County News

News from Across the Nation - March 4, 2019

WASHINGTON
After a report showed its fare enforcement program wasn’t worth the effort and had a disproportionate effect on the homeless, KING COUNTY Metro changed its policies. Scofflaws will no longer be sent to court or collections. The transit agency reduced the fine for not paying a fare to $50 from $124 to $50. If the fine is paid within 30 days the fee is cut in half, to $25. If the fine is not paid the individual would be suspended from Metro service for 30 days. The changes were made after an audit was completed in April 2018 and found the current enforcement system wasn’t working. The fare enforcement program costs Metro $1.7 million dollars a year, and according to the audit, in 2016 the county got back less than $12,000 in fines. It also found in 2016 officers issued more than 3,900 infraction citations, but only 94 people paid them, KIRO News reported. Metro worked with advocacy groups to create the new program. The agency is giving all riders a fresh start and wiping out all previous citations and fines. Violators may also now pay their fines by doing community service.

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CALIFORNIA

TULARE COUNTY Sheriff Mike Boudreaux recently launched a new Tulare County Sheriff’s Office app for all iPhone and Android users. “The Sheriff’s Office is constantly looking for innovative and convenient ways to connect with the community,” the office said in a statement. “And we hope this will be a useful tool in getting and receiving critical information.” 

The app is a new way to do many things that, until now, you would have to come to the Sheriff’s Office to do. You can apply for or renew a concealed carry weapon license, report crime tips to “Tip Now,” search Megan’s Law, do an inmate search, check out the current “Top Ten Most Wanted Criminals,” explore the Sheriff’s Office social media pages, learn about job openings and more. To see the free app, search for “Tulare County Sheriff” in your app store. 

 

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If you have an item for News From, please email cban@naco.org or mbarton@naco.org.

FLORIDA

An unauthorized pig race at the county fair and an unpaid bill were the final straw for the ALACHUA COUNTY Commission, The Independent Florida Alligator news site reported. The board members canceled the county’s contract with the Alachua County Fair Association, faulting them for holding a pig race last year without county approval and other discrepancies. The manager of the association told the commission that the state had approved it. The county is now looking into partnering with a watermelon festival.

 

A developer in MANATEE COUNTY took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal recently, offering up 900 acres for a future “city Amazon built.” The ad highlights the county’s proximity to Tampa and an emphasis on “old-fashioned southern hospitality.” The site was offered up previously when Amazon put the word out it was looking to add a second headquarters but didn’t make the cut. The company decided to split the locations between Long Island City, Queens, N.Y. and ARLINGTON COUNTY, VA., but pulled out of New York after a backlash over $3 billion in government incentives.

 

GEORGIA

Thanks to a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Labor Department, MCDUFFIE COUNTY is hiring 40 young men and women for a young adults leadership program that will offer them construction skills trade training, career development employment services, tutoring and more. The county is teaming up with the Thomson Housing Authority as well as with other local businesses. The yearlong program is open to youth ages 16 to 24 in the county and surrounding areas.

 

HAWAII

A proposed state bill aims to prevent the governor and county mayors from holding down a second job, KITV-4 reported. The purpose is to make sure those in office serve full time and avoid potential conflicts of interest. Hawaii Business magazine reported last year that nearly half of state lawmakers hold second jobs. State legislators are paid $62,000 per year and meet in session 60 days of the year, spread across four months, but also go to committee meetings and meet with constituents year-round.

 

KANSAS

Last year, FRANKLIN COUNTY seized 55 horses suffering from neglect due to inadequate water and food. The horses were taken to various counties and placed with private owners, the Ottowa Herald reported. But the county sheriff told the Kansas House judiciary committee that a state law needs clarifying to provide direction on how to pay for the cost of providing for seized animals. House Bill 2206 would clarify the role of state courts in assessing responsibility for the cost of caring for animals in cruelty cases. It would also streamline legal requirements when animals are held in a county other than where they were seized.

 

KENTUCKY

FRANKLIN COUNTY is mulling over an additional funding request for $40,000 from the Kentucky Capital Development Corp. to help with efforts to encourage people to live in the county, The State Journal reported. KCDC wants to establish a “community concierge service” to recruit 10-12 volunteer residents representing various demographics. “It builds a relationship between someone local and these people before they ever get to our community,” KCDC President Terri Bradshaw said. Part of the additional funds would also pay to build a website to connect prospective residents with current residents and pay an additional staff position to recruit the volunteers and maintain the website. The chair of KCDC said “we’re helping increase the tax rolls by recruiting people and getting them in here.”

 

MARYLAND

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY recently passed legislation banning food service businesses from using polystyrene containers. Violators will receive a warning and then increasing fines from $50 to $100 to $500, the Capital Gazette reported. Supporters of the new measure say it will help protect the environment because it’s difficult to recycle and harms wildlife after it’s eaten. The Restaurant Association of Maryland and the Maryland Retailers Association oppose banning polystyrene containers, saying it would harm businesses. The National Toxicology Program has also reported that styrene was “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

 

MINNESOTA

A full-scale rollout is planned in the fall for DAKOTA COUNTY’s program that is tracking children’s development progress and connecting families to resources. The program, dubbed the Birth to Age Eight Collaborative, is trying to make sure that various government agencies and other groups are sharing information about families. A pilot program with four school districts has seen a 9 percent increase in the number of kids receiving an early childhood screening by age 4. The program won a NACo Achievement Award and was named one of NACo’s 100 Brilliant Ideas in 2017.

