Mar 282013
 
Paralegal Janet Harrison Certificate of Appreciation  from her boss County Counsel Wayne Belmont and County Commissioners

Paralegal Janet Harrison
Certificate of Appreciation
from her boss County Counsel Wayne Belmont and County Commissioners

Janet Harrison is one of an elite troupe of Lincoln County Courthouse employees who is a truly “go to” person when something needs to be done quickly and done right. Harrison was given a Certificate of Appreciation by the Lincoln County Commission, County Counsel Wayne Belmont and the county’s insurance agency this week. Belmont thanked Janet for her excellent work ethic and years of service to Lincoln County and all those who live here.

Belmont said Harrison has helped the commissioners’ office and his own to maintain high service levels despite shrinking or stagnant revenues to pay for them. Belmont says Harrison has taken over the reins of the county’s Safety Committee, safety training, safety manuals and best practices. She’s also the county’s Risk Management Coordinator who helps to enhance employee safety throughout the county’s far flung facilities and projects. Her good work also caught the attention of the Oregon City/County Insurance Services agency which provides insurance coverage for the county.

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In addition to all that, Harrison’s main job is that of a paralegal for veteran County Counsel Wayne Belmont, who, himself wears at least two hats in that he works very closely with the county commissioners as county counsel while also performing many duties that are typically assigned to a county manager, a position which Lincoln County does not have.

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 Posted by at 3:16 PM
Mar 202013
 

Lincoln County logo header

It’s a famous picture. You can see it by typing “fish crossing the road” into Google Images. The first photo that pops up is a salmon crossing East Devils Lake Road just east of Lincoln City. It’s spawned plenty of jokes. But for north county residents who routinely drive that road, it’s no laughing matter.

The flooding across the roadway that persists for several months of the year is at least a nuisance and at worst a safety hazard, forcing periodic closures of the road.

Lincoln County officials want the public to know they’re taking the problem seriously. “There’s a perception that because nothing’s happening with the road, nothing is being done to address the problem,” said Bill Hall, chair of the Board of County Commissioners. “In fact, the county’s been working with state and federal agencies to come up with an answer for several years. Environmental concerns are a big part of why any solution is very complicated and costly,” Hall said.

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However, Hall and fellow commissioners Terry Thompson and Doug Hunt often get phone calls, letters and emails from those who travel the road regularly, who say they’re fed up by the lack of progress.

The latest $4.55 million proposal would elevate the road three feet above current ground level and install a 60-foot bridge. The new bridge would be supported on steel pilings driven to bedrock to eliminate settling. The plan also envisions using numerous tactics to protect and enhance 40 acres of surrounding wetlands, which are critical habitat for Coho salmon, whose ability to migrate and spawn are threatened by the flooding of the road. The Devils Lake Watershed has been designated as critical habitat for the Coho, which continues to be listed as a threatened species.

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Lincoln County has applied for grants from the Federal Land Acquisition Program and from the Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Project to finance the bridge. “We hope to know whether we are successful sometime this fall,” said Jim Buisman, county public works director. Buisman says East Devils Lake Road has occupied a lot of his time during his more than thirty years with the county. Buisman said the road, which was built in the 1940s, has been settling for years due to the soft soils it’s built on. The two existing bridge structures are only inches above water level at low flows, so when moderate to high flows occur, water spills over the road causing spawning fish to become stranded on the pavement.

Busiman said in the past, the county was able to dredge the channel from the road to Devil’s Lake which kept the ditches on either side of the road cleared. He says this approach also kept the roadway clear of stream overflows for a number of years. But then came the big landslide up on Rock Creek which sent huge amounts of sediment coursing downstream. The sediment collected in the creek bed, and under the two bridges. As a result, heavy rains regularly push runoff over the roadway, so much so, that Coho salmon commonly mistake it for the creek itself. In the meantime, the issue caught the attention of the Department of State Lands, the Corp of Engineers and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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Partnering with the Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the county came up with some options. They varied from a viaduct to a total realignment of the road away from the area. Price tags ranged from $20 million to $30 million. Lincoln County applied for a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s highly-competitive Tiger III grant program. The county didn’t get the money. So, Lincoln County went back to the drawing board and developed the current proposal which, again, involves a sixty foot raised bridge with supports anchored to bedrock.

