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September 9, 1998
REGULAR MEETING BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Harris Hall Main Floor - Following HACSA

Commissioner Cornacchia presided with Commissioners Ellie Dumdi, Bobby Green, Jr., and Peter Sorenson present. Cindy Weeldreyer was excused. County Administrator Bill Van Vactor, County Counsel Teresa Wilson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.

1. ADJUSTMENTS TO THE AGENDA

None.

2. PUBLIC COMMENTS

Lynn Burditt, Lane County Human Rights and Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, stated she was present to speak on domestic partner benefits. She passed out a letter (copy in file) reporting the committee was unanimous in support of extending health insurance benefits to Lane County's employees' domestic partners. She said the committee gathered data, including information to determine if it was a one person issue, what eligibility considerations are used in other areas, and the potential cost implications. She added at the July 8, meeting, the item was discussed and County Administrator Bill Van Vactor and Human Resource and Management Systems Director, David Suchart would obtain additional information. She said at their August meeting, they reaffirmed the unanimous support for the item. She said they think this is a human rights issue and the implementation of benefits in the current manner could be viewed as creating an inequity. She added they are conscious of concerns relating to budget considerations. She asked if these issues were addressed today, to determine whether the measure could be addressed as part of the 1999/2000 budget cycle.

3. COMMISSIONERS' ANNOUNCEMENTS

Green announced that on August 31 through September 2, he was part of a united front delegation that went to Washington D.C. and met with Lynn Cutler of the White House staff. He said the meeting was to assist the White House in planning a conference in October on safe schools and youth violence. He said while they were back there, they met with Senator Wyden and Senator Gordon Smith and the communities of Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Pearl, Mississippi, and other areas of the country that have experienced school violence. He said federal assistance was requested on a number of issues. He said an expansion of the definition of FEMA funds, was being worked on because it does not include schools, which are governmental public buildings. He said that Lynn Cutler and her staff would explore the opportunities to broaden the definition. He added that they budget for floods or snowstorms, but there is no budget for catastrophic events, such as Thurston. He said that the Lane County representatives were very prepared and were the only group that had a formalized package of requests and a package explaining what had been done since the tragedy.

Cornacchia acknowledged and thanked his colleagues who participated in the gift of a tree to his family in response to the death of his mother.

4. COMMISSIONERS' BUSINESS

a. UPDATE/Facilities Capital Improvement Projects (No Material).

David Suchart, Human Resource and Management Systems Director, relayed that the manufacturer of the lifts is behind in manufacturing the stairs and will not be able to deliver the lifts until the first part of November. He also reported that it will be another week and a half before the roof gets delivered on the Public Service Building. He said the Jail and Juvenile Justice Center projects are moving along. He said the Corrections Center is a little behind schedule, but the contractor feels he will make up the time and reach the scheduled March completion date. He added he is pleased with the work Drake Chambers and all of the subcontractors are doing.

5. MANAGEMENT SERVICES

a. ORDER 98-9-9-1/In the Matter of Establishing the Classification and Salary for the Diversity Analyst Position in the Management Services Department.

Suchart reported that in order to move along and expedite on the process of getting a position to manage the Diversity Program, the County used a Personnel Analyst Classification in order to do that. He said when he transferred Hector Rios, to be a Personnel Analyst, they wanted to change the position and make it into a Diversity Coordinator. He said this will help in recruiting for the position. He added the pay range is the same as the Personnel Analyst 1 and asked the Board to support the change of a Personnel Analyst to a Diversity Coordinator.

MOTION to approve ORDER 98-9-9-1.

Green MOVED, Dumdi SECONDED.

VOTE: 4-0.

6. EXECUTIVE SESSION as per ORS 192.660

None.

7. COUNTY ADMINISTRATION

a. Announcements

William Van Vactor, County Administrator, reported that this afternoon he has a meeting with the Association of Oregon Counties and the Joint Interim Committee on public contracting, which he will be co-chairing. He added a service that had been provided by the County in the past was a chat room on the County's Internet home page. He said there are not enough resources to manage the chat room due to the Year 2000 issues and the financial system conversion. He said an administrative decision has been made to shut down the chat room until other tasks are completed. He added there will be an emergency planning training session in Salem on September 15 by the Oregon State Police and Commissioner Sorenson will be attending the meeting.

