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BOCC considers canceling Fair

POMEROY-Sara Lunsford, Garfield County Fair Board President reported that the Fair Board had voted to cancel the 2020 Garfield County Fair with the exception of the market sales and livestock showing with animals already weighed and tagged to the Garfield County Board of Commissioners (BOCC), at the meeting August, 3. These events would follow strict guidelines and the Fair Board needs to know the number of participants for these two events. County Commissioner Bob Johnson reiterated the Governor’s current limit for gatherings of 10 people and acknowledges the Fair Board has a good plan.

Commissioner Justin Dixon said if people followed the recommended social distancing set forth by the Governor during the shows, more than ten people would be allowed. He also added that the Health Department supports the cancellation of the Fair and Rodeo, but that there may be some options for exhibitors. He stated the time and money investment 4-Hers and FFA members have put into their animals should be considered. However, Johnson contends to look at the risk a fair could bring to the whole community.

Since no gate receipts will be collected this year, funding of the premiums is a concern, but the CARES Act may hold a remedy if the Fair is a virtual event. Mark Heitstuman, WSU Garfield County Extension Office Director, stated that he has some ideas about alternatives to doing a live show. The BOCC postponed a decision so further investigation into optional funding is conducted.

Since John Hirsh submitted his resignation as Garfield County Emergency Management, there have been no names or recommendations the open position. According to Johnson, Whitman County has offered to help out until a replacement for Hirsch is found. Commissioner Wynne McCabe stated that the new Fire Chief begins his position with the Fire District at the end of August. He has had experience as an Emergency Management Director, and may be able to take the position. The concern is oversight. Hirsch has implemented equalization of funds between all County departments and Incorporating the Emergency Management position and the Fire Chief position could potentially impose an imbalance of influence in one department.

Hirsch also learned that the extension of the Port of Garfield’s broadband system to the fairgrounds could qualify for COVID-19 funding if spent before the deadline at the end of the year. According to Johnson, that deadline may be extended for an additional 90 days. Dixon stated the Port of Garfield and Port of Whitman, project manager, indicated the extension will cost an estimate of $112,000 to complete.

Dixon is in the process of preparing a CARES Act funding budget for the County and would like to use some of that money to support local small businesses, as some other counties have done, and has been discussing it with the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA). SEWEDA also expects to receive some additional funding from a Department of Commerce federal grant in the amount of $50,000 to be spread over three counties. The new grant will have less qualification restrictions than the first one SEWEDA received a few months ago.

The Garfield County Planning Board and Board of Adjustment each have vacancies that need to be filled. The BOCC agreed to run an advertisement for the positions for the new two weeks, and accept recommendations in three weeks.

Marie Gormsen, Superior Court Clerk, reported they had received approval for $38,000 through the CARES Act funding for the use of the new court sound system, so it is now fully funded.

Sheriff Drew Hyer alerted the BOCC to an opportunity to purchase some portable chemical sprayers for disinfection through a company in Walla Walla. The sprayers are hand held, rechargeable, and produce a fine mist that can be used on any surface. They use a hospital-grade disinfectant that costs $20.28 per gallon. The Garfield County Hospital District and Fire District have already inquired about the sprayers, and the Sheriff’s office will be buying one to use on patrol cars and the jail. He recommended that the County consider buying more to distribute to each of its office locations. Dixon agreed that it would be a good use of COVID-19 funding.