BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'

REGULAR MEETING

February 4, 2009

9:00 a.m.

Harris Hall Main Floor

APPROVED 3/4/2009

 

Commissioner Pete Sorenson presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Bill Fleenor, Rob Handy and Faye Stewart present.  County Administrator Jeff Spartz, County Counsel Liane Richardson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

 

1. ADJUSTMENTS TO THE AGENDA

 

There will be an Emergency Business item

 

2. PUBLIC COMMENTS

 

Warren Weisman, Eugene, wanted to follow up with the Board on renewal energy as it teaches people how to make methane gas for fuel.  He wanted to schedule a presentation on what people are doing around the world with bio gas.  He indicated that it is common technology in Europe.

 

Jim Gillette, Eugene, wanted a hearing.  He said he was in limbo and this was the time to act.  He commented that there are not a lot of people with cases like his.  He thought when people speak in public comment, they deserve to be answered.  He said he doesn’t know who votes for or against him.  He thought people were entitled to a quick e-mail.  He thought the Board took money from him for something when he didn’t have a hearing.  He hoped the Board would do the right thing.

 

Zachary Vishinoff, Eugene, thought the County should weigh in on eminent domain regarding the University of Oregon and bonding.  He noted that the University is going to have a meeting tomorrow at the EMU based on codes that would allow the University to develop a Walnut Node allowing the University of Oregon to grow.  He said they are going to change zoning.

 

3. COMMISSIONERS' RESPONSE TO PUBLIC COMMENTS AND/OR OTHER ISSUES AND REMONSTRANCE

 

Dwyer stated that Gillette needs to be more sensitive with the use of words.  He said Gillette shouldn’t expect to get in people’s faces using rude names and expect a positive response.

 

Fleenor asked for an Executive Summary from Zachary Vishinoff.  Fleenor commented that the country is in an economic crisis and people are being laid off and losing their houses.  He said that they cannot let fear guide them.  He thought the worse thing they could do would be fearful and respond.  He said that everyone needs to work together, be patient and understand that they are doing the best they can with what they have.

 

Sorenson reported that last night the Board met at the United Way office.  He said there was a presentation by Scott Miller about ending poverty.

 

Handy thought there was a return for education with regard to the impact on poverty and the criminal justice system.

 

Stewart indicated that a constituent called him wanting to purchase a house and needing a land use compatibility statement.  Stewart indicated the statement had been in the works for 20 days because of a backlog of applications.  He was also concerned about the recording secretary not being in the meeting.  He was told there was something in the Good Governance Board order, but he found nothing mentioned about the secretary’s removal.  He thought the Board members should have been told about it ahead of time instead of finding it out at the meeting.  He thought this decision should have been made by three commissioners in the open.  He wanted more conversation and a dialogue if they are going to be making changes.

 

4. EMERGENCY BUSINESS

 

Alex Cuyler, Intergovernmental Relations Manager, explained that HB2436 is a bill moving quickly and he thought it was important for the Board take a position.  He said this is a bill being pushed by proponents of affordable housing and it would add a $15 fee to recording fees that counties across Oregon charge.  He said it would raise about $20 million over the biennium for affordable housing purposes across the state.  He added that some of the money would go to Lane County.  He noted that usually the county clerks take a five percent fee for recording fees for their internal purposes to support their activities. He added that some of those fees support the activities of the Assessor’s office.  He indicated there is an amendment to try to get the five percent fee included in the bill.  He said the bill will be heard in Ways and Means on Friday.

 

Annette Newingham, Elections, reported that the five percent county clerk fund applies to those recording fees not related to recording a document. She indicated that the Assessor’s fee and the Corner Preservation Fund fee are unrelated to Elections and they collect the fee and five percent of both of those funds to go to the county clerk for the collection and process.  She noted that they are asking for an exemption from this fee.  She indicated that the county clerks do not take any position against the $15.  She thought the five percent should consistently apply like other fees because there is work involved.  She wanted to make sure they receive the revenues for the work performed.

