By: KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
The White Pine County Commission held a Special Meeting last Thursday to discuss and approve revenues and expenses for the 2021 budget hearing.
But, not before Lacey Balch, local resident and candidate who is running for incumbent Richard Howe’s County Commission seat made a very bold statement during public comment.
“I wanted to take a moment this morning to acknowledge Commissioner Bullis’s derogatory and disgusting comments that have been made via Facebook and Twitter over the past several days regarding individuals with disabilities mostly the hearing impaired.” Balch went on to further detail a social media post that had been posted by Commissioner Ian Bullis in regards to deaf people wearing masks. Balch asked for the removal of his position as commissioner. “He stated that those with disabilities are “Ignorant and stupid” for trying to find solutions for the deaf community that cannot see through cloth masks but also referencing how the creation of these masks is similar to putting a “plastic bag over your head”. Not only does Commissioner Bullis use his Facebook page as a place for a public forum but he uses his Facebook page to share his content into public pages; he also has blocked his constituents the majority of which are female constituents. After all of these comments that I have made I am now calling for commissioner Bullis”. Before she could finish her public comment she was cut off by Chairman of the Commission Richard Howe. Howe, “threats will not be allowed here, you can voice your opinion, whoever you are, but you cannot threaten anyone during public comment.”
Commissioner Laurie Carson explained the guidelines of public comment that was stated on the front page of each agenda that prohibits content of the comment if it is willfully disruptive, irrational or hurtful.
District Attorney Mike Wheable explained that public comment is allowed, but when it gets irrational, derogatory the commission can utilize their discretion on when to stop someone from further comment.
White Pine County’s Finance Director, Elizabeth Frances discussed the agenda item that is requesting a look at each department for financial resolutions with the recent covid-19 pandemic.
“I encourage the County Commission to be very flexible and responsive over the upcoming year. There is no way to gauge the full impact of the current financial situation for White Pine County over the coming year. .
Frances provided the Commission with a list of suggestions that included reducing staff, and not re-hiring for positions that are currently vacant.
Commissioners Ian Bullis and Travis Godon worked together on recommended reductions.
The first reduction that Bullis mentioned was a reduction of the cost of the water attorney. It says $120,000 but what we are going to do is take that $120,000, but take $60,000 and earmark it in case litigation comes back up. Bullis, “We can reach out to him, get a quote on what he would charge us to keep tabs on what’s going on. Get a realistic ideas of what it would cost.”
Bullis, noted that with all of his and Godon’s reductions it would be just under $200,000. “The real thing we were kicking around, is for all non-essential departments to create a reduction plan and 20% reduction in preparation of serious shortfalls. Meaning these plans would be implemented if the deficit exceeds prudent use of the reserve balance at any time 2021 fiscal year.” Bullis said.
The point was stressed over and over again that the commission was not trying to create panic, and that they want to avoid lay offs, serious cuts and panic.
Bullis, “We have a reserve, as long as the shortfalls are manageable, but we can ride on what we have saved up, but all of the sudden if the bottom falls out on the revenue and we have to make emergency cuts, I think it would be better, if the departments were all looking at that.”
Godon explained that they could make informed decisions by having input from each department.
Commissioner Shane Bybee agreed with Godon and Bullis. “I think that’s a great idea, having a preset plan”. Commissioner Laurie Carson agreed as well, “no on wants to be proactive, it’s so much better to be proactive.”
Howe, explained that he went to each department and elected official and met with them, but also mentioned that until the special legislative sessions is over, they are unable to completely assess the shortfall.
Bybee suggested holding off on any equipment and vehicle purchases for the next six months.
“Don’t take them out, put a 6 month hold on those and hit those January 1. That’s several hundred thousands of dollars there that were going to have for equipment and if we give it 6 months worth of room, and we are in good shape, then January 1 we can put those through.
Godon, posed the question of putting a dollar amount on equipment and replacement of vehicles. Bybee said yes and Godon agreed that would be prudent.
Howe expressed some concern over the purchase of vehicles, explaining that several years ago the commission replaced 5 vehicles in one year, “as we decide, we should talk to the sheriff, and maybe go with what Bybee is suggesting maybe replace one, the sheriff’s vehicles get old they put a lot of miles on them, but that many vehicles in one year, we got nailed with 400,000 in one year.”
“I’d like to see us have a little time to breath on those, even just two of the sheriff’s vehicles you are talking $100,000 and if we could just push those back to January 1, that would give us some breathing room.” Bybee said.