County News

News From Across the Nation - July 9, 2018

A pilot is underway for a shared autonomous vehicle on public roads in ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. Photo courtesy of First Transit

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CALIFORNIA

First Transit is partnering with the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority, which includes the ALAMEDA COUNTY Transportation Commission, to pilot the first operation of a shared autonomous vehicle (SAV) on a public road by a transit agency in the state of California. This is the fifth SAV initiative for First Transit in North America. The SAV pilot will connect passengers from the Dublin/Pleasanton Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Dublin, Calif., to nearby shopping and entertainment. The testing phase for this pilot is expected to take two years without passengers. First Transit will provide operational support, maintenance and an onboard customer service agent for passenger questions and information. Easy Mile is the SAV manufacturer.


 

ARIZONA

A safety driver operating an Uber self-driving vehicle was watching a TV show on Hulu on her phone during a test drive March 18 that ended when a pedestrian was struck and killed by the car, TechCrunch.com reported. The details of the crash were in a 318-page police report recently submitted to the MARICOPA COUNTY Attorney’s office showing that the driver was watching “The Voice,” and looked down 204 times during the 43-minute test drive. Police say the driver’s eyes were off the road more than 30 percent of the time during the 11.8-mile drive. The report also found that Uber had disabled the car’s emergency braking system so it didn’t work under computer control. Maricopa County turned the case over to YAVAPAI COUNTY due to a potential conflict of interest. The Maricopa County AG had previously teamed with Uber on a “Save Lives, Don’t DUI” campaign. It’s unclear whether the driver will face charges, KPHO/KTVK reported.

 

DELAWARE

On a party line vote, Democrat lawmakers successfully passed a bill that guarantees the right of private employers to enter into labor deals that require their employees to join or pay fees to a union, Delaware Online reported. The bill blocks an effort to create a patchwork of individual counties and towns where “union shops” were forbidden. Republicans in SUSSEX COUNTY had made a strong push to enact those kinds of laws last year. 

Learn More

About Delaware counties exploring right-to-work ordinances

FLORIDA

● A legal battle over a Beetle, a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle that is, is on in LEE COUNTY. The county commissioned a local artist to cover the car in seashells in 2016 for a National Seashell Day promotion. The artist and volunteers covered the car in more than 20,000 seashells. The artist said the county promised her in a verbal agreement that she could keep the car, aka the “Shell Love Bug,” when the promotion was over. The county said “no,” that they needed to follow the usual procedure of auctioning off county property. She sued the county and a federal judge denied the county’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The artist owns the copyright to the artwork; the county owns the title to the car. We shell sea what happens next…

● President Donald Trump has sued the PALM BEACH COUNTY property appraiser over the valuation of Trump National Golf Club, according to The Palm Beach Post. The suit marks the fifth year in a row the president has disputed the property tax bill for the 131-acre golf course. As he fights the $19.7 million assessment, his financial disclosures in 2016 and 2017 list the golf club’s value as “over $50 million.”
“Trump tells voters his properties are hugely valuable but claims they are worth far less for property tax purposes, which unfairly shifts to others the burdens of government,” David Cay Johnston, author of “It’s Even Worse Than You Think,” told the newspaper.

 

MARYLAND

HARFORD COUNTY recently launched a “Choose Civility” campaign, according to The Baltimore Sun. The effort is part of a nationwide campaign to lift up communities by promoting respect, empathy and tolerance between individuals and within and among organizations. County Executive Barry Glassman and County Library CEO Mary Hastler hosted a kickoff breakfast that featured Valerie J. Gross, president of Education Enterprises for Libraries and founder of the movement. The local effort is focused on encouraging considerate conduct among county residents and reducing bullying, especially online.