County officials say they don’t expect to learn whether they’ll get the funding until sometime this Fall.

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 Posted by at 12:16 PM
Feb 052013
 

Lincoln County Board of Commissioners
Going Non-Partisan?

Lincoln County Commissioners say it may be time to ensure that all Lincoln County voters have equal say in selecting not only the winners but also the candidates for Lincoln County Commission. The commission is asking Lincoln County voters to consider dropping the county’s long-running partisan nomination process which currently gives Democrats and Republicans a far louder voice in the candidate nominating process than those who are not members of either party.

Under today’s rules, candidates for county commission must be either a Democrat or a Republican to get their name on the Primary Election ballot. And, likewise, only voters who are registered as Democrat or Republican can vote for a county commission candidate in the Primary. After the Primary, anyone else wanting get their name on the General Election ballot in November must gather hundreds of voter signatures to qualify.

County commissioners are opening the door to change, if that’s what the voters want. The commissioners are holding two public hearings this month to discuss whether all three county commission positions should become completely non-partisan. Anyone can run in the Primary and everyone can vote in the Primary to cull the herd to two candidates for each position. And everyone can vote in the General Election to pick the winner(s). Commissioners say nearly a quarter of Lincoln County voters are kept out of the candidate selection process for county commission since they are neither Democrat or Republican. By making commission positions non-partisan, the reasoning is that it would make it more fair for all candidates and all voters to participate in the complete process of selecting commissioners.

The public hearings are set for February 13 and 20, 9:30am in the Board of Commissioners meeting room. Letters of support or opposition to the change can also be mailed to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners at 225 West Olive Street, Room 100, Newport, OR, 97365.

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 Posted by at 12:57 PM
Jan 302013
 

Lincoln County Courthouse, Newport
Entrance to be permanently closed

The only entrance – exit point
South side of the courthouse

New doors just installed
Open and close automatically
Like grocery store entrance

Looking through to inside
Enroute to X-ray machine

Inside, place purses, bags, metal objects
on the belt, just like at the airport.
Not required to remove your shoes.

On third floor, courtrooms tighter security
Spot searches are to be expected

Courtroom entrance, more security required
during high profile criminal trials

You know it had to happen sooner or later – tightening up security at the Lincoln County Courthouse. County courthouses and other critically important government buildings around the country and certainly around Oregon have been funneling everyone through only one entrance in the interest of security and safety for law enforcement, judges and high profile criminals, suspected criminals and witnesses.

And it’s finally happening at the Lincoln County Courthouse in Newport. In the very near future tighter security will finally arrive, with the front doors no longer being an entrance or exit. All entrance and exiting will be done on the south side of the building next to the county commissioners’ offices. Entry will require an airport security type procedure. Handbags, backpacks and other “baggage” will be placed on a moving belt and xrayed. All metallic objects, including money goes in the little plastic bins that are also sent through the xray machine. The good news is, you won’t have to take off your shoes.

Once through the check-point you’ll be free to walk to where you need to go in the building. But on occasion, like now, when there is a fairly high profile trial going on, where emotions are still pretty hot over criminal allegations, extra security will be placed outside the entrance to the specific courtroom trying the case. Again, you’ll walk through a metal detector.

The courthouse single entrance and exit procedure covers all county employees and the public. In the case of any emergency, the front doors will work as an exit.

All coming very soon to the Lincoln County Courthouse.

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 Posted by at 4:07 PM
Jan 252013
 

Lincoln County Commission
No more “R’s and D’s?”

Lincoln County Commissioners this week decided that although they’ve been relatively happy that all three commissioners have been democratic party members for a number of years, maybe it’s time to mix things up and make party affiliation a thing of the past for the position of county commissioner. Commission chairman Bill Hall says a fourth of all Lincoln County voters belong to neither party and so they really have no say in picking who will survive the primary election in order to run again in the general.

Hall said in the interest in broadening public involvement in elections the commission has decided begin the process of possibly making commission seats non-partisan. If the commission becomes non-partisan, candidates won’t have to be a “D” or an “R” in order to be eligible to run in the primary. As it is now, democrat and republican candidates face each other in the May primary. The top vote-getter in each race face off in November. Between the primary and the general, everyone else who wants to be a commissioner must file a petition, with several hundred voter signatures, to qualify for a spot on the November ballot.

