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Oregon Trails

An Occasional Newsletter

from

The Association of Oregon Counties

Month, Year - Vol 1, Issue 1

Conference Count(y) Down

And some other stuff

November 6, 2015

In This Issue
Annual Conference
New AOC Website
Legislative Summary Available
Trip to China
PUC Ruling
Energy, Environment & Land Use
Health & Human Services
Veterans
Rural Meets Urban
OACES Awards
Wasco County Award
EAP Webinar
Job Postings
Business Partner Member Drive
News from NACo
NACo and eConnectDirect
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
 

The leaves have turned into their fall colors. The temperature is a bit brisk. As we move deeper into autumn, we move toward the AOC Annual Conference. All the district meetings have been held and AOC staff is busy preparing for a week in Lane County. It is a great time of the year.

 

The Annual Conference will be held November 17, 18, 19 at the Hilton Conference Center in Eugene (pre-conference day is November 16). Online registration will close at the stroke of midnight, Sunday, November 8. Registration will be available at the conference, but there is an associated cost increase if you register on site, so do it before this Sunday night online if you can.

 

Click on this logo on the website

Please visit the new AOC website www.oregoncounties.org for registration and accommodation information. Click on the conference logo in the upper right hand corner of the home page. 

 

The theme of the 2015 Annual Conference is "Setting the Table for Success." In other words, "don't be on the menu," which is the sub theme. Please monitor your email for updates from AOC staff as the program is finalized.   

 

Thank You to the 2015 Annual Conference Sponsors

Check Out the New AOC Website
AOC has a new website, and we think you'll like it a lot! It's clean, easy to navigate and it is usable on any device you might be using. 

Check it out at:  www.oregoncounties.org
 
As you can see, we have changed our domain name. So, that means all of our email addresses now end in @oregoncounties.org. Not to worry though, if you send to our old address it will forward, but you will eventually want to change the address in your system. There's no time like the present!

AOC Legislative Summary
The 2015 AOC Legislative Summary is now available. Please click here for your reading pleasure. Now for a preemptive mea culpa...we were having trouble finding time to do the final proof, and finally decided we needed to get the information online, warts and all. The information is correct, but there might be a typo or two.
 
China Trip
AOC President Gary Thompson and Executive Director Mike McArthur traveled to China with the 2015 Oregon Legislative Trade Mission. While there Judge Thompson signed two agreements: An MOU with the Fujian Provincial People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Counties and AOC on the Establishment of Cooperative Relationship; and an MOU between Mid Columbia Economic Development District and Hydro China to assist in the development of the John Day Pumped Storage renewable energy project. 

Thompson and McArthur traveled with a group of seven state legislators led by Senator Arnie Roblan. The group included Senator Bill Hansell and his wife Margaret, Senator Sara Gelser, Representatives Barbara Smith-Warner, Kathleen Taylor, Carla Piluso and Duane Stark. The mission was led by Jin Lan, the Executive Director of The Oregon-China Sister State Council. Oregon has had a sister state relationship with Fujian Province for 30 years. That agreement was renewed by Governor Brown during this visit.

What follows is Mike's journal of the adventure:

The trip was a mix of formal meetings and meals with Chinese officials, trade discussions, and sight seeing. The group arrived in Beijing on October 12. While there we met with Foreign Affairs Vice President Chen Naiqing and Zhou Wenzong, former ambassador to the U.S. The group then traveled by high speed train to the Port City of Tianjin to take part in an investment seminar sponsored by the Port of Portland. In between we visited the Great wall and The Forbidden City. The delegation joined Governor Brown in a formal meeting with Vice Premier Liu Yandong, one of the higher ranking Chinese cabinet ministers. We next traveled inland about 3 hours by air to Yinchan in the Ningxia Autonomous Region. This region includes about 30 percent Muslims in the population. We visited a local mosque and Muslim community. We also traveled to the edges of the Gobi Desert to see a desert reclamation project.

From Yinchan we flew to Shanghai on the central eastern coast. We toured the harbor and Shanghai Museum. Then on to Fuzhou, the capitol of Fujian province. Fuzhou is significant as the port across the strait from Taiwan. It has about 7.7 million people, Fujian province has 37 million. Fujian is unique in that 8o percent of the land is forested. It is quite mountainous or hilly. We met at the  Fujian Department of Commerce where the signing ceremony with AOC took place. We traveled by high speed train west to Wuyishan, the tea growing region and spent most of the time traveling in tunnels through the hills. The visit there included a trip down the Wuyi river on a bamboo raft.

