Thanks for visiting my blog! I have changed the look for 2012, please check out my new links and calendar. Click here to email me any comments, ideas for a post or links you like.
October 15, 2012 Bittersweet Announcement
It has been my privilege and honor to serve as the District 2 Commissioner for the last 6 years. I love counties and have a deep respect for the public servants that work daily for the benefit of the citizens of our state. I am excited for a new opportunity in my life and have accepted a position with the Washington State Association of Counties where I will be working with all the counties of our state.
I have enjoyed working with, and learned from so many of you professionally and personally as we have partnered together to accomplish many things for our area, whether it was with the city, towns, the Tribe, the chamber or the school, I have appreciated your support and teamwork.
My family and I are looking forward to new possibilities and opportunities and will always treasure our experiences here in Newport.
I will be working with the County through October and hope to thank many of you personally. If you are interested in filling the vacant District 2 commissioner seat, please contact Norris Boyd, Chair of the Pend Oreille County Republican Party at 509-447-0694 or NDBoyd@usafa-grads.com
Sincerely, Laura Merrill
October 9, 2012 Fall is in the air
I love the cool (sometimes cold) mornings followed by beautiful sun shiny days! The autumn colors, the blowing leaves, and all things fall. Enjoy the sun as the days are getting shorter and winter approaches.
September 24, 2012 Forward Edge newsletter
We recently received the end of summer newsletter from Forward Edge, a missions organization helping those affected by poverty disease and disasters. Click here to read a short article about my family's trip to Nicaragua. Please visit http://www.forwardedge.org to learn more about this great Washington based organization.
September 18, 2012 Concert at the Cutter
The world renowned George Winston will be with us for a solo piano concert benefitting the Cutter Theatre on September 30. This Sunday 7pm performance is an opportunity to see and hear a true legend, and a master of his craft. For decades Winston's original music has touched millions. Said one local man (that you all know) of Winston's music, "Plain and simple? It's beauty, and you forget everything else, every worry or to-do list when listening". Here's an example that has meant a great deal to me personally for many years. Call the Cutter Theater at 509-446-4108
A YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNHs25qtAqI
Please listen, then come; be part of George Winston's historical visit to the 100 year old building that houses the Cutter. Tickets are $16. until September 24 and just $2.00 more beyond that date.
September 10, 2012 Newport Biayakathon
Pend Oreille County Prevention hosted the first Biayakathon on September 8th. There were 25 participants who kayaked on the Pend Oreille River from Rotary Park, around Kelly Island, then bicycled to Pioneer Park and back to Rotary Park. The event highlights prescription drug safety, giving participants lock boxes for their medicines at home, to prevent children from getting into them. There were many volunteers including Fire District 6, with Nito Wilson on hand for any emergencies. The Pend Oreille County marine deputies patrolled the river and the Newport High School Cross Country team had most if not all of their team on hand to help out with the race, including foreign exchange students from Germany, Thailand, Pakistan and Tunisia. The Moreland's provided fun music and "Girl Power" had refreshments. It was a spectacularly beautiful day and we can't wait till next year!
September 4, 2012 Fall is approaching
School has started, a sure sign fall is near! I thoroughly enjoy the warm sunny days, but I love fall and look forward to the changing weather. Hope you all had a safe and relaxing Labor Day weekend and enjoy the school activities ramping up, especially footbal and soccer :) Click here for an interesting article about beavers
August 27, 2012 News of interest
There were two stories last week that I thought you might find interesting; the first is about beaver relocation for areas that are wanting water storage, being implemented because of legislation Representative Joel Kretz presented in Olympia, click here to read the article. Another piece of news is a press release from the Department of Commerce about "FirstNet" which is a broadband network specifically for public safety. The steering committee I sit on with the National Association of Counties (NACo) worked on lobbying Congress for spectrum, or what we called "D Block" for interoperablility within public safety and first responders. Click here to read the news release.
August 20, 2012 Newport Poker Paddle a success!
What a weekend, if you needed something to do, you didn't need to look far. Not only was the County Fair in Cusick all weekend, there were lawnmower races in Oldtown and the Newport Poker Paddle with the Pirates Plunder sale Friday and Saturday and the Street Party Friday night. Saturday, the paddle started in Oldtown and went to Usk with a shorter course for kids. There were over 100 participants and it was a great day to be on the water. Thanks to the many volunteers that made it a success and the Sheriff's marine patrol for their assistance.
August 13, 2012 Congresswoman visits Newport
Congress is in recess and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be visiting Newport on Wednesday August 15 at T J Kelly park downtown from 9:30 am to 10:30 am.
