County News

News from Across the Nation - April 1, 2019

CALIFORNIA
Areas in LOS ANGELES COUNTY are experiencing a “super bloom” of wildflowers after a recent period of heavy rains. Flowers have bloomed in different areas of southern California, including along the runways at Los Angeles International Airport. One field of flowers stretches nearly 11,000 feet along the length of the runways, KTLA5 reported. The super bloom is a result of rare, heavy rains throughout the state during the winter. Wildflowers are also blooming in Lake Elsinore near Walker Canyon, which is located 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles. In adjacent RIVERSIDE COUNTY, it’s much the same. “It’s better than going to Disneyland,” Randy Solis, a Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency patrol officer, said at a trailhead near Lake Elsinore, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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ARIZONA

LA PAZ COUNTY is now able to purchase nearly 6,000 acres from the Bureau of Land Management after President Trump signed the La Paz County Land Conveyance Act, the Parker Pioneer reported. The act directs the secretary of the Interior to convey approximately 5,935 acres of federal land to the county for future economic development opportunities. 

La Paz County is required to pay fair-market value for the acreage and the costs related to the conveyance. “The passing of this bill is a huge economic driver for our county,” said Holly Irwin, La Paz County vice-chairman of the Board of Supervisors. According to the Parker Pioneer, the county is considering using the land for possible solar power development.

 

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COCONINO COUNTY is educating families on the dangers of lead poisoning. The county received a $25,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Health Services to bring awareness to the issue, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. The Coconino Public Health Services District will partner with local care providers to encourage families to test infants for lead poisoning when they are 12 months old and 24 months old. 

Lead poisoning remains a concern for those in the county after high levels were found in an elementary school’s drinking water. The school was tested during a statewide pilot program in 2017. Arizona’s state health department created a 2018 Arizona Targeted Lead Screening Plan to identify ZIP codes with the highest risk for lead poisoning by analyzing previous cases, housing characteristics, the poverty level and the demographic characteristics of different areas. The grant-funded project hopes to prevent future poisoning by identifying risks. 

 

COLORADO

LARIMER COUNTY is using a Senior Tax Work-Off Program to allow residents to apply for work to pay their property tax bill, according to the Reporter-Herald. Residents who are 60 years or older can apply to cover up to $400 of their county property tax bill. The program was established to help seniors reduce their tax bills by working temporary jobs throughout the county, specifically helping those who are on fixed incomes as property taxes increase. Eligible residents must have a gross monthly income at or below $2,082 for one person or $2,818 for two people.

 

ILLINOIS

LAKE COUNTY has launched a program to help residents renew their driver’s licenses. The Road to Reinstatement Pilot Program is intended for individuals who are unable to restore or renew their driving privileges because they can’t pay the fines and fees. Because it is difficult for those who are unable to drive to maintain employment, individuals who qualify for the program will be able to get their driver’s license renewed or reinstated to help support themselves and their families. Residents will not be eligible for the program if they have DUI citations, are habitual/dangerous offenders or have felony cases, child support suspension, financial responsibility suspension, insurance suspension, toll violations, unpaid parking tickets or citations issued outside of Lake County. 

 

INDIANA

BENTON COUNTY is adding locations to its Safe Place Program, according to WCINews. The goal of the program is to assist youth who are in immediate need of help and safety. Safe Place is a national youth outreach program that designates businesses and organizations as Safe Place locations where those under the age of 21 may go to receive immediate help. 

Safe Place locations can be found at libraries, YMCAs, fire stations, some businesses and social service facilities, according to its website. New locations in Benton County include the Fowler Sheriff’s Office, Benton Health and Wellness Center, Boswell Public Library, Pizza King of Otterbein, Oxford Public Library, Boswell Farmers and Merchants Bank, Fowler IGA and Templeton Ceres Solutions. Designated locations have yellow signs with the Safe Place logo outside the building. 

 

IOWA

STORY COUNTY is working to make Home Base Iowa, a program to help its veteran population more visible in the county. The program began in 2013 and connects veterans who are transitioning from the military to the workforce, according to the Ames Tribune. The Board of Supervisors adopted an incentive package of $10,000 budgeted annually for the initiative in 2015, creating the Welcome Home to Story County Relocation Assistance Program. This program provides veterans a one-time grant of up to $2,500 to assist with relocation and finding work in the county. Veterans who are enrolled in the program can use the funds for appliance purchases, utility deposits, down-payments on homes or rent deposits. 