Cornacchia announced that the Fourth Annual Employee Appreciation events are occurring on September 15 and 16 and he was requested to find out from the Board which events they will be attending.

b. ORAL REPORT BACK/To Extend Health Benefits to Lane County Employees' Domestic Partners.

Suchart stated he responded to a request from a previous meeting on certain questions that Board members had with regard to the issue of domestic partner benefits. He said with regard to the tax issue, he spoke with the benefits administrator, and was told there is a tax implication for people who would fall under the program, if it were to be completed. He said there was a rate for a family and one for two-parties. He added it is not as expensive as the benefit itself, but each individual who would go under the program would have to decide whether there was a tax benefit or whether their domestic partner was under another benefit program. He said the IRS rules that domestic partners are not spouses, so that part would have to be deducted and it would be taxed as part of the income. He reported with regard to the school districts providing the benefit, indications from the three major school districts show employees have not brought the subject up in terms of negotiations and have no intention in the immediate future of doing same. He said in terms of his discussions with the bargaining units, he met with all of the units except for one. He said LCPOA and AFSCME, both were somewhat supportive of doing it, but also indifferent and were more concerned about the cost implications with the County. He added that the Blue Cross contract is up for negotiations next year and there will likely be increased costs whether the County goes for domestic partner benefits or not. He said with regard to the Administrative Professional Group and 626 (who was not represented at the meeting), the Administrative Professionals said they were against the benefit and 626 felt the same way. He said a representative from HACSA attended the meeting and said they were in support of the benefit.

Sorenson stated he would like to have more information and is concerned about any unilateral action to be taken. He said it is an appropriate subject for the bargaining process.

Dumdi stated her concern was the same as Sorenson, a bargaining issue as well as a budget issue and said it is a much broader subject then just taking unilateral action. She said it needs to be discussed in more depth. She said she thought it should be part of a budget and bargaining unit discussion. She said it is too premature to act on this issue now.

Sorenson said he thought the issue should be taken back to the Human Rights and Affirmative Action Advisory Committee. He said the people on the committee are well versed on the difficulties of trying to get human rights protected and advocated, at the same time they are well aware of the cost implications and difficulty of the implementing things. He said a proposal would reconcile the problem with the committee's perceived inequity. He said he has received a lot of commentary from people concerned that different groups of people were being treated unfairly.

Cornacchia stated that since the last meeting all commissioners have received contact from the public, employees and others. He said there is additional need for fact finding and discussions with both bargaining units and the Advisory Committee and Joint Labor Management Committee. He said there needs to be another step and that is the Board needs to engage the public more. He said they need to hear more from the public to make their decisions. He said this decision was as important as any land use decision and to date, the Board has only heard from advocates of the proposal and on one side of the issue. He said whether or not benefits should be extended is irrelevant, and this issue is of such importance on both sides, that it should be publicly determined. He said the determination should come after a public hearing in front of the Board. He said after a public hearing, either the Board makes a decision itself or it becomes a ballot issue and the public of Lane County determine whether or not these benefits are paid. He said it would be inappropriate for the Board today to make that decision or in the near future without a public hearing. He said he was struck by the sincerity of the arguments and the individuals that have contacted him on both sides of the issue. He said it is a money issue, a human rights issue and, a moral issue with all the considerations. He added the issue needs to go beyond a mere vote but needs to be a reflective decision of who the Board represents. He suggested that a public hearing be set on this issue for late January or early February with the topic of the public hearing to be the issue itself and in addition, determine if the decision should be made by five individuals, or by the public as a whole.

Green stated he agreed this issue encompasses a lot of sub-issues. He said he believes it is a negotiation, moral, equity and discrimination issue. He added he would support moving this issue to February.

Dumdi stated she agreed that a public hearing would be appropriate and thought the first or second week in February would be a good time for it to be scheduled, and having it take place in the evening.

Cornacchia said this issue ranks up with land use matters in importance and should have a public hearing in the evening.

Sorenson was in support of holding a public hearing in the evening. He said it gives more opportunity for people to attend. He said what concerns him is holding a public hearing on a concept, as opposed to a public hearing on some available information or proposal that can be understood. He said he would like to see something specific for people to comment on.

