by Steve Howe
During the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held June 18), discussion centered on proposed new regional boundaries for Local Workforce Investment Boards (LWIB) within The Oregon Consortium/Oregon Workforce Alliance (TOCOWA).
TOCOWA is a public/private partnership formed on behalf of 24 rural Oregon counties. The Oregon Consortium was originally formed in 1981. The Oregon Workforce Alliance is comprised of 48 members and was formed in 1999. The 24 counties are divided into regions, each having an LWIB.
Harney County belongs to TOCOWA. At a local level, this has resulted in the Training and Employment Consortium (TEC). TEC is a nonprofit managed in cooperation among six counties.
The proposed new “Eastern Region” LWIB includes eight counties: Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa. This is because, in order to get Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds, a Local Workforce Investment Area must have a budget of at least $1 million.
Grasty said he is concerned because the county was not given the opportunity to provide input on the new boundaries, and also because of the large area that the LWIB would cover.
He asked, “What economic tie is there between Pendleton and Burns?”
Counties must file a request to be in a new Local Workforce Investment Area, signed by a Chief Local Elected Official (CLEO), which Grasty determines to mean the county commissioners.
“I think we’re going to have to do this, but I think we [should] continue at every opportunity to say that we do not want to mess up anything we have here,” said Grasty.
Grasty stated that he looked into the possibility of forming a group with Lake and Grant counties, but that it would take two years to put together.
“I honestly think we’re stuck. We’re going to have to do this or we’re not going to have the services, and I think that’s totally unfair to our community,” stated Grasty.
The court decided to postpone any decision until it has the chance to ask questions of Agness Balassa, the workforce policy advisor to the governor’s office. Balassa is scheduled to be at the next county court meeting on July 2.
In unfinished business, discussion continued concerning the possibility of a surplus county land auction. Grasty recommended that commissioners take more time to look at the 13 parcels in the review process, unless they felt prepared to make a decision immediately. The commissioners asked Grasty about the expense of holding a land sale. Grasty explained that they have an efficient process in place and that the main cost would be advertising. Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols stated that he didn’t see any reason to wait on putting these properties up for public auction, and made a motion to approve the sale. Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously. The auction will be set for July.
The court discussed a film project that is in the works to document the people and culture of the county.
Grasty, Kate Marsh, and Randy Fulton recently attended a nonprofit conference and presented the concept to various organizations. The idea was received enthusiastically.
The court discussed the appointment of a Film Project Advisory Committee. A list of names was discussed and agreed to by consensus.
At 1:30 p.m., the budget hearing was opened for the 2014-15 budget, as approved by the budget committee. Grasty explained a few of the changes, specifically with regard to the senior and community transportation fund. Grant funds will be received for a new bus. Resolution 2014-05, appropriating these funds, carried unanimously. The hearing remained opened for public comment until 2:17 p.m.; no comments were received.
Runnels abstained from voting, declaring an actual conflict of interest for the record with regard to the district attorney’s department, the sheriff’s department, and the promotion portion of the general fund. Grasty moved to approve Resolution 2014-03, adopting the 2014-15 budget and making appropriations in the amount of $16,239,272. He noted that, in previous years, the motion included total dollars for the budget, but that this one only contained appropriations. The motion carried unanimously.
The court heard from Mia Sheppard, Oregon field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. She traveled to Harney County to brief Grasty on the resource management plan process with the Bureau of Land Management with regard to managing public lands for multiple uses.
Sara Jones, executive director for the High Desert Partnership (HDP), updated the court on the work of the Harney County Restoration Collaborative. The court approved signing the letter in support of HDP’s grant request to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. Jones thanked the court for its support on forest restoration projects.
The court heard from Barbara Cannady. She requested that a draft copy of the road inventory map be placed in various locations around the county. Grasty noted that it was a good suggestion, but could not promise that it would happen. He stated that the draft copy is posted in the courthouse foyer and that a public hearing has been set for July 16 at 1:30 p.m.
Cannady requested that the court block out her property from the county road map until after litigation over her driveway concludes. Grasty said that, although it wasn’t an unreasonable request, it should be brought up at the public hearing on July 16.
In other business, the court:
• signed the Intergovernmental Agreement between Harney and Grant counties for licensing, inspection, and enforcement of public facilities regulated by the Department of Human Services.
The agreement had been passed during the last meeting;
• reviewed, passed, and signed a court order for distribution of land sale money;
• passed Resolution 2014-04 in the matter of imposing and categorizing 2014-2015 taxes in the county at the rate of 4.5016 per $1,000.
Grasty explained that the budget committee had passed it as well;
• passed Resolutions 2014-06 and 2014-07, appropriating funds due to unexpected occurrence or condition in the Early Learning Council Hub fund and the building fund, respectively;
• reviewed correspondence from the Department of Revenue, Stacey Johnson, Harney County Jail Commander, Department of Environmental Quality, CenturyLink, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the Bureau of Wildlife Management.
The Harney County Jail Commander requested someone to perform the annual jail inspection. Commissioner Runnels agreed to complete the inspection and report at the next court meeting;
• reviewed notices of water use requests. There were no objections to any;
• heard from Grasty that discussions with the insurance company continue regarding the bridge that was recently damaged by fire;
• approved Hammond Ranches application for approval to install a culvert and/or approach on Island Ranch Road;
• heard from Grasty that DCR Hay’s application for an approach to a county road has been dismissed because of a lack of authority to go through land not owned by them.
The court has requested an application from the landowner.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, July 2, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.