But if the voters this May approve a commission change to non-partisan, commission candidates will file for the primary and then the two top vote getters for each commissioner position will advance to the general in November.

To talk about this possible change to non-partisanship, the commission will hold two public hearings; one on February 6th, another on February 20th. On the 20th, the commission will likely decide whether to submit the issue to Lincoln County voters. If voters strike down party affiliation, candidates who want want a shot at a county commission seat can start saving up for the fifty bucks it’ll cost them to file for the May Primary in 2014. That’s when Commissioners Doug Hunt and Terry Thompson will be making up their minds on whether they want a shot at another term. If a candidate for a particular county commission seat wins a majority of the primary vote, they will be elected outright without having to have their name appear on the November ballot. But if neither candidate wins a majority, the top two candidates will advance to the general election in November.

County Commissioner seats #1 and #3 are up for election in 2014. That’s Doug Hunt and Terry Thompson. Seat #2 currently, held by Commissioner Bill Hall, comes up in 2016.

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 Posted by at 2:32 PM
Dec 212012
 


Don Davis Park, Nye Beach

Those who have lost friends, relatives and other loved ones to homelessness, memorialized memories of them Friday at Don Davis Park in observance of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day on this, the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice.

Memories of homeless persons were vividly described by those who shared their pain, sorrow and grief over the passage of a sister, brother, father, mother, friend – fellow human beings – many of whom never got to live the full measure of their lives. They described the condition of many homeless people enduring the cold damp winter months, relief from which they could see through distant windows, but whose chances at experiencing that relief were between slim and none.

However, one homeless man said although it’s tragic to learn of a homeless person dying, many among the homeless feel a sense of joy for the departed, for he or she are no longer shackled to the Earth and to a life of misery, hunger and despair.

Others admitted that some of the homeless just don’t fit into what they called “society’s box,” preferring to live their years outside the mainstream, accepting their fate with calm desperation. “It’s the price of freedom,” one homeless person observed.

Those who spoke about the now departed lit a candle in their memory, candles reflecting on the lives of a sister who may have suffered a mental illness that was never treated, a man devastated at the failure of a marriage, a military veteran of the Iraq war suffering horrendous depression brought on by post traumatic stress disorder, a homeless man who came down out of the woods not feeling well, learning that he had terminal cancer and died two weeks later.

Speakers urged everyone to realize that all human beings are truly all one family and if we simply work together it will become clear there is enough love, there is enough compassion and commitment to end homelessness. It’s along road, but it must be traveled.

Earlier in the afternoon folks gathered at the Newport Performing Arts Center to review the latest “At Home in Lincoln County 2.0″ report that updated the county’s ten year housing plan for Lincoln County. The report outlined what has been done to acknowledge and work toward ending homelessness but mindful of the few precious resources available to reach that goal.

To reverse growing poverty and homelessness in Lincoln County the report outlined a number of goals that include providing overnight shelters for single adults and families, including warming centers for cold winter nights. Reaching out to homeless teens and providing and sustaining a day labor program. Better inter-agency coordination to ensure what resources are available go to those most in need. Expand Drug and Mental Health Court programs. Explore the feasibility of non-traditional housing models such as single room occupancy and co-housing.

The report said Lincoln County was a low income community before the recession, and it’s even worse now. Today, the U.S. Census says over 16% of Lincoln County residents live in poverty; 23% of them are youth. These and other realities of life in Lincoln County foster poverty, lack of living wage jobs, low quality housing, domestic violence, untreated physical and mental health issues, substance abuse, and lack of transportation as well as child care.

The report outlines problem areas and suggests ways forward. But it also acknowledges that since the recession took down the economy in 2007, government has been left with fewer and fewer resources. And so today, it’s becoming very clear that the community, as a whole, must step forward and provide the resources to help end the scourge of homelessness and the life-draining mental health issues that come with it – for everyone, including the children.

Lincoln County’s Interfaith Community has begun stepping forward to educate itself on the “state of the street” and is taking steps to play a more supportive role in addressing the challenges of individuals, families and youth who are all under tremendous stress.