Cornacchia stated the crux of this involves two institutions, one is marriage and the other is government. He said to limit the discussion to merely a proposal diminishes the respect that one institution would be paying to another. He said he agreed with Sorenson that there needs to be an education exercise but not try to limit or give the impression that this is a political exercise only. He said his vote might be different if he represented his district as opposed to just representing himself.

Dumdi said they were all valid points and added that the cost issue is important. She said if a public hearing is held in the early part of February, there is time to collect information for the Budget Committee.

Cornacchia said if a proposal is there, it would eliminate a lot of questions coming from the public hearing, especially determining relationship, commitment and dependency. He added he didn't want to see limiting the public hearing only on the proposal.

Sorenson stated he would like the Advisory Committee to give the Board a specific proposal they believe is in the public interest that deals with perceived and actual inequality, balancing that against the cost issues. He also agreed there is social and moral concern in the community that has been voiced in terms of mail and phone calls to the Board of Commissioners. He added that any public hearing on the topic would not be limited to the precise nature of the proposal, but would be a public hearing in the sense that each person has an opportunity to express themselves on any aspect of it. He said he has had a lot of contact from people concerned that the Board will try to make things fair. He also said that children of employees should be covered as well.

Cornacchia reported there was an issue raised to him about a County employee, where the domestic partner has children from another marriage who are dependent upon that employee's partner, but they live in another state. He said that other families and relationships will also come into play. He said if a public hearing is announced on the issue, the advocacy groups and people with agendas will try to pack the house. He said a lot of people will not voice their opinions because they are afraid of public speaking, so he cautioned if a vote is taken of who comes in that night, it is not necessarily a representative of the community as a whole. He said the only way to find representation of a community as a whole is through a public vote.

Green said that the County should also be looking at extending benefits to dependent mothers, fathers and the elderly who are being taken care of by adult children. He said he would like to see something happen statewide in this regard. He also commended the Human Rights Commission for doing what they believed was part of their mission in bringing forth the issue to the Board. He said he was supportive of the public hearing.

Cornacchia stated he heard consensus to hold a public hearing either the first or second week of February, in the evening, in Harris Hall. He said it would be included, but not limited to: 1) Should Lane County extend health care benefits to domestic partners? 2) In what fashion should that program take? 3) How should that decision be made, by the Board of County Commissioners or a public vote? He added contact needs to be made with the Human Rights Advisory Committee and the Joint Labor Management Benefits Committee to discuss and come back to the Board with some proposals on the second issue, including what fashion the program should take. He said the purpose would be to present it at the public hearing as a staff report to ensure there is an opportunity to have the benefit of the information and the proposals. He added that he was assigning it to Mr. Suchart and Mr. Van Vactor to accomplish and move it forward.

8. PUBLIC WORKS

a. ORDER 98-9-9-2/In the Matter of Entering into a Landowner Agreement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah to Assist with Restoration and Protection of Fish and Wildlife Habitat at the Howard Buford Recreation Area and Delegating Authority to the County Administrator to Sign a Landowner Agreement.

Bob Keefer, Parks Department, presented a staff report. He said that in 1994 the Board approved the Howard Buford Recreation Area Master Plan and within the master plan, it was recognized that Buford Park supports native plants and wildlife habitats. He said there is a need to manage the attributes, including western pond turtles, (including juveniles) and also desert parsley. He added the desert parsley is a federally endangered plant that is on the endangered plant list. He described the rest of the park as wetland prairies to dry oak savannas and Douglas fir forests. He said it is a diverse population of plant community and wildlife that the park supports and it is important to manage for those attributes. He said the Friends of Buford Park has been working with the Fish and Wildlife Service, both on the federal and state level, local botanists, OSU Extension Service and the Department of Agriculture to look at different ways to improve habitats both for fish, wildlife and native plants throughout the Buford Recreation Area. He said with Lane County staff, there are no botanists or specialist in fish and wildlife habitats, so the park is dependent upon others and other governmental agencies that want to volunteer their time to assist them. He said the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah have taken that role. He said they have been able to secure funding to assist with restoration work at the park, identifying four areas in the grant applied for: 1) native plant seed collection area that will remove exotic plants like scotch broom and blackberry and grow native grasses in that area; 2) western pond turtle nesting area, for the removal of exotic plants and to reseed with grasses and low lying plants so they have an appropriate nesting area; 3) along the Summit Trail to do work to educate the public about native plants in the Buford Recreation Area and 4) to help restore the Bradshaw's Lomatium plant community in the park. He said the Landowner Agreement is a three-way agreement between Lane County, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Friends of Buford Park. He added the main commitment for the County is to agree over the next 10 years to restrict management to primarily fish and wildlife habitat restoration in 10 or 15 acres of property within the 2300 acres of the park. He said these areas are not generally used for recreational use but more in line with habitat values. He said he is supportive of the agreement. He added there is some money from the parks division going towards it that are budget funds and also, in-kind services.

