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BOCC amends equine fees, discuss Extension agent position

DAYTON—The Board of Columbia County Commissioners met Monday, May 17, via Zoom. The commissioners were joined by WSU Extension Whitman County Director Janet Schmidt to discuss a long-standing memorandum of understanding.

Commissioner Chuck Amerein said that the County Commissioners have concerns with the push towards a regionalized extension agent, explaining that the agreement between the county and the university, initially signed in 1986, was not designed for a regionalized agent.

“The concern is, looking at the agreement, it’s not really designed for anything like that,” Amerein said. “It does have here, in the memorandum of understanding, that we get a chance to concur with the person that they want to hire. Obviously, there wasn’t really any concurrence.”

Schmidt said that a few items in the 1986 agreement would likely be changed to reflect current needs.

“I know that WSU tries to work very closely with the counties for the hiring of new people,” Schmidt said. “I know with Paul’s (Carter) retirement, and as you’re probably aware, there have been budget challenges with WSU, there haven’t been funds to hire new people across the board. Not only with Extension, but throughout the university, as well. I know, given the funds, there are a lot of openings within Extension, and I know it would be great to fill a lot of the positions. I’m pushing, and others are pushing, too, that we really need an extension educator in Columbia County, so we are pushing forward that message.”

Schmidt said that budget issues are the most considerable hesitation right now. She said she would like to bring forward a new agreement, with updated language, that the Commissioners could review.

Commissioner Marty Hall expressed that farmers and commissioners need an Extension agent with an agronomy-type background to keep up with the diverse, demanding agriculture sector in Columbia County.

“We are familiar with the budget process,” Hall said. “We know that they don’t have any issues finding money for the football team or for an AD (athletic director), but it’s horribly frustrating that they don’t dance with the one that brought them. They are still a land grant college.”

Schmidt suggested that the Commissioners communicate those frustrations with the Dean of Education, and the Agriculture and Natural Resources program leader, saying that she agrees with the frustrations presented by the Commissioners. Hall clarified that the Commissioners were not frustrated with Schmidt personally, but rather the situation as a whole.

Jim Moyer, a local landowner, and farmer, said that he was concerned with the lack of county involvement in the selection process. Schmidt explained that once the university has figured out budget standing and how to proceed with the Extension agent, the county will be as involved as years past. The university is not prepared to move forward, at this time, according to Schmidt.

Schmidt assured the Commissioners that she would relay the concerns to the appropriate individuals at WSU and said that she recognized the need to meet with new program directors, whether it be via Zoom or in-person.

Once the meeting with Schmidt was concluded, the Commissioners heard from Sean Thurston and Bette Lou Crothers, requesting Hotel/Motel funds for the upcoming Stay and Play, a local economy incentive program that encourages visitors to explore all of Dayton, not just single venues. The Commissioners approved the request.

The Commissioners exited the meeting at 11:30 a.m. for an executive session to discuss personnel matters, and resumed at 1:15 p.m.

The commissioners heard from Chuck Eaton, Public Works director, about proposed fee changes for stalls and other equine rental facilities at the Columbia County Fairgrounds.

Eaton said the golf course has added golf cart rentals to their fee structure, which will be collected on the restaurant’s pointpay system.

Eaton said that when the county began online programming for the Park and Recreation facilities, they ran into issues with some of the existing fee schedules, and how they aligned with the online fee schedules. The proposed changes were being made in an effort to ‘clean up’ the online facilitation process.

Event fees for fairgrounds facilities, according to Eaton, were generating fees that were significantly larger than anticipated in the county’s budget. The fee structure that was proposed reduced the fees to match what the budget had anticipated receiving from event rentals. The fee reduction would not affect the budget, according to Eaton.

Other fee adjustments were proposed for RV spaces, cleaning deposit adjustments, and equine stall rentals. Stall rentals would be reduced by five dollars per month for renters with more than two stalls, and the fee schedule has been simplified in order to program the fees for the online rental portal. Renters still have the option to pay their rental fees in person.

Eaton said that one advantage to the updated fee schedule is that it allows people to sign up for a waiting list. Currently, all available stalls are rented.

The commissioners approved Resolution 2021-22: Kellogg Hollow RATA Funding amendment, as well as Resolution 2021-23: Supply Contracts for the Pavilion Restroom Remodel Project, awarded to Keller Supply, Ferguson Supply, and Walla Walla Electric.


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