County News

News From Across the Nation - Jan. 21, 2019

NEBRASKA

If landowners in LANCASTER COUNTY have wind turbines on their property, they get a little more leeway with their noise level after commissioners raised the decibel level standard. Lancaster County approved strict noise level requirements for wind farms in 2015 that wind energy supporters said would discourage projects in the county. Those rules established noise level limits of 40 decibels in the day and 37 decibels at night for wind turbines, measured from the home, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. The new rules set a 50-decibel upper limit around the clock for property owners who are part of the project.

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ARIZONA

COCHISE COUNTY is part of a coalition applying for a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, looking to breathe new life into regional brownfield sites, KOLD-13 reported. The coalition is starting by holding a community meeting this month. “The goal is to use the funding to transform underutilized properties from liabilities into assets that revitalize our community and bring our neighborhoods back to life,” said Dan Coxworth, director of Cochise County Development Services. “We are inviting business owners, property owners, community organization members and residents to join us and learn more about this program.”

 

CALIFORNIA

KERN COUNTY reports it could save millions of dollars by leasing vehicles through a third party instead of purchasing vehicles, The Bakersfield Californian reported. They expect to save nearly $4 million over the next few years. After a successful first year of leasing 111 vehicles last year as a test-run, the county, which has a total fleet of about 800 vehicles, decided to expand the program. The county, which received a Merit Award for the program last year from the California State Association of Counties, also expects to see savings on repair costs. The newspaper reported that local car dealers would prefer to see the county buy local.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY’s “Live Well” program is hitting the road beginning later this year. Some services offered by Health and Human Services will be offered from a mobile office, the Times of San Diego reported. The services will include disaster aid, community health services, housing assistance and outreach to seniors, veterans and the homeless. Part of the program’s cost of $600,000 will come from CalWORKS and CalFresh, the county said.

 

FLORIDA

The ORANGE COUNTY Board of Supervisors recently approved funding for a program to help first responders suffering from mental health issues who responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, WFTV-9 reported. The attack left 49 people dead.

The $8.4 million program, funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program, seeks to provide training, assistance and service to first responders, hospital staff, medical examiner’s office employees and mental health workers who were affected. The training provided by St. Petersburg College’s Center for Public Safety Innovation will train them on how to care for themselves after a crisis.

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PASCO COUNTY residents worried about fragile family members home alone are getting some relief thanks to a new county Lock Box Program, WFTS reported. Participating residents purchase a steel lockbox and put a copy of their house key inside. Fire crews have a master key that opens the box in the event of a fire or other emergency. “We are able to get in without breaking down the door, breaking windows,” said Fire Marshal Karl Thompson. The lock boxes cost about $200 and there may be county funding available at some point to offset the cost. The master keys are heavily secured and even police do not have access to them, the TV station reported.

 

ILLINOIS

McHENRY COUNTY saw a 35 percent decline in overdose fatalities, The Northwest Herald reported. In 2017, the county counted 78 fatal overdoses and in 2018, 51. The executive director of the county mental health board, Scott Block, attributes the decline to the availability of Narcan, which became available without a prescription in Illinois in 2016. 

“It goes without saying that a single death by overdose is too many, as each person lost is a member of our community — and furthermore, a member and loved one of someone’s family — but the recent reduction is encouraging,” Block said. The county also participates in drug take-back events; that program has established 15 drug drop-off locations throughout the county. The county’s Way Out program also encourages residents to turn in illegal drugs and paraphernalia at 20 participating police stations without fear of being arrested or charged. The county’s court system also offers court-supervised treatment for nonviolent drug offenders.

 

INDIANA

More than 150 people recently turned out for a meeting about proposed changes to discharging firearms in LAKE COUNTY. The county council voted 5-2 to amend its ban on shooting near neighboring homes, The Hastings Tribune reported. It enlarged the exclusion zone to 700 feet in unincorporated county areas. The council said the zone wouldn’t apply to hunters during hunting season and it wouldn’t apply if gun owners get signed permission from their neighbors.

 

IOWA

MARION COUNTY is overhauling its 40-year old Senior Nutrition Program in an effort to reach more citizens who are “food insecure,” KNIA/KRLS News reported. Kim Dorn of the county public health department said they will phase out the current food distribution system and eventually meals will be prepared and packaged by the Christian Opportunity Center and local restaurants that have contracts with the county. Some will continue to have meals delivered while others will eat at area restaurants. “One of the things that the supervisors are looking for is, let’s use the tax dollars for people who really need it,” said Dorn. “And if they only come once or twice a month, then they probably don’t have the level of need that we’re looking at spending tax dollars for.”

 

MISSOURI

The ST. CHARLES COUNTY Department of Public Health recently expanded its services to help residents traveling to new and exotic international destinations where they might come in contact with infections and diseases, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “Travel should be memorable, but those memories shouldn’t be about getting sick at the destination or not having the right paperwork,” said Hope Woodson, director for the Department of Public Health.

