County News

News From Across the Nation - Nov. 12, 2018

VIRGINIA
CULPEPPER COUNTY handed out newly designed “I voted!” stickers on Election Day thanks to a new design submitted for a competition by fourth-grader Natalie Nicholson, 9, CBS News reported.
“I wanted to do the American flag and Virginia, so I said why not just put it all together? So then I just did American flag, Virginia in the middle, and then in the middle of Virginia, ‘I voted.’” Nicholson said.
“There was no close competition to Natalie’s sticker. She did a really great job,” James Clements, the county’s director of elections, told CBS News.
Future voters got their own sticker too, thanks to a design by local high school senior Jeffrey Maldonado.

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CALIFORNIA

● LOS ANGELES COUNTY recently cracked down on cockfighting after the largest cockfighting bust in U.S. history last year, a Humane Nation reported. The county sheriff’s department and county animal care and control were on the scene to document nearly 8,000 birds on an 80-acre property. Investigators found sick and dying birds as well as knives and training equipment. As a result of the bust, the county passed an ordinance that went into effect this fall that limits the number of roosters that residents can keep on private property. Up to 10 roosters can be kept on a large lot. The ordinance was drafted by the county’s department of animal care and control and introduced by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl.

 

● SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY residents on a budget are breathing a sigh of relief due to a new way to pay their property taxes, the San Luis Obispo New Times reported. The Board of Supervisors recently approved a resolution to promote a new online payment system that allows homeowners to pay their property taxes in monthly installments. “I think it’s a pretty neat thing,” Jim Erb, county treasurer and tax collector, told the paper. “We are kind of the first county in the state to have an official installment program.”

Before this new payment program, dubbed “Easy Smart Pay,” was approved, residents had to pay their property taxes in two hefty installments each year. The new payment idea got off the ground after Supervisor Bruce Gibson requested that the county look into it to help residents in his district better afford to pay new sewer service charges in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. “It really is a jump into, let’s call it the 21st century for how county residents can interact with their government,” he said. “Hopefully we can see this expand.”

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FLORIDA

Economic development doesn’t always mean adding a new corporate headquarters or retail giant to your county. How about a place where residents and visitors can go have some fun in the snow? In the Sunshine State? PASCO COUNTY is considering approving a snow-themed amusement park, which would be a first for Florida. Developers say the proposed park could feature a 300-foot snow tubing run and a separate area to play and build snow sculptures, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Other snow parks located in warmer climates — in Georgia and California — offer seasonal snow tube rides. The company in Florida hopes to open its snow park next fall and still requires a county permit to operate. A community meeting with nearby residents is set for December. “It really differentiates us,” said Adam Thomas, the county’s tourism director. “There’s not another snow park in Florida. It’s really going to draw a lot of attention to Pasco in a good way.”

 

GEORGIA

● Some BIBB COUNTY residents questioned on Facebook the use of county vans driving voters to the polls, WMAZ-TV reported. The county Parks and Recreation Department normally takes the van out to drive seniors to the grocery store or park, from the county senior center. Is it illegal? The TV station contacted the attorney general’s office, which said that while the county can’t use its resources to support an individual candidate or party, there’s no reason why they can’t drive people to the polls if it’s bipartisan. “A lot of people don’t have transportation or a way to get to the polls,” a senior told the TV station. “It is a real blessing.”

 

● FULTON COUNTY Commissioner Bob Ellis recently introduced the “Text 4 Help” program to county schools and county government, the Marietta Daily Journal reported. The program’s goal is to relieve youth stress and anxiety. The anonymous crisis text line is aimed at providing a valuable resource for students seeking support or an outlet to share concerns. “We are so proud to be the first in the Southeast to launch the Text 4 Help program,” Ellis said. The program got its start in 2014 in Lake County, Ill. by a non-profit, Linking Efforts Against Drugs or LEADS. The Fulton County text line is funded by a grant from the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority. The program was launched there in January at several high schools and will be expanded to include 10 more schools.