August 6, 2012 Board activity updates
July was a busy meeting month and I have prepared updates on some of the topics addressed and discussed. For the NACo annual conference report, click here. For other Board activity, click here. Thank you for allowing me to serve and represent you on these regional and federal boards. Have a great rest of the summer-school is rapidly approaching (you can tell by the "back to school" sale ads!)
July 30, 2012 The Library needs your help!
The Pend Oreille County Library District serves the whole county with 4 libraries, in Newport, Cusick, Ione and Metaline Falls. They are a full service library that serves a vital function for all the citizens of our county! The library board is comprised of 5 citizens who run the business of the library and keep it functioning so well. There are two vacancies that need to be filled so the board can operate as structured and we have not been able to find individuals willing to serve this important service. Please consider serving on the library board. Talk to your friends and neighbors and ask around for someone who would be willing to keep our librarys going! If you or someone you know is interested, please contact Liz Braun at the commissioners office at 509-447-4119 or email at email@example.com
July 23, 2012 Do you know how many counties there are?
There are over 3000 counties (sometimes called a parish or a borough) in the United States. To the right is a map of the county lines across the states and as you can see, the further east you go, the smaller they get geographically. Here in the west we have larger counties and therefore fewer local governmental entities. One reason is the large amount of public land in the west, and if you were to overlay a map of federal lands, they would look very similar. Wikipedia has some interesting information about counties, can you guess where the largest county is?
July 17, 2012 Greetings from the NACo Annual Conference
I represent Washington State on the board of directors of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the annual conference is in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. NACo provides many services to counties across the nation and for us specifically, lobbying for PILT and Secure Rural Schools funding (see previous post for details). They also provide purchasing contracts, webinars, training and steering committees for specific county issues.
Washington is heavily involved in both "Public Lands" and "Agriculture and Rural Affairs". With that representation covered, I sit on the "Telecommunications and Technology" steering committee. There are many changes coming and I will keep you posted through my blog and give a detailed update when I return. Visit www.naco.org to learn about NACo or find them on Facebook with updates on events and speakers from the annual conference such as Justice Sandra Day O'Conner and Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
July 10, 2012 Welcome Summer!
My last "Guess Where" picture was bowling because it had been so cold and rainy and my teenagers needed something to do indoors. Now summer has arrived with a vengance and you might need something to do indoors for the exact opposite reason-too hot! So whether you like it cold or hot, I hope you are enjoying summer. There is plenty to do in our area, hopefully you enjoyed the Lavendar Festival this last weekend, its always so beautiful. This next weekend one option is the street party "Dance under the Stars" on the 14th and next weekend is the Bull-A-Rama!
July 2, 2012 Healthy Newport
Dont forget to check out the Healthy Newport website for ongoing programs and updates! Get involved, get healthy. Also, click here to see a flyer on a pain management program at the Newport Community Hospital in partnership with Pend Oreille County counseling.
June 25, 2012 Great Rodeo and Old Time Carnival
What a great weekend! Even with the wicked weather at times, there was fun had by all. Thank you Rodeo Association and the Newport Area Chamber for a great community event! I heard "Church in the Park" was a wonderful community event even though they had to move inside due to the weather. Just have to love Rodeo weekend as one of the many reasons to live here in Pend Oreille County.
June 12, 2012 Congratulations Graduates! Need something to do?
I had a senior graduate this year and am so proud of her and her classmates for all they have accomplished! Best wishes to all the county graduates. If your not headed out of town too early, be sure to check out the Rodeo, and Rodeo parade June 22 and 23. And Plan for a fun day on the river with the Pirates of the Pend Oreille Poker Paddle August 18, with a street party in Newport friday night the 17th. Check out the Chamber website here for details
June 4, 2012 Certified Public Official
I am honored to have been awarded my certified public official certificate from the County Training Institute. Visit the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) website here to see a picture (scroll down the news items).
May 29, 2012 Memorial Day and birthdays
I hope you all had a safe enjoyable Memorial Day Holiday. Thank you to all our military serving our country and their families for all their sacrifices! My husbands birthday was Tuesday and we had a great big celebration, giving thanks for all our friends and family.
May 21, 2012 OPM (other people's money)
The phrase OPM (referring to "other people's money") was recently used by Public Works Director Sam Castro and I really stopped to think about it. You will see a couple of projects going on at the Courthouse for ADA accessibility and to improve voter involvement with elections, both funded by grants-or OPM. The County is always aware that everything we do, the services we provide and the infrastructure we maintain is funded by OPM. Whether it is your tax dollars, grants or other funding we leverage to get something done, we are committed to being good stewards of OPM. Stop by and see the improvements going on at the Courthouse.
