Current Projects as Commissioner
The Commissioners approve an annual budget in excess of $120 million. This is a lengthy process as we meet with all the other departments and elected officials to review their proposed budgets. During difficult financial years, Grant County was one of the few courthouses that did not resort to a reduction in courthouse hours or a 4-day work week.
There are various grants and additional funding sources that have been sought after and received to help our citizens.
With a portion of the sales tax revenues, Grant County has been instrumental in granting approximately $800k each year to our communities, ports, and other taxing districts helping them with infrastructure needs.
Because of Registered Warrants, four hospital districts (Grand Coulee Medical, Quincy Valley Hospital, McKay Memorial, and Mattawa Health) have heavily relied on this financial support for the continuance of providing much needed medical care and treatment in their local communities.
The Grant County Commissioners consolidated the Building and Planning Departments, not only from an organizational perspective, but also provided a remodeled facility to house these services under one roof. A goal is to bring Environmental Health (from the Health District) into this department for a one-stop permitting process.
Our employees participated in the LEAN PROGRAM and returned with a new energy to streamline and simplify. Our reduced staff of 14/15 FTE's are now handling larger permit volumes with fewer resources in a shorter amount of time. Residential permits are getting issued within 2-3 weeks.
Residential and Commercial permits are now required to be "counter complete" before they will be accepted; this practice has allowed for a more expedient review and execution of permits by staff.
We developed a broad based community volunteer group forming the UDC (Unified Development Code) committee to recommend changes to the UDC to streamline land use permitting.
The Shoreline Master Program was updated in 2014. This included Grant County in taking a leadership role in establishing appropriate buffers for the Columbia Plateau Region, rather than applying larger buffers found elsewhere. This prevented compromising buffer function and value, while preserving property rights.
The 2018 Comprehensive Plan Update required by the state (without funding) was completed. We took the opportunity to reduce the overall size of the Comp Plan by roughly half, eliminating insignificant quantities of useless, encyclopedic information not needed in the plan.
In 2017 the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) was completed. This program protects the viability of agricultural activities where critical areas are present, while maintaining the function and value of those critical areas. This program is voluntary. No longer are critical areas protected by regulatory measure, but by voluntary actions from farmers. Continued progress in this manner will ensure farming activities continue to thrive in the basin.
We maintain an open invitation to address code deficiencies (i.e. industrial fence standards) or outdated code language. We have addressed a number of performance and developmental standards, ensuring compatibility of use while providing regulatory flexibility.
Infrastructure - County Roads
Grant County boasts some of the best county roads in the state. Our county road infrastructure is key in getting our farm-to-market commodities to their destination.
Grant funding has been obtained and wisely used on our road system to insure that our drivers return home safely. Our challenge is the distracted driver as there are so many mobile devices vying for their attention. We have added chevron signs clearly marking the road curves, rumble strips outlining the center and sides of the road, and flashing stop signs helping to draw more attention to a critical stop.
With nearly 60,000 visitors attending the 5-day fair each year, we work tirelessly to put something together that will be enjoyed by all. We have a 9-member Fair Advisory Committee that help the fair staff and the Commissioners with the planning and execution of this momentous task.
The Commissioners and Advisory Committee have worked together to provide our citizens a "Free Admissions Day," on the first day of fair. In 2017 an agreement between the Rodeo and the Fair resulted in a Rodeo ticket allowing entrance to both the Rodeo AND the Fair.
The old bleachers surrounding the grandstands were quarantined and had to be removed. A huge "Thanks" to Representative Tom Dent for seeing the value and importance of this Rodeo and securing a large grant to help with the funding of these bleachers. The bleachers will be ready for the 2018 Rodeo.
We have experienced an unprecendented increase in youth suicides so I have been passionately working on getting a countywide Suicide Prevention Coalition started. I love working with young people and this had been a very difficult battle to face. I have been in awe over the support our community members and community partners have given to this fight. After seeing close friends suffer through the unimagineable and gut-wrenching pain of their son's suicide, I made a personal commitment to do something about it. I have been instrumental in hosting several suicide/social media events educating parents and our young people about this preventable tragedy. I speak for many when I say it is so very hard to see our friends and loved ones go through so much pain. That is why I am fighting this battle with you!!!
NEW HOPE Domestic Abuse Treatment Center recently added KIDS HOPE to give aid and to provide much needed services to our youth when faced with abuse. We have heroes amongst us as I have met women and children who were once victims share their struggles in the hopes of helping others. Sadly, my cousin Kristy Palizzi was not able to finish her fight so I will continue this fight for her and for the others silently fighting this terror.
The detention portion of the Ephrata Youth Services was relocated to Martin Hall, which is an 8-county regional youth detention facility located in Cheney, Washington. During this move, we lost many long term employees but with the reduction of youth detainees, the $180k annual cost per youth detainee was not affordable. This difficult decision netted a large savings to our tax payers.
The county received a Courthouse Restoration Grant allowing us to make necessary changes and upgrades to our outdated and dangerous electrical and HVAC systems. ADA accommodations throughout the buildings were also brought into compliance.
A robust security and scanning system was added this summer in the Law & Justice Building to aid in the safety of employees and patrons visiting the courthouse.
Grant Integrated Services consolidated Behavior Health and Substance Use Disorder providing better wrap around care to those needing help.
A new addition to our community will be the revamping of City View to provide residential stabilization beds for Behavior Health and Substance Use Disorders. Our residents will no longer be required to leave the county to seek these services.