 

Anette Spickard, Assessor, indicated that her comments are related to the Oregon State Association of County Assessors.  She stated that she is their President this year.  She said that Assessors are not opposed to the concept of a low income housing $15 fee to support these projects, but they are in support of the county clerks’ position that the fee itself should be subject to the same five percent charge that the rest of them pay.  She noted that there is a separate bill that has been introduced on behalf of the association.  She stated that HB2071 would adjust the A & T portion of the record fee.  She indicated that it would provide additional support to counties because the county is required to shoulder the cost of the A & T system and that is a mechanism being reviewed as a way to help offset the general fund cost from the counties.  She noted that AOC, the Assessors Association and the County Clerks Association have been working together and they support the fairness of not having different fees treated separately under these statutes.

 

Cuyler asked for a motion to support the clerk’s amendment to include the fee in the bill.  He would then memorialize that into the next board order he brings in front of the Board relative to legislative updates.

 

Dwyer commented that taxation must be relevant.  He said if a fee is going to be charged, it needs to be relative to the service they are being charged for.  He stated that he wouldn’t support the bill.

 

Fleenor concurred with Dwyer.  He thought the house bill would move through the legislature.  He supported the amendment.  He asked if five percent was realistic to cover costs.

 

Newingham responded that this five percent is currently in the statute and has gone through the legislature.  She indicated that it currently applies to all documents that are not related to recording.  She said there is a line item on the bill that exempts them from the fee.

 

Fleenor didn’t support HB2436, but he supported the amendment in the event HB2436 is approved.

 

Handy was concerned they were losing revenue when they should increase revenue.  He wanted to make adjustments that reflect the cost of services. He agreed the amendment was the way to move forward.  He asked if they could put onto their agenda an item about the real estate transfer fee.

 

Stewart shared the same concerns as the other commissioners.  He said if this truly passes, he supports the amendment so they could hold the organization harmless to collecting the tax.  He thought they would get blamed for the increase in the title fees.

 

MOTION: to remain silent on HB2436 but to support the amendment.

 

Fleenor MOVED, Dwyer SECONDED.

 

Stewart didn’t want to remain silent.  He wanted to make a motion for the amendment.  He said if they don’t get the amendment in, then they would be against the bill.

 

Fleenor changed the motion to support the bill with the amendment.

 

Dwyer changed his second.

 

VOTE: 5-0.

 

Spartz asked if the amendment is offered and fails, if they should oppose the bill.

 

Sorenson wanted Cuyler to come back and let the Board know about the situation.

 

Dwyer wanted Cuyler to state that the Board does not support the bill without the amendment.

 

5. COMMISSIONERS' BUSINESS

 

a. DISCUSSION/Evaluation of County Administrator.

 

Spartz indicated that he has been at the County for 13 months.  He commented that he is finding land use planning and intergovernmental issues amazing.  He noted that they have the ongoing budget issues even with four years of partial Secure Rural School funding.  He said there will be tough decisions for the Board to make. He said when they look at their Management Team; he thought they should begin looking at succession planning.

 

Dwyer thought they made the right choice hiring Spartz, as he has good skills.  He thought Spartz could improve on decisions that revolve around the County and employees.  He said if it is not something directly Spartz’ responsibility with policy issues, then the issues have to come to the Board.  He added the fact that three Board members in the hallway tell him something, doesn’t make it so.  He said they have to have a public discussion about policies and the development of policies.  He thought Spartz was doing a good job.

 

Fleenor said the practices Dwyer described might have occurred in the past, but he doesn’t see them currently taking place under the Good Governance Board Order.  Fleenor wanted to keep the process, open, public and transparent.  He thought they hired the right person with Spartz.  He was glad that Spartz liked the Carver Method.  He asked Spartz to be adaptable and flexible and Spartz did that.  He added that Spartz was willing to take risks and he provides good leadership.

 

Sorenson stated that Spartz understands the pressures on the Board.  He said that Spartz is prepared and is a good listener and leader.  Sorenson appreciated Spartz’ work on carbon sequestration.  He stated that Spartz has modeled hard work by putting up with the demands and being diplomatic.

 

Handy said Spartz is a right match.  He was concerned about succession planning and bringing that issue before the organization. He was also concerned about the situation with Land Management, given their cuts. 