May 14, 2012 Ahhhh, sun in May! May is...
Mental Health Awareness month! It also is when we celebrate Mothers Day, May Day, Labor Day, Cinco de Mayo, and it is also Foster Care month and National Bike month. I am leaving the photo of the week up for another week as it shows our Counseling group and their "May is Mental Health Awareness Month" tee-shirts. So much is going on this month, check out the Newport Area Chamber website for information on just about everything!
May 7, 20120 Generational Art Show at Create
This week at Create, a Generational Art Show will be on display starting Wednesday May 16th. The show runs from Wednesday through Saturday each evening. A family can display art from great great grandma on down to their preschooler! The fee to display is $15 a family, art can either be just for display, or items can be for sale. Click here to visit the Create website for details, or call Robert Karr at 509-671-1539
April 30, 2012 Pacific NW Trails meeting
There will be a meeting on Friday May 11th from 4pm to 6pm at the Sullivan Lake Forest Service office at 12641 Sullivan Lake Road, Metaline Falls. The Pacific NW Trails is hosting a community meeting to talk about how we can work together to benefit the trail, visitors, and local communities in Pend Oreille County. Click here for more information.
April 23, 2012 Health Fair and "drug take back" program
Ever wonder what happens to the drugs that get thrown away? They head to the landfill and leach into our water systems. Don't know what to do with unused or expired drugs? This Saturday, Healthy Newport is hosting a community health fair at the Newport Hospital and unused and expired drugs can be dropped off to be disposed of properly (prescription and over the counter). This drug take back program is a partnership between Pend Oreille County and the Newport Hospital. for information on the "take back your meds" program click here. To learn about the health fair this Saturday, click here
April 17, 2012 Stronger Economies Together (SET)
Tomorrow is the second SET meeting. The tri-county area received a grant to have this training provided and lay the groundwork for an update to the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS). Click here to see the original SET invitation and here to see the summary of the first meeting in March. Tomorrow's meeting will be held in Chewelah from 10 am to 3pm with coffee at 9am at the St Mary of the Rosary Church at 502 E. Main.
April 9, 2012 Spring is in the air
Hope you all had a good spring break and a Happy Easter. The weather was wonderful and gave me a longing for warmer days, flowers, birds and beaches! Here are a few spring activities you may want to check out: Floral Expressions is adding consignment items and will be hosting a lunch on April 20th and 21st. Who Let The Girls Out (WLTGO) is happening May 19 in Newport. The Hospital District hosts a golf tournament on June 15th and the Kalispel Tribe hosts one on June 29th. Bear Naked Kayak Adventures will be opening soon depending on the weather. Create is hosting several Art shows and classes, and don't forget the Lions Train Rides. Each of these groups has information on their websites, the Greater Newport Chamber website, or the PORTA website. Links can be found under our community services/visitors tab. Happy Spring!
April 2, 2012 Do you have a college student?
Wow, I am not sure I am ready for this :) My senior is looking at colleges and this last weekend we toured Central Washington University in Ellensburg. We really liked it and she is getting excited for this next phase in life. One problem, we are feeling behind in getting-or even looking into scholarships, what college costs, how to pay for it! All that on top of just surviving senior year in High School. Any advise from those of you who have "been there-done that" would be welcome, thanks.
March 28, 2012 What a success!
I know I blogged about it last week, but it is worth talking about! the Chamber Gala was a great success. Everyone had a great time, celebrating the community winners and enjoying a wonderful evening out in Newport. Thanks Chamber.
March 19, 2012 Newport Chamber Gala
This Saturday the Newport Area Chamber will host the 1st annual Gala event at the Pend Oreille Players theater. Starting at 6pm, there will be a wonderful served dinner, fun and prizes, dancing and an auction. The awards for the year such as "Citizen of the Year", "Business of the Year", "Best Customer Service" and several others will be awarded Saturday. The theme this year is the "Clue Game". You can win prizes for the best character costume, and play the game to win a prize for the correct "solution". Check out the Chamber's website here to find information on how to get tickets. Hope to see you there!
March 14, 2012 Update: Legislative conference in DC
I attended the National Association of Counties (NACo) legislative conference in Washington DC last week and have written a report for the State Association of Counties who elected me to respresent them, and for you, the citizens I represent. Click here to see the summary written for a newsletter article, and here to read the full report.
