County News

News From Across the Nation - April 2, 2018

Archival footage shows Antelope, Ore. residents celebrating the restoration of their town name in 1985, a year after a cult fueled an effort to change its name to Rajneesh. Photo courtesy of Netflix

OREGON

The story of Rajneeshpuram, a cult that settled and tried to seize power in WASCO COUNTY, Ore. in the 1980s, has been featured in the Netflix documentary series “Wild Wild Country.” The cult organized a massive voter fraud effort to elect members to county office, and failing that, spread salmonella in a local salad bar. That sickened several community members, including the county judge and a commissioner.

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ALABAMA

As tornado season nears, the LEE COUNTY Emergency Management Agency is exploring options for a possible storm shelter, OANow.com reports. The agency director presented county commissioners with a list of proposed sites. The county could qualify for a grant if it meets certain FEMA guidelines. A public shelter that can accommodate 90 people generally costs about $120,000. If and when a shelter is constructed, it would be the county’s first public tornado shelter. Currently, the county posts information about safer places to shelter such as churches or other public buildings for people who live in mobile homes who need a place to go before a storm hits.

 

COLORADO

The JEFFERSON COUNTY Library is holding its seventh annual Prom Swap to help teens trade and find new items to wear to their prom for free. The library collects clean, formal attire (dresses, tuxedos, suits, shoes and accessories) for the swap; anyone who donates an item gets to select an item in return. If someone doesn’t have an item to donate, they can “purchase” tickets with canned goods. Five canned items will “buy” you a dress, tuxedo or suit; two cans will buy you shoes or an accessory. The library promotes the dates and times of the “Prom Swap” for anyone interested in shopping.

 

FLORIDA

PALM BEACH COUNTY has fewer homeless, but of those, more are veterans or families without places to live, according to the county’s 2018 recent “point in time” count. In all, 200 volunteers fanned out over a 24-hour period to count the homeless. They counted 1,308; fewer than the 1,607 counted last year. However, the count showed a 73 percent increase in homeless veterans. The count, mandated by the Department of Housing Urban Development, is used to direct assistance to those in need. The VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach attributed the increase to better tracking of homeless veterans and the census takers making clearer distinctions between veterans and civilians.

 

GEORGIA

Thanks to a $3.7 million federal grant, HENRY COUNTY is hiring 27 new firefighters, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. County commissioners recently voted to approve a resolution paving the way for the Staffing for an Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant from FEMA.

There is a requirement of matching funds from the county — 25 percent in the current fiscal year and the same percentage for FY2019. The total increases to 65 percent in FY2020 with the county taking on all of the costs the following year. The funding will increase the firefighter staff from 310 to 337.

 

INDIANA

Hundreds of local residents packed into hearings recently to voice their opposition to a wind farm project in MIAMI COUNTY, the Kokomo Tribune reported. Those who oppose the proposed 75 wind turbines wore shirts and held up signs that read “Just Say No.” The proposed project would also extend into CASS and FULTON counties. Meanwhile, the county is considering new restrictions that could hinder the proposed wind farm. The Planning and Building Commission is looking at new rules that would prohibit a wind turbine from being located within 2,000 feet of property lines, roads, public lands and city limits.  The current ordinance requires a 1,000-foot setback from residential dwellings and a 350-foot setback from roads, railroads and public easements.

A couple living in the area of the proposed wind farm has filed a lawsuit against the Miami County Board of Commissioners, claiming the county’s current wind ordinance violates U.S. and state constitutions by restricting property rights, the newspaper reported.

 

MARYLAND

BALTIMORE COUNTY recently announced the start of a program that offers free college tuition for high school graduates, according to The Baltimore Sun. Called “College Promise,” the program will make up the difference between financial aid and tuition. Low-income students who graduate from a public or private school and who have a 2.5 grade point average are eligible for the program. Officials estimate the cost of the program at about $1 million per year.

