County News

News from Across the Nation - April 15. 2019

MICHIGAN
Officials in OAKLAND COUNTY are expected to approve a rugged park to be an “off-roader paradise” for four-wheeler clubs and SUV owners, the Detroit Free Press reported. The park, which will be located 90 minutes north of Detroit, is expected to be purposely rugged with hundreds of rock-strewn acres. County officials hope tourists will camp overnight near the park to increase tourism and the local economy. The state is planning to lease the land to Oakland County, which will pay to operate the park. Photo credit: Oakland County Parks and Recreation

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ALABAMA

Changes are coming to the recycling program in MADISON COUNTY, WAAY-TV 31 reported. Residents can now ask for a recycling cart that resembles a larger trash can and is five times the size of a regular recycling bin. The new changes to the program will make recycling available to an additional 20,000 households in the county. The recycling carts will be collected once a month instead of the current weekly pick up. Residents can choose to opt into the program and will receive a new recycling cart at no charge. The recycling carts will be purchased with grant money.

 

ARIZONA

A generous gift of new signage is helping tourists find their way to wine-tasting rooms in COCHISE COUNTY. Kinder Morgan, Inc., an energy infrastructure company with compressor stations in the area, donated six to 10 new signs to the Public Works Department in an “act of goodwill” for companies in the wine industry, according to Arizona Public Media. Since the area is very rural, the signs will help tourists by pointing toward one of the many wine-tasting rooms in the county. The county plans to highlight the wine industry to promote economic development.

 

ARKANSAS

PULASKI COUNTY is adding free after-school programs for children in the county who are in need of support, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Three new programs will be held for children between the ages of 6 and 12 who are in unincorporated sections of the county. Kids will be able to receive help with homework, play with other children and eat snacks. The goal of the after-school programs is to keep children engaged and provide them with support. Children can attend the programs after school during the school year and during the day in the summer.

 

CALIFORNIA

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY has launched a program to keep its roadways free of trash, Capital Public Radio reported. The “Adopt-a-Road” program puts signs along county roads that indicate the name of a volunteer group responsible for keeping the road free of litter. In the past, the county has faced issues with illegal dumping of items such as abandoned boats, sets of tires and bags of garbage. Last year, the county spent $1 million to pick up trash.

 

In a surprise to prosecutors in LOS ANGELES COUNTY, few people took legal action to clear criminal records after recreational marijuana was legalized in the state, Governing reported. People convicted of marijuana possession in the past are able to petition to have the charges cleared or have crimes reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. The petition process was difficult to navigate, which resulted in few people attempting to clear their records. Since voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, prosecutors announced plans to dismiss or reduce 54,000 marijuana-related convictions to offer a clean slate for those who were previously convicted. The move is in partnership with Code for America, a nonprofit technology organization that developed an algorithm to determine which cases meet the requirements to be cleared.

 

The Board of Supervisors in SAN DIEGO COUNTY is planning to turn a run-down facility into a behavioral health center, KUSI News reported. The Health and Human Services Agency will study the property to look into turning it into a regional hub for Behavioral Health Continuum of Care. The property is owned by the county and has been vacant for 10 years. The hub would provide services such as crisis stabilization, inpatient, residential psychotherapeutic rehabilitation, intensive outpatient services and more.

 

COLORADO

Officials in PITKIN COUNTY are one step closer to implementing a program to help people with mental health or substance abuse issues stay out of jail for low-level crimes, the Aspen Daily News reported. The five-year program for Pitkin Area Co-responder Teams is funded through a grant from the state Office of Behavioral Health. The program involves the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen and Snowmass Village police departments. Through the program, law enforcement and mental-health specialists will both respond to incidents in the hopes of keeping people suffering from mental-health issues out of the hospital and out of the justice system if it is unnecessary. The initiative is serving as a pilot program for rural areas.

 

FLORIDA

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY has expanded the number of offenses eligible for juvenile civil citations to include almost all misdemeanor crimes, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The expansion of the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program offers a probation-style diversion program for first-time juvenile offenders instead of arrest or prosecution. Juveniles who receive citations have to accept responsibility for the crime and enter the diversion program. Previous eligible crimes only included acts like petty theft, misdemeanor marijuana possession, resisting arrest without violence and carrying a concealed weapon. Now, the agreement includes family violence, exhibition of a weapon, lewd and lascivious acts, disorderly intoxication and reckless driving.

 

A counseling program for middle schoolers called “School is Cool” is expanding in BROWARD COUNTY, WLRN-TV reported. The program targets students who have issues with attendance, behavior or bad grades and works to get them more involved in school. Initially, the program was launched in 10 middle schools through the funding of nonprofit agencies and The Community Foundation of Broward. It was only available during the summer and after school. Now, The Community Foundation of Broward matched the school district with a $3 million grant for a new three-year program that will be held during the school day. The goals of the expanded program are to focus on social health for middle schoolers and increase the graduation rate to 90 percent. 

 

INDIANA

A contractor in VANDERBURGH COUNTY has been blamed for mistakenly cutting down an oak tree in Evansville that was planted for the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, according to the Courier & Press. The 42-year-old tree stood in downtown Evansville. County officials say the tree service mistakenly cut the tree down before getting approval. The contractor’s lawyer said the company was following approved plans. A plaque was placed where the tree stood saying it was planted in honor of the nation’s 200th birthday.

 

KANSAS

The Mental Health Center in JOHNSON COUNTY is creating a new training program to stop an increase in teenage suicide rates, according to KSHB-TV. Community members can become “suicide-alert” helpers after completing training to identify and connect with people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. The training is called “safeTALK,” which stands for “suicide alertness for everyone” and “tell, ask, listen and keep safe.” The goal of the program is to provide individuals with the right tools to help someone in a suicidal crisis.