March 13, 2012 March "In like a lion, out like a lamb"
Could it be? The spring weather mix of rain, snow, ice, wind and sun makes it hard to be outside. The track teams at school practice inside, but thats a little harder with golf :). Spring soccer is always cold, why couldn't my kids pick basketball? This week I added a picture of the (spoiler alert!)White House from my recent trip to DC. I am working on an update that I will post when completed. The spring weather there was very nice, but while at the Arlington National Cemetery we got snow. Be safe, Happy Spring!
February 27, 2012 What services are important to you?
The State House budget came out last week and they cut $80 million dollars of shared revenues (like criminal justice and public health) to the 39 counties. We are all grappling with what those draconian cuts will look like for Pend Oreille County. Click here to read an article about the cuts to public health in Clark County. A letter was written by Eric Johnson, the Executive Director of the Washington State Association of Counties to the legislature about the seriousness of these cuts, read the letter here. We are starting discussions on how differently we will function and would like your comments on what services are important to you. This will help us determine how and what to fund. Please email me your thoughts and comments.
February 21, 2012 Public Records Requests
The County is "open for business". We hope for public participation and are thankful when citizens get involved. If you need a document all you need is to ask. We have a dedicated Public Records Officer, Auditor Marianne Nichols. We provide records as quickly as we can, with the staffing we have. Our goal is to have as many records available on line as possible. If you have ideas of what we should put on the website, please let us know and we will take care of it. For some in the county, dialup is a reality and we know that can make things more difficult. Did you know that all of the County Libraries have PUD fiber making it easier to access the web. Thank you for participating in your local government.
February 13, 2012 Stay Healthy this season
It's cold and flu season, at least it is at my house. It's hard to remember to wash your hands and take your vitamins unless its a habit. We work on making it a habit at home, even then, those cold bugs have a way of traveling. Another great way to avoid colds is overall good health. Please visit Healthy Newport and find out how you can focus on your health, your family's health and our community health.
February 6, 2012 State Legislative Session
Last week I was in Olympia speaking to Senators and Representatives about legislation that would help our county. The county association doesn't support bills for their own benefit, they work for counties, all counties and lobby on our behalf. Their staff sort thru the thousands of bills that get introduced and help us focus on the ones we want to support or oppose. For the last two years, the county association has been working with the city association to come up with options for the State when they are looking at cutting revenue they send to cities and counties. This "shared revenue" is for services provided to the citizens on the behalf of the state such as criminal justice. Our goal is to loosen or do away with regulations, extend growth management deadlines or offer local options for different ways to use revenue. There are 39 counties and we are all very different, what works for Spokane won't necessarily work for us, so underlying in all these requests is "local control" so that we can determine for ourselves what will work in Pend Oreille County. This is a short session that will end before the middle of March and there hasn't been a budget proposal put out by the House or the Senate, making it difficult for us to lobby the impacts to the local communities. Our Representatives have updates they send out, email them to sign up.
January 30, 2012 Winter doldrums?
Don't let the grey get you down! There is plenty going on, get involved and you will find out that that your help is needed. Get involved in the Chamber, the Historical Society, Sorporomist, how about helping out with "Healthy Newport"? There are activities for any interest, how about Create, Pend Oreille Players or Northwoods? We live in a great community that is active, creative and giving, volunteer somewhere and you will see!
January 24, 2012 Social Media
Do you facebook? If you could get an email from the County with a news update, would you sign up? If you could get an email instead of a tax statement in the mail, would you want to? The county knows there are many of you who use technology everyday to get information and do business. The county is always looking for ways to get information out and help citizens get involved. We have formed a group that is looking at social media and how that might work in the public sector and how we meet all security and documentation requirements. Stay tuned to find out ways to "connect with the county"
January 17, 2012 We knew it was coming
We live in Pend Oreille County, we knew winter was coming, didn't we? It is January. Some of us may have wished winter would give us a pass this year, but I am sure the skiers and snowmobilers are pretty happy to see that white stuff! I hope this helps the winter tourism businesses, and wish you all safety in your travels.
January 10, 2012 Land Use decisions
The County is updating our Shoreline Management Plan and are taking public comments thru March 16, 2012. There is a citizens group formed locally addressing some concerns. They are holding a public informational meeting on January 14, 2012 from 9-5 at the Newport Hospitality house on Washington St.
January 6, 2012 Resolution: a media diet
Here is a new years resolution for you, how about a media diet? I dont have television at home but still get plenty of media online. I visit with some folks who get pretty wrapped up in the national news, good bad or ugly and it takes a toll on your attitude and stress level. How much of it do you really believe? Really need? Has it improved your day? I think we would all be a little better off if we went on a media diet, and when you chose to listen or read the news media, remember the old saying "dont' believe everything you read" and "take it with a grain of salt".
