County initiatives progressing, commissioner encourages voters to research potential candidates

According to Commissioner Mary Stern, Yamhill County is doing well, at least that’s what she said during a State of the County address during the Newberg City Club meeting March 18.

“We’re in a pretty good state of mind,” Stern said. “I think things are great.”

She presented on four major initiatives taken on by the county before looking to the murky future with two commission positions up for a vote in the November election.

She started off her talk with the first, and perhaps most known, initiative: the Newberg-Dundee bypass.Mary Stern

“Anyone here never heard of that?” Stern said. “It’s no surprise to you we’ve been working on this for more than 2014.”

While she didn’t provide much information status wise or moving forward, she said work is progressing and cited recent bridge beams placed outside Dundee over the past several months.

The second initiative is the Evidence Based Decision Making Initiative, or EBDMI for short.

“Yamhill County is one of seven jurisdictions nationwide selected by the National Institute of Corrections to work on this project,” Stern said. “What we’re doing is looking at the criminal justice system and making sure we’re spending every dollar we get as wisely as possible.”

With focus in four areas — pretrial, sentencing, community programs and post-prison release or probation — she cited a few statistics to gauge success within the program thus far.

These outcomes include an 11 percent reduction in psychological screenings at local hospitals, a decreased length of stay for those with mental health issues by 12 percent, a decrease in pretrial detainees by 9 percent, and since November 2013, a reduction in the number of months in state prison by 82 percent.

With Grow Yamhill County, the results are less noticeable and focus more on promotion.

“We’re really promoting what’s going on in Yamhill County,” Stern said, giving an example of a new slogan designed to grow Yamhill County. “You can get there from here.”

“It’s not just a physical presence, but also for your business, the goals you have for your business,” she said. “You can get where you want to be in Yamhill County.”

The program also includes two state programs: Strategic Investment Grants and the Small Grants Program. Both are funded by a cut the county receives from the Oregon Lottery, about $250,000 a year. While the Strategic Investment grants are strictly for businesses, the Small Grants Program is more flexible in its recipients.

“It can be businesses, downtown associations, economic development agencies, chambers, government entities and education institutions,” she said. Typically the once-a-year filing deadline is March 1, but since the guidelines were just developed, she said the application period has been extended to March 26.

The final initiative, the Yamhelas Westsider Trail, is still progressing. Stern said the county is working on a grant application to purchase the remaining seven miles in the 17-mile stretch.

Looking forward, Stern asked if it really matters who the commissioners are. Her response was a resounding yes.

“The county government is really an unusual form of government. We are the trifecta,” she said. “We are executive, we are judicial and we are legislative. It’s pretty special.”

But with only two basic qualifications required to run for county commissioner — be a minimum 18 years old and have lived in the county for a year — Stern stressed the importance of voters’ researching the candidates and really doing their homework before the election.

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