 

MICHIGAN

● KALAMAZOO COUNTY has launched a website for residents where they can find data and resources on community health. Called the Kalamazoo County Data Hub, the county’s Health and Community Services Department gives residents and others easy access to county data. “The whole goal is to be transparent and all-encompassing with all health indicators whether they’re positive or negative,” said Mary Franks, the county’s epidemiologist. The data includes everything from a special report on the opioid epidemic in the county to county health rankings. You can view the website here: https://bit.ly/2Sk1ZzJ

 

● MUSKEGON COUNTY will sell up to $45 million in bonds to close a pension fund shortfall, County Administrator Mark Eisenbarth told the Muskegon Chronicle. County officials feared a looming pension crisis after a five-year financial forecast last year predicted annual contributions to the Municipal Employee Retirement System (MERS) would skyrocket to $17.4 million by 2022. “We are trying to avoid massive payments…as MERS wants every municipality to be near or up to 100 percent [funded] in the next 10 years.”

 

MONTANA

GALLATIN COUNTY has joined 10 other counties to ban indoor vaping. The county health board recently voted to include electronic cigarettes in the county’s Clean Indoor Air Act policy, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. The ban took effect last month. Anyone who violates the ban could be fined between $25 to $100. Shop owners could also face fines, depending on the number of violations. A county health officer said that enforcement will be driven by complaints. One vape shop owner said they plan a lawsuit, because customers need to be able to sample different flavors of “e-liquids” which they wouldn’t be able to do with the ban in place.

 

NEVADA

The WASHOE COUNTY Sheriff’s Office offered free x-ray screening of candy on Halloween at the county courthouse, and for two days after at the District Courthouse and justice center, KOLO News reported.

 

NEW YORK

● ONONDAGA COUNTY has been selected to join the Pritzker Fellows program, which gives grants to improve literacy for children age three and younger. This grant will go to the Early Childhood Alliance. The alliance will expand to include helping daycare providers give kids the foundation for early learning. It already fuels a campaign that encourages parents to talk, read and sing to their children starting at birth.

 

● Faced with a new state law that prohibits children from being housed in the same jails as adults, 11 counties are banding together to create a non-profit organization to build a regional jail specifically for children under the age of 18. Few counties in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier have facilities to house children, so they must send them away to counties that do, often hours away. Under the new Raise the Age law, kids have to be in jails close to their families.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

A judge has ordered ALLEGHENY COUNTY and the city of Pittsburgh to release its bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. County Common Pleas Judge Terry O’Brien found no basis for the city and county to exempt details of their pitch under the Right to Know law, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. WTAE News has been seeking the release of the incentives the county and city offered the e-commerce giant.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

Nearly 300 homes in DORCHESTER COUNTY are being “moved” to BERKELEY COUNTY to fix a 121-year-old mapping error. The shift will give Berkeley County an additional $250,000 in annual property taxes, most of which will go toward its school district. The mapping error is believed to have been made by surveyors around the time Dorchester County was created in 1897, the Associated Press reported.

 

TEXAS

HARRIS COUNTY has followed Houston’s lead in changing regulations to outlaw robot brothels. The county’s process of updating its rules surrounding sexually oriented businesses was accelerated when a Canadian business expressed interest in opening a location in Houston. The new regulations make it a violation to use “anthropomorphic devices” for sexual activities, Houston Public Media reported.

 

UTAH

UTAH COUNTY is suing Gov. Gary Herbert (R) for refusing to appoint any of its nominees to the board taking control of the Utah Transit Authority. Herbert has appointed members nominated by SALT LAKE and DAVIS counties, but hasn’t nominated two candidates forwarded by Utah County, in consultation with TOOLE COUNTY, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Davis County consulted with WEBER and BOX ELDER counties. The Utah County Commission insists that state law requires Herbert to appoint one of its nominees and that the authority’s Board not be considered legally formed until a Utah County nominee is seated.

 

WISCONSIN

DOOR COUNTY may find itself with a national park within its borders. The proposal for the Grand Traverse Islands National Park includes 17 islands, extending from Door County to Upper Michigan’s Garden Peninsula.

The Grand Traverse Islands would house Native American archaeological sites, more than 40 shipwrecks and five 19th-century lighthouses.

The proposal says hunting, commercial fishing, logging and mining would not be affected by the designation. Before the islands could have a national park designation, a study must first be approved and conducted by the National Park Service, WBAY News reported.

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