Franklin County, named after Benjamin Franklin and with a current population nearing 100,000 people, is one of the fastest-growing areas in the Pacific Northwest. Driven primarily by agricultural production and food processing, the economic base of the county is rapidly diversifying as it grows.
2018 saw some significant changes in the county that will affect citizens for years to come. In the November election, Clint Didier was elected to a 4-year term to represent District 3 on the County Board of Commissioners. He joins Commissioners Brad Peck from District 1 and Bob Koch from District 2. Also elected were Peter McEnderfer as county assessor and Curtis McGary as coroner. Incumbents were re-elected to all remaining county offices.
In August 2018, the county completed its consolidation of E911 Dispatch services with the Southeast Communication Center (SECOMM) to provide regional emergency dispatch services to the Tri-City region. This will result in faster response times and fewer dropped calls for citizens needing emergency services.
Looking forward, the county is anticipating many new changes as well. The county is an economic partner with the Port of Pasco and others in bringing a significant technology and research facility to the area. Battelle is currently building a state-of-the-art hangar at the Tri-Cities Airport Business Center to house the ARM Aerial Facility, which includes mobile platforms, a piloted plane as well as several Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV), and the extensive experimental equipment that is either attached to a mobile platform or remains land based. This new facility will occupy approximately 18,240 square feet, providing jobs, technology development and growth to the citizens of Franklin County.
County officials are working with both our federal and municipal counterparts in the region to craft federal legislation to reconvey Columbia River shoreline property currently owned by the Army Corp of Engineers back to local governments in the region. These parcels were acquired by the Corps for flood control purposes in the 1950s. Since dams and other flood control facilities have subsequently been built, federal ownership is no longer essential, and we are working to re-convey these parcels back to local control.
The Trade, Recreation & Agriculture Center (TRAC) continues to be an important part of economic development in Franklin County. The TRAC creates millions of dollars in positive economic impact to our community and improves the quality of life for our citizens. To improve the branding and marketability to a more regional and national audience, the county is engaged in offering the naming rights of the facility to a private entity, a move which will improve the financial condition of the facility and reduce the burden upon county taxpayers.
Our biggest priority is the safety and security of our citizens. Law enforcement and the Corrections Center (jail) continue to be a focus of budgetary priority. Our jail facility is in need of significant upgrades, remodeling and improvements to be able to provide proper segregation of offenders, adequate medical treatment and facilities to meet the standards for certification for a modern correctional facility in compliance with court-ordered mandates. Financing these modifications will be an ongoing challenge and significant priority for 2019.
Brad Peck, Clint Didier and I continue to serve the county through our appointments to nearly 20 boards and committees each, including county, bicounty, state and federal appointments. The attendance at these meetings, together with the research, correspondence and interaction required of the appointments, keeps the commissioners aware of programs, grants, progress, legislation and opportunities for our residents.
We look forward to the challenges and rewards 2019 has in store and are proud to be an integral part of Franklin County and of service to our community.