“Our expanded services will make travel planning less of a hassle by offering a health consultation about the desired destination, recommended vaccinations and assistance in obtaining identification records through one convenient location.”

 

NEBRASKA

Faced with a $28 million judgment against the county to pay six people who were wrongfully imprisoned in a murder case, the GAGE COUNTY Board has passed a resolution in support of state legislation to impose a countywide sales tax.

Nebraska counties can’t collect sales taxes in communities that are collecting their own sales taxes, The Omaha World-Herald reported, but Chairman Myron Dorn’s measure would allow a blanket tax until the judgement is paid off. The county still hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the judgment that sent the Beatrice Six to prison for a combined 75 years, until DNA evidence cleared them in 2008.

 

NEVADA

With the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Nevada, CLARK COUNTY’s commissioners and district attorney are working on a way to clear past minor marijuana offenses from people’s records. The state Legislature would have to approve that measure.

“Whatever they did at the time is now legal. I don’t think they should be punished for something that is currently legal,” Commissioner Tick Segerblom said of offenders.

Commissioners want to give District Attorney Steve Wolfson the authority to wipe these convictions off the record, which individuals can do on their own at significant expense. The county will not, however, reimburse previously paid fines and court fees.

 

NEW YORK

BROOME COUNTY’s new Estate Card program allows property owners to save money on their property tax when they use the debit card to shop at certain local retailers, online stores and for other purchases. Businesses are not charged any fees for participating in the program, and the cards do not require any special equipment aside from a normal card reader. Cards can be accepted anywhere that accepts Visa debit cards.

Users will save 0.25 percent off all purchases, and higher amounts with participating local businesses and on more than 3,200 websites. So far, The Press & Sun Bulletin reported, four local businesses are participating. The amount saved by a user is put back onto their card, which can then be used for paying property taxes or making other purchases.

 

After some young girls were groped at a water park last summer, SUFFOLK COUNTY has passed a law requiring amusement parks and water parks to immediately notify police if there’s a crime committed on their grounds. The new law legislates penalties if a crime is not reported to police: $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for subsequent violations. It only applies to water parks and amusement parks, not other places where children might gather like movie theaters or indoor play spaces, according to CBS New York.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

A city-county committee is recommending a DURHAM COUNTY building play host to a Confederate statue torn down by protestors in 2017. The county commission would have to approve the plan.

Durham’s Confederate Soldiers Monument, depicting an anonymous uniformed soldier leaning against his rifle, had stood since 1924 in front of a courthouse building that now holds local government offices. The committee’s proposal calls for written passages about the statue’s history to be part of an exhibit of the statue, which was bent and crumpled when it fell. The committee said displaying the statue in its current damaged form would add important context. The proposal would leave the statue’s pedestal in place and add outdoor markers honoring Union soldiers and enslaved people.

 

OHIO

FRANKLIN COUNTY voters will have a choice between paper ballots and touch-screen machines starting in the May primary. The County Commissioners’ approval of the purchase capped two years of work that included consideration of different voting machines, input from advocates and others and mock elections to test the equipment before making a final purchase, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

 

OREGON

A lawsuit against a jail that serves HOOD RIVER, WASCO, SHERMAN and GILLIAM counties could end up with changes to Oregon’s sanctuary state law.

Some Wasco County residents are suing the NORCOR regional jail for housing detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which they say violates the state’s 31-year-old law prohibiting state and local resources from being used to enforce federal immigration law if a person’s only crime is being in the country unlawfully. That law was upheld on the November 2018 ballot. NORCOR argues it’s only housing detainees, not arresting them.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the judge’s ruling in the case could bring clarity to the sanctuary law, which has never been meaningfully interpreted by the courts.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

With dozens of unsolved homicide cases, the LANCASTER COUNTY district attorney’s office is adding a cold case unit. The initial $10,000 budget may end up only funding two DNA analyses, but the recent successful prosecution of a 25-year-old murder case shows there is some momentum for the allocation, Lancaster Online reported.

 

TEXAS

TRAVIS COUNTY is the first in Texas to install an x-ray in its jail to screen incoming inmates. The machines can detect “on the body” hidden narcotics, cell phones and even drugs that were ingested with up to 40 to 50 percent more accuracy than other conventional methods, KXAN News reported.

 

WISCONSIN

In the middle of her bus route Dec. 22, MILWAUKEE COUNTY Transit System driver Irena Ivic saw a barefoot toddler walking on a highway overpass. Ivic stopped the bus and retrieved the child, who was unharmed and attended to by first responders and returned to her father. WLS News reported that the toddler was the ninth lost or missing child found by county transit system drivers in recent years.

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