/24, Commissioner Raffenburg requested the CFO prepare an update on the Fairgrounds financial situation. CFO said she would provide it on 7/27.

On 7/24, Commissioner Toler said he is embarrassed by how long it takes leases to be processed and said he wants to pull the leases from the Legal Office to finished them.

On 7/27, CFO Padgett reported back regarding the Sheriff’s request to raise the salary of the Undersheriff, explaining that the Sheriff apparently didn’t understand the whole picture. Part of the Sheriff’s concern had been that because the Undersheriff would now be paying his portion of his PERS retirement costs, he would also be earning less than the Lieutenant who commands the Jail. The CFO reported that that would not be the case because the base pay is less for the Lieutenant and both pay their own portion of their PERS retirement costs. The only way for the Sheriff to raise any salary is to go through a position reclassification process to see if in fact that position is under paid.

On 7/27, CFO Padgett reported the Fairgrounds are still in the red but final numbers were still not in. More next Friday.

Board of Commissioner General Discussion and Actions:

The Board meets each Monday at 8:30 A.M. for general discussion and possible action on noticed issues. This month, the Board met on 7/2, 7/16, 7/23 and 7/30

On 7/2: Commissioner Toler reported that he has been working with an economist to review the consumption (sales) tax in place in Ashland. He believes a 2% County sales tax would replace the lost federal government revenues and would also allow the County to replace existing County property taxes.

Commissioner Ellis reported that he is looking into vehicle registration fees for the County that would help replace most of the lost Public Works road maintenance money that goes away when the other Federal revenue goes away.

Commissioner Raffenburg reported that he is working with Association of Oregon Counties to compile the data needed to see if it is possible to permanently replace all property taxes on private homes in Oregon with a statewide sales tax that would also replace all of the lost federal revenues.

On 7/16: Commissioners Toler and Raffenburg approved the Final Plat for the Hilltop loop Subdivision and also directed Board Staff to begin advertising to fill openings on the Library Board of Trustees.

On 7/23: The Board appointed Ardy Birkmeyer to the LADPC (drug and alcohol prevention) Advisory Committee and approved the Final Plat for the City of Grants Pass’ new public safety building on East Park Street.

The Board discussed Court Security issues, the joint City/County meeting that night in Cave Junction, the potential for transferring a county owned property on the Rogue River to the City of Grants Pass, and the need to codify the many Ordinances of the county into a County Code. No actions were taken.

On 7/30: The Board reappointed of Gerard Fitzgerald to the Urban Planning Commission and appointed Loreen Link to the Commission on Children and Families.

The Board discussed Codifying county Ordinances into a County Code; issuing parking permits for the new permit only parking behind the Anne Basker Auditorium; authorizing the funds for Commissioner Raffenburg’s participation in the nationwide lobbying effort to restore Federal funding in Washington, D.C. in September; new efforts from the community to reopen the Library System; the establishment of a County “Natural Resource Advisory Committee; the ODOT Hwy 199 redesign effort; and a possible noise Ordinance. No action was taken on these issues.

Legal Counsel Meetings

The Board of Commissioners meets with County Legal Counsel on Thursdays at 9:00 A.M. I do not include summaries of these meetings in this report, but the minutes are included in “The Monthly Meeting Summary.” Most, if not all of the issues discussed in these meetings are covered in the other summaries above. Should the Board take action on any issue during one of these meetings, I will note that action in this section.

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Insights and Commentary

In as much as I’ve already burdened all of you with my introductory commentary for this posting, next month that initial commentary will be shorter and I will confine my comments to this area in the future. Also, please note that this first posting is very long. I will try to keep future posting shorter. Thank you all for taking the time to read this report.

Jim Raffenburg

© 2007 Jim Raffenburg - All Rights Reserved

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Commissioner Jim Raffenburg is serving in his first term as Josephine County Commissioner (Oregon). He was elected in November, 2004. He is married and lives with his wife in the North Valley area. Jim served eight years as either Chair or Vice-Chair of the Josephine County Rural Planning Commission and served two years as a Josephine County reserve Deputy Sheriff. He is a trained, Court mediator. Previous work experience is in both the private and public sectors. He has worked in heavy, commercial construction and construction management most of his life, including serving as Construction Administrator for NASA.

E-Mail: jraffenburg@co.josephine.or.us

Web site:
www.co.josephine.or.us, then click on the County Commissioners, then Jim Raffenburg


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I hope this report will be viewed by the public as a positive step forward and as a representative example of the openness in which government should regularly operate and communicate with those they serve.