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April 8, 1998

BCC and FUTURE FOCUS TASK FORCE PUBLIC HEARING

Harris Hall 6:00 p.m.


PRESENT
: Steve Cornacchia, Ellie Dumdi, Bobby Green, Sr., Peter Sorenson, Cindy Weeldreyer, Lee Beyer, Carolyn Chambers, Bob Fenstermacher, Bill Gary, Gretchen Pierce, Hal Reed, George Russell, Jenny Ulum and Hill Walker. Zoe Gilstrap, Recording Secretary.

Cornacchia opened the hearing and introduced Hal Reed, Chair of the Future Focus Task Force.

Reed gave a brief overview of their charge and the formation of the task group, introducing the members. He explained the process they went through with each department. Reed recognized Lane County's fine group of dedicated employees, good managers and insightful policy makers. He said the task force has done a good job and that it is now up to the Commissioners to run with their recommendations. Reed stated that Lane County's financial situation is precarious but he was optimistic that there is a way to get through the next few years. He noted that the majority of the discretionary fund, approximately 66 percent, goes to public safety. Reed discussed the property tax comparisons with other counties. He reviewed each of their findings (see material on file), emphasizing the need for a strategic plan. Reed stated for the mix of services, no one suggested that they were the wrong mix or that there needed to be additional services. He said, however, that all services were weak. On public safety, Reed remarked that there is not enough money to do the job that needs to be done and additional funding needs to be addressed. He also emphasized the need to cover the waste management deficit.

Reed reviewed the task force's recommendations, reiterating the need for a strategic plan. He said they were very impressed with the Washington County plan and emphasized that they want the Commissioners to take this recommendation seriously enough to hire a facilitator and get the plan developed in less than a year. Reed discussed the Public Safety Coordinating Council's (PSCC) plan, stating that they did not want to second-guess them because they felt that the PSCC is in the best position to make this recommendation. He did say that they believe they will be able to support their recommendation. Reed asked that the Board also recognize the significant number of things not addressed by the PSCC, highlighting the sheriff's request for additional staff, the jail expense, capital maintenance, an attorney for county counsel, public health and a computer replacement fund. He noted that these items could possibly be added to the PSCC levy but urged the Board to use judgement on loading up the levy too much. Reed stated that the majority of the task force supports the Sheriff's special law enforcement district and felt that citizens will vote positively on this proposal. He stated that they want Lane County to recognize that properly planned and handled economic growth will bring in more revenue to Lane County. Reed noted that they recommend that deferred maintenance be addressed, however, they did not want to see money spent on seismic retrofitting for the Public Safety Building. Regarding state mandated services such as the District Attorney's office, Assessment and Taxation and Elections, he said they recommend lobbying the legislature to require that the state take over funding for these state functions. Reed stated that they want to see waste management transfer sites downsized, noting the huge waste management problem and the post closure costs and stressed the immediate need to address this problem. He recommended looking at privatization for some functions, suggesting that they consider developing an RFP process for certain departments.

Responding to Sorenson's question about the purpose of a strategic plan, Pierce stated she just went through a similar process that resulted in a work plan, timetables and identification of what can and can't be done. She said the biggest consideration of the Board will be the extent of community involvement in the planning process. Pierce remarked that a concern of the task force was that much of the growth in services in Lane County is because there was a source of funding. She stated if that funding source goes away, they are left with a program that is difficult to reduce or eliminate so they end up with piecemeal funding. She noted that the Future Focus Task Force (FFTF) is not the only one that has suggested a county planning effort to the Board and hoped that this time they give serious consideration to the recommendation.

Beyer stated that Washington County made a statement up front that the county is not all things to all people and, therefore, has to make choices. He said that Lane County needs to determine the services it can best provide as well as those services that only the County can do. He stated that after these decisions are made, there needs to be the development of criteria to determine if adds are consistent.

Regarding timing, Pierce stated that these criteria are something that should be developed sooner rather than later so there is a framework to make policy decision regarding new services, expansion of services or getting out of services. She said the plan should be clear before the budget process that begins a year from now.

Responding to Sorenson regarding public health and public safety prevention programs, Walker stated that, given the severe restrictions on funds and demands for services, they were concerned about pulling revenues from core services and did not want to second guess PSCC's prevention component. He said their decisions came more from dealing with escalating crime than public health, noting the need to address crime in Lane County proactively. Sorenson asked if they believed spending more money on the correction system will be better than spending it on prevention. Beyer said it became clear to them that the PSCC had more expertise and recognized that issues of corrections and prevention are serious in this community. He said there is an incarceration problem with the revolving door at the jail.

