Western MOFFAT COUNTY saw a wildfire grow to more than 5,000 acres last week, threatening homes as well as oil and gas structures, and a Federal Aviation Administration tower, according to BLM Colorado Fire. The fire jumped Highway 40, burning power lines, according to the Yampa Valley Electric Association. Strong wind gusts up to 50 mph were hampering firefighters’ efforts to control the fire and people camping near Dinosaur National Monument were forced to evacuate. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
► Clearing storm debris after Hurricane Irma is proving to be a major problem for at least six counties in Florida and the state attorney general’s office is looking into possible price gouging by some sub-contractors, the Tampa Bay Times reported. ALACHUA, HENDRY, INDIAN RIVER, MANATEE, ORANGE and SARASOTA counties all complained to the state last week that they’re having problems with companies that refuse to haul debris or are charging higher rates than agreed upon.
The governor’s emergency chief told the newspaper the governor is trying to hire additional out-of-state debris haulers. The state is urging counties not to try to renegotiate contracts with vendors, telling them: “We don’t want you all competing with each other.
► Sorry, Amazon. POLK COUNTY commissioners recently voted to amend a tax break for the company because they did not meet job-creation requirements. Instead of receiving a 75 percent property tax cut, the company will receive a 50 percent property tax cut. Cities and counties around the country are vying to become a second $5 billion headquarters for the company, which reportedly will employ 50,000.
The CANYON COUNTY Public Defender’s office is considering letting neighboring ADA COUNTY handle any death penalty cases if a defendant requires a public defender. The county currently doesn’t have anyone in their public defense office certified to be a lead attorney in a death penalty trial. Canyon County commissioners are considering the request from public defender Krista Howard, the Associated Press reported.
► COOK COUNTY commissioners passed an ordinance last week to ban drones from flying over property owned by the county, including Stroger Hospital, Cook County Jail and other county properties. The ordinance aims to cut down on the possibility of contraband being dropped off, and photos or videos being taken. “There’s also security issues posed by the new technology, what these drones can do, what they can see, what they can carry,” said Commissioner John Fritchey, the Chicago Tribune reported. The ordinance, which went into effect immediately, doesn’t apply to every county property, including Daley Plaza and county forest preserves. Violators face fines up to $2,500.
► LAKE COUNTY will become the first county in Illinois to raise the minimum age required to buy cigarettes to 21 — that goes for any tobacco products as well as electronic cigarettes. The county Board passed the ordinance last week in hopes of reducing the number of people who start smoking before they reach 21. Lake County Board Chair Aaron Lawlor said he was a teenager when he first tried cigarettes through a fellow high school student who was 18. “This is exactly what this initiative hopes to stop,” said Lawlor, the Chicago Tribune reported. “Creating that distance is exactly what this does.” More than 260 communities in 18 states have made similar changes; five states have passed statewide laws.
MONROE COUNTY commissioners are considering a proposal for a new convention center and hotel development, the Associated Press reports. The plan, supported by an advisory committee, includes a 224-room hotel and banquet hall, a 450-car parking garage and a 40,000 square-foot expo hall. Sky bridges would connect the garage and expo hall. The price tag for the project is about $72 million, with a private developer picking up half the project. The county is home to the University of Indiana at Bloomington.
JOHNSON COUNTY Supervisor Rod Sullivan says he’d like to see a public discussion about changing the name of the county, according to a report by the Associated Press. The county was named in 1837 for Richard Mentor Johnson, a longtime U.S. House member, senator and vice president under President Martin van Buren. He was also a slave owner and colonel during the War of 1812, credited with killing the leader of the Native American resistance, who had sided with the British.
WAYNE COUNTY is seeing a dramatic drop in foreclosures. The county’s property tax foreclosures went from 28,000 in 2015 to fewer than 7,000 this year, the county reports. Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree is crediting an interest rate reduction program that allows homeowners to enter payment plans and pay delinquent taxes at an interest rate of 6 percent. There are about 36,000 people in payment plans, he said. Most of the foreclosures, about two-thirds, are cases of landlords collecting rent but not paying property taxes.
When couples go to Las Vegas to get married, they want to actually be married. The CLARK COUNTY Commission is making sure nobody is hoodwinked in the process. Clerk Lynn Goya now has the authority to fine officiants up to $1,500 if they do not have a license to perform a wedding or do not file the proper paperwork for a marriage.
Any money collected will be deposited in the county’s general fund, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported. Officiating a marriage without a license in Nevada used to be a misdemeanor, but state lawmakers changed it to a fineable offense this year.
Residents could always safely dispose of unused medication at drop boxes at CAMDEN COUNTY police departments, but now the county will be taking collection boxes to county-sponsored events, making disposal even more convenient. The drugs will be catalogued and held for disposal through either the state Department of Consumer Affairs’ Project Medicine Drop or the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Juvenile offenders will be able to work off community service and restitution by restoring furniture through a WESTMORELAND COUNTY program.
Offenders will spend five weeks restoring donated furniture, sanding, staining, painting, decorating tables and dressers, and reupholstering a rocking chair which will be sold at a social service agency’s store. A portion of the proceeds will go to a restitution fund for victims of crime, the Greensburg Tribune Review reported. Participants mark each piece of restored furniture with a quote about what change means to them.
HARRIS COUNTY will ask the federal government for $17 million in FEMA buyout grants to purchase 104 homes at the highest risk of flooding. The grant application is based on flooding in the previous two years, so it may not include homes flooded during Hurricane Harvey.
All told, 3,300 homes in the county are located at least 2 feet below the floodplain, also known as “hopelessly deep,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
The ORANGE COUNTY treasurer and Board of Supervisors has approved the sale of lifetime dog licenses. Previously, the county offered one-, two- or three-year dog licenses.
Supervisors in KENOSHA COUNTY are asking the state to create a database of statistics related to the opioid epidemic. In a letter addressed to local legislators and Gov. Scott Walker, the supervisors ask the state to track overdose-related ambulance calls, naloxone use, opioid-related death records and arrests and seizures of opioid drugs, the Kenosha News reported.