County News

News from Across the Nation - Sept. 18, 2017

FLORIDA

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY says that a kitschy $2.5 million public sculpture at Marlins Park must stay, after new Marlins owner Derek Jeter inquired about its removal. The 73-foot tall sculpture was required as part of the local Art in Public Places program, which mandates that county-constructed buildings feature artwork, the Miami Herald reported. The mechanical sculpture, by artist Red Grooms, features flamingos and marlins that whirl whenever the Marlins hit a homerun.

ARIZONA

The U.S. Geological Survey plans to start using a peanut butter-flavored vaccine to help save prairie dogs carrying fleas with bubonic plague; plans call for dropping the bait across thousands of acres in Arizona as well as in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and other Western states.

NAVAJO COUNTY Public Health officials recently confirmed that fleas in the area tested positive for plague. COCONINO and SANTA FE COUNTY officials first found prairie dogs there to be carrying fleas with the plague.  Ninety-five percent of prairie dogs die within 78 hours of becoming infected, according to the Humane Society. In June, the New Mexico Department of Health announced that three human cases had been detected in Santa Fe County. All were hospitalized; no one died.

Health officials are cautioning county residents to keep their pets leashed since the disease can be transferred and to avoid contact with dead animals. Plague is an infectious disease infamous for killing 25 million Europeans during the Middle Ages.

 

ARKANSAS

Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands John Thurston recently turned back more than $18.2 million to the state’s 75 counties. The funds were collected from property owners paying delinquent real estate taxes and from proceeds of excess taxes due when the agency sells property. Delinquent collections go back to the counties that should have received the money if taxes had been paid on time. In turn, the money is divvied up for schools, libraries and roads.

 

CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES COUNTY supervisors recently gave the OK for a pilot program designed to help alleviate its homeless problem. Homeowners can receive up to $75,000 and a streamlined permitting process to construct “granny flats” or “in-law units” on their properties to rent out to the homeless. Other homeowners can receive $50,000 for remodeling and legalizing an existing unpermitted dwelling.

The 18-month program has a $550,000 budget, which is also helping fund a competition seeking innovative design proposals for these types of “micro dwellings.” Homelessness spiked 23 percent across the county this year compared to 2016, with more than 55,000 sleeping on sidewalks, in their cars or along the Los Angeles River.

 

FLORIDA

⚫ HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY commissioners recently voted 4–2 to relocate a Confederate memorial statue that sits outside the county courthouse if money could be raised privately to move it. The commissioners voted for a one-month deadline to raise funds to move the statue. A GoFundMe page was flooded with donations and raised enough to move Memoria en Aeterna, a 106-year-old statue commemorating Confederate soldiers, to the Brandon Family Cemetery.

 

⚫ MANATEE COUNTY commissioners also voted to temporarily move a Confederate memorial; a spire on the statue, featuring Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, cracked in two while it was being moved, but will likely be repaired.

 

ILLINOIS

⚫ The COOK COUNTY Board will vote next month on whether to repeal its controversial soda tax. The board delayed the vote at a two-hour meeting last week that attracted an overflow crowd, both pro and con. “We anticipate that we will continue to have the votes for a sweetened beverage tax,” said Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Those who support the tax, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and opponents have committed $6.4 million in dueling TV and radio ads, the Chicago Tribune reported. Preckwinkle says the tax is needed to maintain county services and help reduce sugar consumption-related illnesses.

 

⚫ A man overdosed on opioids and was revived last month while at LAKE COUNTY Bond Court, the Chicago Tribune reported. Three corrections officers administered two doses of naloxone and after he regained consciousness, he was transported to a local hospital. “Someone overdosing in a courtroom highlights the opioid epidemic we face,” said Sheriff Mark Curran, in a statement. “The Lake County Sheriff’s Office continues to work with community stakeholders, battling the prevalent opioid problem through education and enforcement.” He credited the actions of the corrections officers for saving the man’s life.

 

NEW JERSEY

More than 60,000 people live in MONMOUTH COUNTY’s flood-prone area, and the county’s Office of Emergency Management has launched a public education campaign to better inform citizens when and how they should evacuate. Officials say residents were confused about their flooding likelihood during Superstorm Sandy.

