County board extends Meriwether’s contract

Deputy Princehouse given lifesaving award

A few months ago Hood River County Administrator David Meriwether was nearly hired away by Deschutes County.

Now he will be sticking around for at least another two years.

The county commission granted Meriwether a two-year contract extension Monday.

In executive session, Meriwether had requested a one-year extension for his contract, which was set to expire in June.

However, chairman Ron Rivers instead proposed a two-year contract extension.

The commission unanimously agreed to the idea and voted in favor of it.

“Thank you for not making me grovel,” Meriwether told the commission after the vote.

“Thank you for choosing to stay,” Commissioner Bob Benton responded, referencing Meriwether’s negotiations with Deschutes County earlier this year, where Meriwether was the finalist for the position before deciding to remain in Hood River.

At its final meeting of the year, the county commission wrapped up some business, charted a course for early 2013 and got a tour of an early Christmas present, of sorts.

At the start of the meeting the commission observed as Sherriff Joe Wampler presented a lifesaving award to Deputy Rick Princehouse for saving a man attempting to jump from the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks in the fall.

Wampler also presented an award to Tom Rousseau for hours of volunteer service.

Rousseau, HAM radio enthusiast and retired engineer, spent 300 hours helping to get the county’s new mobile communications vehicle into service.

The vehicle is a former rescue rig purchased used from Lane County and retrofitted with multiple radios, a workstation and an external screen for briefings, and can coordinate the response on-scene from a crisis such as a flood or search and rescue operation.

A vehicle purchased new would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but in refurbishing and repurposing an existing vehicle, Deputy Jerry Brown said the sheriff’s department was able to gain a significant savings and add a powerful tool to the county’s crisis response abilities.

The truck can be self-sustaining for up to 12 hours with a generator and solar panels and includes high ground clearance and all-wheel drive that can reach places the county’s command trailer cannot easily reach.

n The commission received an update on the annual financial audit from the firm Pauley, Rodgers and Co. which reported that the county’s financial department was in excellent shape.

After the presentation, Commissioner Les Perkins offered a joking critique, saying that he was sick of 12 consecutive “boring” audit reports.

“You want exciting audit news?” queried Meriwether with raised eyebrows, generating laughter from the commission.

On a more serious note, Financial Director Sandi Bowery said that the commission would face challenges in the coming year as it prepared the 2014 budget.

“Next year is going to be a challenging budget,” she said. “We’ve got departments that are short people, departments that are short dollars for cars or whatever it is they might need for their services.”

Bowery said the county is going to have to explore different ways of generating revenue such as an operating levy for NORCOR.

Bowery said that how the county wants to use its dwindling timber fund will also be an area the county needs to figure out.

“In that way a forest management plan will be very important,” she said.

n The commission held a public hearing on a home repair program the county has conducted over the last year. Dave Peters, who supervised much of the program, told the commission that the grant led to $320,000 going to local builders to help with the repairs, largely on the homes of low-income residents.

One man who was helped by the grant said he had recently lost his job and without the grant “he never would have been able” to get the repairs to his home that he needed. The program helped 13 county families to have repairs such as new roofs, siding, painting, HVAC systems, windows and insulation done on their homes.

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