January 3, 2012 Happy New Year
2011 is over and done, and we have welcomed 2012, some with open arms, others less enthusiastically. I wish for you all a blessed New Year and look forward to the adventure that the new year holds.
December 20, 2012 Merry Christmas to all!
There are many thoughts I mull over at the end of the year, both looking back and looking forward. Instead of getting sappy or wordy, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
December 13, 2011 Newport Chamber happenings
The Newport Area Chamber is hosting a bowling tournament on January 21, 2012. This fun competition between businesses is for teams of 5, with at least 2 women. Then entry fee is $125.00, please contact the Chamber for more information at 447-5812.
Also, Dont forget the annual Chamber awards! These will be awarded at the First Annual Gala on March 24, 2012. Please plan to attend this very special event. Click here to see the nomination form, please vote and make known your selection for these special awards.
December 5, 2011 Can you balance the state budget?
The county is getting ready to approve the budget for 2012. Our revenues from sales tax, timber tax, state and federal funding are all down and we have reduced the general fund by over $650,000.00 from 2011. We have been downsizing for several years now and since 2008 we are down over 35 full time equivalent employees. We are making do with what we have and will continue to provide the best service we can. Your County is staffed by dedicated public servants who care about our community and work hard to get the job done.
The state is facing a 1.7 billion dollar shortfall and the actions of the legislators will affect us all. Here is a link to an exercise in balancing the state budget, good luck
November 29, 2011 A simple Christmas
I was rather surprised to read that this was one of the best shopping seasons in quite a while, stocks are up because of retail bounty. Yet the media is covering the "occupy" movment that has chosen "we are the 99 %" as a slogan. Actually if you live in America, no matter what your situation, we are the top 1% in the whole world and this years shopping season seems to bear that out. I know many in our community really are struggling and I count it a blessing to live in a community that is caring and giving and taking care of our own. I am focusing on a simple Christmas, enjoying the beauty of where we live, the company of my family and friends and the little things like food, warmth and shelter. I wish you all such simple blessings.
November 21, 2011 Happy Thanksgiving
I wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving. This is a tough time for many people yet I know and am thankful for the caring, sharing community we live in. So many of you give of your time, effort and hard earned dollars to help out others in need. Thank you and God Bless.
November 14, 2011 Lady Grizzlies and Unions
What a title! No relation to each other at all, I just wanted to comment on both this week. Go Grizzlies! The Newport girls soccer team won districts, regionals and semi finals and are on their way to State, top 4 competition this Friday and Saturday in Shoreline Wa. Best of luck ladies!
In regards to the editorial in the Miner dated 11/9 about union negotiations being closed sessions. It almost makes it sound like that is by request or desire of the county or public entity. It is not, this is a law in the state that Unions have lobbied the legislature for and it would take a change in law to make the negotiations public. In my blog from last week, you can read that we are asking for changes to union negotiation regulations from the state.
November 7, 2011 The State Budget
Much has been said about the state budget and proposed reductions by the Governor since they were made public last week. I have seen news stories, written articles and even personal stories of how these cuts would affect individuals. They would be very difficult for Pend Oreille County if they are all enacted by the legislature. The Governor proposed cuts of almost $4billion dollars, yet starred cuts she wants to see seriously looked at by the legislature totaling around $2billion dollars. The cuts hit everything from schools to natural resource agencies to counties and cities. A group of Washington Mayors has written a letter to the Governor against some of the cuts yet the County's association (WSAC) is looking at taking a different path. Starred reductions by the Governor to counties are around $30million dollars in total and she has asked if not this, than what? The association feels there may be opportunity to accomplish changes we have been after for years, such as changes in regulations of the Growth Management Act, or the Shoreline Management Act. Changes in union negotiations and bargaining rights, changes to "joint and several liability" that puts counties in greater risk and liability situations. Changes to taxing authorities or "non-supplant" language that the state puts in most funding (that doesn't allow us to fund continuing programs but requires money to be used only for new programs). The legislature starts a special session right after Thanksgiving and each house comes up with their budget proposal and then works to combine the three (each house budget with the Governor's). We are all anxiously awaiting the outcome.
