GOLD BEACH Two days of budget hearings gave the Curry County commissioners a chance to not only keep fiscal tabs on their departments, but also to find out what kind of problems they are facing.

Sheriffs Department

The Sheriffs Department expected to come in $75,000 under budget by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Sheriff Kent Owens warned, however, that the surplus can disappear in an instant.

He said one major medical incident for an inmate of the jail or Work Center could wipe out the surplus quickly. He said a major crime that required a lot of personnel time would do the same.

Commissioner Marlyn Schafer agreed. The jail and Work Center are our biggest liabilities. I cringe when I hear an ambulance.

She also said the jail is having major plumbing problems. Its nickel-and-diming us to death. Id hoped we could do something about it this year.

Owens said his small surplus was due partly to operating with only five deputies, when he had budgeted for six.

He said one deputy is out and he had been waiting to see what happened with the deputys State Accident Insurance Fund claim before replacing him.

We need to get that sixth deputy out there, he said.

Within the Sheriffs Department is the Community Corrections Division, supervised by Bing Barmore.

She said her big problem is the closure of the campground and Boice-Cope County Park because of septic system problems. Her Work Center program generates revenue by maintaining the park. She said the closure will put her revenues $13,000 below what shed anticipated by the end of the fiscal year.

Fortunately, she said, her expenses should be $28,000 below what was projected, but she is short two full-time employees.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont said a grant was approved Wednesday to provide matching funds for a larger grant that will allow the county to repair and expand the parks septic system.

SheriffsCapt. Mark Metcalf said agencies are moving ahead with a state-mandated plan to merge the countys two 911 emergency calling centers. He said state funding for the centers will expire in 2003, but the counties will lobby the Legislature to continue the program.

La Bont told Owens, Metcalf and Barmore, Thanks for being so fiscally responsible, all three of you.

County Clerk

County Clerk Renee Kolen said her recording office was in good financial shape, but only because it is so short-handed. She said low interest rates are responsible for many people refinancing their homes. Her office has had a flood of documents to record this year, and she expects the trend to continue.

Revenues have doubled, said Kolen, But its hard to keep up. The workload is phenomenal.

She is using employees from her Elections Office to help in the Recording Office, but that gives her a total of only four.

Kolen said, Im completely clerical now, but added that she must also take care of administration.

She said the countys financial consultant said her office needs more personnel. She said the work is technical and requires trained employees.

Realize that these are unrealistic working conditions, said Kolen. I dont know if we can do it this way another six months.

On the Elections Office side, Kolen warned that the next ballot will be huge with up to 190 measures to vote on.

She said there wont be room to print any description on the ballot, just the number of the measure next to a yes or no.

Voters cant handle that little information, she said.

Lay budget-committee member Linda Brown said she wanted to make sure the three-year plan to update the technology in the Clerks Office is in the budget.

These are mandated services, she said.

Computer Services

In the Computer Services Department, Director Glenn Elfman said one system has to be upgraded, for about $75,000, or he wont be able to get technical support for the programs.

It would be money well-spent, he said. We really need to do it or well get into an accounting bind.

Elfman also warned that he and Deputy Director Glenn Thompson had both been with the county a long time and may be retiring in a few years. Former director Marie Collins recently transferred to the Assessors Office.

Schafer said, We need to make sure we have people trained to step in when someone leaves.

Elfman said the department needs younger people who can be trained, but who will stay in Curry County. He said many would use the training to take higher-paying jobs in other counties.

Computer Services is advertising for a half-time position now, but Elfman said it is hard to attract qualified people for part-time work in the computer field.

Commissioners Office

The good news in the Commissioners Office was that Administrative Assistant Sheree Cook overestimated the amount of money that would be needed for assigned vehicles. She based the mileage and expenses on historical data from previous commissioners, but found the current commissioners are driving less.

Cook had budgeted $23,470 for the commissioners assigned vehicles, but with half the year gone, theyd used only $6,069.

The money goes into a county pool to replace vehicles when needed. Based on the surplus, the commissioners put an additional $7,000 from their account into the pool.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont, who frequently drives to Salem, said she couldnt understand how the previous commissioners put so many miles on the cars. She said former commissioner Bill Roberts put more than 80,000 on his assigned car in two years.

The Commissioners Office is also in charge of the Brookings Airport. La Bont announced another grant had been approved for a project there. She said the big problem was trying to track down leaks in the water line.

The Commissioners Office is in charge of the solid waste franchise agreement with Curry Transfer and Recycling (CTR). Cook said revenues should meet projected amounts, but the franchise fees were a little slow coming in from CTR.

That was nothing, however, compared with the problems the Commissioners Office is having with its cable TV franchise with Charter.

Schafer said the agreement said Charter would collect and pay the county $16,728 in PEG access fees.

The money was to be used to purchase equipment to broadcast the commissioners meetings.

Schafer said Charter forgot to collect the fees, and now wants the county to absorb the loss.

She said the commissioners and County Counsel Jerry Herbage will soon be meeting with company officials.

She said the problem was that the county is split and must deal with two different Charter offices and bureaucracies in Crescent City and Coos Bay.

Public Services

In the Public Services Department, Director Chuck Nordstrom said he needs a new pickup truck for an inspector who must drive to remote construction sites.

Roadmaster Dan Crumley, who purchases the countys vehicles, said this would be the time to get a good discount.

He said five vehicles are currently on the replacement list. One is a recently purchased commissioners car, and another is a sheriffs patrol car on order.

Crumley said the remaining three vehicles each have more than 100,000 miles on them.

He said one is a crew-cab pickup that runs up a lot of miles a year. The other two put on about 5,000 miles a year.

Schafer said, Dan, youre the expert. You know whats needed and whats a good buy. Get what we need to get.

The commissioners told him to purchase the crew-cab and the pickup Nordstrom had requested.

The other two vehicles slated for replacement may be replaced with used vehicles, or swapped to a lower use assignment.

Nordstrom helped balance the countys budget deficit when his department projected receiving a $36,000 Oregon Coastal Zone Management grant, but received $52,000 instead.

Budget stories about other county departments will continue in the Wednesday, Jan. 16, edition.