County News

News From Across the Nation - July 23, 2018

CALIFORNIA

An enterprising ALAMEDA COUNTY firefighter, Brendan Burke, used mother duck sounds from YouTube to coax two small ducklings from a storm drain, after they refused to come out, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The chicks responded to the sounds and headed to Burke who placed them in a cardboard box. After firefighters searched the area for the ducklings’ family, they were about to give up when they checked a local golf course, where a mother duck and 10 little ones were spotted. After one of the lost ducklings let out a quack, the mother duck reunited them with their siblings.

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 A former homeless drug addict has earned the dubious spot of using more county services than anyone else in SACRAMENTO COUNTY, The Sacramento Bee reported. The man racked up $149,797.50 in county services in one year, ranging from jail, emergency response and behavioral health costs. A new study launched by the county shows that 250 homeless people were costing the city and county more than $11 million in 2015–2016. A new database tracked the services provided to homeless people and identified the top 500 users of public services. Under a new program to try to break the cycle, county employees attempt to track down the homeless who are costing the county the most. They then help them get counseling, schooling, job training, driver’s licenses and whatever else they need to get them off the streets.

• SONOMA COUNTY may launch a network of “wildfire-watch” cameras, The Press Democrat reported. The new network of high-tech web cameras could help first responders and government officials respond more quickly to wildfires and decide how best to deploy their resources. As proposed by the county Water Agency, the project would start as an eight-camera system, with cameras located in strategic spots around the county. “It provides a level of situational awareness that is absolutely needed going forward to address the new normal, which are these extreme weather events that drive fires to a different degree,” James Gore, Board of Supervisors chair, said. “I’m very excited about this.” Supervisors are expected to consider the $475,000 plan at their Aug. 7 meeting. Lake Tahoe and San Diego already use the system, developed by the University of Nevada, Reno.

 

COLORADO

• ADAMS COUNTY has filed a lawsuit over noise pollution at Denver International Airport, The Denver Channel reported. The county gave more than 50 square miles of land to the airport in 1988 on the condition it would track and pay for noise pollution. The airport has a hotline for residents to file noise complaints. Last year it was used 3,500 times. The county contends the City of Denver is not using the noise monitoring system outlined in the original agreement. The airport has paid the county $40 million in the 23 years it’s been open for business, for going above the noise threshold.

The PARK COUNTY Sheriff has added target or recreational shooting to its burn ban. “We’ve had so many incidents involving the Harris Park shooting range,” Sheriff Fred Wegener told Fox 31. “We had two fires there, I’ve had other fires within my county, we just don’t have a really good sense that people are gonna be doing this responsibly and it’s just too dry during the burn ban.” The TV station reported that not all Colorado counties prone to wildfires treat gunfire the same. Some counties have gunfire banned on public land but not on private land such as CUSTER COUNTY. Colorado Parks and Wildlife shut down several gun ranges as a result of wildfires burning across the state.

 

FLORIDA

The “Culture of Clean,” an anti-littering marketing team from a local high school, was recently honored by the CITRUS COUNTY Board of  Commissioners. The students, who premiered their anti-littering video at the Board meeting,  will make presentations to local groups and are already planning to expand the program during the next school year. The hope is that community groups will partner with the marketing team to not only clean-up the county but also create a Culture of Clean mindset for the future. Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith got the idea off the ground and Public Information Officer Cynthia Oswald connected with local schools.

 

MARYLAND

MONTGOMERY COUNTY police recently released a composite of a suspect in decades-old unsolved rapes and a murder thanks to a new technology. Using DNA collected at the crime scenes, detectives sought the services of a DNA tech company in Virginia that specializes in “phenotyping,” the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence. Based on the DNA, predictions were made for the suspect’s ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling and face shape. Composites were produced by combining the attributes. Detectives released composite sketches of the suspect at 25 years of age and at 45 years as well as a map of where the crimes occurred.

 

MISSOURI

ST. LOUIS COUNTY has teamed up with the City of St. Louis to battle sexually transmitted diseases, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. A city contract that started in July will pay the county Department of Public Health, Planned Parenthood and other non-profits to test and treat STDs in low-income and uninsured city residents. Previously the city had contracted, at $200,000 annually, with a private clinic that was charging people $30 per STD screening. Under the new contract, the screenings and treatment will be free.

 

NEBRASKA

GAGE COUNTY officials will ask the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in on a case that involves a $28.1 million judgment against the county.

An 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed the judgment in the case against the county and two deputies, ruling in favor of six people who served prison time for a crime authorities later connected to another man, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. If the re-hearing is not granted, the county could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Patrick O’Brien, an attorney for the county.