 

MARYLAND

A new grocery store is opening in PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, an area designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “low access” because residents have to travel more than one mile to access fresh meats and healthy food options. Fifteen percent of the county is classified as a “food desert.” Good Food Markets will open a 3,800-square-foot space that will offer a café with healthy grab-and-go options. The county is continuing to help revitalize many shopping centers to address areas designated as food deserts.

 

MISSOURI

Hoping to make a little money the way HARRIS COUNTY, Texas did a few years ago, JACKSON COUNTY will remove and store tens of thousands of old Arrowhead Stadium seats with the intention of reselling them to fans and sports memorabilia collectors.

The county will pay nearly $43,000 to remove and store the 30,000 dismantled seats, KYTV-3 News reported. The Kansas City Chiefs planned to sell the dismantled seats, but the county intervened because it owns the seats. Harris County grossed $1.5 million from selling seats removed from the now-dormant Houston Astrodome.

 

 

NEW YORK

Executive Marc Molinaro has signed a bill enacting term limits on DUTCHESS COUNTY officials. Starting in January 2020, the office of the county executive will be limited to three four-year terms and a legislator may only serve six two-year terms. The comptroller will begin to serve three four-year terms in January 2022, The Poughkeepsie Journal reported. Current elected officials will not be affected. State law prohibits the county from limiting the total terms for county sheriff, county clerk and district attorney.

 

A judge has invalidated ROCKLAND COUNTY’s emergency declaration that barred unvaccinated minors from public places for fear of the spread of measles. The declaration order, issued March 26, would have lasted for 30 days, but state Supreme Court Judge Rolf Thorsen said such emergency orders cannot exceed five days and that the 166 measles cases in a population of 330,000 people over six months doesn’t constitute an “epidemic” meriting an emergency declaration. 

 

OHIO

The state House has passed a bill allowing counties to appeal to the state for help paying for expensive murder trials. If a trial is projected to cost at least 5 percent of a county’s annual budget, the county may petition the attorney general and state public defender’s offices for financial help. PIKE COUNTY is facing a $4 million bill to prosecute and defend four defendants in a murder trial, but the county only budgets $10 million a year overall, The Plain Dealer reported.

 

Hoping to contain costs, TRUMBULL COUNTY commissioners capped the amount of vacation time that non-bargaining unit employees can sell back to the county. That new limit is 120 hours – three weeks, The Tribune Chronicle reported.

 

OKLAHOMA

Inmates at the OKLAHOMA COUNTY jail are using old mattresses and sheets to make pillows for use throughout the jail. Oklahoma News 9 reported that the sheriff’s office made the decision in order to save money for other uses.

 

OREGON

Members of a CLACKAMAS COUNTY Water Rescue Consortium team ended up getting real-life experience, saving a hiker while they were out on a training exercise. A passerby flagged them down and said there was a medical emergency on the Clackamas River Trail — 3.5 miles away. According to initial reports, a woman had fallen and broken her ankle a short distance up the trail from the Fish Creek Trailhead. Rescue crews pulled her out of the water and headed to the trailhead as several other agencies responded as well.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

The ERIE COUNTY Council voted to give nonprofit Empower Erie $15,000 to update an impact study and a marketing campaign to “re-invigorate and re-energize” stakeholders and the community at large in hopes of establishing a community college, The Erie Times-News reported.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

GREENWOOD COUNTY and its county seat are using hospitality tax funds to hire a litter coordinator. The coordinator will pursue grant opportunities and streamline grassroots pickup campaigns across the region. The county pledged $50,000 for the staff position and the city is contributing $20,000 for operations and expenses, The Index-Journal reported.

 

TEXAS

A HARRIS COUNTY judicial court judge found himself unwittingly resigning. Bill McLeod posted online future plans to run for state supreme court, but Article 16, Section 65 of the state constitution says that any officer announcing candidacy for another office results in automatic resignation. The constitution also allows county commissioners, given charge over appointing replacements, authority to keep McLeod as a holdover until there is a special election, according to KHOU News.

 

VIRGINIA

A large spike in patients seeking addiction treatment has spurred ARLINGTON COUNTY to launch a program to waive charges for people who turn themselves and their drugs in and ask for help. Operation Safe Station will refer participating people to support groups, outpatient office-based opioid treatment programs, Methadone programs and when appropriate, residential treatment. The program is a joint creation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Arlington County Police and Arlington’s Department of Human Services. The program does not accept people who have outstanding arrest warrants, have been convicted of giving, selling or distributing drugs, or have been convicted of doing so with the intent to manufacture, are under 18 years old and don’t have a guardian with them, or are determined by police to be a threat to program staff.

 

FAIRFAX COUNTY police have been ordered to stop maintaining a database of license plate photos, following a judge’s ruling that “passive use” of data from automated license plate readers on the back of patrol cars violates Virginia privacy law, The Washington Post reported. Police say license plate location data has helped find dangerous criminals and missing persons, but privacy advocates say long-term storage of that information provides too much opportunity for abuse by the police.

 

It’s not a no-show job, but since HALIFAX COUNTY resident Jimmy Wade was elected tie-breaker for the eight-person Board of Supervisors in 2015, he had not been called upon once. Until now. Wade recently cast the vote breaking a 4-4 tie on a vote to increase the county real estate tax rate by 2 cents to 50 cents per $100 value along with adopting a land use program for agriculture and horticulture, The Gazette-Virginian reported.

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