From Wuyi we traveled back to the coast to Xiamen, a popular travel destination in China. Throughout the trip we witnessed may Chinese tourists traveling to see their country. We saw very few westerners relative to the number Chinese tourists and practically every other person was carrying a smart phone. The traffic in the cities is very congested despite the vast network of freeways (many toll roads), bridges and trains. There was a much higher ratio of buses to cars throughout China. But the most prevalent vehicle was the motor scooter, most of which are electric.

We concluded our visit in Hong Kong, with the most densely populated neighborhood on earth. It is a semi autonomous region with it's own currency and driving on the left side as opposed to the rest of China. Throughout China there is obvious significant long term investment in infrastructure: roads, bridges, trains, airports, housing and commercial development. There appears to be significant trend toward private enterprise (we were told 51 percent of China's GDP comes from the private sector). The 13th five-year economic plan was being introduced while we were there. It apparently will emphasize education, consumer economy and rural economic development. China currently graduates 7.5 million students from colleges annually. The one child policy has been relaxed as there is a need for more younger workers.

We departed from Hong Kong (one of the world's largest airports) at about noon on Sunday October 25th. We arrived at Seattle at  9 a.m. Sunday October 25th. Chinese leaders are clearly seeking more opportunity for interaction and collaboration with the rest of the world. Oregon is already the 6th leading state in trade with China. It appears there are many opportunities for increased commerce between Oregon and China and much to be learned culturally and technically. We hope to help county leaders explore opportunities for greater interaction with Fujian and China.

AOC President Thompson signs MOU with Fujian Provence

Group photo following meeting with Chinese officials

Judge Thompson and Director McArthur will have more on their China Trip at the Annual Conference.  

In Other News - PUC Ruling
PUC stands with rural communities.
 
During the 2015 legislative session, the legislature, through Senate Bill 611 as amended in one respect by House Bill 2485, created a sizable new set of property tax exemptions for the telecommunications industry. Related to "qualified projects" (new build-out) and data centers, the initial annual revenue impact was estimated to be nearly $8 million of local property tax revenue forgiveness in FY 2016-17, and growing each year thereafter.

AOC supported the bills after balancing the potential for significant gains in economic development and community sustainability. The trade-off of lost revenue for schools and vital public services seemed fair, given the potential gains. 

With respect to build-out of "qualified projects," the standard to be met by the company is the capacity to provide one gigabit per second symmetrical service as certified by the company to a majority of the applicant's residential customers. The Acts assigned the Public Utility Commission the task of receiving the application, determining if the speed-of-service standard will be met, verifying the number of the applicant's residential customers who receive the applicant's broadband service, and ensure that other statutory requirements are met.

The term "broadband service" was not explicitly defined in the Acts. The staff of PUC decided that that term needed to be defined as part of its proposed emergency rules to implement the filing process, with its deadline approaching. After conferring with industry representatives, the staff decided to define "broadband service" to include a minimum speed, beginning at 25 megabits per second but ending up at 10 megabits per second in their recommendation to the PUC. The result would have been that those residential customers receiving service from a company of a speed lower than 10Mbps would NOT be considered as part of that company's customer base. With a smaller customer base, the company can more easily meet the 51 percent standard of a new build out of one gigabit to its residential customers to qualify for the sizable property tax exemption. And, perversely, this same company would have an incentive NOT to increase the speed of service above 10Mbps to current customers at slower speeds, many of whom are rural residents.

The PUC held its hearing on the proposed emergency rule on November 3rd. AOC was joined by State Representative Phil Barnhart (Chair of the House Revenue Committee), the League of Oregon Cities, and the Department of Revenue in objecting to the definition in the recommended rule. Industry representatives were there in support.