Green asked about privatization. Chambers stated that the County should participate in an RFP process for such services as maintenance, payroll and waste management. She said every area needs to be looked at and determined how much it will cost and if Lane County can do it as efficiently.

Ulum stated that when determining core services, they referred to the Washington County Plan, noting that it has stood the test of scrutiny and suggested that they should look at using the same criteria. She reviewed the criteria (see material on file). Chambers said they need to look at what Lane County does as well as Eugene and Springfield's services and decide who best provides them, giving animal regulation as an example.

Green asked about sprung facilities. Reed said the revolving door at the jail is unacceptable. He said building more capacity with bricks and mortar is expensive, noting that alternative structures are being used in other states. Reed referred to Maricopa County in Arizona and the cost effectiveness of their tents. He stated that the Commissioners and Sheriff need to look at temporarily incarcerating people and he strongly supports consideration of these structures. Beyer encouraged the Commissioners to read the articles in the report, noting the New York Times' article. Beyer remarked that when additional capacity was added to the jail in the 1980s, lower level crime decreased, stating that the threat of incarceration does work for some people.

Cornacchia opened the public hearing.

Robert Wilke, 1424 Ash Avenue, Cottage Grove, commended the overall work of the task force, noting that it was a clear report. He stated, however, that he would like to know who the members of the task force were and what they did. Wilke stated that he did not hear anything about the creation of this task force. He said the announcement in the paper as to this meeting was not given in advance, stating that is the reason for the light turnout. Wilke remarked that in order for this to work, the people have to buy into it and in order for them to do that, they have to hear about what is going on and hear about it in time to do something about it. He stated that rural Lane County is not being involved, noting that there is more to Lane County than just Eugene and Springfield.

Cindy Noblitt, 3909 E. 17th, Glenwood, said more people would be present tonight if they would had been able to keep abreast of what was going on with this task force. She referred to the recommendation of targeting resources to grow an economical infrastructure, stating that pro-growth, pro-development policies also bring along costs. Noblitt said this results in other funds being used to develop the infrastructure, such as the road fund. She asked if targeting funds to specifically develop the infrastructure to bring in new development would take away funds currently used for maintaining core services for the people already living here. Noblitt referred to the District Attorney and Sheriff's presentations, stating that their statistics were inflated, noting new growth, more territory due to annexed land and new laws and ordinances that have criminalized behavior, all of which have added to the statistics.

Beth Medler, 4441 Fox Hollow #6, Eugene, stated that she has been very interested in the task force but has not been able to attend meetings. She commended them for their work on this report. Medler discussed her experience in research and preparing reports. She commented that she is worried about the thrust of the public safety levy and feels that some of the programs she has worked so hard on may be lost. Medler stated that she does not want to see Lane County go to a middle average. She remarked that she would like to be a part of lobbying for new revenues and efficient use of these revenues. Medler stressed that she does not want to see revenue going to just jails because programs such as child abuse are thrown away for a jail cell.

Donald Staley, 82010 Lost Creek Road, Dexter, recommended that Lane County take a proactive position in dealing with public safety. He said it is easier to make a criminal out of a person than it is to educate and train a person to be a productive citizen. Staley referred to amounts budgeted for education and public safety and stated that Lane County is going at it backwards. He noted that most people are coming out of prison uneducated and the answer to keep people out of jails is to educate and train them. Staley suggested having an audit done on the matrix system to look at the people who are recirculating. He stated that some of these people should not be going through the system but, rather, should be given a ticket. Staley discussed O&C's dwindling amount and said Lane County is not aggressive in allowing the federal government to use natural resources without being reimbursed fully.

Anna Morrison, 2212 42th Street, Florence, commended the task force. She addressed the privatization issue and suggested that, when comparing the proposals submitted, there is an objective look to make sure apples are compared to apples in order to get a realistic cost. Morrison cautioned that strategic planning is a process that often takes a long time without getting anywhere. She strongly suggested setting a time line so that they don't get stuck in the planning process.

Chris Attleave, 85328 South Willamette, Eugene, stated that she attended some meetings but found the material hard to follow. She asked that the audio systems in the meeting rooms be upgraded so that everyone can hear. Attleave remarked that the waste management situation arises because the county is so big. She said if transfer sites are closed, rural residents will have to pick up discarded garbage. Attleave acknowledged the critical need to deal with post-closure costs at the landfill but said if more garbage is going to Coffin Butte, the landfill won't have to close so soon, which would allow more time to collect this money. Attleave also stated that Lane County would be well-served by development of a strategic plan and a facilitator would help. She commented on the crime statistics and said she needed more time to review this report and requested that the public hearing be held open.

