Remodeling the Head Start building in Brookings, nuisance properties, the creation of an enterprise zone, the sale of the airport — these and many others are among the list of accomplishments done by the county in 2018, as outlined in Curry County Commissioner Sue Gold’s State of the County address.
She outlined the work in three categories at a special meeting Monday, including quality of life for citizens, economic development, public safety and “efficiency, communications and transparency.”
Among those listed in the quality of life category was the county’s tackling reports of “nuisance properties” — those parcels or residences that have been abandoned or neglected and provide haven for rats, become dump sites and are otherwise unsafe or unhealthy for the local community.
The county hired a code enforcement officer to address future complaints, most of which were in Harbor.
The board of commissioners approved a grant to remodel the Head Start building in Brookings, which stood the chance of closing if architectural and safety problems weren’t addressed. A $1 million grant will pay for work hoped to be finished in September.
“This should be a boon to our local economy by adding construction jobs as well as giving our young children a better and safer place to learn,” Gold said.
The board also wrote a letter to Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City to complain about overcharging — up to 10 times the maximum allowed for local carriers — by EmCare, with whom the hospital had contracted.
The Del Norte Board of Supervisors — the equivalent to Curry County commissioners — and Del Norte Healthcare District also complained; Sutter Coast discontinued its contract effective this month, ensuring that emergency room patients will pay far less for the care they receive, Gold said.
The county public transit district has submitted a grant application to provide expanded services in the county.
And the county plans to pursue — to the extent that it can — getting an emergency room in Brookings, which the state has granted permission under Curry Health Network’s critical access status. Brookings is the largest city in the state without emergency care, and residents have to drive the 30 miles to either Crescent City or Gold Beach to receive such care.
The hospital district, however, continues to struggle to get the estimated $1 million it needs to open the facility on Fifth Street.
The board passed an ordinance that approved an enterprise zone overlay in unincorporated areas of the county that would allow manufacturing businesses to defer taxes for a minimum of three years, provided they pay living wages to employees.
Last month, Langlois residents complained about the overlay, saying they didn’t want such development in their burg and that maps online didn’t correlate with those on paper. The maps were rectified and commissioners explained the zoning is merely an option — not a requirement — property owners can take advantage of. The enterprise zone is headed to the state for final approval.
“It is important to note that these industries would be subject to Curry County zoning regulations and would have to go through the proper process to obtain building permits,” Gold reiterated in her address. “The goal is to bring investment and jobs to the county for sustained long-term growth.”
After years of debate and negotiating, the county sold the airport in Brookings to that city. The county has not had adequate funding to maintain the facility, and Brookings officials were eager to make improvements and develop it to entice light manufacturing and other business to the area.
The county balked at selling the facility for years.
“Bottom line,” Gold said, “the city has plans to develop the airport that are easier to accomplish (under its ownership.) The future development of the airport will benefit all Curry County citizens.”
The county recently created the Citizens Revenue Task Force, which is working to craft an array of long-term, sustainable revenue sources to help the county’s flagging bottom line. The first proposal, likely to be on the May ballot, is a transient lodging tax in unincorporated Curry County.
The board also approved an ordinance that will allow Pacific Gales Golf Course near Port Orford to use that city’s wastewater to irrigate its course overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Cape Blanco State Park.
The board increased its budget to fund four new road deputies for the sheriff’s department. The patrol ranks are still far short of what they used to be when the county was flush with timber receipt money, Sheriff John Ward has said. But having four more deputies will help him cover the 1,600-plus square miles of unincorporated Curry County.
The county also helped facilitate the merger of ambulance services in Port Orford with those of Cal-Ore Life Flight.
And the long-overdue replacement of the elevator in the jail was accomplished, although Gold noted it is one of many needed improvements needed in the courthouse.
“Both the jail and the courthouse are extremely old and will need to be replaced,” she said. Past estimates to replace the jail have hovered in the $30 million-plus range, and because the current facility is in a tsunami zone, many have said it can’t be rebuilt there.
Additionally, the microwave units that provide radio communications for all emergency responders in the county — ambulance, sheriff and many more — are in dire need of replacement, she noted.
“It will take millions of dollars to do so,” Gold said. “These (systems) are so old that parts are no longer available for repairs.”
The county is also working to get entities that use the system to pay into a maintenance and repair fund.
The board approved funding for a Portland State University study to determine the feasibility of merging the county’s 911 system with that of the city of Brookings. When the two systems were built, geography and technology limitations required construction of two systems, but that is a moot point these days.
The county launched its website last February, enabling the public to view meetings, access the GIS system and other pertinent public documents. Additionally, it continues to televise its meetings and approved Curry Voices to use equipment and produce local video of interest to citizens.
The county created a county administrator position and spent thousands of dollars to find Clark Schroeder of Minnesota to fill the position. The job was created to allow commissioners to deal with the bigger issues concerning the county and allowing a manager to deal with minutiae.
The position was a first for Curry County; more than 50 percent of general law counties — under which Curry operates — have administrators.
The new board, however, has indicated it doesn’t need the position.
The board spent much time crafting an ordinance to ensure public records requests are handled efficiently, consistently and legally, and updated and revised the employee handbook.
The board also approved the purchase of several large pieces of equipment for the road department.
“This will enable them to make quicker road repairs and have less downtime because of old equipment failures,” Gold explained. “In the long run, these pieces of equipment will enable the road department to be more cost effective and efficient.”