County votes against cutting Dep. DA hours

Carrie Rasmussen, deputy district attorney for Hood River County, addresses county commissioners during a Monday night meeting. Rasmussen’s position was slated to be reduced from four days down to three to cover a budget shortfall, but the commission voted to move money around in the DA budget to cover the deficit instead. Rasmussen, who prosecutes child abuse, sex abuse, and other cases in Hood River County, spoke passionately about the importance of her work during the meeting.

Photo by Ben Mitchell.
Carrie Rasmussen, deputy district attorney for Hood River County, addresses county commissioners during a Monday night meeting. Rasmussen’s position was slated to be reduced from four days down to three to cover a budget shortfall, but the commission voted to move money around in the DA budget to cover the deficit instead. Rasmussen, who prosecutes child abuse, sex abuse, and other cases in Hood River County, spoke passionately about the importance of her work during the meeting.

A county recommendation to cut hours from a deputy district attorney position was voted down by Hood River County commissioners during their regular meeting Monday night.

Commissioners voted 3-1 to allow the transfer of funds within the county district attorney budget in order to cover a shortfall that was unanticipated by the county.

According to county documents, the shortfall came from a change in a dispersal of Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Intervention funding received from the Oregon State Department of Justice. The money is used to fund the Columbia Gorge Children’s Advocacy Center in Hood River — an organization that deals with incidents of child abuse — as well as the position of Deputy District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen, who is the child abuse prosecutor for Hood River County.

The change in the distribution of CAMI funds caused a shortfall of approximately $12,000 in the DA budget, which the county planned to remedy by cutting Rasmussen’s position from four days down to three.

Hood River County District Attorney John Sewell spoke during the meeting and said he was aware of the shortfall and came to address the commission in June about the issue, “but the budget was passed and so here we are.” He also stated that the county did not have the authority to make personnel decisions in his office, which Hood River County Administrator Dave Meriwether disagreed with.

“With all due respect, it’s not your call,” Sewell said.

Instead, Sewell recommended shifting available funds within the DA budget to cover the shortfall. He explained that extra funds had been freed up in the budget due to a member of his department having to take unpaid time off after exhausting all her vacation and sick days on her maternity leave. Sewell added that another member of his department had dropped a dependent from her health insurance, freeing up even more money.

Combined, Sewell believed it was enough money to cover or nearly cover the shortfall and noted his department often experienced a surplus at the conclusion of the fiscal year at the end of June. If the money wasn’t enough, Sewell said he would furlough staff accordingly to make up the deficit.

County Finance and Budget Department Director Sandi Borowy said the money could be moved around if necessary, but cautioned that if someone changed insurance coverage at the DA’s office — adding a dependent, for example — then another shortfall could be caused.

From the audience, Paul Cater and Cindy Green addressed commissioners about the importance of sustaining Rasmussen’s position. Now adults, both identified themselves as victims of child abuse, and feared cases wouldn’t be prosecuted if Rasmussen’s position were reduced.

Commissioner Bob Benton said he understood the value of the position but felt it was unfair to not make personnel cuts to the DA’s office after so many other county departments had seen their labor forces cut over the years. Benton made a motion to approve the staff recommendation of reducing Rasmussen’s position, but the vote died due to a lack of a second.

A new motion was made by Commissioner Les Perkins to go with Sewell’s recommendation, but noted he felt the same way as Benton about county staff reductions. Joplin seconded the motion, adding that it was Sewell’s responsibility to manage his department’s budget and said he was “accountable to the community” for doing so. Chair Ron Rivers also voted in favor of the motion.

Perkins added that this solution was only a short-term one and another discussion regarding funding for the DA’s office would occur next year during budget planning.

“We’re going to be back into this same issue in a few months,” he said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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