Clatsop County is putting some projects on hold until the fate of a statewide ballot measure reducing state forest timber harvests is known.
County Administrator Scott Derickson told the county commissioners Wednesday that staff have identified $1.2 million in capital projects funded out of the county's share of state timber revenues that will be delayed until after the November election.
Ballot Measure 34, the "Tillamook 50/50" plan, would prohibit logging on large sections of the Clatsop and Tillamook state forests and reduce harvest levels below amounts now called for in the current state forest management plan.
The Oregon Secretary of State's Office projected that Measure 34 could reduce harvest levels by 44 percent, although other estimates on the possible fiscal impact to Clatsop, Tillamook and other counties that receive a portion of logging revenue vary widely. County staff decided it made sense to identify potential cuts now rather than be faced with stark choices should the measure pass, Derickson said today.
"We're taking a cautious approach," he said. "It's more prudent not to spend capital dollars if we might be in for a fiscal crisis."
The biggest project put on hold is the planned $800,000 renovation of the old county health department building at Ninth and Commercial streets. A contract for the project, which involves converting the building for meeting space and election ballot-processing, was already awarded, but the county is negotiating with the contractor, Rickenbach Construction, to hold off on work until after the election. If the measure passes, the board will have the chance to reconsider the project, Derickson said.
The delay will add costs to the project in the event the measure fails and the work goes forward, Derickson said, "but that seems more prudent than committing to a large capital project now."
Also put on hold is the purchase of new equipment, including vehicles for the Sheriff's Department.
The county expects to receive more than $3.2 million in state timber dollars in the current budget year under the existing forest management plan. Of that, $680,000 goes directly to the general fund to support ongoing services, with the rest dedicated to the Special Projects fund.
Special Projects expenditures this year include money for the construction and start-up of the new Community Corrections Transition Center, support for the juvenile detention center at the North Coast Youth Correctional Facility, the rental of jail beds in Tillamook County, and payment on the 10-year PERS bond approved by the board earlier this year. Many of those expenditures, including the PERS bond, have already been spent, Derickson said.
Earlier this month the board voted to support a resolution opposing Measure 34.
In other business the board approved the creation of a new position to administer the county jail's "matrix" inmate scoring system.
The new position was recommended earlier this month by Commission Chairwoman Helen Westbrook, in response to the findings of a report on the local criminal justice system by the National Institute of Corrections.
The matrix scoring system ranks offenders based on the seriousness of their crimes, criminal history, risk of flight and other factors to identify those who pose the least risk to the community. The system was implemented in 2001 to provide an objective scoring system that would reduce the county's liability in the event an inmate released early committed a new offense.
With the jail often full to capacity and inmates being released continuously to make space for other offenders, the matrix is an important tool to juggle the inmate population.
The matrix was singled out in the NIC study, which pointed to concerns from various local officials that the scoring system is not being applied accurately or consistently by jail staff, who must keep track of inmates' matrix scores in addition to their other duties. It can take from 15 to 40 minutes to process the score of each offender as he or she is booked into the jail.
The new employee will gather information from various sources, including the Law Enforcement Data System, to tally the offenders' scores, and update those scores regularly.
The board voted 4-1 for the new position, with Commissioner Richard Lee voting no. The $45,500 cost will come out of the general fund contingency fund.
Lee said he preferred that the county find existing staff to handle the matrix scoring job.
Along with the matrix assistant, the board also approved a $10,000 allocation to provide support for the Public Safety Coordinating Council.