 

Stewart enjoys working with Spartz.  He said that Spartz is supportive and helpful. Stewart appreciated Spartz’ communications to employees.  Stewart appreciated Spartz attending almost all of the brown bag lunches with departments.  Stewart’s concern was the Board putting out ambitious efforts.  He added that he is concerned about Spartz’ time and his saying no to more work.  Stewart thought Spartz was doing a great job.

 

Spartz stated that when he discusses succession planning, he is looking out five years into the future.  He thought every organization should engage in continued improvement. He was in favor of making improvements because small improvements add up to big ones.

 

b. DISCUSSION/Evaluation of County Counsel.

 

Richardson recalled that she has been on the job for six months.  She commented that it has been challenging, but her department has been able to adapt.  She indicated that her staff has been working hard to move priorities.  She hoped the Board found staff had been responsive to their requests.  She understands that there is a lot of energy in being creative and exploring new options and that was where she was spending her time.

 

Dwyer commented that Richardson was very competent and is sensitive to the majority of the Board.  He thought the Board made a good choice when they chose her and he was happy with her performance.

 

Fleenor thought there had been a seamless transition.  He said the County needed to be adaptable and Richardson had exhibited that. 

 

Sorenson  thought they were lucky to have Richardson.  He thought her willingness to try things was refreshing.  His concern was her workload and when they could settle outside litigation.

 

Handy commented that Richardson was a positive representative of Lane County.  He hoped she could focus more on her skills to help the organization.

 

Stewart agreed with what had been said.  He said Richardson has a great staff and he appreciates the work they do with the incredible work load.  He hoped Richardson felt the same way.

 

Sorenson thought there was a risk in working hard. He wanted a realistic appraisal of how much work is taking place.  He was concerned that if the Board drove people too hard that they run the risk that errors could be made.  He wanted to add a County Counsel Announcement Section on the agenda so there is a way the Board could know of Richardson’s time demands on her office.  He asked if they could have a work session on the topic of pending litigation so she could hear from the Board about whether they are willing to extend offers to resolve cases so transaction costs are minimized.

 

c. REPORT/Rural Reserve.

 

Lynn Peterson, Chair, Clackamas County, Charlotte Lehan, Commissioner, Clackamas County , Doug McClain, Clackamas County Planning Director participated in a video conference with the Lane County Board of Commissioners on rural reserves.

 

6. COUNTY ADMINISTRATION

 

a. Announcements

 

None.

 

b. County Counsel Announcements

 

Richardson announced that their litigator is participating with another bargaining unit.  

 

7. MANAGEMENT SERVICES

 

a. REPORT BACK/November 4, 2008 General Election.

 

Annette Newingham recalled that she was asked to bring a report back on the general election.  She reported that the 2008 General Election was the largest election they have had the past eight years because of a presidential change.  She indicated that they had an overall turnout of 87.8 percent.  She added that was higher than the state average of 85.7 percent.  She said there was a postage issue because they had the longest ballot they had ever had in the past five years.  She came before the Board prior to the election because of the concern that ballots would be mailed back to voters.  She stated that there was not one vote they were aware of where a ballot was returned back to them.  She said they were working with the post office.  She added that postage was also an issue in other states.  She noted that there is a legislative concept where the County has the latitude to pay the additional postage on the returned ballots.  She thought it would be in their best interest to cover the one ounce postage with the public so there is no issue of ballots being returned. 

 

Newingham reported that it was a smooth election and things went well considering the complexity and the turnout.  She indicated that they had to hire 216 extra help staff to process the returns.  She noted that they have continued to increase the amount of people that go to the drop sites versus mailing their ballots back. She recalled at the last election they were at 80 percent of all ballots returned from the drop sites.  She did note they had the slowest ballot counting since 1990.  She said it was unique and it was because of the longer length of ballot that made a jam. She added that they had a system outage.  She said it was a learning process and they will try to minimize problems of ballot counting in the future.

 

Stewart was comfortable with the way things were running with Elections and her response to Peter DeFazio regarding postage.

