County News

News from Across the Nation - Nov. 13, 2017


Ten pieces of public art, like this statue, now decorate roadway medians in CLARK COUNTY.
A panel of local artists, arts educators, and a representative public works department chose 10 artists to create the art. The project, “Centered,” drew submissions from 56 artists. Photo courtesy of Clark County


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Dark store theory is darkening the door of WASHINGTON COUNTY after Home Depot and Lowe’s recently petitioned the county for lower property values. “In the appraisal world, it’s like Darth Vader is coming in,” Assessor Russell Hill told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Under a dark store claim, property value would be based on what the property would be worth to a hypothetical user in the future or the property is compared to space that is closed or “dark.”

In other dark store news, the Michigan Supreme Court last month denied an appeal from big box retailer Menard Inc., effectively ending the so-called “dark store” practice of property valuation in the state, reported. The state’s Supreme Court denied Menard Inc.’s request for an appeal in its lawsuit against the city of Escanaba because the justices felt they were “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.”



►SONOMA COUNTY has adopted several emergency ordinances to help victims of the recent wildfires that killed 23 in the county and burned 7,000 structures. The county will not issue new vacation rental permits for the next 45 days. The ban may be extended for two years in order to temporarily preserve housing for permanent and long-term residential use. The board also approved an ordinance allowing residential use and occupancy of recreation vehicles and travel trailers inside and outside fire-damaged sites without county approval for 45 days, as long as they have adequate septic holding capacity. Other ordinances extend farmworker housing to 365 days a year, which allows the rental of existing guest houses, pool houses and other residential accessory structures for rent to fire victims.


►VENTURA COUNTY’s public health officer, Dr. Robert Levin, is hoping that “Get inside. Stay inside. Stay tuned,” becomes a mantra similar to “Stop, drop and roll.”

But in this case, it’s not a fire that residents would be concerned about, it’s a nuclear attack from North Korea. By getting inside if the worst ever happened “it would save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Levin recently told KPNX-TV.

Four years ago, Levin led an effort to compile a 243-page nuclear response plan for the county, looking at everything from millions who might flee north from Los Angeles to skipping conditioner when shampooing, so that radioactive particles don’t bind into your hair.



With no contested races or local ballot measures, CHEYENNE, DOLORES, GRAND, HINSDALE, MINERAL and WASHINGTON counties cancelled their elections this cycle, according to the The Denver Post.



OSCEOLA COUNTY will place a six-month moratorium on new development proposals to give the county planning and design team a chance to allow for future planning.

The team said it spends 80 percent of its time dealing with incoming applications, News 13 reported.

Mixed-use projects are exempt under the ordinance as are applications already in the planning commission’s agenda. Some commissioners believe the exemption for mixed-use projects in particular may help bring more affordable housing to Osceola County.



►Illinois’ most famous part-time resident, former President Barack Obama, showed up for jury duty Nov. 8 in COOK COUNTY. “Thanks everybody for serving on the jury, or at least being willing to,” Obama is heard saying in a video posted to Twitter.

But in  the end, the voter-in-chief was not selected to serve, according to the Associated Press.


►Illinois is celebrating its bicentennial by giving portraits of Abraham Lincoln to all 102 county courthouses. The canvases are a gift from the Jerome Mirza Foundation, a Bloomington not-for-profit organization founded by the late Jerome Mirza, a Bloomington- and Chicago-based lawyer and past president of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. The portrait is a photo taken of Lincoln by Chicago photographer Alexander Hesler in June 1860. The image of Lincoln, the country’s 16th president, was captured at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.



The Clean Water Partnership (CWP), a 30-year collaboration between PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY and Corvias, has reached a major program milestone of retrofitting up to 2,000 acres of impervious surfaces using green infrastructure. All 106 guaranteed water quality projects throughout the county are either in construction or are completed.

The partnership has 80 percent of the work contracted out to local disadvantaged small businesses, and 51 percent of all work hours have been performed by Prince George’s County residents.

“Prince George’s County selected the CBP3 [partnership] solution as an alternative delivery method because it could deliver both greater environmental improvements and local economic development results for the county in a more economical manner than the traditional design-bid-build procurement method,” said David Washington, program executive for the partnership.



The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state of Nevada for providing insufficient support to rural counties for indigent defense. The class-action suit says the state lacks oversight of multiple rural counties and their system of contracting attorneys to represent the accused. The suit asks the court to require Nevada to modify its systems to comply with constitutional protections, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.



Electric-powered vehicle owners will be allowed to charge their cars for free at SENECA COUNTY’s two charging stations. The county purchased two small charging stations for about $1,200 to help it qualify for a state grant as a clean energy community, but the county does not own any electric-powered vehicles, according to the Finger Lakes Times.



Planners are writing a zoning code amendment that will help DESCHUTES COUNTY out of a difficult legal bind.

The county tried to protect mule deer and other wildlife by putting additional restrictions for portions of the county that have been found to contain habitat for deer herds during the winter, as well as significant elk or antelope populations, and among other structures, prohibiting churches in these wildlife zones, The Oregonian reported.

Then, in 2012, a county ordinance permitted “agritourism,” including commercial events in wildlife zones, like farm tours and wine tastings that take place on a farm or ranch. Because churches would likely have a similar economic, environmental and social impact to these establishments, prohibiting them would represent a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits local governments from treating religious buildings differently from other, non-religious buildings that have a similar impact on the landscape.



►CUMBERLAND COUNTY residents might not pop into the county’s weights and measures office too frequently, but they’ll be thankful it’s there when the county completes its countywide inspection of gas pumps for credit card skimming devices. The machines are added to gas pumps and ATMs and record credit card information. The office will also teach business owners how to check their equipment for signs of tampering.


►YORK COUNTY commissioners are trying to negotiate lower phone rates with the jail’s telecommunications provider, following publication of a York Dispatch article showing that prisoners’ families are paying rates far higher than those charged at state correctional facilities for phone calls.



WILLIAMSON COUNTY will fund indigent health care by collecting mandatory payments from its 10 local hospitals. The county may ask for up to 6 percent of a hospital’s net revenue from patients, which could add up to $15 million a year. The Austin American Statesman reported that collections would help the county qualify for federal matching money to cover health care for poor residents.



FAUQUIER COUNTY is hoping that opening a clinic for county government and school employees and retirees from those organizations will save money and provide better care.

The Board of Supervisors hired a Vermont-based company to open the clinic, which would cost approximately $180,000 to establish and $1 million a year to run. A consultant pitched the promise of savings of $1 million over three years by treating low-intensity problems for which employees would otherwise take to emergency rooms, offering preventive care and establishing wellness programs, according to Fauquier Now.

The clinic is scheduled to open in March 2018.

News from Across the Nation is compiled by Charlie Ban and Mary Ann Barton, senior staff writers. If you have an item for News From, please email or


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