By Bill Baertlein, Chair, Tillamook county Board of Commissioners
From my perspective as a County Commissioner the fact that we did not have anyone die of Covid in Tillamook County has to be the best news story of 2020. This is a reflection of all the work our communities have done to suppress the Pandemic. We wear our masks, wash our hands and do the best we can at social distancing. Team Tillamook Rocks!!
The partnerships and collaboration success brought about by what started out as The Year of Wellness has been instrumental in fighting the Covid Virus. We all should be proud of how well our health care systems in Tillamook County have worked as a team to keep us safe!
Even though we were limited to virtual meetings our Housing Commission has made great strides in confronting our housing shortage. We now have a property tax exemption for multi-family housing in place for the County. This exemption targets housing for our teachers, hospital staff, Creamery staff and many others who make good wages but cannot find housing. The Holden Creek Apartment complex has broken ground. We drafting a funding mechanism for the Commission to use for construction and system development charge grants and loans to our contractors to kick start more construction.
Personally, I became a new grandfather in April!
In 2021 I see a number of items that we will be forced to deal with that we have swept under the rug for many years but have been exposed by the Virus.
The role tourism plays in the livability of Tillamook County. As tourism grows our quality of life diminishes. In 2020, we were overrun with tourists forcing many of us to stay home and not enjoy our beaches and other normal activities. We have laid out groundwork with parking management plans and new enforcement officers for 2021. We have a Sheriff’s Office that can adequately handle a population of 26,000 but when it swells to 100,000 on a busy weekend they are overwhelmed. State Statute will not allow us to use Transient Lodging Tax Dollars for public safety and we have a very small property tax base that is adequate for the 26,000 local residents but cannot afford to pay for additional enforcement officers needed for an additional 75,000 visitors. We enacted a $10.00 per day parking fee to tap into the huge number of tourists coming into Tillamook County to pay for their safety and parks maintenance. For those of us living in Tillamook we will be able to get an annual pass by either paying the annual fee of $55.00, $45.00 for those over 65, veterans, Trail Card holders or doing a community cleanup day through our parks department. It is a challenge for all of us but the lack of adequate public safety personnel is a far worse challenge with the potential for dire consequences. Lets have the tourists pay their own way.
The Covid Virus exposed a lack of broadband in Tillamook County. The groundwork has been laid to make some real progress in 2021 on getting adequate broadband to all of our students and community.
The Virus has forced us to embrace technology in a way never thought possible before. I look forward to listening to the Community update meetings on Friday Mornings from a retired commissioner perspective rather than as the one attempting to chair the meetings. The County has invested heavily through the use of CARES Act funding in new computers so that staff can have the option of working from home. Our software is getting upgraded and after 20 years we will have a new payroll and HR program put into place in 2021. I see far more virtual meetings in 2021, saving time on the road, carbon emissions and lost work time. The County Commissioners Meeting Rooms A and B have been upgraded with new technology that brings our meetings right to your phone or computers.
The work we have started on setting up a Child Care Commission in 2020 will now carry forward into 2021. This is a positive step to increase child care opportunities in Tillamook.
The final good news for 2021 is that I will be retired! Personally, I will be golfing, fishing, hiking, rock hounding, walking the beach (after paying the $45.00 fee, darn those commissioners!) and having a blast. The really good news is that the County will have Erin Skaar taking my place on the Commission! No more Bill to stir the pot or throw rocks in the pond! Well maybe smaller rocks and a teaspoon for stirring. 😊