Road money loans

Curry County commissioners plan to develop a procedure by which other public entities may borrow Road Capital Improvement Reserve Funds, which is permitted under House Bill 3435, passed into law last year.

An earlier law approved by state legislators allows certain counties, including Curry, to “borrow” money from their road reserve funds to provide Sheriff’s Department patrol services. Curry County has periodically done this in the past and will do so again this fiscal year.

Sheriff John Ward has only seven road deputies, and his budget does not allow for 24/7 coverage of the county.

The new procedure will allow special districts — from fire departments to the hospital — and cities to borrow money for a maximum of 20 years and pay it back using tax revenue it receives over those years.

The terms of each agreement would be targeted to the needs of the special district and its capability of reimbursing the road fund. Another requirement is that the borrowing entity cannot have had a default in the past five years.

“We need to be very careful who we loan money to,” said Commissioner Sue Gold. “These are our road reserve dollars. If we’re lending to an entity that can’t pay us back, we’ve got a problem.”

Both the county and the special districts stand to gain by it, said Commissioner Court Boice, who promoted the idea. The road reserve funds are invested in a pool that makes very little money and, if the county can lend money to other entities, it can earn a higher return. The special district, in turn, would borrow money on better terms than it could get elsewhere.

Boice has cited Cape Ferrelo Fire Department and Curry Health Network as two districts that might be interested in the opportunity. However, Fire Chief Aaron Johnson has said they craft their budget based on anticipated tax revenue for capital expenses; hospital officials have told other county commissioners that the district has reached its maximum for loan capacity and doesn’t plan to participate at this point.

The board debated whether to put the question to voters, but decided against doing so after Interim County Administrator John Hitt said such standards and procedures tend to be so complicated, many people would get lost in the legal jargon.

VSO move leaves vets in lurch

The Curry County Veterans Services Office moved Nov. 10 to 517 Railroad St., Brookings, but the transition left many in the lurch, veterans told the Pilot this week.

Blame it on the county’s telephone provider and the contracted IT services provider — Charter and Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative — which, in the move from Gold Beach, left Veterans Service Officer (VSO) Tony Voudy without phone service for close to two months, he said.

“If we’d had an IT director, this would have been done in a week or two,” Voudy said. “But they’re contracted and do it when they have the time.”

The county fired their IT director last spring and contracted his work out to Coos-Curry Electric Coop.

“I have screamed, I have yelled, I’ve done everything I could,” Voudy continued about his frustration in getting a phone line. “One of two things were going to happen; I was going to lose my job, or the public would have my head on a stick. But we’ve got it resolved.”

That resolution has provided only a “little bit of a relief,” he said.

“They’re making the people suffer in Curry County because I can’t help people because they can’t get ahold of me,” Voudy said. “(If) I have a veterans’ widow who I can’t call because she can’t get ahold of me to tell me anything; they’ll say it’s me not doing my job.”

Now veterans who call the Gold Beach number — 541-247-3205 — will be transferred to a cellphone he owns. Later this month, he should have a landline with the same number serving his new office in Brookings

Twenty to 30 people have gone to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Brookings asking how to get help after being unable to get hold of Voudy.

Post Commander Rick Bremer helped people with minor issues, he said, but can’t provide VSO-certified services. Many veterans have date-sensitive documents that need to be submitted or approved — and if they pass their deadline, the veteran has to start the process all over, which can be overwhelming for many,

“They should be heard,” Bremer said. “They should be taken care of. If they (finally seek help) and don’t get it, they’re not going to come back. I’ve got a whole bunch of disgruntled veterans on my hands.”

Repeated phone calls to the VSO office were not returned earlier this week, but by Thursday, the lines rang through — albeit, to busy signals.

Countywide chamber?

Curry County commissioners Sue Gold and Tom Huxley agreed during a workshop this week that creating a countywide chamber of commerce isn’t a job of the county and should not be pursued.

Commissioner Court Boice proposed the idea, saying it could unite the county and help the three struggling chambers in Brookings, Gold Beach and North County.

“The goal of a chamber of commerce is to further the interests of local businesses,” Gold said of the for-profit organizations. “I don’t think that’s in our purview to set up a countywide chamber.”

Chambers of commerce are run differently throughout the nation, with some operating as a resort information and reservation system to others that actively promote businesses at trade shows and conventions.

Brookings is considering reuniting with the newly-recreated Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce for marketing, advertising and promotion of the area. The two entities worked together until 2012 when they separated.

If the two entities team up again, the chamber would likely use a portion of the city’s transient occupancy taxes in tourism promotion efforts, but stay out of the realm of special events, officials told the city council last week.

Transient occupancy taxes are charged to people staying in local hotels. Brookings, which was grandfathered in to the state laws that require 70 percent of that revenue to be spent on tourism, allocates 25 percent, or about $37,000 a year, to tourism promotion.

City councilors said they were willing to explore options with the new chamber board, but also expressed a concern that city-raised revenue often went to advertise events held at the Port of Brookings Harbor and might not bring tourists to the city.