BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'
REGULAR MEETING

May 5, 2009
1:30 p.m.
Harris Hall Main Floor
APPROVED 1-12-2011

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

11. PUBLIC WORKS

a. REPORT BACK/Land Management Budget.

Marsha Miller, Public Works, said they are here to discuss items related to Land Mangement and Waste Mangement.  She indicated that two of the items are reviews of the Land Management Fund specifically and the solid waste fund.  She noted the other two items are related to the current status of Land Management and the potential for revenue support.

Miller stated that Land Management is not able to continue the basic level of services without financial assistance.  She added that even though they reduced  staff by 50 percent, they are not able to recover their costs through fees.  She said the division needs assistance.  She explained that the Land Use Code is out of date and it is cumbersome.  She added that it needs to be revised and streamlined, but there are no resources to do the work.  She said that land use and permitting processes need to be re-engineered but there are no resources to do that work.  She noted the current fees in Land Management are high and some services can be supported with permit fees.  She said services like customer service, long range planning, public information requests, response to citizen requests, board requests, enforcement and appeal processing are not feasible services to recover with fees.  She indicated there are currently no counties or cities in the state of Oregon currently recovering all of the costs for planning services through fees.  She noted that most of the counties in Oregon recover a portion of the costs through general fund with the lowest being 20 percent and highest being 100 percent.  She noted in most counties the general fund subsidy is between 40 and 60 percent.  She wanted a long range plan to consolidate all of the Public Works customer services into a customer service center.  She noted the biggest barrier is money.  She indicated the goal would be to consolidate all the permitting and customer services into one convenient location to better serve all of the citizens of Lane County . She said if they can find a way to sustain those services that cannot reasonably be recovered with fees, they could put their energy into process improvement and customer service improvements, revising the land use codes and development processes to make it easier for customers to navigate the regulations they are responsible for administering.  She indicated the proposal they would like the Board to consider is to establish a sustainable source of funding for those services they canít recover with fees and to allow them to move forward to develop a proposal to create a customer service center for Public Works.  She said the property at Delta are road funds assets and they could develop a customer service center there with the initial investment coming out of the road fund that would repaid over time through market rate rents for the services that would operate.  She said they could remodel an existing building and build it to LEED standards.  She thought they could be eligible for grant funding or energy assistance through the federal government.  She  said their current vision is to provide all permit and customer related services in a sustainable and energy efficient customer service center; to establish sustainable funds to provide resources for long range planning and customer service and code amendments they need to address.

Matt Laird, Land Management, said the question is should Lane County continue to increase permit fees to fully fund the operations of the Land Management Division, or should temporary or permanent funding be provided to the division to maintain a base level of service.  He asked how Land County could sustain long term funding for the services delivered through Land Management Division.  He noted in the next fiscal year, total resources are projected to decline by $1.4 million and even with the reduction in the work force, expenses will exceed the revenues and leave the division with a shortfall of $450,000.  He made the decision to balance the budget by showing the use of $450,000 from general fund support instead of further reducing personnel expenses that would leave the division incapple of providing even a minimum level of service. He discussed this issue with many people and it was decided that it would be necessary to balance the Land Management Division budget in order to maintain the minimum base level of customer service.  He indicated that Land Mangement has seen declining permit revenues since the beginning of FY 08/09 due to the national recession and the division has been faced with increased expenses in the form of County overhead costs that show the effects of the Measure 37 process.  He recalled that previous boards have directed Land Management to increase permit fees in order to obtain full cost recovery for all services provided.  He indicated that permit fees were raised in 2008 and Lane County is now in the upper echelon of land use and building permit fees and further increases at this time would not be appropriate.  He said the types of service impacts in Land Management will be reduced hours of operation, the inability to respond to citizen inquiries, minimal development assistance, extended time periods for application processing beyond state mandates, delays in receiving inspections and limited response to enforcement.   He added that long range goals identified by the Board will be delayed or not addressed as all resources will be devoted to active current projects required under state law.  He indicated that no action is required today, but there are several options for the Board to consider in the upcoming budget process.  He said the first option is to maintain Land Management at its existing level by providing $450,000 of general fund support or other type of outside funding.  He said the second option is to balance the budget by making further reductions in personnel expenses.  He indicated the third option is to cover the funding gap with a combination of personnel expense reductions and general fund support.  He noted the fourth option is to balance the Land Management budget with some other outside funding source and the use of operational reserves.  He indicated that general fund dollars were used in FY 09/10 budget to balance in Land Managmeent Division.

b. REPORT BACK/Land Management Fund.

Tanya Heaton, distributed and discussed Land Management Fund spreadsheets. (Copy in file).

c. REPORT BACK/Waste Management Fund.

Heaton distributed and discussed Waste Management Fund spreadsheets. (Copy in file).

d. DISCUSSION AND POSSIBLE DIRECTION/Waste Management Revenue Support to Land Management Division for Long-Range Planning and Citizen Permit Fee Reductions.

Fleenor stated that the Board requested that Public Works, Land Management and Waste Mangement come to them and give ideas on how they can improve efficiencies and effectiveness of their Land Management Divison in a period of financial uncertainty and provide some financial certainty with areas of Land Management that have not been properly funded for many years.  He wanted to know how they can have a Land Management Division that is more customer service oriented.  He thought this was a long term vision with a short term launch.