 

MICHIGAN

● MACOMB COUNTY recently celebrated 200 years of being a county with nearly 200 runners covering 200 miles in a torch relay. The torchbearers covered 27 communities in all in 40 hours. “Give our torchbearers the support they need as they run through your community,” the county announced. “Bring your cameras, noisemakers and flashlights and let these men and women know that they are doing a great job.” The county also sent out maps and specific times on where and when to see the torchbearers. Image courtesy of Macomb County

 

WAYNE COUNTY sold a former psychiatric hospital and its surrounding 28 acres to developers for $1, The Detroit News reported. The developers plan to invest $20 million to create affordable senior homes and emergency housing for families. Assistant County Executive Khalil Rahal said the sale will save the county about $375,000 a year in maintenance and insurance costs. In 1940, the hospital housed a population of 4,000 mentally ill patients. The hospital was closed in 1981 due to financial problems and mental health care reform, the newspaper reported. “This is a sale of a property that’s going to see investment in an area that’s been empty for two years,” Rahal said. “This kind of relieves us of a lot of those curating costs while maintaining the community aspect that the community wants to see.”

 

NEBRASKA

After a contractor missed deadlines on a culvert project, LANCASTER COUNTY’s board barred him from doing any business with the county for two years.

The board also rescinded an almost $334,500 contract that had been awarded to the contractor’s company. The county engineer said the company did not let her know it would be unable to hit the deadline and continued to bid on other county projects. The county has banned one other vendor in the past 13 years, according to the county purchasing agent.

 

NEVADA

Hoping to keep police phone lines open in case of emergencies, CLARK COUNTY has set up a website for residents reporting illegal fireworks. Reports could be made anonymously for fireworks that were not purchased in a seven-day period from authorized vendors, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a case prohibiting the ROWAN COUNTY Board of Commissioners from opening meetings with Christian prayers, the Associated Press reported. As a result, the county will be barred from using a Christian invocation only.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond ruled against the county in 2017, following a 2013 lawsuit.  It said the commissioners’ practice of leading the prayers themselves and inviting the audience to join, always in the Christian faith, violated the First Amendment by establishing Christianity as a preferred religion.

 

OHIO

“Hey, that’s my dog!” If a dog owner could present a current dog license through July 9, LUCAS COUNTY Canine Care and Control waived adoption fees for pet owners reuniting with the stray dogs, The Blade reported. The timeframe allowed for dog-owner reunions after the July 4 fireworks, which could send many dogs running.

 

OKLAHOMA

Provisional ballots made the difference in BEAVER COUNTY remaining the only dry county in Oklahoma. State Question 792, allowing the sale of liquor and “strong beer,” initially passed by seven votes, but was overturned three days later when the provisional ballots were counted, The Oklahoman reported. Thirteen other counties voted in favor of State Question 792.

 

OREGON

A LANE COUNTY Public Health grant is helping to cover the cost of pneumonia vaccines for every patient older than 65 and high-risk patients between ages 19 and 64 at two local hospitals.

Patients in those populations at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Centers will be offered the vaccine before they leave the hospital, in hopes of preventing hospitalization because of pneumonia, The Register-Guard reported.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

● After running deficits for six of the past seven years, including the last five, CAMBRIA COUNTY’s audit shows the county was debt free in 2017.

“We’ve cut waste. We’ve made technological improvements, and the commissioners and the office holders and the employees of Cambria County are all responsible for this because they’re working as a team and to benefit the taxpayers of Cambria County,” Controller Ed Cernic Jr. said, according to WJAC News.

 

● Negotiations for a re-entry services contract took a turn when LANCASTER COUNTY Commissioners Chari Josh Parsons proposed performing the services in-house. The $361,000 contract proposal with a for-profit company was a point of contention with several citizens, and Parsons said the county’s staff was capable of providing the services, The LNP reported.

 

● For the second consecutive year, the Municipal Water Authority of WESTMORELAND COUNTY was honored as the best tasting water in the state by the American Water Works Association, The Tribune-Review reported.

 

TEXAS

A HARRIS COUNTY sergeant was hospitalized after touching a flyer laced with the opioid drug fentanyl that was placed on her car. Nearly two dozen of the same flyers were placed on the windshields of cars parked at the sheriff’s office’s recruitment and criminal investigations center. The sergeant felt lightheaded and showed other fentanyl-related symptoms, was rushed to the hospital and released the same day, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Law enforcement officers can incidentally ingest opioid drugs kicked into the air during drug busts, and often wear protective masks and gloves to avoid ingestion.

 

VIRGINIA

The AUGUSTA COUNTY Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance allowing the county to lease its land for solar energy use, The Daily Progress 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.

 

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