Those who would like more information on how they can help bring an end to homelessness in Lincoln County can contact Lincoln County Commission Chairman Bill Hall at BHall@co.Lincoln.or.us, Lola Jones at Info@SamFamShelter.org, or Benjamin Baggett at Info@CommunityServices.us

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 Posted by at 6:46 PM
Dec 052012
 

Along with receiving the official Lincoln County vote tally from the November 4th general election, County Commissioner Bill Hall also reported that the overwhelmingly passed Anti-Citizens United advisory measure will be forwarded to Governor John Kitzhaber, state lawmakers and Oregon’s Congressional Delegation. The proclamation is to declare that 70% of Lincoln County voters oppose the heavy influence of corporate money pouring into state and national elections that was made possible by the infamous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says corporations are actual people, thereby citizens of the United States; and therefore no limits can be placed on how much election campaign money they can spend.

The Occupy Newport group who proposed the advisory measure to the commissioners, who in turn put it on the ballot, said they will now investigate teaming up with other Occupy groups throughout Oregon to press top state and federal officials to pressure the Congress to launch a Constitutional Amendment process to declare that corporations are not people in the legal sense of the word and that they be stripped of the ability to make unlimited campaign contributions.

A few Occupy members attended the commissioners meeting and the reading of the advisory measure. Occupy member Stephen Farish reminded the commissioners of the importance of what Lincoln County voters said on the issue – 70% voting in favor of overruling the Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations are people with all the rights of a natural person. Co-supporter Steve Myers echoed Farish’s statements adding that America’s democracy is under attack by well healed political operatives whose own interests do not align with the vast majority of the American people.

Commissioner Terry Thompson agreed that the country faces a great political challenge which has fostered much arguing between Democrats and Republicans. But he add, “Citizens United is not a partisan issue; it’s an American issue.” Commissioner Doug Hunt, like Thompson, was initially reluctant to place the issue on the ballot which they saw as a national issue, not a local one. But like Thompson he eventually saw that it would be worthwhile to give Lincoln County voters a voice that would be heard around the county, the state capital and in Washington D.C. Hunt said “It’s nice to take part in a positive effect in the midst of a strong political dispute. The will of the people has been expressed to elected officials; they’ll have that thought in mind.” Commissioner Bill Hall, the first to express his strong support for putting the issue on the Lincoln County ballot said that indeed the people have spoken and that our country’s political leaders will hopefully heed the message. County Counsel Wayne Belmont said about 100 similar anti-Citizens United ballot issues passed nationwide.

The Constitution Amendment Process

There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution on how to propose an amendment.

The first method is for a bill (proposed amendment) to pass both houses of the Congress, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it is forwarded to the 50 state legislatures for ratification or denial. This is the route that has been taken by all Constitutional Amendments. Because of several long-pending amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment. If it isn’t, it remains “pending.”

Of the thousands of proposals that have been offered to amend the Constitution, only 33 have won a two-thirds vote in Congress. Of those, only 27 have been ratified by three-quarters of the states’ legislatures.

The second method is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures among the states, and for the Convention to draw up one or more amendments. The amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This option has never been exercised.

Because the amendment process is so cumbersome, many political pragmatists predict that it might be faster to wait for three expected Supreme Court Justice retirements to be announced and have President Obama appoint their replacements. Then the Court could take up Citizens United again and possibly overturn the earlier ruling.

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 Posted by at 11:43 PM
Sep 272012
 

Former Lincoln County Deputy Sheriff Colin Teem has dropped his lawsuits against Lincoln and Polk Counties for the way they handled his arrest on suspicion of stealing money off the floor of the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde in 2009. Teem agreed to drop his lawsuits in exchange for $50,000 from the counties’ insurance carrier.

The story began in the Fall of 2009 when Teem was out with his wife at the casino. As he walked through a gambling area he noticed sixty dollars in cash on the floor. Teem said he reached down, picked up the money, and then checked with nearby patrons if they had lost any money. He said no one did and so he stuffed the bills in his pocket and rejoined his wife.