Green stated that he sees a risk factor in something that lasts for ten years.

Teresa Wilson, County Counsel, said there is some risk involved because the money is going to the Friends of Buford Park, but the County ends up having to pay if there is a problem. She added the area involved is a small area, given the entire park, and the area would best be used for this habitat work.

Keefer added the practicality of these properties involved in the grant being used for anything else besides outdoor recreation or habitat is very minor.

Cornacchia stated that the word he was concerned about was "project." He said as long as federal regulations are met for project work, he was okay with that.

Keefer stated it is only in regard to the four project areas that the work is to be accomplished, not work outside the areas in consideration for any federal permits.

Wilson added it is just limited to the project, so it is a self-contained document.

MOTION to approve ORDER 98-9-9-3.

Dumdi MOVED, Green SECONDED.

VOTE: 4-0.
b. ORDER 98-9-9-3/In the Matter of Appointing One Member to the Lane County Planning Commission.

Dumdi stated that she and Commissioner Weeldreyer conducted an interview for people who had applied to fill the vacant West Lane position on the Planning Commission. She said the slot had to be filled with someone who either lives in the West Lane area or owns property there. She said there were two applicants, one having a change in professional duties and the other was Del Phelps. Dumdi and Commissioner Weeldreyer thought it appropriate to recommend his appointment to the Lane County Planning Commission representing the West Lane area.

MOTION to approve ORDER 98-9-9-3.
Dumdi MOVED, Green SECONDED.

VOTE: 4-0.

9. CONSENT CALENDAR

A. Approval of Minutes: August 26, 1998, Regular Meeting, following HACSA
August 26, 1998, Regular Meeting, 1:30 p.m.

B. Assessment and Taxation

1) ORDER 98-9-9-4/In the Matter of Refunds to Greater Oregon Properties & David E. Carmichael, Attorney; Washington Mutual & Scott Phinney & Jack Milner, Petitioner's Representatives and Servistar Coast to Coast & David E. Carmichael, Attorney.

C. Management Services

1) ORDER 98-9-9-5/In the Matter of Authorizing the County Administrator to Execute an Option to Purchase Agreement with M. Mozell Vaughn for the Sale of Surplus County Owned Real Property Identified as Map No. 16-08-35-00-00400 (Across From 18186 Highway 36, Blachly).

D. Public Works

1) ORDER 98-9-9-6/In the Matter of Accepting a Deed of Land to be Used as a Public Road Easement for County Road No. 397 (South Morningstar Road) (19-02-09).

2) ORDER 98-9-9-7/In the Matter of Accepting a Deed of Land to be Used as a Public Road Easement for County Road No. 753 (North 31st Street) (17-02-19).

3) ORDER 98-9-9-8/In the Matter of Awarding a Contract to Pacific Recycling, Inc. and Schnitzer Steel for Scrap Metal Recycling Services, Contract No. WM 98/99-4.

Cornacchia announced that ORDER 98-9-9-5 needed to be pulled.

MOTION to approve Consent Calendar, without ORDER 98-9-9-5.

Green MOVED, Dumdi SECONDED.

VOTE: 4-0.

10. EMERGENCY BUSINESS

None.

Commissioner Cornacchia recessed the meeting at 10:25 a.m.

Melissa Zimmer
Recording Secretary

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