Lost jobs

Dear Editor:

Over the past three years, the current county commissioners have outsourced jobs to contractors in other counties. I assume they want to reduce the size of government and lower expenditures. But this has very negative outcomes to all of us.

Okanogan County has the lowest annual income average of its citizens, the smallest population and largest land mass of any of Washington’s counties. Does it make sense that decent middle class salaries of county workers are sent to and spent in other counties? We don’t like this type of action when big business outsources jobs to Asia, so why should it be OK to do that here? We need these people as taxpayers and economy generators.

In 2013, Okanogan County spend approximately $171,000 on weed control, and 81 percent was done by county workers. In 2015, the county spent $212,300 on weed control, and 81 percent was contracted out to a firm in Wenatchee. Same number of roads, same type of work, and almost a 24 percent increase in two years for an outside vendor. Is this smart money management?

The commissioners’ consideration of outsourcing juvenile detention services would have resulted in the loss of professional middle class workers in our county. All that money and those jobs would benefit a Montana corporation, not us. Do you agree with this?

Instead of using a human resource director for employee issues, the county now pays a Yakima lawyer up to $110,000 per year for legal advice that could be provided by a county employee. This is in addition to a human resources director on payroll.

The county Public Works Department used to maintain all its vehicles, and now this work is outsourced to a Wenatchee firm.

We need jobs and the associated revenue to stay in Okanogan County.

Sharon Sumpter, Winthrop

Disturbing trends

Dear Editor:

How old were you when you first learned about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the First Amendment? Fourth grade? High school?

It is disturbing that our county commissioners publicly questioned whether a critical editorial comment in the Chronicle violated its contract as newspaper of record.  Fortunately, their attorney urged the commissioners to drop that thought like a hot potato. While ignorance of basic founding principles of our country is often tolerated in friends, we expect much more from elected officials. Reassurance that the commissioners themselves do understand and respect the concept of freedom of the press and the First Amendment would have been nice. The Chronicle’s reminder that voters were watching the Martin Hall/Juvenile detention issue was timely and appropriate. 

Our current commissioners have long refused to listen and learn from citizens, judges, department heads, scientists, union representatives, and state or federal agencies — and it is costing taxpayers dearly. It is incredible that our own Superior Court judges found it necessary to sue the county (and the commissioners individually) for interfering with proper management of the court and juvenile department.

“Micromanagement” is also obvious when department heads are publicly pressured to contract with private entities at increased cost to the taxpayer. And according to commissioners’ minutes, executive (private) sessions regarding litigation or employee situations have increased to twice the length and many times the frequency since January 2013. 

I am concerned about the financial direction of our county. Having prematurely posted ATV signs on 600 miles of road, the commissioners have been ordered by the Court of Appeals to redo inadequate statements on the impact of ATVs or change their plans. In addition, we are in expensive litigation over the vacation of Three Devils Road and the decades-overdue Comprehensive Plan. The commissioners refer to more potential litigation against the federal government for perceived offenses, including U.S. Forest Service road vacations and ownership of federal public land. At last word, the county reserve fund was depleted, we had cash flow problems, and state auditors were not pleased. What’s next?  Will they debate suing the courts on our dime?  

Isabelle Spohn, Twisp