By editorial board • 

It’s time county tried looking forward instead of backward

Former Yamhill County Commissioner Kathy George sent a letter in today’s section taking Commissioner Rick Olson to task over a recent exchange with his colleagues.

Olson has suggested the county establish a clear set of long-range goals, conduct a professional study to address employee compensation concerns, commission a comprehensive facility needs analysis, develop a thorough capital improvement plan and overhaul the county website. His recommendations have been given short shrift by colleagues Mary Starrett and Stan Primozich, and Olson continued to insist on his requests. Frustrations on both sides finally boiled over.

It reminded us when Mary Stern was urging the county to modernize and streamline, but getting a reliably deaf ear from colleagues Kathy George and Leslie Lewis. If Stern was for it, George and Lewis seemed automatically against it.

When Olson won the seat over Allen Springer two years ago, dislodging the third member of an ideologically attuned conservative troika, he apparently ushered in the same kind of dynamic. Deja vu all over again, as former baseball manager Yogi Berra said in his famously fractured English.

We have repeatedly criticized the county for failing to engage in any meaningful goal-setting. How do you know you’re headed in the right direction if you’ve never set a course in the first place? Every agency owes its constituents a comprehensible set of goals.

Spurred by a perception its members were being underpaid, fueling burnout, turnover and resentment, the county’s main employee union went to the brink of striking last fall. What better way to shed some objective light on the issue, thus potentially defusing it, than commissioning a professional study by an outside consultant?

Long-range facility needs and capital improvement plans are staples of good private and public sector management at every level. Failing to plan ahead for potentially significant needs is irresponsible for any company or agency.

George suggests Olson harbors a “grandiose view of a new county government complex.” But his actual suggestion was simply that the county weigh a more centralized approach against spreading across a large swath of close-in neighborhoods, turning some of the city’s housing stock into a hodge-podge of government offices. We find much merit in the idea.

Against all that, modernizing the county website seems hopelessly overmatched. But what is that Olson’s colleagues find so objectionable about such a modest goal? Calling the current site “good enough” isn’t good enough for us.

Comments

E.J. Farrar

Kudos to the News-Register for fairly summarizing the current state of affairs within our county government. Rick Olson was voted in for a reason. Many of us are tired of commissioners who "just say no" to planning for the future or modernizing governmental services, while still collecting their $70,000 salaries. Time for some new blood and fresh ideas on our Board OF Commissioners.

Don Dix

It appears Commissioner Olson's 'timing' is subtly convenient. He is not up for re-election (but his fellow commissioners are), so he brings controversy and division to the table. The employee pay issue was mostly spurred by those who work at HS, which overwhelms the remainder of county employees. And he apparently believes this will 'play well', not only now, but also when his term is up in two years.

Bizzyditchaz

That's called "politics, Dix. If it were the other way around you likely wouldn't even mention it.
It is very expensive to upkeep all these old houses, leases, and the such.
Yamhill County Seat is stationed all over the place. It is a hodge-podge and makes it confusing for the residents, especially if the service keeps moving locations. More expensive!

Don Dix

Bizzyditchaz -- Of course it's politics, but no matter who plays in that manner, it needs to pointed out (some never consider the motivation or truth of the matter, only who makes those statements)

And for Olson to claim the city considers citizens first (where the county doesn't) is a B.S. statement, as if there isn't plenty of proof to the opposite.

McMinnville's Police, Fire Dept., City Hall, and Building Dept. are strewn out around the city center (1st to 5th). How is that much different than the county setup?

And apparently the expense to move the county operations into another location escapes the discussion. The sale of those surrounding properties will never pay for the move -- not even close! How about the price tag be considered before buying into the hype?

tagup

Don, Your assumption that the expense will not be covered by the sale of surrounding properties may very well be true, but shouldn't those assumptions be verified? Are there any other efficiencies to be gained by consolidation? A facilities study, just like a compensation study, allow people to use facts rather than opinion when attempting to make a decision.....Political motives aside, Mr.Olsen's request seems to make sense.

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