County News

News From Across the Nation - Sept. 17, 2018

WISCONSIN
After nearly 35 years, “Bookmobile Bob” Ripley is retiring as the BROWN COUNTY Library bookmobile operator and outreach coordinator. The library celebrated his last day, Sept. 4, with a Bookmobile open house, giving guests a chance to bid farewell to Bob and share memories.

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CALIFORNIA

• LOS ANGELES COUNTY is looking to expand its mobile shower program for homeless people, after a successful trial period. The Board of Supervisors OK’d expansion of the program to properly trained service providers. The motion authorizes the county to spend up to $200,000 of proceeds from a quarter-cent sales tax, to support the operation of the showers.

“Providing access to a shower to someone who doesn’t have access to one often can help on a job interview,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis. “For children, a shower is often the difference between going to school or not.” During the pilot phase, the county and non-profit organizations offered hot meals, health screenings, inexpensive or free cell phone service and criminal expungement assistance.

• SONOMA COUNTY has begun negotiations to build a $50 million composting facility, a step to transforming organic waste into a commodity, the Press Democrat reported. The county is currently spending $5 million a year to haul the waste elsewhere. The county is considering a company for the facility that earned praise for educating residents about composting. Another plus: The company earned kudos from the horse community (the county’s equine population numbers 27,000) because its new facility would accept equine manure.

 

FLORIDA

Millions of pounds of dead fish have washed up on Gulf Coast county beaches in the Sunshine State. Blame karenia brevis. That’s the organism responsible for the toxic algae crisis — often called “red tide” or “green slime” — socking counties along the southwest coast of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency Aug. 13 for seven Gulf Coast counties — CHARLOTTE, COLLIER, HILLSBOROUGH, LEE, MANATEE, PINELLAS and SARASOTA. Some of the counties have had to dump truckloads of dead fish and sea debris that is then processed at the county solid waste facilities and later incinerated. Lee County purchased two raking machines for about $118,000 to help clean the beaches. The state made available $500,000 from Visit Florida to establish an emergency grant program to help local communities continue to bring in visitors.

 

A herd of cows helped corral a female suspect during a police chase after she and another suspect crashed a stolen car in SEMINOLE COUNTY. The county posted a YouTube video of the incident, shot by a police helicopter helping officers on the ground locate the suspects. The video received more than 100,000 views and nearly two dozen comments including: “Bovine Justice League,” and “LOL, who needs K9s when COWS are just as good!” and “Wow what an UDDER embarrassment for her. If only she could’ve MOOved faster.”

 

HAWAII

HAWAII COUNTY is fleshing out a request for $680 million from the state and federal government (and the county chipping in about $35 million) to help the island and its residents recover from the lava flow that started May 3. That amount could include $196 million to buy property or compensate land owners. Funding is also needed to relocate farmers and pay for housing for those displaced by the eruption. County Mayor Harry Kim said the funding is about the future of the area. (See May 15 issue of County News: “Rolling lava, noxious fumes, Hawaiian gods: When a volcano erupts in your county”)

 

INDIANA

The HAMILTON COUNTY Economic Development Corp. is changing course. Instead of trying to attract new businesses and duplicating efforts by the county’s four largest cities, the agency will instead market the county to future employees to complement the cities’ efforts, Indianapolis Business Journal reported. The non-profit’s board also voted to eliminate the position of CEO and president; they’ll replace that position with a director of communications who will be charged with developing integrated marketing, web content and promotional strategies to advertise the county.

 

MARYLAND

• Outrageous food at the MONTGOMERY COUNTY fair was featured in a recent issue of Washingtonian magazine. The culinary delights included the “Loaded Onion,” described as a “deep-fried bulb doused with melted cheddar, bacon bits and jalapenos and served with ranch for dipping.” The “Jalepeno Funnel Cake” featured candied jalapenos and cream-cheese glaze. And not to be missed: The “Krispy Kreme Doughnut Cheeseburger.” And an “honorable Alka Seltzer-worthy mention” is the “Deep Fried Candy,” a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

 

• WASHINGTON COUNTY wants its $250,000 back after a company failed to deliver plans for a waste-to-energy project at the Forty West Landfill in Hagerstown, the county said in a letter to Green Kinetics Gateway LLC, headquartered in West Virginia. The county said the company must repay the full loan amount within 15 days of its letter, dated Aug. 14 or the county will “take all steps necessary to protect its interests,” The Herald-Mail reported. The project was meant to extend the life of the landfill and generate additional revenue. The county originally signed an agreement with the company in December 2013 for a two-phase project that would turn waste at the landfill into renewable fuel sources.