October 31, 2011 Attitude is everything
I recently read a different community's newspaper that had positive articles about community leaders and you could feel a real sense of pride in their community. There is plenty of negative media out there and it creates a sense of dissatisfaction, disrespect and a poor sense of community. Attitude is catching, what kind of attitude have you "caught"? Have you thanked someone around you recently? Do you have a sense of community pride? You can counteract the negative attitudes you encounter with a positive one and maybe someone will "catch" it. Think about how something makes you feel, did that article make you feel good, or sad or mad? How did you feel after an encounter with someone helping you? or helping someone else? It only takes a moment to spread a positive attitude. An average day has about 20,000 moments, take just one to spread a little good. Maya Angelou said "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
October 18, 2011 Equipment Replacement and Repair
We call it ER&R. This department and fund are set up per state regulations to provide proper maintenance and replacement of vehicles and heavy equipment. Replacement schedules and maintenance fees are set and handled by the ER&R department and the mechanics in our Road Shops. Recently our Fleet manager and Fleet accountant attended an ER&R conference for our state and found that Pend Oreille County is ahead of the curve in process and proactive management. We have streamlined our purchasing, extended the life of our equipment and saved taxpayer dollars with good stewardship of our fleet. Thank you to all our staff for their diligence and care of county, and therefore public property.
October 11, 2011 Food Drive
Pend Oreille County is hosting a food drive for the month of October in all our county buildings. There are food banks in Newport, Cusick and Ione. In Newport the food bank is run by Pend Oreille Crime Victim Services and for $5,400.00 a year they pay rent and utilities in town and purchase some food, most of the food is provided by donation. Currently Newport provides food for almost 700 people on a monthly average. Thank you to Chris Mylar for organizing the food drive and gathering these statistics. Thank you also to the employees of Pend Oreille county, generously giving to those in need. Please consider a donation to your local food bank.
October 4, 2011 Snow Plowing
The Pend Oreille County Road Crew, as stated in a guest opinion in the Newport Miner is "known throughout the state and north Idaho for the superior road services that it delivered". I believe that is true and when you compare any other road department for its number of staff, equipment and budget, Pend Oreille County is tops. We are all facing economic difficulties like we have not seen for decades. The realities require a shift in thinking and the way things are done. For many reasons revenues in government, school districts, hospitals and other service providers are down and have changed in a way that may never return to what they once were. Even the lack of management on Federal lands affects the revenues of the Road fund with declining timber taxes and gas tax amounts. We have had to look hard at the way things have always been done and get creative on ways to recover and provide needed services. This means things like weeds along the right of way may not get mowed or sprayed, I have heard of neighbors getting out with their weed eaters to "clean up" their intersections. But the Pend Oreille County Road crew will plow snow, will keep the routes to schools safe and always has and will continue to work with law enforcement and emergency services to ensure our citizens, our community is provided for. By looking outside the box for these services, by making some tough decisions earlier this year, the road department is in better shape to handle the upcoming winter. Meetings have been held with the School bus providers and we are stocked up on salt and sand. We have called back two individuals laid off earlier this year and plan to bring back others to handle our snow plowing needs. Thank you to all the individuals who take care of our roads in Pend Oreille County.
September 26, 2011 Homeless funding
Pend Oreille County has designated funds for homeless and low income needs that fit the criteria of certain state laws (RCW's). These funds come from recording fees the state has set. Our funds have been distributed to the Pend Oreille Crime Victim Services of approximately $15,000.00 a year and $50,000.00 a year to the YES program (youth emergency services). We also distribute funds to the school districts to assist homeless students, for 2011 that has equalled almost $12,000.00. Many local programs are funded through Rural Resources, our local community action agency. Local contributions often make the difference in keeping these programs running. Just a note; if you contribute to Rural Resources, you can designate the program or location that your contribution goes towards. Thank you to all the hard working people serving our citizens.
September 23, 2011 Homecoming Week
This has been homecoming week for the Newport Grizzlies! Today at 3pm there is a parade through town with all the royalty, and tonight our home football game starts at 7pm. Come out and support the High School and students of Newport! You will have a great time.
September 12, 2011 Townhall meeting
On Wednesday September 21 at 6:30 pm at the Cusick Community Center, I will be holding a Townhall meeting to accept comments on Agriculture and Natural Resources issues. I have been invited to participate in a panel discussion with the State of Washington Legislative House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee at a workshop in Okanogan County on September 29th. The workshop will cover water resources, wildlife management, forest management, mining and agriculture policy. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 6, 2011 Shoreline update
Washington State regulates the shorelines of the State. They require us to have a Shoreline plan that complies with the states regulations. We are also required to update the plan by certain time frames and ours is many years old. And due to this long time span, the regulations have changed dramatically. We all want our shorelines protected for the long term benefit of the economy, the environment, the habitat and our enjoyment of all these related things. We also are aware and concerned about individual rights. The Community Development department and the planning commission members have been working on this update for several years, with both technical and policy groups and have conducted public meetings in 2010 and 2011.
