County News

News From Across the Nation - April 16, 2018

WISCONSIN

After state legislators failed to close the dark stores loophole for big box stores, OUTAHAMIA COUNTY is trying by itself, by putting an advisory referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot asking the Legislature to do it. The dark store tax loopholes allow big-box retailers to obtain lower commercial property assessments, saving them millions of dollars in property taxes, a tax burden that is shifted to homeowners and small businesses. An analysis by USA Today Network -Wisconsin found that of 67 open dark store cases filed against municipalities, if settled, would mean $774 million in taxable property value lost. “We want to use the Fox Cities as a springboard for this,” Board Chairman Jeff Nooyen said. “I’m going to be contacting the board chairs…anywhere there’s a large concentration of urban population and big-box operations.”

CALIFORNIA

► A federal judge approved new boundaries for the KERN COUNTY Board of Supervisors, creating two Latino-majority districts, after the court concluded that “Latino voters were deprived of an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.” County leaders and the plaintiff, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, recently agreed on a new district map. The group had argued that a redistricting plan adopted seven years ago by supervisors violated the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or language.

 

► SAN DIEGO COUNTY will soon embark on its second annual online auction of properties after their owners failed to pay property taxes. Bidders must first register online for the sale, hosted by the county treasurer-tax collector’s office. Last year’s first online sale broke records, topping out at $7.8 million for 648 properties.

 

FLORIDA

► LEON COUNTY commissioners are moving forward with an ordinance to close the gun show loophole for background checks and impose a five-day waiting period for private gun sales. Gun control advocates have packed commission meeting rooms to support the change.

Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley introduced the ordinance in 2013 but withdrew it after opposition from the NRA and others, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

She introduced it  again after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  “I wish that the counties had more authority,” she said. “I would like to be able to see Leon County ban assault weapons.”

 

► MANATEE COUNTY is changing a policy after a woman was forced to sit with her husband’s dead body for 90 minutes in a public park while waiting for a funeral home to pick him up. The man had been walking his dogs when he dropped dead of a heart attack. Deputies and emergency management responders quickly arrived but when life-saving attempts did not work, they left the scene. Family members wondered why the ambulance did not transport the body to a funeral home or morgue. The county is now changing policy — paramedics will now put a body in the back of an ambulance until the funeral home arrives when someone dies in a public place.

 

GEORGIA

Counties in the Peach State are celebrating passage of HB 751, a 911 bill that will help counties implement next generation 911 service. The legislation creates the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority and streamlines the process of distributing fees for 911 centers.

INDIANA

Three family members were booked into the BROWN COUNTY Jail recently after 142 birds — roosters and hens — were removed from a home after a months-long investigation into an alleged cockfighting ring, RTV-6 reported. The birds were seized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Most of the fights were taking place in a large barn the family owns nearby in Kentucky. Undercover agents from the Indiana Gaming Commission were able to get inside.

 

IOWA

► A proposed wind farm in BLACK HAWK COUNTY with flashing red lights that will only turn on when aircraft is detected, is supported by local environmental activists, but is also drawing opposition from neighbors due to its proposed site. The turbines will be 312 feet tall at the hub and 492 feet tall at the highest point of a blade. A group of land owners is registering their concerns about the impact the 35 turbines will have on property values. Others are also concerned about their quality of life due to the noise or shadow flickers from spinning blades.

► The POLK COUNTY Board of Supervisors recently approved a reorganization of Sheriff Department staff, creating a two-person team to be in charge of a new online database of weapons permit numbers.

Dealers can check if the permit numbers of potential buyers have been revoked. County supervisors say the new online database will be more easily accessible than a lengthy phone call to the National Instant Background Check system.

With the new program, expected to go online in June, any individual selling a gun would be able to go to the Sheriff’s Department’s website, punch in an eight-digit gun permit number and find out if it’s valid. Polk County has 40,000 active five-year gun permits.

 

 

MICHIGAN

It sounds almost like a real-life version of Charlotte’s Web, a story that features a pig named Wilbur who is saved from slaughter. In this case, a MIDLAND COUNTY resident called 911 recently to report a 300-pound runaway pig, according MLive.com. Jacob Fink, a county sheriff’s deputy and animal control officer, reported the pig fell out of a trailer while being transported to slaughter. But after someone found the pig and tied it up, it had chewed through its restraints and was once again on the lam. No report yet on whether the swine was recaptured or is still roaming free.