 

NEBRASKA

Although some LANCASTER COUNTY residents are jumping into a large wind farm project, the Board has voted to require wind energy developers to place turbines at least 1 mile away from homes that aren’t participating. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that what is now the strictest setback in the state is an increase from the previous distance of 1,000 feet.

 

NEVADA

CLARK COUNTY officials have postposed creating three recreation areas for off-road vehicles on a combined 110,000 acres of federal land. That would counter-balancethe county’s request to open up some federal land for development while closing environmentally sensitive areas, which would remove prime off-roading territory, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

 

NEW YORK

An upgrade to MONROE COUNTY’s traffic cameras is giving the public an expanded chance to see real-time footage from more than 100 traffic cameras, which can be viewed from the county website. Future plans include 50 more cameras.

 “Access to real-time traffic cameras has always been a popular resource used by our residents to plan the best routes to and from home, work or school,” said Cheryl Dinolfo, county executive. “Through a unique partnership with the state Department of Transportation, we now offer live feeds to over 100 cameras throughout our county. I encourage residents to take advantage of this free service, especially when local road conditions could be challenging.”

The cameras, jointly operated by the Monroe County DOT and the state department of transportation, refresh every 5-10 seconds.

 

Dozens of ONTARIO COUNTY employees were trained to deliver preliminary first aid, with the use of 12 bleeding control kits that have been placed in several county buildings. So far, 80 employees have completed the training. They are part of “Stop the Bleed,” a national awareness campaign that trains bystanders to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives. Pointing to the role bystanders played in saving the lives of people injured in the Boston Marathon bombing and the Las Vegas shooting, that training will be offered to county residents, too.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

ALAMANCE COUNTY vehicles will now sport stickers saying “In God We Trust.”

Alamance County Commissioner Steve Carter introduced the resolution to display the national motto “permanently and prominently” on the county vehicles, the decals paid for by private funding.  The labels were previously applied to deputies’ cars. Carter said to WCNC: “[For deputies] it felt to me like if they had that phrase on their patrol car — it might give them a different level of comfort when they step into that job. The people that work for our county work hard…and do a really good job. Why not protect them as well? Why not provide that insight for them as well?”

 

BRUNSWICK COUNTY is the first in the state to offer remote video inspections, which are now expanding into additional residential applications. The inspections were initially for residential mechanical change-out inspections, such as replacing an HVAC heating and air conditioning unit. The service now includes other simple types of inspections, such as gas or water piping outside the home.

Contractors use video conferencing and video messaging to call an inspector in the Brunswick County Code Administration office and walk the inspector through the job site, without the inspector physically being on the premises. The inspection then proceeds as if the inspector were there, WECT News reports. Contractors could have a unit inspected as soon as it’s installed, without having to wait on an inspector to come later and inspectors will also spend less time driving to locations, meaning more can be done in a day and less county resources will be spent on gas and travel expenses.

 

OREGON

A courtroom with a juror shortage turned to the residents who turned out for an UMATILLA COUNTY Board of Commissioners meeting to fill out its ranks.

A crowd of 20 people, The East Oregonian reported, was told the court needed six jurors and if residents did not volunteer, the court was authorized to appoint jurors.

One man volunteered and the court staff appointed the rest. The trial was for a man who faced charges of misdemeanor driving under the influence of intoxicants and felony aggravated harassment for spitting on a Pendleton police officer in August 2018. The jury voted 10-2 to find the man guilty of the harassment and 12-0 to find him guilty of driving under the influence.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

When ERIE COUNTY’s Next Generation Public Safety Radio System goes live, only local police departments will hear the transmissions. That upgrade will allow the public safety department to encrypt its radio frequencies, to the tune of nearly $500,000. Public Safety Director John Grappy told The Erie Times-News that the frequencies carry sensitive information that is inherently dangerous to law enforcement and the community because anyone with a scanner, including criminals, could listen in and track officer movements, though he could not point to an incident where that has brought harm on an officer. The encryption will not apply to fire departments.

 

WASHINGTON

SKAGIT COUNTY Commissioners are considering allowing developers to build self-contained communities in rural parts of the county, which had been forbidden by the county’s comprehensive plan.

The developments would allow urban density, in one case 3,500 homes on 1,244 acres, but not include their own governments. The buildup to that density level would be gradual, The Skagit Valley Herald reported, and only half of that land would be used for residential development.

 

SNOHOMISH COUNTY has committed to transitioning entirely to renewable energy for county operations by 2045. The county will purchase vehicles that don’t run on petroleum fuels, and plan to upgrade to LED lighting, install solar panels on county buildings and reduce energy needs through retrofits, The Herald reported. All new county facilities must be built to gold LEED standards, and county buildings will transition to using power generated by water, solar and wind exclusively by 2030.

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