The regulation of shoreline setbacks is in and of itself not a "taking". The interpretation and enforcement of a setback, when applied to a particular piece of property may be considered that. That is why we have a variance process so that when that situation may occur, there is a process to not create a "taking". Pend Oreille County is not interested in taking away the reasonable use of an individual's property.
Some "fixes" the Community Development department has been working on are; 1. An "In-Fill" clause that allows a vacant lot in a development to have a single residence at a similar setback as the rest of the development. And 2. Allowing a single residence a 50' setback if a determination of non-significance can be made.
September 2, 2011 Condolences for our community
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness I offer my deepest sympathy to the Baker family who lost their son JD this week. He was a friend to my children and many others. He was an engaging, highly liked and respected young man. Our whole community grieves this loss and my thoughts and prayers are with the family. Please keep JD's family and friends who are grieving today in your prayers.
August 25, 2011 End of Summer?
Wow, school is starting next week! Summer is almost over. At least we have enjoyed some heat and sunshine, I personally hope it sticks around for a bit. I hope you all enjoy the last couple weekends of summer, be safe as you rest up and gear up for school. My girls have been involved in Soccer practices morning and night and are hoping for State this year! I know the footbal team is doing the same, go Grizzlies!
August 15, 2011 The light at the end of the tunnel?
At a recent meeting with other Commissioners from across the state, there was a report circulated about the economy and the light at the end of the tunnel. A Commissioner sitting next to me said, "yeah, be careful it's probably a freight train!" Well unfortunately any light at the end of the tunnel seen here feels like a freight train. The county budgets were turned in last week and with the cuts turned in by most departments, the county is currently 1.4 million dollars short of balancing the 2011 budget. This does not include any shift of dollars from the Road department, or any possibility of eeking a few more dollars from timber sales. It does include cuts to several recently vacated positions. Since the early 2000's and the 1% cap on property tax, government revenues are down, while costs of everything from staffing, utilities, gasoline and even paper and pens are up. The county has been frugal and conservative over the last several years and staff levels are down from what they were in years past. With this steady loss of revenue we no longer have extra reserves or lands full of valuable timber with a market for it. The county elected officials and department heads have looked for ways to cut without affecting services. We will not stop responding to public safety nor will we stop plowing roads, we are not extorting the public to keep providing the basic services you expect from the county. Unfortunately it will be cuts to staff, people who work here and live here who will join the ranks of the unemployed. When many of the elected officials considered a levy lid lift to property taxes we had several reasons why; 1.To take the opportunity to get the word out of the county financial situation and answer questions from the public 2. To balance the budget without cutting services and availability to the public 3. To show good faith to our employees and vendors and subcontractors as we try to stabilize a sinking ship, and 4. To show the state that we are trying to "take care of business" locally first before asking them for more support. The state is also experiencing these difficult times and when they cut, it affects the county directly. Today is the last day to make a decision on putting the lid lift on the ballot for the public in November. With the support of many of the elected officials and department heads, I will once again motion for its approval. Just for clarification, the ballot would be for an increase of property tax of approximately $51.00 per $100,000.00 of valuation A YEAR, not a month as the Newport Miner reported. This is approximately $4.25 a month per $100,000.00.
August 8, 2011 Social Media classes
The Newport Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting the following classes:
1) Our Facebook 101 Seminar is tonight at 6pm at the Newport High School Computer lab. Learn the basics of Facebook and how to set up a profile and a business page from Communications and Marketing expert Gennie Enterline.
If you haven't already, sign up now to reserve your spot - spaces are limited and we've received a lot of interest. $15 per person
($10 for Chamber members) OR $20 for both 101 & 201 ($15 for Chamber members).
2) Our Facebook 201 Seminar is set for next Monday, August 15th at 6pm at the PUD's Box Canyon Room. There, Gennie will present an advanced class about how to use all the tools, tricks and strategies Facebook provides to harness the power of social media for your business. This class is almost full so book your spot now. $15 per person ($10 for Chamber members) AND, if you are one of 25 people to "check in" to the Chamber via Facebook mobile (the Facebook app) when you register at our office, we'll give you a FURTHER
$5 off (mobile offer expires at 4pm on August 11th).
