County Gov't Changes: Administrator heading for fall vote

County Gov't Changes: Administrator heading for fall vote

COQUILLE, Ore.-- The decision to change the structure of Coos County government is now in the hands of the voters.

Coos County Commissioners Cam Parry and Fred Messerle voted to place an increase in board members from three to five members in addition to creating the position of a county administrator before voters this fall.

The reform proposal has been nearly a year in the making, and almost did not occur.

Just last month, Commissioner Fred Messerle told KCBY he did not believe it was appropriate for voters to decide what he felt was a staffing issue, but then once he saW the ordinance he told KCBY he saw howthey now went hand in hand.

After voting in favor of placing the item before voters, Messerle says he is confident the county has found a way to move into the future and progress.

 

"We have defined a problem, and now we've been able to take a lot of input from the public and come to a proposed solution," Messerle said. "Now we're going to have a real clear choice."

Commissioner Cam Parry said at the meeting that he felt putting the issue on the ballot before the voters is what his predecessor would have done if he did not die while holding the office last year.

"I don't want to say by any means that this is what [Andy Jackson] would have supported, but I do know he would have wanted it to be decided by the people of Coos County," Parry said.

Parry said he realized that at times the debate has turned ugly, and he is ready to put the issue before voters and move on.

"I still consider Bob and Fred to be friends even when all of this is over with," Parry said.

Commissioner Bob Main was the only commissioner not to put the item on the ballot. Main has argued that an administrator would be expensive and that government isn't broken.

"I don't need an administrator to tell me how to serve the people of Coos County and tell them how to do my job," Main said.

Main's biggest concern is that the changes come to Coos County at the same time funding from the Secure Rural Schools Act will no longer exist. The Act has provided the county with operating funds for years, and Congress has warned rural counties like Coos County to find alternate funding sources for county government and services.

 

Main believes that Coos County will have to make cuts elsewhere to support the county administrator when county funding runs out on 2015.

"I really don't think we need one," Main said. "We're going to face a financial crisis in two years, and like I said the administrator in Lane County for example, they laid off a bunch of deputies but kept themselves."

Parry and Messerle have told KCBY that they believe in having an administrator, commissioners can spend time in Salem and Washington D.C. fighting for funding and impacting policy rather than running around the county "to see if the toilets still flush and if the elevator still works."