 

MONTGOMERY COUNTY is considering adding a director of Climate Policy. A public hearing about the new position is set for April 10. The person would advise the county executive, council, Department of Environmental Protection and other county agencies that deal with environmental policy on the best ways to meet climate goals including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using renewable energy, according to Bethesda Magazine.

 

NEW YORK

Any worker in ALBANY COUNTY who has worked 80 or more hours in a given year may be offered paid sick leave under a proposal being considered by the county Legislature.

The plan allows employees to accrue at least one hour of sick time per 30 hours worked. Employers with more than 10 workers will have to grant at least up to 72 hours of earned sick time per year. Employers with fewer than 10 but more than five employees must grant at least 40 hours of paid sick time per year, according to Spotlight News.

 

A Utah-based firm will scour internet listings for short-term rentals in ULSTER COUNTY and ensure their compliance with county standards for lodgings. A $25,000 contract with Bear Cloud Software will furnish the search, the automation of the county’s enforcement administration and the creation of an online registration portal for operators.

The Daily Freeman reports that the information is also expected to enable the county to ensure the establishments are paying sales tax and the county’s hotel-motel tax on the rentals.

Deputy Comptroller Evan Gallo said the county lost out on roughly $300,000 in revenue in 2017 by failing to levy the bed tax on Airbnb rentals and others like them. Legislator James Maloney  has introduced a resolution calling for the county to enter into a voluntary agreement with Airbnb to collect the tax from users of its site.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

A state appellate court reversed a FAYETTE COUNTY judge’s recent decision to deny a proposed methadone clinic. The judge had upheld a 2016 decision by the county zoning board to deny the clinic’s request for a special zoning exception. The county decided the clinic would create on-site parking problems and traffic backups, the Tribune Review reported.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

To match the proliferation of high-powered firearms, YORK COUNTY sheriff’s deputies are being equipped with 100 sets of high-density body armor. Each set of armor includes five pieces. The cost is $40,000.

In January, four officers were shot after responding to a domestic violence call just outside of York, with one detective dying a day later. The new body armor would add more weight, and won’t be worn at all times. Officers will continue wearing their current protection while on duty, putting on the extra armor as needed.

 

UTAH

The SALT LAKE COUNTY Council will ask Gov. Gary Herbert (R) to veto a bill establishing an inland port that would have ultimate land use control over one-third of Salt Lake City and give it first dibs on all area tax revenue.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Herbert said he planned to approve the legislation. Opposition to the bill focuses on the loss of local control and the port’s unelected board’s lack of accountability.

The measure gives the newly-created authority power to draw unlimited tax revenue from existing taxing entities within its jurisdiction — not only from the city where it would be based, but also from area schools and the county as well.

 

VIRGINIA

The Legislature has ordered ARLINGTON COUNTY to change the way it assesses property taxes on its two golf courses, according to The Washington Post.

The county currently assesses the property as if it were as densely developed as the rest of the county, the smallest by area in the nation. The state legislation requires Arlington to lower the $870,000 tax bill of the Washington Golf and Country Club and the $1.5 million bill of the Army Navy Country Club by assessing the private property as “open space” rather than “highest and best use” — which in densely populated Arlington would be residential or commercial.

LOUDOUN COUNTY was also included in the bill, but it already assesses golf courses as open space.

 

WASHINGTON

The KING COUNTY Council established a low-income priority hiring program to provide family-wage construction jobs in economically distressed areas. The program will prioritize the county’s economically disadvantaged local workers for inclusion on county capital construction projects through state-recognized apprenticeship programs.

The neighborhoods from which participants will be pulled will have unemployment levels of 8 percent or higher, more than 28 percent of residents at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and 70 percent of residents at least 25 years old with no college degree.

Contractors who enter into agreements on county capital construction projects costing at least $15 million will consent to making a percentage of the residents living in these ZIP codes, who have the requisite skills, a priority when hiring for the project.


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.

 

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