 

MINNESOTA

WRIGHT COUNTY is expanding a program to stop invasive aquatic species from spreading, according to Minnesota Public Radio News. Boaters will now be required to stop at a regional inspection station before entering specified lakes. The county voted to add six more lakes to the program where boaters will be required to have their trailers and boats inspected before putting them in the water. 

In 2017, Wright County was the first Minnesota county to require inspections and have boats or trailers tagged before being allowed in certain lakes. Boaters face possible citations if their boats are not inspected and tagged at the regional inspection station. The nine lakes included in the program are all within 15 miles of the regional inspection station. Boaters who take a class on how to inspect their own boat may receive a special decal and do not have to go to the regional inspection checkpoint, Minnesota Public Radio News reports.

 

NEW YORK

A $15 million state grant will allow CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY to possibly double the size of its public defender’s staff. The grant from the Office of Indigent Legal Services will completely reimburse all county costs associated with the representation of the indigent. Ten full-time attorneys handle more than 7,000 cases a year, with their 200-350 felony case load well above that optimal maximum of 150 recommended by state officials. The Post-Journal reported that the number of attorneys will increase to 18-20.

 

The term “dirt cheap” apparently hasn’t kept up with inflation, because at $4 million, it will be more economical for NIAGARA COUNTY to cover a town’s landfill with artificial turf. The County Legislature voted to do just that. The turf will be more cost effective than soil because it won’t require maintenance or mowing, WIVB News reported. 

 

NORTH CAROLINA

Distressed counties could see some staffing help thanks to a program through the University  of North Carolina’s School of Government that will train and place college graduates in county and city governments in distressed communities. “Lead for North Carolina” is funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the State Employee’s Credit Union Foundation. Grants will cover their first year’s salary and housing stipends. 

Training programs will prepare fellows to work in emergency management, community health, citizen engagement or business process improvement. Fellows will take a bus tour of counties across the state to see firsthand the collective challenges these communities face. Twenty-five fellows will serve for two years and county placements will be chosen from among the 40 most distressed counties. They will start training in July and begin working in their local governments in August.

 

A bill in the state House would force county sheriffs to cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and honor requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants for two days after their release. Several sheriffs have broken off arrangements with ICE. The bill would threaten fines of up to $25,500 a day, Raleigh’s ABC affiliate reported.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

Beneficiaries of the Women, Infants and Children program in CASS COUNTY will be issued debit cards for the program, rather than paper vouchers. Previously, they had to check off, on the voucher, the items they were buying. They had to turn in the voucher when they made a purchase. The Brainerd Dispatch reported that participants could lose out on some items for which they qualified if they didn’t want to stock up all at once. 

A cardholder can shop for one or two items daily for up to a month if the items have not been exceeded in her allotment for the month. The cards expire once a month, then are re-loaded.

 

OREGON

MULTNOMAH COUNTY has filed amicus briefs in two cases that argue the government has an obligation to protect the atmosphere and the natural environment from climate change because they are public trust resources. 

A group of 21 plaintiffs, many of whom are minors, are suing the federal government over its climate change policies. The federal government has repeatedly filed motions to dismiss and delay action on the case, which has slowly made its way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Another case involves young people suing the state of Oregon for failing to protect natural resources from climate change. The plaintiffs filed a request to have their case reviewed by the Oregon Supreme Court.

County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the county is the first sovereign government to support plaintiffs in both cases — Chernaik v. Brown and Juliana v. United States — in large part because county leaders feel governments do have a moral and a legal duty to protect natural resources from the impacts of climate change, such as record-breaking wildfires and ocean acidification.

 

UTAH

The elevation and surrounding mountains make SALT LAKE COUNTY victim to temperature inversions in the winter that keep pollution close to ground level. With that in mind, Mayor Jenny Wilson has created an Office of Environmental Services. For now, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, the office will be staffed by one person, who will build partnerships with outside organizations. The county has already reduced its vehicle fleet and replaced them with energy-efficient models, but a population boom is expected, bringing with it more cars and pollution. 

 

VIRGINIA 

Nearly a year after winning the race to play host to Amazon’s new facility, the ARLINGTON COUNTY Board officially approved a $23 million set of incentives for the online retailer. The incentives will be tied to the floor space Amazon occupies. The company would need to occupy 64,000 square feet in 2020 next year to obtain grants, but those occupancy targets will increase. The agreement anticipates Amazon occupying more than 6 million square feet in 2035. WTOP News reported the funding will be drawn from the county’s hotel occupancy tax.

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