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Spring marks the arrival of countywide governmental budget season. Coos County finished their 2019-2020 budget on April 4, 2019.

Oregon State Law requires that all governmental agencies within the state, give preference in contracting to agencies whose objective is to provide training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Except; if the governmental body uses their own staff to provide the same tasks.

Coos County has traditionally contracted with Bay Area Enterprises (BAE) to provide janitorial services at various county buildings including Coos Health and Wellness (CHW) and the County Courthouse in Coquille. Until now.

Remarkably, during budget presentations the Board of Commissioners (BOC) specifying cost containment, stated that they would no longer follow the law, since it contained no penalties for doing so. The BOC further stated that despite receiving one letter from the State and two letters from BAE addressing the issue; they had no plans to respond to either party.

Currently CHW contracts with a private party at a significant savings. This year’s adopted budget doesn’t include BAE providing janitorial work at the courthouse; citing budgetary restraints; the proposed $31,000 increase by BSE was cut; effectively eliminating them from consideration.

Paradoxically; the county will have to secure a private party to achieve the savings. While county staff can provide the same services as BAE; their overall cost would be approximately the same.

Disingenuously the BOC also lobbied the compensation committee for a 12% raise this year; that amount plus benefits would have covered most of the counties additional costs.

The irony of this is that the BOC is forced by state law to compensate the Sheriff at least one dollar more than his highest paid subordinate. Failure to adhere to the law could subject the county to triple damages; in this case they’ve chosen to comply.

With two lawyers on staff; and a third serving as county commissioner; for the BOC to not abide with the law is an extraordinary response; since ordinary citizens are subject to innumerable consequences for openly violating county ordinances.

Should the actions of the BOC be considered the exploitation of a loophole, or a flaunting of the law? More importantly; what message is the BOC trying to send by withholding support to some of the most vulnerable in our community?

Steve Scheer

Coos Bay

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