Know Your Zone” signs have been posted around the country to illustrate the zones in which they are located, which were created using scientific surge models. The county also maintains a website to complement that information.

 

NEW MEXICO

⚫ The LOS ALAMOS COUNTY Council approved policies and procedures for the Homebuyer Assistance Program, a partnership with the Los Alamos Housing Partnership.

The program funds the first downpayment on a home for qualified homebuyers, the Los Alamos Monitor reported.

 

⚫ MORA COUNTY has become the 20th county in the United States to sue pharmaceutical manufacturers for knowingly over-distributing the drugs that drove the nation’s opioid crisis.

The suit maintains that the companies have violated several laws, including the New Mexico Unfair Trade Practices Act. The companies have known the risks of opioids but instead promoted the drugs for long-term use and downplayed the risks to “expand the market for opioids and realize blockbuster profits,” the suit states.

The long list of defendants named in the suit include OxyContin distributor Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson and Percocet distributor Endo Health Solutions.

Mora County Commission Chairman Paula Garcia said the county’s public health officials met with the commission about Mora’s “disproportionately” high overdose rates more than a year ago.

According to the state’s Department of Health, the county’s overdose rate was one of the state’s highest between 2011 and 2015 – 47.3 per 100,000 people. Mora County, with about 4,500 residents, had 14 drug overdose deaths in 2015, according to the suit.

Conaway said damage amounts will be proven in the litigation. The county doesn’t have an estimated or desired figure in mind, according to Aragon.

Garcia said any damages awarded to the county would fund prevention, education and treatment programs, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

 

NEW YORK

⚫ ONONDAGA COUNTY voters will decide in a referendum whether the sheriff will take control of the Jamesville Correctional Facility and the county corrections department.

If voters approve, the change would take effect in January.

Onondaga County is the only county in New York that still divides jail operations between the sheriff and the county executive, and county lawmakers voted to consolidate jail operations under the sheriff’s office so the question could appear on the general election ballot, Syracuse.com reported. Because the move transfers control from one elected official to another, it requires approval by voters.

Under the proposed consolidation, the facilities would continue to be staffed by separate personnel, under separate union contracts, but would be administered jointly by the sheriff.

The county could save money because unified control over the jail would allow for better inmate management and fewer inmates sent to other jails thanks to overcrowding.

 

⚫ RENSSELAER COUNTY has reached an agreement with Airbnb that will allow the home-sharing platform to collect and remit county hotel occupancy taxes.

The county’s 70 hosts earned $510,000 in the past calendar year, The Saratogan reported.Rensselaer County joins DELAWARE, DUTCHESS, ESSEX, FRANKLIN, LIVINGSTON, ONONDAGA, OTSEGO, SCHOHARIE, SCHUYLER, SENECA, ST. LAWRENCE, SULLIVAN and TOMPKINS counties in entering tax agreements with Airbnb.

 

OHIO

⚫ CLARK COUNTY will not accept an $840,000 grant from the state prison department because they fear its requirements could cause jail overcrowding.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction grant would require the county to house people sentenced to low-level, fifth-degree felonies in local jails instead of sending them to state prisons, according to the Springfield News-Sun.

The sheriff’s office said it could lead to a nearly 25 percent increase in the county’s jail population.

 

⚫ Facing a rash of opioid overdose deaths, HAMILTON COUNTY will distribute 30,000 doses of naloxone. The drug reverses the effects of overdoses.

First responders already carry it, but the county will distribute more through partnerships with hospitals, jails, faith-based groups and syringe exchanges.

The escalating potency of street drugs like heroin and fentanyl has prompted the county to double the strength of the naloxone doses to 4 mg, from 2 mg, The Washington Post reported.

 

VIRGINIA

The CHESTERFIELD COUNTY Economic Development Authority wants to create an industrial “megasite” by rezoning and buying 1,700 acres of land for large, industrial users. It would be among the largest in Virginia.

The authority would use that size to recruit companies such as automotive or aerospace manufacturers that need large parcels of land with buffer zones and easy access to an interstate highway, the Richmond Times-Dispatch 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