Franklin County enjoys a positive outlook for 2016. Rapid growth continues as residential and commercial enterprises recognize our unique characteristics. In 2015, the county saw growth and progress through 308 land-use applications of various types and sizes, plus 320 building permits with 84 site-built homes, 20 factory-assembled homes, and the balance in residential alterations and accessory buildings (garages/shops) and agricultural, commercial/industrial-related structures.
To accommodate this growth, the county replaced and improved numerous bridges and roads, including county-wide safety improvements to irrigation ditches and culverts, guardrails and traffic signals. Overlays, resurfacing and restoration of existing paved roads and sidewalk improvements have been accomplished with funding matches and grants.
Work continues toward the dedicated public access county road to Juniper Dunes, and the county has obtained a $1.7-million grant from the Federal Highway Administration to complete the project, slated to begin in 2016. In preparation, the environmental process was completed and acquisition of rights of way was undertaken in 2015. Other major county road activities include safety improvements (i.e. slope flattening, guardrail replacement, etc.), and the widening of Taylor Flats Bridge.
The new Justice Center and jail expansion project has been completed and will allow Pasco and Franklin County to provide improved care and administration. The county and city are occupying this new space and look forward to the improved community services it will render.
The Franklin County Auditor’s Office has also implemented new financial software that will streamline accounting processes throughout the county. While this project has taken several years and has incurred significant challenges, it is a necessary step in bringing county financial management into the modern era. The solution will give employees, department managers and elected officials better access to information and provide greatly improved business processes to safeguard the county’s financial resources, ultimately allowing us to better serve the public.
In 2015, the clerk’s office implemented new court management software in connection with a statewide technology upgrade effort. Franklin County is one of only a few counties that adopted this technology early to demonstrate its viability and Franklin County’s leadership in this area.
The TRAC facility continues to be an important part of economic development in Franklin County. TRAC served over 200,000 visitors in 2015, creating millions of dollars in economic impact in our community. As Franklin County continues to grow, TRAC is being selected more often as the venue for a larger variety of trade show and entertainment functions. With that comes additional strategic planning for how TRAC will best serve our community going forward into the next 10-20 years.
Key personnel changes in 2015 included Sheriff Jim Raymond, who was elected to his first term as sheriff after a distinguished career with the Pasco Police Department. Sheriff Raymond is working to ensure the safety of our public and protecting the legal interests of inmates held in the facility.
Another new key member of Franklin County in 2015 is the addition of County Administrator Keith Johnson. Johnson, a CPA and attorney, came from Boise, Idaho, where he served from 2003-07 as the elected state controller for the state of Idaho. Johnson has an extensive background in state and local government, including working in the private sector as a technology consultant for public sector clients.
Franklin County commissioners Bob Koch, Brad Peck and I continue to work for the county through our appointments to nearly 20 boards and committees each, including county, bi-county, state and federal appointments. The attendance at these meetings, together with the research, correspondence and interaction that is required of the appointments, keeps the commissioners apprised of programs, grants, legislation, and opportunities for our residents.
Franklin County has a long history of working with Benton County on functions that serve citizens on a community-wide basis, including Superior and Juvenile courts administration, human services and other key joint programs. We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to operate services on a bi-county basis and where it may be best to operate them separately. For example, Franklin County is in the process of creating our own Office of Public Defense to provide legal representation to indigent defendants in Franklin County cases in the criminal judicial system. We are continuing collaborative negotiations with Benton County to share resources for other critical services.
We look forward to the challenges and rewards in 2016. We are proud to be an integral part of Franklin County and of service to the community.