Roadshow tackles priorities for Humboldt County, as reported by area residents

Affordable housing, innovative use of technology, stable cannabis economy among issues important to locals

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn asks a child about his budget priorities at the Humboldt County Roadshow. The child said “more playgrounds.” (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)

An estimated 50 to 60 people turned out Wednesday night for the Humboldt County Roadshow at the Wharfinger, which allows residents to voice their opinions on what issues the county should make budget allocations to tackle in the next fiscal year.

The 2018-19 fiscal year budget totaled around $412 million, something County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen said was “about the ballpark” for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“We are excited to not only share the important work we’re doing on behalf of the count but we are excited to hear from you,” said Nilsen near the beginning of the event.

For many of the officials present, the night presented a chance to receive feedback and share what each county department does. Boards were set up around the Wharfinger building and the public could put stickers on those issues that mattered most. Top sticker-getters included increasing affordable housing stock, how to use innovative technology and stabilizing the cannabis economy.

“It’s a good chance for the public to meet our department heads,” said 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn, before he spoke to the dozens in attendance.

It was also a chance for the department heads to explain what it is they do, something the Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf said he took advantage of when he met at one of the nine tables allocated for county departments.

“Folks didn’t really know what services we did and what we provide to the community,” Dolf said.

County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen talks to the crowd at the Wharfinger building on Wednesday night about the county’s budget and how funding is allocated. (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)

He said people he talked to voiced an interest in regulating the cannabis industry and he said his department was focused on “the illegal use of pesticides and how we are working to get that cleaned up.”

Sheriff William Honsal’s table focused on discussing childhood trauma.

“How are we going to help reduce (acute childhood experiences) — that’s something we deal with every day with child abuse (cases),” said Honsal. “We also talked about what we can do about human trafficking. … It’s our job to educate people about what’s going on in the community.”

McKinleyville resident said that trafficking was the issue that was most important to her as a survivor of trafficking.

“I need to look for a comment card because trafficking is my priority and I don’t see a board for that,” she said. It was an issue that she later took up with Honsal.

Public Works Director Tom Mattson discussed concerns about infrastructure and roads.

“We definitely had a conversation about what we can do to fix our roads,” Mattson said.

Nilsen noted that there was “no magic bullet” to fix all of the concerns raised among citizens. She said the county needed a “multi-pronged approach.”

But she also noted that there were some obligations the county had that can’t be ignored, including making all county buildings more accessible with Americans with Disabilities Act improvements.

“We’ve identified $27 million in work that needs to be done,” she said, noting that it must be done in the next few years.

She said the issue was “important but also expensive.”

She added that while the economy is performing positively right now, that won’t last forever.

“All of our data show that national and state economy are doing well,” she said. “But we know a downturn is coming. Recessions are five years apart and we are in our 11th year with expansion (of the economy.)”

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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