Congresswoman pays virtual visit to Garfield County BOCC
October 29, 2020
POMEROY––Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers telephonically attended the regular meeting of the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on October, 26, 2020, to touch base with the County and allow meeting attendees to ask questions about issues with which they are concerned.
She acknowledged that COVID-19 certainly remains a top priority with everyone, and thanked the citizens of Garfield County for everything they have been doing to keep the community safe. She reported that additional financial help is still being worked out in Congress, but we must remember that the CARES Act relief funding was made available very early on, and the pandemic has lasted much longer than anyone expected.
Garfield County Sheriff Drew Hyer reported the people of Garfield County are abiding by regulations to control COVID-19, and that out of 226 people tested, only 15 have been positive for the virus. He stated protective gear (PPE) was difficult to obtain in the beginning, but now they are able to order supplies. However, it is still taking a long time to receive. Other related COVID-19 issues for the Sheriff’s department is that domestic violence calls have increased during the pandemic, and there has been an increase in personnel turnover, and new hires are difficult to find.
Commissioner Justin Dixon asked if there will be any chance of an extension on the deadline for using the CARES Act funding, which is currently Dec. 31, 2020. He explained that the County has some eligible projects that it is currently working on, but with the fast-approaching deadline, concern is that the projects may not be completed in time.
He described the County’s broadband project of connecting the fairgrounds to the fiber network, and explained that it will serve as an emergency fire command center, emergency hospital, and a place to hold jury trials during the pandemic. McMorris Rodgers supports a deadline extension, and Garfield County’s concern is shared by many other counties. She said the extension is part of the current discussion in Congress, as well as a continuation of the Payment Protection Program (PPP). There is still money available for this purpose in the program.
Commissioner Bob Johnson stated that he hopes McMorris Rodgers will stay strong on the issue of breaching the Snake River dams. She agreed to do just that, and stated that she understands how devastating it would be to Garfield County. She urged everyone to become familiar with the problems of pollution in Puget Sound, where the City of Seattle continues to dump raw sewage into the Sound, and claims that the pollution caused is a bigger risk to the sea life, including orcas and salmon, and that is where the focus should be.
Garfield County Public Works Director Grant Morgan reported motor vehicle fuel tax revenue will be $300,000 to $400,000 less this year, which makes up about 70% of the road-maintenance budget. Morgan said the county may be forced to federalize some of the needed road projects, but some other rural counties may not have that option available to them. McMorris Rodgers asked Morgan to put this issue in writing and send it to her office so they can look into it and see what can be done.
McMorris Rodgers concluded with some “to-do” items to work on now, but didn’t expect to get any answers about CARES Act funding questions until after the election because there are “too much politics in the way now.”
In other business conducted at the Oct. 26, 2020, meeting was that the BOCC approved and signed Resolution 2020-12, Intent to Vacate Street in Pataha. The vacation process was put into motion with this resolution, and a Petition Hearing will take place Nov. 30, 2020, at the regular meeting of the BOCC at 10 a.m. More information will be in next week’s issue of the East Washingtonian, Nov. 5, 2020.