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BOCC advised on drone program

DAYTON–The Columbia County Commissioners (BOCC) heard updates on the upgrades to the Emergency Management phone software and radio systems and the addition of a drone program; they appointed Sharon Mendel as a Columbia County Rural Library (CCRL) board member, and held a public hearing for salary schedule amendments at the meeting April 4. The BOCC was updated on the Comprehensive Flood Mitigation Plan progress and heard from State Rep. Joe Schmick, R-9, Colfax. At the evening public hearing, they were advised on Resolution 2022-15 to lower the speed limit at the head of South Touchet Road.

Ashley Strickland of Emergency Management advised the BOCC on the progress towards adopting the use of a drone program. A grant was awarded for $20k for the program. Several bids were received from vendors who will provide two drones, one being larger, as well as the software to run them. Also included is training for the pilots, completion of paperwork for the Federal Aviation Administration and certifications. The drones will be used for plotting out the area of flood damage, including depth. In addition, they can utilize lidar which uses light detection for ranging, as well as spotlights and a thermal reader for search and rescue.

The department is also in process of a phone software and radio upgrades. The phone upgrade will provide text to 911 capability which will go directly to dispatch. As for the radio upgrade, the County is waiting for the final contract to replace the current system that is inconsistent in transmitting communication.

Sharon Mendel was appointed to the current vacant position at the Columbia County Rural Library District Board. She had previously applied and was interviewed for other vacancies that were filled by Chuck Beleny and Michele Smith. Mendel is a retired school teacher who taught for a number of years in the Dayton School District, and continues to be an active member in the Dayton community in various involvements including The Lions Club and at The Liberty Theater.

Rep. Joe Schmick was present during the meeting to meet the Commissioners and to learn any needs or interests of the County. With the redistricting, he will soon represent eight counties within the Ninth District. He made comment about the recent short legislative session and how the horse racing bill (HB 1928 and SB 5364) fared, of which he was primary sponsor. He said this year’s bill was fully supported, but was waylaid and ultimately not heard when the Senate leadership went to caucus 20 minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline. He believes the bill will be presented again next session and will be supported. “It’s too important to a lot of communities over here and for the industry overall.”

In other business, a brief public hearing for County salary schedule amendments was held. Auditor Anne Higgins said the only changes was for Public Health because of moving the administrator from a contracted to a salaried position, and for the addition of the financial manager position. The amended schedule was approved.

The Flood Control Zone District Administrator Jeremy Weiland provided a brief update to the Commissioners that a request for qualifications has been advertised for a consultant to aid in fulfilling the requirements of a grant from Department of Ecology for the Comprehensive Flood Mitigation Plan with the goal to begin work on the plan later this month.

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