Wilke added that Lane County should make a high priority of getting away from prisons and law enforcement and, instead, put more money into people needs and not people control.

Cornacchia closed the public hearing. He noted that the public hearing will be left permanently open.

Sorenson asked why the task force would recommend for growing an economic infrastructure when it seems to go against current livability issues. Beyer stated that it was a matter of pragmatics in looking at the budget and asking how to meet needs. He said the public has made it clear that they are not willing to buy anything else. Beyer stated that, under the laws passed by the people of Oregon, if there is new growth, there will be new revenue. He said, in looking at Lane County over a 50-year history, there has been a very consistent growth pattern, with most of the growth coming from those who live here having children and not from immigration. He stated that this is a condition that is not going to change, therefore, there needs to be a planned way to deal with this. Beyer stated that within the constraints of plans adopted by the cities and the County, they can encourage things consistent with good planning and development.

Sorenson stated that there is concern about seeing growth as good because concern for livability is increasing as an issue in Oregon and the Willamette Valley. He said Oregonians will raise taxes for a good purpose.

Gary said he does not see the recommendation as pro-growth. He commented about the governor's forecast and noted that growth is going to occur and it is not an Oregon or Lane County phenomenon; it is worldwide. Gary stated the real question is how are we going to grow, and their real recommendation is about the process of planning growth and how to target growth that will allow leverage by County government as well as to attract development to provide jobs for children so that they don't have to go to other areas. He said it should be tempered by the land use system in place to make sure that the county and community continue to be places that attract people because it does provide opportunity for the quality of life the people of Lane County want to pursue.

Reed said the simple fact is that Lane County doesn't have the money and is going to run out of money and this needs to be addressed. He said it is good fiscal management to look at the long term problem and to face the fact that they are running out of money. Reed stated that the most logical thing to do is to find out how to get more money. He said Lane County is not going to pass a new property tax.

Green stated that he supports keeping the record open but doesn't want to impose on the Task Force any more. He recommended that the Commissioners take this report to heart, particularly the part about strategic planning. Green noted they may not want to do this but it is important for future decisions, stressing the need for discipline. He recognized the importance of having Lane County reviewed by another set of eyes and getting their advice.
Dumdi stated that they have talked about creating this type of task force for quite some time. She noted that the Board is gearing up to work with the legislature regarding state mandates and feels they are gaining a little ground. Dumdi remarked that they are also working with their federal delegations to decouple timber receipts to give more certainty on monies Lane County will be receiving. She stated that they are very concerned about preventive programs and don't want to see more money going into jails because they know dollars are better spent working with the young population rather than putting them into jails, creating a worse situation. She thanked them for the tools to move forward and look at Lane County's situation strategically.

Weeldreyer acknowledged the effort and hard work by the task force. She noted changes in Lane County due to the timber receipts and property tax limitations. Weeldreyer referred to the Washington County plan, stating that it is hard because they want to be all things to all people. Weeldreyer stated that it would be difficult to privatize waste management due to the legal obligations with post-closure requirements. Regarding the transfer sites, she said privatizing or shutting down the network would result in dumping on public lands and mentioned the Board is committed to pursuing leachate treatment. She agreed that waste management is one of their biggest problems. Weeldreyer referred to Lane County's work with the legislature and said they are setting the trend for other counties to make sure the foundation is laid to be successful in the 1999 legislation.

Sorenson stated that it is worthwhile to get another perspective of the organization from the outside, noting that the report will be valuable to them as well as to the community. He said he plans to follow through on their number one suggestion for strategic planning. Sorenson discussed the economic development recommendation as defined tonight by the task force, agreeing that Lane County is a very livable community. He emphasized the importance of prevention and youth programs, stating that youth need more to do with their free time.

Cornacchia noted that there will be some action taken toward strategic planning. He commented that the strategic planning exercise will not be quite the effort as suggested, because some departments are going through a strategic planning exercise of their own, and components of their plans will be available to them which will reduce some of the steps. Cornacchia stated that there is a significant disadvantage with the private sector as far as strategic planning because they cannot generate a profit and, therefore, concepts like earnings which are such a large part of strategic planning exercise are unavailable to them. He noted that each time they try to do some strategic planning, there has been a reduction of some type in revenue or resource. Cornacchia said that using an outside mission statement like Washington County and identifying core services needs to be flexible enough to deal with the regressive nature of their funding sources. He said he cannot say what will happen once they are out of stability.

Cornacchia presented certificates of appreciation to the task force.

Reed commented that the task force put in much time and effort into this report and it is their expectation that the Commissioners will follow up on the recommendations.

There being no further business, this meeting adjourned at 8:10 p.m.

Zoe Gilstrap, Recording Secretary

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