The Beatrice 6 served a combined 75 years for the murder of Helen Wilson before DNA testing tied Bruce Allen Smith to the crime in 2008. In 2016, a federal jury awarded $28.1 million to the Beatrice 6  but also found there had been no conspiracy and then-Gage County Sheriff Jerry DeWitt wasn’t liable for anything. County officials could further explore applying for Chapter 9 bankruptcy to pay the $28.1 million judgment, attorney’s fees and other costs, potentially becoming the first county in Nebraska to do so.

 

NEW JERSEY

A federal appeals court ruled that New Jersey’s elimination of cash bail did not violate the constitution.  A man charged with assault following a bar brawl, sued after being assigned a GPS ankle monitor rather than being jailed, which he claimed was a “scarlet letter” that violated his rights before he had his day in court.

A three-judge panel in the third circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals wrote that the fundamental issue in the case was whether cash bail was a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution. They said it was not, and that the move from cash bail to the new system was “rationally related” to the state’s interest “in assuring defendants appear at trial, the safety of the community and other persons, and the integrity of the criminal justice process.”

 

NORTH CAROLINA

The Interior Department paid $35 million to SWAIN COUNTY for a road it promised to build 75 years ago, completing an 11-year-old settlement. The federal government flooded a large chunk of land to create a lake that produced power for a World War II plant and planned to build a 34-mile road between two towns, but the effort stalled 7 miles short in 1972. 

 

OHIO

Visitors to the TRUMBULL COUNTY Fair can unwind and help fund a veterans memorial after the fair allowed for beer sales for the first time in its 172 years. Sales and consumption will be limited to a grandstand area following an ID check. The Cortland Veterans Memorial Committee will serve the drinks and will be the beneficiary. The memorial is already under construction.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

A quartet of geese will be repainted on one of downtown Pittsburgh’s signature bridges following a rehabilitation project.

The ALLEGHENY COUNTY COUNCIL voted to allow artist Tim Kaulen to repaint the geese, which he illegally painted more than 20 years ago, The Tribune-Review reported. More than 950 people signed a petition that started in May in favor of allowing Kaulen to repaint the geese.

 

TEXAS

Overrun by wild hogs, GUADALUPE COUNTY Commissioners put a bounty on the roughly 2,000 such animals roaming the countryside.

The county received a $15,000 grant from the Texas A&M Agrilife Service for feral hog control, which will fund a variety of hog management measures. The grant and the county will both contribute $5,000 for the bounties, which will earn $5 per hog, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

 

UTAH

A federal judge chose not to reopen the contested redistricting case in SAN JUAN COUNTY. Judge Robert Shelby decided that the county made appropriate reforms after finding its previous political boundaries racially gerrymandered, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Navajo residents in the state’s southeast corner claimed that up to 2,000 voters did not receive the appropriate ballot for this year’s primary election and wanted Shelby to hold the county in contempt of court. Shelby has twice ruled against the county for drawing racially discriminatory districts that disenfranchised Navajos who make up roughly half the county’s population.

 

WASHINGTON

KING COUNTY will donate a parcel of land next to a proposed light rail station to a nonprofit developer to use to build affordable housing. Seattle and the county have each committed $10 million to build at least 200 units of affordable housing, available to people making less than the median income. The city is in the process of rezoning the land to allow buildings to be twice as high as currently allowed, the Seattle Times reported.

 

WISCONSIN

With some neighborhoods dealing with rat infestations, BROWN COUNTY has purchased 1,500 traps to give away to residents. The county paid $7,000 out of its general fund for the traps and gave away more than half of them in two weeks, with several dozen fulfilling their purpose. The county has asked residents to report in if their trap is responsible for a kill, reminding residents that every rat eliminated could mean 96 fewer rats on the streets over the course of a year, WBAY News reported.

 

WYOMING

Business owners in NATRONA COUNTY will not have to pay a tax to import goods from overseas, thanks to the Casper Natrona County Airport being named a “free trade zone.” The airport’s designation expands the zone throughout all of the county, KCWY News reported.

Natrona County’s zone is the only free trade zone in Wyoming.

With the high cost of housing in mind, TETON COUNTY has purchased a single-family home to house county employees. The house will be leased to a higher-level employee, The News and Guide reported, likely one of the positions required to reside in the county. The home could also be used to recruit a new employee moving here from somewhere else.

The County Board commissioned a survey of employees about housing demand and recommendations for how the county can develop more housing opportunities for employees, with 51 percent of the more than 400 county employees saying housing is “impactful or very impactful” on their desire to remain working for the county, with nearly a quarter of non-homeowners considering leaving.


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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