 

OHIO

► The Geauga Trumbull Solid Waste Management District Board will either lease or  build a household hazardous waste, appliance and electronic recycling collection facility in GEAUGA COUNTY.

The district has been able to divert over 395,178 pounds of material from landfills a year, The News-Herald reported.

 

► With more than 100 drug-related cases awaiting testing by the state, LICKING COUNTY is looking into establishing its own forensics lab. Its goal would be to return test results in days, rather than weeks or months.

“They have cases; they have evidence they’re ready to bring in for indictment, but they can’t get the testing results back in a timely basis to make arrests,” Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb told the Columbus Dispatch.

Commissioners are creating a fund within the county budget to account for contributions and expenses for the lab and plan to seek private donations to cover initial startup costs, including the purchase of lab equipment and the hiring of a certified chemist.

 

OREGON

► CLATSOP COUNTY has partnered with the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, Bonneville Power Administration and three private property owners to bring more than 60 acres of the swamp back for salmon and wildlife habitat, a reversal of the nearly 80 percent of the habitat lost to development over 90 years.Contractors will remove about 2,000 feet worth of levees and restore meandering tidal inlets this summer.

 

► JOSEPHINE COUNTY officials are suing the state of Oregon in federal court, saying federal restrictions on marijuana trump its legality in the state. The county had tried to ban commercial pot farming on parcels of 5 acres or less, but the state Land Use Board of Appeals ruled last month on the side of the growers, and put the restrictions on hold, KDRV News reported.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Parking in Harrisburg will soon be free after 5 p.m. thanks to a resolution by the DAUPHIN COUNTY Board of Commissioners. The city and county are both contributing $110,000 and the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District will pay $50,000 to the parking authority for the first year of a trial program.

The hope is that more visitors will park, and shop, downtown with free parking to attract them on weekday evenings, PennLive reported. The county is using funds from a portion of the hotel tax to pay the cost and the city is using money owed to it by the parking system.

 

TEXAS

Several months after Hurricane Harvey, HARRIS COUNTY is looking into building underground tunnels to spare homes and businesses from flooding, at the cost of billions of dollars.

Commissioners are negotiating a contract with Fugro USA Land, Inc. to study the idea over several months. The tunnels would transport water underground from flood-prone watersheds diverting it away to areas where it can safely drain, the Houston Chronicle reported. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said after the unanimous vote that the Harris County Flood Control District “decided that they would be remiss if they didn’t at least look at the idea.”

Emmett says other cities like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio have built similar tunnels, over shorter distances.

Russ Poppe, executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District, said the tunnels could span 30 to 40 feet wide and travel 100 to 200 feet underground.

 

VIRGINIA

► In a different variation on local-state tension, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R)  owes ALBEMARLE COUNTY $148,000 in property taxes dating back several years.

The county assessor said Justice has until Dec. 31 to pay the taxes, or the county will foreclose and auction off his 16 parcels of land in early 2019, CBS 19 News reported.

 

► Police in FAIRFAX COUNTY now have guidelines for how they conduct high-speed chases. Chief Edwin Roessler told WTOP that officers and supervisors have three criteria for pursuing any suspect in a fleeing vehicle:

The officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion that a driver and/or passengers have committed, have attempted to commit, are committing, or have threatened to use violence to commit a violent felony against a person; other criminal offense; or a traffic infraction.

The driver refuses to stop when given the signal to do so.

The need for immediate apprehension outweighs the danger created by the pursuit to the public, officers and offender, including passengers.

 

WASHINGTON

Counties with populations over 400,000 will need to change to a district-based county commission structure beginning in 2022, after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed the Responsible Representation Act. The bill only applies to non-charter counties, and as a result, will only apply to SPOKANE COUNTY. The County Board will grow to five seats, from the present three, Spokane Public Radio reported.

 


News from Across the Nation is compiled by Charlie Ban and Mary Ann Barton, senior staff writers. If you have an item for News From, please email cban@naco.org or mbarton@naco.org.

 

Contact the Editor

Bev Schlotterbeck
Executive Editor
(202) 942-4249
bschlott@naco.org