August 8, 2011 To my fellow history buffs
I met Bob Royer while working with him in our negotiations with Seattle City Light, he works for Gallatin Public Affairs and helped us greatly with that process. Bob writes a blog about history and interesting facts of Washington. The link is www.thecascadiacourier.com I find it interesting and hope you will too. Enjoy!
August 1, 2011 Forest Service Plan
Local meeting Tuesday August 2, at 5pm at Newport High School
Comment Period Extended for Forest Plan Revision
OKANOGAN- In response to requests, the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests are extending the comment period for the Forest Plan Revision Proposed Action for an additional 30 days.
The original 60-day comment period was June 30 through August 29, 2011. With the extension, comments are now due no later than September 28, 2011.
For more information please contact Debbie Kelly, 509-826-3275 or check out the project website where information on the proposed action, comment process, project timeline and public meeting schedule can be found: http:/www.fs.usda.gov/goto/okawen/plan-revision. July 25, 2011 Public Townhall Meeting
This Tuesday the 26th, Pend Oreille County is hosting a Townhall meeting at the Newport High School at 7pm. This is an open meeting for questions and discussion. There will be several elected officials along with the board of commissioners. Hope to see you there.
July 19, 2011 Information Technology
I attended a Technology Summit at the National Association of Counties annual conference in Portland. Several Counties spoke about their technology issues and how they are making changes to provide better efficiencies for employees, make information and services more available for citizens and consolidate internal technology for more streamlined processes. From the largest counties, San Diego and Wayne Counties (Detroit) to smaller, medium sized counties, their changes and out-sourcing was not a savings in and of itself, but was to consolidate their IT staff, provide single source purchasing, go to one email platform instead of multiple email platforms, provide archiving of email, and ensure firewalls and security of data.
Pend Oreille County has already consolidated purchasing and servicing of a single network, single platform for emails, archiving and security. We have worked hard to get to this level of efficiency over the last several years, and are ahead of many counties nationwide.
We are also ahead of other counties in the area of consolidation of services and clear accountability of costs. Many Counties have several different IT departments that duplicate services and costs. We have a single IT Services Department and all costs from the network, the servers, replacement hardware, staffing, security and backups are specific and accountable; then based on state recommended accounting processes, charged to each department on a per computer basis. The service needs of the over 200 computers in the county are tracked on a "ticket" basis, again for cost allocation and accountability.
I am proud of our county when I am able to describe our technology capabilities, our regions interoperable communications with our Fire Departments and Emergency Services and our upcoming Broadband redundancy build out coming through the PUD's efforts and federal grant.
July 12, 2011 Colville National Forest Plan revision public meetings
Several years worth of work is now in a proposed plan put out by the National Forest for public comment. This plan comprises many pieces, including wilderness designations, travel management and vegitation management (timber sales). Click here to see the press release with meeting dates and times.
July 6, 2011 Happy Summer, it's finally here
Hope everyone had a safe and happy Independance Day weekend, I loved all the sunshine! This is a longer post than I normally do, yet I wanted to share the reasons behind the travel that Commissioners do.
It may seem that in these tough economic times that everyone should stay home. Yet a reality in state government is that unless you protect your interests (ours being the good of Pend Oreille County citizens) the state may consider that it is not important and make changes that could harm us. In more regulations such as growth management, more unfunded mandates that strap shrinking county resources and shift state costs to the local government, or cut funding that is sent to counties to perform state duties such as criminal justice and mental health. One example of taking the time to be involved in State Government and the Legislative session is the changes we were able to make to state law in regards to "Hydroelectric Facilities". The benefit of that was seen in our negotiations with Seattle City Light over Boundary Dam. They originally offered us 14 million over ten years, and after the changes in law, we were able to negotiate 19 million. That is a return of 5 million dollars for time spent out of the County.
The Commissioners also represent the citizens on regional boards that again affect the citizens of the county in everything from Pike in the Pend Oreille River, to Wilderness lands on the National Forest to having WSU Extension offices in our rural counties. Again, if we don't make our concerns heard, changes will be made that could drastically affect us.
National Travel is rare but equally important, whether we are lobbying for Payment in Lieu of Taxes for the over 60% of federal land owned in our County, to Federal legislative policy that truly trickles down to the states, the counties and cities, such as Health Care, Workforce investment and Infrastructure needs. We weigh the benefits of the investment of the time and money required to lobby these concerns. For the Payment in Lieu of Taxes alone, the County receives over $600,000.00 a year for the Road department, an equal amount goes to our school districts and additional funds go for Title II projects such as trails, stream restoration and we have even received money for the PUD to work on milfoil on the Pend Oreille River.