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Herald and News editorial board 12/11/07

   A long list of potential cutbacks will be developed as the federal county payments program winds to a close, and that’ll be true whether the payments end now or four years from now.
   In a Herald and News article Monday, Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said the loss of the federal payments would endanger the county’s search and rescue efforts.
   The county payments program has ended, though a four-year extension is making progress through Congress. It’s been approved by the House and is now in the Senate, where it faces problems as part of a large energy bill.
   Evinger said that about 90 percent of the funds used for search and rescue comes from the county payments program, which has been sending about $15 million a year to Klamath County. Most of that has been going for roads, but about $1.5 million went to the general fund for such things as law enforcement.
   It should probably go without saying — though we’ll say it anyway — that a county in which more than 50 percent of its land is owned by the federal government should be able to count on federal help to pay for search and rescue operations. People generally aren’t going to call a federal agency when someone gets lost on the local national forests. They’re going to call the Klamath County Sheriff’s Department. The state should also help.
   Searches, especially in cold weather, have to be mounted quickly and operate efficiently. Pulling the financial rug from underneath search organizations puts lives at risk. But a lot of the potential effects of the money’s loss puts lives at risk. They include such things as bad roads, less law enforcement and criminals walking free because the jail doesn’t have room for them.
   The problem calls for a unified approach from the county that weighs all of the potential impacts of the money’s end in a process that is detailed and has a lot of public input.
   Even if there is another extension, the opportunity to come up with a real plan shouldn’t be lost.

Invasion of the grocery carts can be stopped    

This time of year, abandoned grocery carts seem to come crawling out from their hiding places and add to the general clutter in Klamath Falls. They may be well hidden when the leaves keep them covered. But the leaves are gone, the branches are bare and every piece of debris that the leaves used to hide is readily apparent.

   The last session of the Legislature took notice of such things and passed a law that allows cities to encourage removal of the abandoned carts with fines. As of Jan. 1, cities will be able to ding a store $50 a cart if the store doesn’t collect it within three days of being notified.
   The idea is not to make doing business harder — it’s to make the city look better. And it shouldn’t be too hard to do.
   A collective effort by the stores would make sense and keep expenses down. Perhaps there might be room for a non-profit organization to do the job, working with the stores on a bounty system. Surely the return of the carts is worth something to the stores.
   Cooperative systems are already being used on a test basis in the Portland-Salem metropolitan area that includes use of a toll-free number. Stores in the Salem-Portland area lose about 3,600 carts a week, and while the numbers in Klamath Falls are far lower, the carts are still noticeable.
   The process to get them taken care of has to start with Klamath Falls City Council members, and they should get it going.
Pat Bushey wrote today’s editorials. The members of the Herald and News editorial board are Publisher Heidi Wright, Editor Steve Miller, Day Editor Marcia McGonigle and Opinion Editor Bushey.
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