Curry County commissioners appointed three citizens to the Curry County Budget Committee Wednesday evening to replace those lost after they dissolved the group in February, citing discrepancies with the residency of one.
Two of the appointments, however, did not receive unanimous approval, including for the Central and South County positions. Five people applied.
Ken Dukek was the only one to apply from North County and was appointed to Position 1; his term will expire at the end of the year.
Richard Thode was appointed for the Position 2 seat in Central County over Bill Ostrowski who has 30 years of financial experience and sat on the board before it was dissolved; that term expires at the end of 2020. Commissioner Sue Gold said she felt Ostrowski was the better candidate, citing his experience and financial background.
The vote fell the same way, 2-1, for the Position 3 seat in South County, for which Teresa Lawson, Michael Horgan and Brad Alcorn applied. That position expires at the end of 2021.
“Again, I see Teresa Lawson has an extensive financial and accounting background,” Gold said. “I think we need that on the committee.”
Commissioner Chris Paasch, however, said he was voting for the two new men to have “fresh faces involved in county government.” Commissioner Court Boice said the two positions were a tough call, but sided with Paasch.
“We all know this will be a difficult and challenging budget season,” Paasch said. “I’m hoping for new faces and new energy to face the budget season with open minds to move Curry County forward.”
The new team
Dukek, the CEO of Curry Community Health, formerly was a county department head from 2005 to 2014 and has served on the Blue Ribbon Committee for Public Safety, the Public Safety Task Force, the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council and the citizens budget committee.
Commissioners Court Boice and Chris Paasch said in a press release Monday that Dukek impressed them with his ability to take the county’s public health department, privatize it and make it profitable in less than two years.
Thode, a U.S. Army veteran with two Purple Hearts for service in Vietnam, holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and has worked in federal, state and local law enforcement. He has worked as an instructor at the Oregon Police Academy and in telemarketing for the Nevada Attorney General and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
“I would like to see a sustainable budget that would avoid year-to-year crisis issues,” he wrote in his application. “In an effort to achieve this, maybe explore new sources of income that wouldn’t burden Curry County citizens, nor increase unnecessary regulations for new and existing businesses.”
“In a county that honors veterans, I am thrilled to have the veterans represented on our budget committee,” Paasch said.
Alcorn has 35 years of law enforcement experience including SWAT and K9, homicide, and criminal investigations involving police corruption and organized crime in multiple police districts. In some of those capacities, he was responsible for establishing budgets, obtaining and managing funds and creating a new policing unit.
He is most concerned about the current status of the county’s funding and allocation of its funds to various county departments.
“We have historically had very dedicated people serve on our budget committee,” Boice said, “but I felt we needed someone who really understood our law enforcement needs, and who better than a career law enforcement professional?”
Curry County has had difficulty balancing its budget, Boice said, and last year had to transfer funds from the Road Department Reserve Fund to cover expenses in the Sheriff’s Department.
“People do not want an increase in their tax rate, but I don’t know if they understand our fiscal situation,” Boice said. “We collect almost $28 million in taxes, but the county only gets to keep $1.8 million. It’s pretty hard to run a county organization on less than $2 million in tax revenue”.
The 2018-19 adopted budget was $57 million.
Lawson cited her 25 years in financial and cost analysis and management experience and work in for-profit, governmental and nonprofit organizations, in her application.
Locally, she served on the Brookings budget committee for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
“The county is challenged with limited financial resources to address all the needs of the county — the right financial decisions are critical,” Lawson said in her application. “I’m concerned about all aspects of our county, including safety, infrastructure and continuing to expand healthcare.”
Horgan has owned several successful small businesses in Brookings, his application reads.
“I am concerned about the financial future of Curry County and want to offer my insight as a business owner and entrepreneur,” he said.
The next public meeting to discuss the budget will be at a regular commissioner workshop March 27.