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Counties may join together to meet minimum requirements
by Samantha White
During the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held May 15), the court discussed Early Learning Council (ELC) Hubs.
According to an ELC report to the legislature, presented by the Oregon ELC and Early Learning System Director Jada Rupley, Hubs are a “self-organized consortium (with a lead coordinating agent) or organization representing a defined community and state-approved geographic area.”
Focusing on children aged 0-6, Hubs coordinate and align early learning services in order to ensure that children and their families, especially those at highest risk, meet the developmental milestones necessary to prepare children for entry into kindergarten.
Kathy Rementeria, who attended the meeting as a member of the public, explained that “kindergarten readiness encompasses health and well-being, not just education.”
Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said Harney County has already provided an “all-encompassing delivering of services,” explaining that doctors, dentists and other professionals have historically been involved in preparing the county’s children for kindergarten.
Nichols said Harney County “stepped up” when it learned about proposed changes to kindergarten readiness, and the county has been developing an application to become a Hub for the last year.
“We did not sit back and wait,” Nichols said.
He added that Harney and Grant counties have been discussing the possibility of entering into a Hub together.
“I think that will be an absolute,” Nichols said regarding the joining of the counties.
However, due to a requirement that a minimum of 4,000 children be served in a Hub classification, Harney and Grant counties may need another county to join their Hub.
Nichols said Lake County has been attending local Hub meetings, but it is “yet to be seen if Lake will be included.”
Nichols added that Klamath County also “made mention” of joining Harney County’s Hub. But Nichols said he thinks the distance between Harney and Klamath counties would be too far, adding that “if Lake doesn’t come on board, there will be a huge gap in distance.”
Nichols said providing services in a larger district would not be economical, explaining that, because of the distances between Eastern Oregon counties, there would be a lot of administrative and other costs. Because of denser populations in Western Oregon, it is possible that many smaller Hubs could be formed on the western side of the state.
Rementeria asked whether the legislature would make an exception to the 4,000 children minimum for Eastern Oregon counties.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said, “We need to start asking this question,” adding that he plans to testify on this matter.
Grasty said, despite the fact that he “continues to struggle with what the county is doing getting involved in education,” he thinks “the county has to take the lead on this.”
“I think we need to make this work for [Harney] county,” Grasty said, adding that he would like to keep the Hub “small enough to figure out how it works.”
The court expressed frustration with the process, agreeing that more direction is needed from the state.
“No blanks have been filled. That is the frustration,” Nichols said regarding the Hub proposal. “It’s been in a state of limbo for the past year.”
Nichols added that Harney County has not yet held a public meeting regarding the proposal because it has been “waiting for more direction,” but he said input from the schools, medical community and the public at large is needed.
The ELC will begin accepting Hub applications after July 1.
The court agreed to adopt Resolution 2013-10 in the matter of separating the federally-funded Drug Free Community (DFC) grant from the Harney County Commission on Children and Families (CCF) fund, as the CCF program ends June 30, and the DFC program is expected to continue for another five years. The fund will be established and maintained as a reserve to provide the services described in the DFC grant application.
Given that the CCF program ends June 30 and that the county has yet to apply to form an ELC Hub, the court agreed to adopt Resolution 2013-11 in the matter of establishing an interim fund to account for the funding and operation of a Harney County-based ELC Hub that is yet to be named.
The court discussed how about $50,000 of Basic Capacity / Community Mobilization Expenditure funds should be used.
According to a reference document prepared by the Oregon CCF, community mobilization is defined in legislation as “government and private efforts to increase community awareness and facilitate the active participation of citizens and organizations in projects and issues that will have a positive impact on the well-being of children, families and communities.”
Grasty explained that the money available for 2012-2013 must be spent or it will go back to the state.
The court decided that its first priorities will be to fund the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps and the Kids Club of Harney County for 12 months, leaving about $15,000 for other programs.
If available, $500 will be given to the Positive Youth Program, and $500 of matching funds will be given to both the skatepark in Hines and performing arts and education.
In other business, the court:
• met with District Attorney Tim Colahan to discuss the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council. Colahan said the council does “really influential work,” as it makes recommendations to the court regarding the use of resources to serve adult and juvenile offenders. Grasty said he will advertise to fill two vacancies on the council;
• adopted Resolution 2013-12 in the matter of extending workers’ compensation coverage to county volunteers;
• resumed its discussion regarding drought declaration;
• was addressed by Herb Vloedman during the public comment period regarding efforts to recognize veterans;
• was addressed by Barbara Cannady during the public comment period regarding the 173rd Fighter Wing Airspace Initiative. Grasty invited Cannady to “stop by” after the meeting to discuss this airspace expansion proposal;
• is continuing its efforts to prevent the installation of vault toilets at the Brothers Oasis rest area;
• briefly discussed the May 1 County Court road tour;
• discussed the Blue Mountains Forest Plan. Grasty encouraged local community groups, especially stakeholders, to provide input regarding this matter;
• decided to “move forward” with hiring a building official. Grasty said this will save the county in inspection services costs;
• discussed the State Fiscal Year 2014 Women, Infants and Children grant;
• learned from Grasty that he plans to support the proposed action to drill and case a new water well (Adrian Well) within Adrian Seeding in Tule Springs Pasture of Tule Springs Allotment. The well would provide water to a 33,000-gallon storage tank through a new 50-foot pipeline that would connect to the existing pipeline system;
• received a customer service survey for calendar year 2012 from the Oregon Department of Forestry. Grasty said he would like to rank the department as “excellent all the way through.”
“Angie Johnson [Unit Forester Central Oregon District] is the reason,” Grasty said. “She’s done a great job. She has just been wonderful.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, June 5, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.