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Locals let legislators know their priorities at send-off

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Movers and shakers from throughout Mason County met in Shelton on Tuesday to send off state legislators, who begin a new congressional session Jan. 11.

Poised in front of an audience of more than 50 elected officials and business owners at the historic Colonial House, 35th District state Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) and state Rep. Dan Griffey (R-Allyn) listened to what the community they serve wants out of its statewide elected officials this year in Olympia.

State Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union) was unable to attend the send-off because he was attending a cyber security conference in Seattle. His aide, Josiah Rowell, read a brief statement apologizing for MacEwen's absence.

Shelton-Mason Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heidi McCutcheon moderated the event, which featured legislative commentary from County Commissioner Terri Jeffreys, Shelton City Administrator Dave O'Leary and Lynn Longan, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Mason County.

McCutcheon began the legislative panel by offering the chamber's legislative priorities to Sheldon and Griffey.

She stressed that the county's natural resource industries need to be protected and that the chamber is against any legislative proposal to decrease carbon emissions. McCutcheon added that legislation shouldn't damage the competitiveness of natural resource industries in Mason County.

Jeffreys pointed out to the legislators the need for a mental health facility in Mason County.

According to Jeffreys, people with mental health issues in Mason County have nowhere to go when they pose a threat to themselves or the public.

"The police get the call and then what do you do with this person?" she said.

Police have two options: take the person to the emergency room, or to jail, both of which, Jeffreys said, are not the right place for the mentally ill.

Jeffreys asked the congressmen to work with the county, city of Shelton and Mason General Hospital to secure funding to build a new mental health crisis facility in the county.

"This is more of a longer term, but we would like to work with you to build a facility," she said.

Jeffreys also said a state-mandated case load limit for public defense has caused indigent defense fees to rise by 23 percent since 2012.

Jeffreys said the county needs more funds from the state to drive indigent fees down.

Next, O'Leary addressed Griffey and Sheldon on what the city of Shelton is planning and how the state Legislature could help.

O'Leary said the city of Shelton needs to lower sewer fees. He said that by the end of the decade, the city would be forced to increase the utility fee to $135 per month per household from the already expensive $111 by the end of the decade unless there is help from the state.

The city will complete its last major sewer project, known as Basin 3, for an estimated $6.8 million with almost $3 million in grants from the state Department of Ecology. O'Leary said the city needs more.

"We are looking for any grant dollars," he said.

Over the past decade Shelton spent almost $56 million on sewer projects, mostly done with borrowed money which is causing the rate increases.

The 60-day legislative session is expected to go smoothly, