Cattlemen's Association Wants Action on Cougar Issue
October 3, 2019
POMEROY-Sam Ledgerwood, Garfield County Rancher representing the Cattleman’s Association, addressed the Garfield County Commissioners regarding the danger of cougar attacks in the county. Ledgerwood stated that the Klickitat County Sheriff has taken on the cougar issue with lethal action where danger to humans and livestock are present. He added that the Klickitat sheriff was working directly with the Chief of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), who had approved his actions. Ledgerwood wanted to know if Garfield County could do the same, especially with the fall being the time of year that cougar activity escalates. He reminded the commissioners that historically when the cougar quota is reached, the WDFW shuts down the hunting season. He also stated that he believes there is a Washington Administrative Code (WAC) on record that allows hunters to pursue cougars and be prepared to hunt them when the need arises. He reiterated that the cougar population needs to be kept under control for public safety reasons, but they need authorization from the Garfield County Sheriff to take action. Commissioner Justin Dixon agreed and added that there have been instances that reports of cougar activity have taken as long as eight days to receive a response from law enforcement authorities. Dixon said he would personally discuss the issue with Sheriff Drew Hyer, as well as make a conference call to WDFW.
Ledgerwood also asked the commissioners to appoint someone to represent Garfield County in the joint meetings of Oregon and Washington counties regarding the management and road maintenance of the Blue Mountain Forest. He feels that Garfield County has not been represented and offered to help in any way that he can to be sure they have some input into a new plan that is being made.
Sheriff Hyer asked Ledgerwood to include him in the next meeting of the Cattleman’s Association. He would like to make a reference list of all the brands and ear tag colors used in the county by various ranchers so that when the need arises, the Sheriff’s Department can make accurate identifications of livestock.
Hyer also reported to the commissioners that Tina Meier, E911 Coordinator/Director, will be meeting with E911 directors of other counties in an effort to work out a way to join together to share equipment or services in the wake of state budget shortfalls. The State wants to help upgrade 911 radio equipment, which is supposed to be upgraded every five years, but they don’t have the funds to do so for every county. If the counties can work together, the funds can be stretched a little farther to make the needed upgrades.
The Garfield County Employees Group, represented by Katie Magill, Holly McConnell, and Rachel Anderson, and reporting from a meeting last week, asked the commissioners for a wage increase of 2%, and to keep their medical insurance premiums the same as the previous year. They also requested that the County return to Premera’s Blue Cross Heritage Plus Plan, rather than the current policy they now have with Kaiser Permanente, siting better coverage, no billing issues, and a better choice of providers as the reasons. The commissioners have been reviewing terms and benefits from the two insurance providers in an effort to choose one to offer County employees at their Benefit Fair in October. However, they do not have finalized plans from either insurer. The commissioners promised to find out more, look it all over, and get back to the Employees Group by the next meeting on Monday, October 7, 2019. The Employees Group also requested that December 24, 2019, serve as their floater holiday for this year.
Fred Zack, Pomeroy resident, attended the meeting to ask the commissioners about what responsibility will Garfield County have if the hospital district’s special levy does not pass in November. He was concerned that the hospital district will become a burden on the County. Commissioner Dixon stated that if the hospital should have to close due to lack of funds, the assets would be dissolved, and the building and land would revert back to the County. A decision would then have to be made as to how the property could be used.
The commissioners approved and signed a Juvenile Justice Agreement with Walla Walla County as a secondary option to one already signed and approved with Nez Perce County, Idaho. The rate for Walla Walla County is $140 per day.
A meeting is planned at the Garfield County Courthouse with the County Commissioners and Steve Pozzanghera, Regional Director of WDFW on October 15, 2019, at 10 a.m. The commissioners anticipate that the subject to be discussed is a possible land acquisition in Garfield County by the WDFW. Commissioner Dixon voiced concern that when the WDFW makes land acquisitions, they often don’t pay all of the taxes that would otherwise be paid to the County, and don’t always manage the land well. These are things that could be detrimental to the County and will need to be part of the discussion.