It's been a good 149 days for Crook County
- Bill Schaffer
- Central Oregonian - Features
>The new Crook County Court has an impressive list of accomplishments to show for the first few months in office .....Sometimes it's the smallest events that set the tone for a new leadership. For example, the new Crook County Court jumped right into to hot water in the opening days of their administration by restoring just that, hot water. It seems that the first and second floors of the courthouse had been without hot water for years. Under the leadership of Scott Cooper, the newly elected County Judge, hot water was restored quickly and inexpensively.
Last week the dormant eternal flame in front of the courthouse was reignited with a new, efficient flame plus it was given a renovated base and wrought iron fence to give it a new dignity.
The list goes on ... a few months ago the clock atop the courthouse building was cleaned for the first time in dozens of years; the courthouse is being recarpeted; the grounds have been cleaned up, flowers have been planted (thanks to the Crook County Garden Club) and a new planting strip has broken up the "sea of asphalt" in the rear parking lot.
Yes, these are all small and relatively unimportant steps for an administration faced with a county of problems, but they are symbolic of the progress of our new Crook County court in the first 10 percent (or 149 days) of it's term. (Crafton's term expires in 2002; Cooper and McCabe have four-year terms.)
As in any political group, I)m sure there is discord at some level, but the teamwork displayed by Crook County Judge Scott Cooper and Commissioners Jerry Crafton and Mike McCabe is remarkable.
Witness the significant advances they have made so far this year.
Just this week the County Counsel and Planner Pete Schannauer resigned. With any judgments about the job he has done set aside, I was pleased to see him go for two reasons. First, while job he does may be worth $84,421 in some communities, I thought it was excessive in Crook County. That's about the same amount we are paying our entire court. Second, he lives in Deschutes County, which is not bad, but I don't think a person living outside the county should be influencing decisions that don't even affect him. A full time county planner will fill his job and the counsel's work will be contracted to a local law firm.
The same goes for landfill manager Bruce Ricks, who was on a contract to the county for about $95,000 a year, and also living in Deschutes County. He was replaced by a full-time manager but will remain be available as a consultant when complicated landfill issues arise.
The county judge's vehicle was eliminated and transferred to the sheriff's department.
All the county department heads were linked to a single e-mail network making communications much more efficient.
They adopted a first-of-its-kind in the state order providing emergency measures to suppress wildfire in unprotected areas when human life or public property is threatened.
They opened up the court)s processes to public scrutiny by establishing a public notice board containing copies of county orders and meetings of the county court, publishing complete agendas for court meetings and making all official correspondence of the judge)s office available for public inspection.
They worked with our congressional delegation to see legislation introduced in Congress to allocate over $4 million to Crook County to purchase land and build a human services building.
Earnest money agreements were signed for purchase of properties across from the courthouse, which could lead the way to consolidation of facilities and aid redevelopment of the downtown area.
The court was able to reduce the county)s medical insurance premium increase from a projected 30 percent to less than 6 percent without significantly reducing benefit levels.
They established streamlined court procedures, reducing average meeting time from approximately 24 hours per month to eight and they established a consent agenda to manage routine, non-controversial material in large batches.
The county bill paying approval process was changed to reflect state ethics requirements.
The evaluation system for county employees was reorganized to tie merit pay increases to performance.
Working with the county treasurer, the Court transferred all foreign-owned investments in the county portfolio to domestic equities.
Property along Millican Road was acquired for possible landfill expansion and source of daily cover.
They initiated a-yet-unresolved dialogue with BLM regarding extension of Millican Road to highway 20, with the full support of ODOT and Deschutes County.
The Court set in motion the process to start selling foreclosed properties.
They renewed relations with the city of Prineville, budgeting increased road fund resources and restored city contribution to the fairgrounds and are cooperating on several economic development projects.
The county became a member of the Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority. (Crook County outside the city limits was previously the only area in Oregon not covered by a regional housing authority.)
Established a fee for the purpose of evaluating potential impact of cell tower placements and began work on a (not yet complete) cell tower ordinance.
Reworked the county appointments process to open up opportunities for service to all Crook County residents.
Appointed the first female fair board member in Crook County fairgrounds history.
The Crook County voters did the right thing by electing this team. It is refreshing to see government being run efficiently and professionally.