By Tony Ahern
Transition may be the key word in local government heading into 2007 -- new mayors in at Madras and Culver, two of the three county commissioners being replaced, the county's attorney and administrator leaving town for new jobs.
A little pre-Christmas feeler has put a little more intrigue into the discussion.
The one county commissioner who wasn't replaced this fall, Bill Bellamy, has announced that's he's very interested in becoming the next county administrator, replacing the outgoing Matthew Birnie. His interest in understandable. He feels he can do a good job, and, well, it's a good job -- one of the highest-paying public jobs anywhere in the county.
Certainly no candidate will have a deeper knowledge of Jefferson County government and the issues surrounding it than Bill Bellamy. However, his vast experience is legislative and not administrative. Outside of serving as a state representative and a county commissioner, his job experience has been teaching, operating his small farm, and sales, specifically auto and real estate sales.
When everything shakes down, Bellamy may be the best candidate for the position. But the new county commissioners -- Mike Ahern and John Hatfield -- need to be wide open with the search for the county's lead administrative position. If Bellamy is determined to be a candidate, he obviously needs to distance himself from the selection process.
Seems there are a couple scenarios that could take place. The commission could: leave the position open while they conduct the search for an administrator; name an interim, which might allow them to take more time in filling the important role; let Bellamy serve as commissioner and interim administrator, a solution he has floated.
That third scenario sounds like it might be a bit sticky. I guess Bellamy could step down as commissioner if offered the interim post. Doing a good job as interim might help him secure it full-time. However, if he's not chosen for the position, he would be out his commissioner job, too, which is a pretty good part-time job with benefits.
If Bellamy leaves his seat, a situation similar to that which the Republicans faced last summer -- when the commission candidate who won their primary, Darrell Agee, dropped out of the race -- would ensue. This time, if I understand the process correctly, the county Republican party would nominate a small field of candidates from which the two sitting commissioners, Ahern and Hatfield, would select Bellamy's replacement.
I guess Measure 37 won't be the only thing the new commission will have to deal with.
Yes on Pool
It was narrowly approved by voters over two years ago, but it's still about a year away. A sign at a residence along the Culver Highway just outside of Madras mockingly continues posted -- Yes On Pool -- as if it's not yet a done deal.
When the Madras Aquatic Center was approved by voters in November 2004, one of the freshly elected board members thought the pool could be open by 2006. That was two years away, so probably a good guess. Eventually, the expected opening date was spring 2007. Thanks largely to the building boom in Central Oregon prompting high bids, that didn't happen either.
Now construction has cooled so the contractors are willing to build the pool at a more reasonable rate. Earlier this month, the pool board accepted a bid. The newest completion projection: November 2007. Hopefully that won't sneak into 2008, four calendar years from the vote approving construction and operating funds.
It hasn't been easy for the pool board. They started from ground zero, formed the same November, 2004 night that the pool project was approved. Understandably, it took them several months to get fully functional as a district board. Then escalating costs and the building boom blindsided their initial plans and projections.
Now, with the accepted bid, the Madras pool project appears to be on track. Let's hope nothing significant develops between now and this time next year to substantially alter the latest completion projection date.
Maybe by next Christmas, the sign on the highway can come down.