Thurston County Connection Newsletter
Thurston County Connection
Thurston County Connection
December, 2009
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 Best Wishes for the Holidays and Happy New Year!

A Message from Your Thurston County Commissioners.

It has been a tumultuous year for Thurston County. We started the year with a budget that had been cut back severely from 2008 spending levels. In April, we had to undergo another round of layoffs and cutbacks due to continued impacts from the world-wide recession and a county revenue system that does not keep up with inflation. For the 2010 budget, we had to reduce expenditures once again. So far, more than 12% of county workforce positions have been eliminated and we have cut more than $7-Million from the General Fund.

If there is good news in this, it is the fact that earlier cuts have meant we did not have to enact additional lay-offs for 2010. And we’ve all heard that the recession has leveled off. That does not mean, however, that we are out of the woods. Even if the economy suddenly jumped back to 2007 levels, we would still face the 1% cap on property tax growth, which doesn’t allow us to keep pace with the cost of providing services because inflation has been averaging more than 3% a year.

One of the biggest changes we made in 2009 was the reorganization of the departments and agencies of county government that report directly to the County Commissioners. Previously, there were 16 departments; now there are eight:

  • Planning
  • Human Resources
  • Central Services
  • Office of Assigned Counsel
  • Public Health and Social Services
  • Resource Stewardship
  • Public Works
  • Emergency Services
While some of the old departments may be gone, they are gone in name only; the work of those departments continues. Roads and Transportation Services is no longer listed as a department, for example, but that work is now done under the Public Works banner. The work of the former Parks Department has been split between Public Works & Resource Stewardship, and the Thurston County Fair, formerly a separate department, now falls under Resource Stewardship. The elected offices of county government (Auditor, Assessor, Clerk, Coroner, Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff and Treasurer) were not affected by the reorganization. The reorganization will not only save money, but will increase communications and efficiency in county government.

As we head toward the end of the first decade of the 21st century, Commissioners have established a number of goals for the coming years. They include-

Fiscal Sustainability The financial health of county government is paramount to the delivery of services to our citizens. To restore fiscal sustainability, the Board of County Commissioners (the Board) is committed to financial initiatives that include adopting a fund balance policy for all county funds, and increasing the capacity for timely and thorough fiscal analysis. The Board is also committed to strengthening the county’s grant development and management functions, implementing development impact fees, centralizing purchasing, establishing a building maintenance reserve and investing in public infrastructure.

Cultural Resource and Identity Preservation We are committed to protecting the natural beauty and cultural richness of Thurston County including key elements such as working farms, native forests, and our rural character. Preserving resources of cultural and historical importance is also a priority. We will take steps to fully implement the county’s transfer of development rights program to preserve agricultural lands and open space.

Environmental Sustainability The Board supports a high-quality physical environment for the future – one that assures land use and transportation patterns are sustainable. This means curtailing sprawl, supporting transportation alternatives that consume less space and energy, and encouraging economic development that produces “green jobs.” It also includes strengthening Thurston County’s internal sustainability policies regarding purchasing, public facilities and waste reduction. In addition to completing and adopting an update of the Critical Areas Ordinance, we will work with other jurisdictions on climate change issues.

Public Health and Social Services Preservation of public health and social service programs is vital to the safety and well-being of our citizens. Thurston County will work to reduce homelessness, promote community wellness, support family prosperity, and create economic opportunity. We support the investment in prevention and early intervention practices, and will work in partnership with community-based organizations to achieve this goal.

Public Safety The county’s criminal justice system commands a significant portion of General Fund resources. In recognition of this commitment, it is a goal of the Board to invest in those strategies and practices known to prevent and deter behaviors that endanger the public and stress the capacity of the criminal justice system. Top priorities include completing the Thurston County Accountability and Restitution Center, supporting problem-solving courts, and utilizing programs known to change offender behavior and reduce recidivism. Additionally, we acknowledge a key responsibility to maintain adequate criminal justice staffing levels to meet basic public safety standards. We also recognize protecting the public involves more than the county’s criminal justice system. It includes enforcement of building and fire codes, delivery of public health services, maintaining transportation infrastructure, keeping water supplies safe to drink, providing protection from malicious pets, and many other county programs and services.

Cultural Diversity The Board will continue to lend its full support to the promotion of a diverse workforce and providing equal opportunity to all persons seeking or having access to County employment, services, and activities, free from restrictions because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, age, gender, marital status, veteran status sexual orientation, or the presence of any disability unless such a disability effectively prevents the performance of the essential functions required of the position.

Water Resources The Board and staff will protect and preserve Thurston County’s precious water resources by taking the following actions: completing and adopting the Shoreline Master Program, implementing a new storm water drainage manual, improving septic system standards, participating in the Puget Sound Partnership, and promoting water conservation and reuse. We will also work to extend and install sanitary sewer systems where there are documented water quality problems associated with higher densities and septic system failures.

Regional Leadership Thurston County will continue to serve as a leader in regional and multi-jurisdictional initiatives. Under direction of the Board, staff will prepare a strategic plan to address critical issues that affect the quality of life of our citizens for decades to come. These issues include climate change and sustainability, support for local agriculture, growth management, health and human services, economic development and cooperative transportation initiatives between jurisdictions. The Board will work with cities and towns to evaluate annexation practices and make improvements where appropriate. Government-to-government relations with the sovereign nations of local Tribes are also of key significance.

We will also consider the merits of inter-local partnerships and governance alternatives to meet the needs of county citizens. Under the Board’s direction, staff will also develop a plan to encourage and facilitate community volunteerism that will help bring needed services to our residents.

Regional Parks and Recreation Recreation, the pursuit of leisure activities, enjoyment of the outdoors and preservation of open space, habitat and the natural environment are essential elements in maintaining a balance in the quality of life throughout Thurston County. It is the goal of the Board to be effective stewards of regional parks, trails, historical and cultural resources, open space and natural resource lands, and waterways which are designated for use by the public. We will work to establish partnerships with local towns and cities in support of a regional parks system with diverse recreational opportunities. Key themes include preserving special recreation services, keeping Tolmie State Park open, establishing a dog park and completing the county’s walking and cycling trails system.

As always, Commissioners welcome your comments and suggestions on the reorganization, the budget or any other topic. Please feel free to contact us:

Mailing address- 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia, WA 98502.

Phone Number- 360-786-5440

On the Web at-

By John Tennis

First District Commissioner Cathy Wolfe. First District Commissioner Cathy Wolfe.

Second District Commissioner Sandra Romero. Second District Commissioner Sandra Romero.

Third District Commissioner Karen Valenzuela. Third District Commissioner Karen Valenzuela.