Witnesses who objected to the proposed definition made several points.
  • "One gigabit per second" is the only speed specified in the Acts, and the only speed with which the PUC need concern itself. The Legislature had in effect already defined "broadband service" by deferring to its commonly understood definition. The Federal Communications Commission, on its website, states that the term "commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access". It continues by describing several types of broadband, but only in modes or types, without reference to speed. The only qualification is to be different from dial-up. Merriam-Webster also defines the term by mode. In the opinion of the Legislative Counsel, Dexter Johnson, he agrees that common descriptions of broadband are in mode, not speed. In fact, he notes that the term appears 36 times in the Oregon statute books, not once modified by a specific minimum speed to communication services.
  • No witness could recall a reference to speed during legislative hearings or discussions, other than the standard of one gigabit to qualify for the exemption.
  • The Department of Revenue and Legislative Revenue Office did their revenue impact estimates based on the common understanding of the term.
  • It is irrelevant that the FCC states a speed under its bench-marking rule for the Connect America Fund, as cited by PUC staff, because that program serves an entirely different purpose than the state Acts. It is to moderate reimbursement of expenses of very high cost carriers and to set goals for public funding of build-out projects to under-served areas. 
  • The emergency rule must be corrected, because it could enable certain companies to qualify for the exemption (that could continue indefinitely) that were not intended to qualify by the legislation. Representative Barnhart testified that the exemption is designed to be hard to get, because of its cost to resources for local public services.
  • County Commissioners and Judges know full well the need for economic development, and balanced the bills' costs stated during the session against the opportunity to attract and retain community spirited businesses. The effect of the proposed definition in the rule, however, would likely increase the revenue impact. It is prudent to know what that impact will be before taking action on the rule.
The industry representatives asserted the need for a clear definition that reflects the average speed of current technology. The proposed definition would disqualify some 31 percent of broadband customers statewide from being considered as such for the purpose of qualifying a project for the property tax exemption. Industry referred to 10Mbps as a compromise definition.

The three Public Utility Commissioners - Chair Susan Ackerman, John Savage, and Stephen Bloom - asked tough questions of every witness and gave no indication before the vote what they would decide. Ultimately, they unanimously adopted Commissioner Savage's motion to amend the definition to read the provision of data transmission technology that provides two-way data transmission to and from the internet through other than a dial-up connection. 

Without a speed limiting a company's customer base for the propose of this sizable property tax exemption, there will be no built-in disincentive for companies to provide faster service to rural areas.

AOC Policy Director Gil Riddell is now an expert in broadband speed definitions.

Energy, Environment and Land Use
As Cooler Temperatures Hit the State, Oregon Department of Energy Updates Weatherization Program
The Oregon Department of Energy has worked with stakeholders to update rules for its State Home Oil Weatherization (SHOW) program. The SHOW program targets energy efficiency and conservation improvements made to Oregon households that heat with oil, propane, kerosene, butane, or wood.

The updated SHOW rules adjust the amount of cash payments available for various energy improvements, including energy efficient furnaces, windows, storm and exterior doors, and insulation. These adjustments allow an individual household to receive more per measure, though the overall program maximum of $500 for individual households remains the same. 

New program rules went into effect earlier this month. For more information about the SHOW program, please visit this site.  

Updated Questions and Answers for the Green Energy Technology Program
The updated Q & A for the Green Energy Technology program at ODOE has been updated since the passage of HB 3329 and HB 2987 in the 2015 Legislative Session. HB 3329 changed the definition for geothermal green energy technology and HB 2987 deals with the retention of green energy technology funds. To see the new Q & A, click HERE

Oregon Department of Energy Grant Program Targets Renewable Energy Development
The Oregon Department of Energy recently opened the application process for its Renewable Energy Development Grant program. ODOE has approximately $1.5 million in RED Grant funds available statewide for renewable energy production systems.
Qualified systems must produce electrical energy from a renewable source such as biomass, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, landfill gas, biogas, or wave, tidal, or ocean thermal energy. Grants are capped at $250,000 per system and may not exceed 35 percent of the project cost.

For application materials and other information, please visit this page.

USDA Rural Development Rural Water Infrastructure Loans and Grants
USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for loans and grants to build rural water infrastructure. Applications may be completed online through RDAPPLY, a new electronic filing system, and at  state and local Rural Development offices . Public entities (counties, townships and communities), non-profit organizations and tribal communities with a population of 10,000 or less are eligible to apply. Interest rates for this program are at historically low levels, ranging from 2 percent to 3.25 percent. Loan terms can be up to 40 years. For more information, visit this site .   

DEQ Air Toxics Committee to meet Nov. 18 to discuss air toxics benchmarks
Topics include n-propylbromide, phosgene, selenium and styrene.