 

Handy asked where the accountability lies with the process of counting earlier and who might know the results.  He asked what fire walls there were.  He wanted to know more about a duplicated ballot and the cost to print ballots. 

 

Sorenson asked if Newingham could get an e-mail back to the board regarding the questions.

 

Newingham stated that they are complex issues and difficult to answer in a quick summary.

 

8. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

 

a. DISCUSSION/Cost of New Kennel.

 

David Suchart, Management Services, distributed information on adding kennels.  (Copy in file).  He said that the request was for 30 additional kennels

 

Stewart commented that the report comes at a time where it is hard to figure out how to fund things. He stated that $206,000 for construction and another $173,000 to operate on a yearly basis is hard to pay for.  He indicated that there is a lot of community support for Animal Services.  He thought they could organize non-profit support groups.  He didn’t know how the Board could take the information and act on it at this time. 

 

Fleenor commented that if they had $300,000, that it would be better to put it into medical treatment and increase adoption with more spay and neutering than building kennels.

 

9. CORRESPONDENCE TO THE BOARD

 

a. Letter from Lane County Animal Services Advisory Committee.

 

Dr. Jerry Boggs, Veterinarian, stated he has been a practicing veterinarian in the area for 34 years.  He said he was a member of the LCAS Action Committee.  He added that they have been in existence for over a year.  He said their challenge is to save adoptable and treatable animals that come through LCAS.  He encouraged the Board to offer funding for medical staff at LCAS, including a full-time veterinarian and a full-time certified vet technician.  He thought medical staff being present would resolve issues of sick animals.  He said there are considerable expenses for LCAS staff to bring sick animals to the vets.  He thought if they had the staff available at LCAS, they could take care of the medical processes.  He thought long term it would be a win-win situation in having healthy animals leaving LCAS as fast as they can.  He noted the City of Eugene Spay and Neuter Clinic is also located there and they utilize their anesthetic supplies and machines all morning but in the afternoon it sits empty.  He thought they could share some of the supplies and services to allow a medical person to be able to utilize it.  He commented that there is more cooperation and effort among animal groups to get together to make things work.  He asked for the Board to give consideration for funding for the two positions.

 

Dwyer thought it was important to try to fund the positions.

 

Fleenor said they are trying to increase revenue through licensing.  He said they are short of reaching 80 percent licensing compliance.  He thought if they were able to reach that level, the revenue would be where the agency would be almost self-sustaining with little general fund.  He said he has a challenge of where he puts general fund money.  He commented that this is an investment into a program.  He hoped LCAS staff and volunteers will do everything possible to get licensing revenue up. 

 

Handy wanted to look into partnerships with the City of Eugene.  He wanted to leverage resources.

 

Stewart shared concerns about finances.  He thought there was a good group of veterinarians in Lane County.  He asked if there could be voluntary veterinarians coming to LCAS. 

 

Boggs indicated that they currently have a group of 50 veterinarians who tend to Greenhill, one vet every Sunday to spay and neuter feral cats.  He added other vets are writing off medical charges.  He thought it might be pushing the veterinarians too far to ask them to work at LCAS.

 

Fleenor noted Lane County has little general fund money to go around and many people do not consider animal services an essential core service.  He added that they have to get LCAS out of the general fund.

 

Sorenson asked about cat licensing.

 

Boggs responded that the committee was looking into that possibility.  He thought they needed to get the dogs under control before they start on cats.

 

Stewart asked if there were any opportunities to have people at the vet school officer assistance at LCAS.

 

Boggs thought it could possibly happen.  He thought it was reasonable and it was something they hadn’t explored.

 

 

10. EXECUTIVE SESSION as per ORS 192.660

 

Per ORS 192.660 (2)(d) for the purpose of deliberations with labor negotiators.  

 

11. COMMISSIONERS’ ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Sorenson reported that he is working on an amendment to the Good Governance board order to allow  people to make video or audio comments to the Board. 

 

Fleenor wanted to authorize County Counsel to move this forward.

 

12. OTHER BUSINESS

 

None.

 

There being no further business, Commissioner Sorenson recessed the meeting at 12:05 p.m.

 

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary