In a far ranging discussion that covered everything from gangs to groundwater, County Commissioner Kevin Bouchey spoke to the Sunnyside Republican Club this morning, Friday.
Bouchey said it's a tight budget season for county departments.
In preparation for balancing the 2010 budget. Bouchey said the Sheriff's office will likely not fill the chief deputy position vacated when Ed Campbell was promoted to head the county's department of corrections.
"The Sheriff is reshuffling his administration," said Bouchey. "He's getting the same dollars he did in 2009 but it's not enough to cover labor increases."
With the county needing to trim $3 million to meet budget, all county departments are facing similar issues about reducing their budgets. "The auditor, assessor, clerk are all spreading the work load," he said.
Bouchey said commissioners even thought about having staff go to a nine-hour a day, four-day work week to cut costs.
"We probably won't do that, but if we're in the same situation next year it could be a topic of discussion in 2011," says Bouchey.
He praised the county's department heads for sharing the budget load.
One of the reasons for the county's budget situation is that sales tax revenue dipped in 2009. Bouchey said New Vision is working to reverse that trend by bringing new business to the county. He noted one example of how Amtech has been recruited to set up a plant in Wapato that will result in 30 to 40 new manufacturing jobs.
Speaking of budget issues, Bouchey says he has mixed emotions about I-1033 which would restrict how much revenue cities and counties can raise. "We'll respect the will of the voters," he said. According to documentation the county provided last month, an average of about $2 million per year in county revenue would be lost if I-1033 is approved.
Bouchey also spoke of a joint effort underway to address the future of the Yakima River Basin. He said commissioners are insisting that water storage be part of any long range planning for the basin.
As for groundwater, Bouchey said the county is keeping tabs on an effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to address groundwater.
During a question and answer period, Bouchey heard from the audience that the nitrogen problem in the groundwater around Sunnyside is not a new problem, but dates back well before dairies came to the area.
Further, some in the audience called on property owners in effected areas to dig deeper wells than the 20-foot wells some have.
Regarding gangs, Bouchey said commissioners are taking a county-wide approach to the problem and are seeking grant funds to help resolve the issue. While praising efforts underway in Sunnyside, Bouchey said the county doesn't want the gang problem to leave Sunnyside only to end up in Grandview or Granger.
In other comments, Bouchey noted that money from the three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax has gone to law enforcement as pledged back in 2004 when voters approved the tax. The measure is before voters on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Bouchey also expressed pride in the way county officials have responded to the land slide in the Nile area, with work underway now to build a road for the 1,500 residents in that area.