What: DEQ invites the public to observe an Air Toxics Science Advisory Committee meeting to continue the discussion about a proposed approach for identifying an Ambient Benchmark Concentration for diesel particulate matter. The committee also will discuss toxicological information for n-propylbromide, phosgene, selenium and styrene.

When: 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Nov. 18; 11:45 a.m., questions and answers.

Where: Oregon DEQ Headquarters, 10th Floor, Room EQC-A, 811 SW 6th Ave.,
Portland.

For more information: Go to Air Toxics Science Advisory Committee.  
 
AOC Policy Manager Mark Nystrom deals with Energy, Environment and Land Use issues.

Health & Human Services
While the deadline for the rental assistance grant applications has passed, we are awaiting the release of the crisis and jail diversion RFPs. Originally expected out by now, they are being reviewed by DOJ and could be out at any time The peer-delivered service grants are expected to be out about two weeks later. More information on the grants will be provided during the Governance Forum meeting at conference.  

The Oregon Health Authority is winding down its statewide listening tour regarding the mental health system. Thus far meetings have been held in Klamath Falls, La Grande, Bend, and Astoria. The next meetings take place on  November 9th in Albany and  November 20th in Portland, with a final webinar on  November 30th. These meetings have been primarily targeted at receiving feedback from consumers, with many providers in attendance in a purely observatory capacity. Following the conclusion of all the meetings, OHA plans to release compiled statistics on the feedback and comments collected.

Many thanks go out to those who have attended one of these meetings representing counties and engaging with OHA leadership and legislators: Commissioners Mallams, Howard and Baney. 

AOC Policy Manager Stacy Michaelson works on HHS issues.
 
Veterans 
Veterans Steering Committee Special Guest on November 18th

Please Join Commissioners Diane McKeel and Rod Runyon and Help AOC welcome our special guest at the Annual Conference in Eugene,  Portland VA Health Care System Director Joanne Krumberger. The  AOC Veterans Steering Committee meets  1:15-3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18th.
 
Director Krumberger will be sharing thoughts on the many changes happening with the veterans health care system in Oregon. The goal of the session with Director Krumberger is to identify and pursue County/VA collaboration pilots to better serve our veterans and their families. 
 
Veterans Day History
1918 - At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiýgne, France. The First World War left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million or more lives. In addition, at least five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure. November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of "the war to end all wars."

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect
 
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..."
On May 13, 1938, Congress made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday -- a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." In 1954, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." On October 8, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation."
 
A Sampling of 2015 Veterans Day Deals:   See Full Details of Each Deal Here 
Arby's  
IHOP  
Sizzler Free Lunch  


Rural Commissioners meet Urban Commissioners
Hare, Hyde discuss timber issues with Multnomah County Board

Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare and Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde were invited to a Multnomah County Board of Commissioners meeting last week to discuss timber issues. The invitation came from Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack, who said she wanted to open a conversation about how Multnomah County can understand rural counties more effectively. 

"I think often times Multnomah County is seen as hostile," said Shiprack.  "We don't want to be seen as hostile." 

Hare talked about his background working for former Sen. Gordon Smith and lobbying in Washington, D.C. for rural Oregon issues. "This meeting is a good start," said Hare. "We need to keep the conversation going so that we can find ways to help all of Oregon."
 
Hyde discussed the history of the Secure Rural Schools Act and payment in lieu of taxes history to the commission. The commissioners welcomed continued conversations.

AOC Policy Manager Patrick Sieng is staff for District 8.

OACES Awards
Congratulations to the 2015 Oregon Association of County Engineers and Surveyors (OACES) award winners.  

Surveyor of the Year - Carl Clinton, Clackamas County
Engineer of the Year - John Vial, Jackson County
Award of Merit - Tom Fellow, Umatilla County

For more on the awards and a couple of photos please click here.   

Emily Ackland is the County Road Program Manager.
Daniel Hauser is the Road Policy Specialist and Communication Guru.

Wasco County Award
Wasco County Assessor Jill Amery receives national award

Wasco County Assessor and Tax Collector Jill Amery received a national award recognizing her work over the last year and a half to implement the tax and assessment software system that was left flailing with the passing of Assessor Tim Lynn and further complicated by issues in the County Treasurer's office.

At the annual conference for the national software company Thomson Reuters Tax and Accounting Software & Research Solutions, Amery was awarded the Excellence in Leadership Award out of a pool of over 1,600 municipal governments from across the country and worldwide.

