Umatilla County has rejected an offer made by the local courthouse union which included an offer to freeze wage increases and aimed to save the juvenile detention center from closure and keep public health services its current level.
"I was, frankly, very disappointed that they weren't more interested in saving these programs," said Jason Weyand, legal council for the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees unions. "We certainly feel like our employees, our member, have worked hard to try and come up with a solution to save programs and try to work with the county to save these programs."
County Commissioner Bill Hansell said there was no cost effective way to keep open the detention center, officially called the Northeast Oregon Regional Youth Detention Center.
"If you look at the figures and look at what it was costing us for the services being rendered it was not cost effective," Hansell said.
On average the county was housing four kids there, and outside areas - Baker, Grant, Malheur, Wallowa, Union Counties and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation - added only about two more.
"And it was costing us over $700,000-plus,"?Hansell said. "You begin at this stage to wonder, are we getting the services for the amount of money we need to do that?"
He believes similar service levels can be reached by contracting with NORCOR in The Dalles and facilities in Walla Walla.
"The county wanted to do what they county wanted to do and they've made their decision," Weyand said. "We are definitely a little frustrated. We thought we could achieve these cuts and keep as close as possible to current level of services."
According to plans for the fast-approaching budget year, the public health department will be run out of the Pendleton office, but clinic hours will only be on Monday and Tuesday in Pendleton and Thursday and Friday in Hermiston, with alternating Wednesdays. Those hours will only last from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This compares to the still current level of services, which includes four- or five-day weeks at each clinic and hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
It also included closing the clinic in?Milton-Freewater.
"I'm very, very worried about the future of the public health department,"?Weyand said.?"The more they cut programs, the more likely it is to be not viable in a couple years."
Hansell said these ideals weren't sustainable.
This year the county budget committee implemented a strategy to not spend more than it was taking in, Hansell said. Keeping the detention center open and keeping current level of health services didn't match this plan, he said.
AFSCME Local 3742, which is made up of courthouse employees, made its offer to the county on May 12.
It offered an 11-month pay freeze for cost of living increases and asked exempt employees - those not in unions - and elected officials to take a similar freeze.
"It was only for 11 months,"?Hansell said in his reasons for rejecting the offer. "Everybody in the system had to do it."
He said he didn't know how other unions would have reacted and it would have required a lot of extra work to coordinate.
There was another aspect Hansell and the county didn't like.
If the general fund balance ended up being $500,000 over the budgeted amount at the end of the fiscal year, then the union members would receive raises in a lump sum.
"It was a price freeze with some strings attached to it,"?Hansell said. "It wasn't just a price freeze."
Weyand maintained the offer was made in good faith, and said the unions will "continue to try to work with the county."