 

MICHIGAN

OTTAWA COUNTY is updating its 911 service lines from old copper phone wires to fiber optic cables. Funding has been in the works since 2012, the Holland Sentinel reported. Money raised from an increase in 911 fees paid by phone customers, from 19 cents to 25 cents, will pay for the new technology. The increase will pay for all state 911 centers to get new technology. It will take about 18 months to officially switch services over. The improved service will help police pinpoint the location of cell phone calls.

 

MINNESOTA

BLUE EARTH COUNTY is adding “poll pads,” or tablets, to cut down on the time it takes to log in new registrations for elections. The new system will help save time checking in voters, registration and voter list checks, the Mankato Free Press reported. In 2016, the county had to process 6,000 new registrations by hand, a process that took weeks. The county used grant funds from the state to purchase enough tablets for every precinct. It also plans to purchase new voting machines at 40 of its 54 precincts next year in time for the 2020 elections. The state approved $7 million in funding last year to upgrade and replace equipment across the state.

 

NEVADA

• Craft beer quantities are on the rise following CLARK COUNTY’s approval of a law allowing customers to buy growlers from brew pubs, liquor stores and hotel bars in unincorporated parts of the county. The County Commission also allowed restaurants to charge a corkage fee to customers who bring their own wine, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

 

A new DOUGLAS COUNTY Sheriff’s Office program is recruiting and organizing volunteers to visit and call seniors. Caring Neighbors volunteers offer friendship, assistance accessing social services and education on home security and scam prevention. Senior participants are visited by a sheriff’s deputy and a uniformed volunteer to record information such as consent directions, next of kin and medication information.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has subpoenaed voting records from 44 counties in the eastern part of the state and the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The subpoena requests “all poll books, e-poll books, voting records, and/or voter authorization documents, and executed official ballots” held by the election offices for the five years leading up to Aug. 30, 2018.

The subpoenas were issued by a federal grand jury based in North Carolina and give no indication as to the purpose of the investigation. Counties have until Sept. 25 to comply, the Carteret County News-Times reported.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

The WARD COUNTY Highway Department has acquired an Unmanned Aerial System device — or drone — primarily for use in measuring stockpiled road materials such as gravel and millings.

County Engineer Dana Larsen told the Grand Forks Herald that the measurements from the drone are more accurate, less expensive, faster and safer than measuring from the ground or using airplanes or laser systems. During a 12-minute flight, the drone took 255 photos, accomplishing what would have taken workers 3–4 hours to measure from the ground.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA    

BEAUFORT COUNTY is joining the ranks of local governments banning the use of single-use plastics, starting Nov. 1, the Associated Press reported. Businesses that violate this new ordinance may be cited. Companies will be encouraged to offer recyclable paper bags instead of plastic ones, with exceptions given to dry cleaning bags and grocery store produce bags.

 

TEXAS

• HARRIS COUNTY has introduced a program to reduce lead poisoning and raise awareness among families with young children who are susceptible to it. The county health department’s program monitors cases of children who are already impacted and provides medical providers recommendations on testing. So far, 40 children are in the county’s database for tracking, the Houston Chronicle reported. Lead testing will be available at two Women, Infants and Children clinics.

 

The deteriorating condition of NUECES COUNTY courthouse, which was built in 1914, has prompted Judge Lloyd Neal to ask the Texas Historical Commission for permission to demolish it. The county recently terminated an agreement to sell it to a developer to turn it into a hotel, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. An agreement with the historical commission for a grant of nearly $1.5 million several years ago bars the the county from demolishing the dilapidated facility until 2027.

 

WASHINGTON

The KING COUNTY Council voted to spend $135 million on improvements to Safeco Field, home to the Seattle Mariners, over the next 20 years, funded by future revenues from the county’s lodging tax. County Executive Dow Constantine initially proposed $180 million for improvements but council took some of that funding an reallocated it to affordable housing, Seattle Weekly reported.

 

WYOMING

Following the state’s lead, FREMONT COUNTY is planning to end its relationship with the Bank of the West, following its decision to stop investing in oil and gas companies.

The bank will longer invest in companies whose main activity is exploring, producing, distributing, marketing or trading oil and gas from shale and/or tar sands or finance coal mines or coal-fired power plants that are not actively involved in the “energy transition.”

County Treasurer H. Scott Harnsberger said those industries’ contribution to Wyoming’s tax base make the bank and the county a bad match. State Treasurer Mark Gordon also plans to terminate the state’s relationship with the bank, according to the News Letter Journal.


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 cban@naco.org or mbarton@naco.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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