Amery was first elected to the position in 2014 after the passing of former county assessor Tim Lynn. She started working in the office part time in May and officially took office in January, 2015.

From the beginning there were issues with coordinating tax collections with the County Treasurer and the Finance Department. The county's audit for fiscal year 2013-14 identified several areas that needed to be brought up to acceptable accounting practices.

According to a statement issued by Thomson Reuters, "Jill surpassed the challenges that faced her. She harnessed her knowledge of the Oregon business process, quickly learned county complexities, and successfully managed cross-functional interactions while fostering interdepartmental collaboration. She regularly engaged with stakeholders, built strong relationships with peers, and, in the words of her colleague, 'weathered it all with grace and poise'."

By June 2015 Amery and other county finance officials had integrated the taxation and general ledger functions and resolved most of the issues associated with the Treasurer's Office and audit.

"We are now golden", said Tyler Stone, Wasco County Administrative Officer. "Not just Jill, but the entire office came together to help resolve these issues," he continued.

From left to right front row:  Commissioner Steve Kramer, Assessor Consultant Tom Linhares, County Assessor Jill Amery, Personal Property Specialist Sue Awmiller, Data Entry Specialist Allen Beeks, 

Left to right middle row: Office Manager Marci Beebe, Deeds Specialist Jason Wallace (you can only see his hair and striped shirt), Appraiser I Brandon Jones, Appraiser II Melanie Brown

Left to right back row: Chief Appraiser Darlene Lufkin, Assessment/Tax Clerk Janet Sasser, Tax Deputy Linda Perkins

News release and photo submitted by Wasco County.
 
Upcoming Webinar
The Benefits of Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) ... It's More Than Just Counseling

Employee assistance programs are not what they used to be! In this webinar, CIS Wellness Benefits Representative Heather Matthews and CIS Human Resource Senior Consultant Sharon Harris unveil the many EAP benefits for employees, supervisors, and the entity as a whole. Attendees will learn how all employees in the organization can benefit from the variety of EAP resources including counseling services, financial and legal services, and assistance for supervisors dealing with a difficult workplace situation.  Friday, November 13, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.REGISTER by  Wednesday, November 11 at  learn.cisoregon.org.

AOC Member Services Manager  Mckenzie Farrell can help you with member benefits.

Job Postings
Do you have a job opening and want to get the word out? The new and improved AOC website has a section for job postings that is free of charge to Oregon counties, affiliate, associate and business partner members. All other government organizations may post for the minimal fee of $25 per posting. What a deal!

Contact AOC Member Services & Communications Manager Mckenzie Farrell for more information.  
 
 AOC Business Partner Membership Drive
Show your support and get rewarded! Reach out to business leaders in your community and tell them why they should become an AOC Business Partner

AOC will provide participants with a $100 discount off AOC Annual Conference registration and entry in a raffle for a future AOC or NACo event ( up to a $3000 savings). 

Let's work together! Help us create a network of business leaders to work with counties to build healthy local economies and establish vibrant communities.
 
For more information, contact Mckenzie Farrell, AOC member services and communications manager, at 503.585.8351 or mfarrell@oregoncounties.org.
 
News from NACo
Cherryl Ramirez, NACBHDD president and executive director of the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Pro­grams, provided an overview of county behavioral health systems, which exist in 23 states and serve 75 percent of the U.S. population.
Cherryl Ramirez, NACBHDD president and executive director of the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Pro­grams, provided an overview of county behavioral health systems, which exist in 23 states and serve 75 percent of the U.S. population.
 NACo briefs Congress on behavioral health issues

County leaders join effort to recognize national service

Counties face the long-term environmental effects of wildfires

Serving Those Who Served

Local leaders join forces to curb prescription drug abuse, heroin

NACo and eConnectDirect Celebrate Anniversary of Exclusive Partnership
269 U.S. government entities - of which 85 are counties - are now enjoying the benefits of eConnectDirect®, a NACo Financial Services Center-endorsed program initiated one year ago after an extensive, county-driven due diligence process.  eConnectDirect is a no-cost, online investment information tool that supports county financial officers as they manage excess funds. Learn more...

Contacts
Please feel free to contact Laura Cleland, Eric Schmidt or Mckenzie Farrell at AOC with any questions you might have about AOC. We will make sure you are connected to the right policy manager, communications manager or member services manager. We are also looking for timely stories and photos that you might want to share with our newsletter list. Please let us know.