WEEK OF MAY 3-7, 2021
Budget meetings took up most of Josephine County Commissioners’ time this week. Budget Commission members are the Commissioners plus Jim Brumback, Pastor of the River Valley Church, Zach Maynard, conservative Republican, who ran for District 4 State Representative and Steve Welch who was appointed by Baertschiger.
So far department heads have been making presentations, justifying their spending and trying not to ask for too much from the General Fund. Tuesday’s presentations were from the Sheriff’s Department, Juvenile Justice, the District Attorney and Veterans’ Services. Sheriff Dave Daniel said the jail and juvenile justice levy helped his department’s budget and will be even more important next year as his department requires more revenue to meet expected services. DA Josh Eastman said his department saw less crime last year because of COVID. During the public comment time, perennial commenter Jay Meredith called in saying “my private company American Mining Research” could help fund the sheriff’s department if only public lands were opened up and urged Commissioners to work on that. Commissioner Darin Fowler called Meredith “a very good resource.”
Brumback said he appreciated Meredith’s efforts. Commissioner Herman Baertschiger predicted massive inflation because of all the money Biden is flooding the country with and warned department heads to budget for that.
During Thursday’s budget meeting Public Health Director Mike Webber made his budget presentation, going through all the things Public Health is responsible for, from environmental health to the animal shelter. He said two of his goals for the coming year are to move out of the building he’s in on Dimmick Street in Grants Pass and to get more children vaccinated. “Vaccine hesitancy is a real problem in this area,” he said.
Commissioners also heard presentations from Public Works, Community Development and Human Services. Community Development Director Mark Stevens said his budget has been impacted by code violations from hemp growers disguising illegal marijuana, people building on these sites without permits, and endless neighbor complaints.
There were no public comments in this session, Commissioner Dan DeYoung did most of the talking. All department heads gave the Cares Act and the American Rescue Act credit for getting them through the impacts of COVID without decimating their budgets.
During the weekly business session May 5 only Commissioners Herman Baertschiger and Darin Fowler were present. They approved moving responsibility for public records to the information and tech department after they eliminated the Office Manager’s position in the Commissioner’s office who previously handled public records.
The only other things the Commissioners did Wednesday was approve the consent agenda and listen to public comments from anti-vaxxers. Katherine Austin read a statement from Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuinston who declared a state of emergency in her city “due to wokeness” and declared her city a “Common Sense Sanctuary” against Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID restrictions. McQuinston’s 15 minutes of fame on Fox News lead Austin to believe the Mayor’s idea has “gone viral” and urged people to call the mayors of Cave Junction and Grants Pass to do the same. No one could say exactly what McQuinston’s declaration does other than get her an appearance on Fox.
During “Other Matters” Baertschiger repeated his allegation that Gov. Brown has “weaponized” COVID for political benefit and said it will mysteriously disappear when the state legislature adjourns. Fowler accused the Governor of having “no compassion” for small business owners affected by the “ying and yang” of her COVID orders, then urged business owners to use government money to lure workers back.
The quest for improved broadband for the county was begun Thursday at the May 6 Administrative Workshop. Commissioners Darin Fowler and Herman Baertschiger began the process to use American Rescue funds to hire a consultant to find out how broadband can be extended into rural areas, as well as improve it in Grants Pass and Cave Junction. Commissioner Dan DeYoung was absent. In Other Business Fowler said he would like the Commission to send a letter of support for the two teachers who have been put on leave for trying to exercise their free speech rights regarding trans students in school. (Administration Workshop – YouTube 19:25)
He also said he would like to have County Counsel Wally Hicks write up a letter declaring the preservation of federal lands “a taking” without public input, depriving the county of the value of the minerals on the land. He said he would like to get other counties to sign on as well.Herman Baertschiger, who has a guest spot every Tuesday on KMED’s Bill Meyer talk show, doubled down on Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol saying she was involved in the creation of an amendment to the Active Club’s agreement regarding Boatnik because she “actively tried to shut it down.”
That turned out not to be true, according to the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Meyer made a brief reference to the May 1 flag rally in Grants Pass saying, “I’m glad you shut down the antifa wannabes.” Herman gave a knowing chuckle but didn’t elaborate.
Concerning the Fire District, Baertschiger claimed supporters are putting forth a false premise when they say the district will be cheaper than Rural Metro. He claims the Fire District assessment at $1.74 per $1,000 appears to be cheaper than Rural Metro’s standards rate of $1.94 assessed value the Fire District includes more of your property in the assessed value. Rural Metro has advised that most standard rate customers are billed utilizing the same method that is proposed in the measure however, they have also acknowledged that they failed to catch a change implemented by the Assessor’s office approximately three years ago relating to how rates were calculated. Some standard rate Rural Metro customers with properties over 5 acres may see an increase in their annual rate due to missing this change in calculation. All other standard rate customers should see a reduced rate.
In a discussion about the Josephine County Charter review, Baertschiger and Meyer said the charter is “subservient” to the state because it says state laws have precedence over county laws and that should be changed. Herman said he hopes to get a good committee appointed to look at the charter and make suggestions and “no politicians will be allowed.”
Also during the rambling discussion, Baertschiger asked why the county needed a public health department when it was run by the state. “Maybe we should give our health department back to the state,” he said and pointed to Curry County which had the state take over theirs after staff left.