A short while later Teem said he was confronted by casino security and told him that surveillance tapes revealed that the money belonged to a particular casino patron. Teem told them that for amounts under $100 state statute does not require anyone to report the finding of the money.

Casino security alerted Polk County authorities who eventually arrested Teem for theft. When learning of the incident the Lincoln County Sheriff Office fired him.

In the end Teem returned the sixty dollars and all charges against him were dropped. Teem filed a lawsuit against Lincoln County for wrongful termination from his deputy job. He also filed suit against Polk county for false arrest and malicious prosecution.

With Teem agreeing to the $50K settlement, the lawsuits were dropped and his dismissal from his deputy job stands.

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 Posted by at 4:32 PM
Aug 292012
 

LC Commission, Wednesday

Lincoln County Commissioners Wednesday were asked to join a statewide effort to revamp and better coordinate services aimed at helping Oregon children be better prepared for kindergarten through third grade. Lincoln County Commission on Children and Families chief Barbara Dougherty and others told the commission that 700 children in Lincoln County live in poverty and that many have learning problems caused by home life to learning disabilities.

Dougherty outlined a series of statewide early childhood education services that are very complex, difficult for most people to understand and in need of revamping. Dougherty said Governor Kitzhaber has ordered part of that overhaul to include the creation of local ‘accountability hubs’ that can better coordinate services for troubled or disadvantaged children and to monitor the many services that these children are getting, as well as for those who need them, but for some reason, aren’t getting them. Dougherty told the commission, “We can either help them get the educational, health and mental health services they need to be effective learners, or we’ll lose them to crime, jail and other far costlier adult services.”

Doughterty told the commissioners that a statewide coordinating council for all this has been formed in Salem and that it will be working with the next state legislature to generate funding and coordination among all the hubs, statewide. The commissioners, she said, will have to pick which counties they’d like to affiliate with, whether it’s Linn and Benton or Tillamook, Clatsop or Polk. The idea, she said, is to create economies of scale for services between areas that are similar in social and economic backgrounds. The commission indicated a preference to affiliate with Tillamook or Clatsop because Lincoln County has very little in common with the urban areas of Lane, Benton or Linn counties, although Lincoln County does have partnering agreements with Benton and Linn on subject areas like transportation and the emerging medical Coordinated Care Organizations.

Dougherty said the commissioners will likely have to put out a request for proposals in early Spring to see what non-profit organization would like to form the ‘accountability hub.’ Shortly thereafter funding from the state legislature (and possibly from local sources) will be known and at that point the new coordinated early childhood education program can launch a more efficient and effective method of ensuring that regardless of income or family circumstances, Lincoln County’s pre-schoolers to third graders will be better equipped to learn how to meet the demands of what is truly a lifetime of education.

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 Posted by at 7:27 PM
Aug 292012
 

Wiki photo top
Lincoln County graphic left

Wind turbines have become more and more of a common sight in many parts of the country; certainly along the Columbia Gorge and in some areas of eastern Oregon. Heavy federal subsidies have prompted many investors to erect these large power generators to help provide more power to an energy hungry nation.

Lincoln County Solid Waste Program Manager Mark Saelens told Lincoln County Commissioners Wednesday that there is a possible lucrative investment opportunity for Lincoln County by getting into the wind power business. He said there are a number of grants available to reduce the investment cost while reaping a substantial return on power sales from wind generators placed in at least a couple of locations; near Thompson Sanitation in Newport and near the Waldport campus of Oregon Coast Community College.

Saelens said that local governments have an opportunity for easier entry into the wind generating business through a technological innovation in ascertaining whether there exists local winds sufficient to build wind turbines. He said it’s like “sound radar” in which sounds are injected into the air at a specific location and then electronically recorded. The difference in the sounds reveal the presence of wind, both in direction and velocity. If, over a period of time, winds are sufficient to justify investing in wind turbines, the county could erect them and sell their power to the local power grid. Sales can run into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, over time.

The idea got the attention of the commissioners who said they were interested in pursuing specifics on the financials. But they also cautioned that any forward movement on the project must be subjected to a full and open public airing of the proposal and aspects of county income, including what many would term the “visual blight” such large wind turbines would pose along our coast.

And they pretty much left it at that.

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 Posted by at 4:06 PM