Spartz said they want to better locate Land Management and they think Delta is a better location for most customers.  He said if they could find a source of money, to automate systems so they are doing less paperwork and the customer could do much of the work over the internet.  He added the issue is how to finance the necessary activities that they can not fairly charge for fees.

Miller said they have a desire to improve customer service but the barrier has been funding.  She indicated the policy decision is up to the Board to find a sustainable funding source and to make them as efficient as possible.  She commented that funding and closing the gap in a sustainable way is a challenge.

Fleenor thought there is a link between Land Management, Waste Management and long range planning.  He thought they have an opportunity to restructure how they are financing long range planning by incorporating the fee into their garbage costs.  He wanted to look at nuisance site clean up and waste diversion opportunities they created last year when they increased the tipping fees.  He wanted to review what was the waste diversion relative to the new reality they are in. He said the prioritization needs to be focused on preserving the general fund for essential public safety issues and public health and using other enterprise funds to sustain services.

Handy asked if there was a minimum requirement in the state statutes for a County to fund Land Management Division Services.

Laird said all of Land Managmenet is currently at the minimum staffing to maintain state mandates.  He added that Land Management is having difficulty maintaining those mandates currently and they continue to have difficulty.  He said with building and sanitation, Lane County doesnít have to provide those services, (the state could provide the building program services) but it takes four years to get out of the agreement.

Richardson said there are five or six various requirements that Land Management have to provide.  She doesnít know if they would run into the same problem as they did with Assessment and Taxation, where the state threatens to take it over and then charge the County where they would be paying  more.

Miller said on the building permit side, (because they are a contract agent through the state building codes division) as a County they could say they would not do those services, but it would take several years to get out.  She added the state would turn the services bck to the County to do because they donít have the resources to do it and charge back.

Sorenson asked when the Board would receive these proposals.

Miller said the Board could move forward to take actions. She thought the one issue is sustainable funding. 

Sorenson indicated that they are not in a position to give any money out of the general fund.  He said they want to explore the idea of increasing the garbage fee.  He asked what kind of proposal Miller could put together.

Miller said she could come back to the Board with a proposal that would have more definitive factors within 30 days.

Dwyer said there hasnít been money for long range planning.  He said there has to be a nexus from what they tax and what they do.  He said the fact that everyone builds a house and creates garbage is not a reason to tax people for something that is not related to garbage.  He commented that garbage is a diminishing return.  He said they have to be careful to tie a fee to something that diminishes.    He said they have to quantify how many people and what they expect them to do.  He said they have to think about what resources they have now and the gap and find a fee that has a nexus between what they do that is fair and practical. 

Fleenor said they have an immediate urgency.  He asked how they are going to keep Land Management funded for the short term and for their $450,000 request from the general fund that will come at another programís expense.   He thought they could look at existing revenue funds they created prior to the economic meldown that might be better diverted in the short run to help Land Management.  He thought keeping Land Management where it is is better than nothing, but they have an opportunity to move Land Management to  Delta, incorporate electronic programming opportunities to increase efficiencies that will drive down costs for permits and inspections.  He wanted to reconsider on a one time basis transferring a portion or the nuisance site clean up and waste diversion to help backfill the general fund request and as they move forward to examine using some of that to help fund long range planning.  He said if they are going to see a significant price increase in two or three years, he wanted to capture it early.  He thought July 1, 2009 would be a good starting point for a nominal price increase of four or five percent over a five year period.  He also wanted to add another dollar per ton tipping fee to see what it would cost to sustain long range planning with the assumption that all building inspection permits would be at full cost recovery.

Handy agreed with the consolidation of Land Management at Delta blending Land Management with Waste Management.  He wanted it to move forward with the beginning of the fiscal year.  He wanted to send this matter to the Resource Advisory Committee to get ideas on the issues and what the next general idea of a nexus fee might be.  He said it was important to find a balance between development and planning that they are missing.

Sorenson said they heard concerns about the proposals on people who are coping with the garbage they are producing.  He wanted a concept that would lower the fees on indivivuals because of the recession.

Fleenor wanted to look on an ongoing basis how much it would cost to have a modest staff for long range planning.  He asked what the cost would be for at least 2 FTE compliance officers to fund off of an additional fee yet to be determined by July 1, to go into increasing the tipping chargers over a five year period.  He wants to have this defined with the staffing necessary to do code changes to make sure they are in compliance on a long term basis.

Miller thought she could get back to the Board in two to three weeks with more definition around the things that were raised and some options for what it would take to provide services, the code revisions, dealing with the long range planning issues, the two code compliance positions and the electronic file conversion.  She heard there is interest in looking at the tipping fee and accessing a portion of the money already in the fund for nuisance abatement and diversion programs and looking at tapping some of the future tipping fee or an increase.

12. EXECUTIVE SESSION as per ORS 192.660

Per ORS 102.660 (2)(h) fur the purpose of discussing potential litigation.

13. OTHER BUSINESS

None.

There being no further business, Commissioner Sorenson recessed the meeting into Executive Session at 3:25 p.m.  

Melissa Zimmer
Recording Secretary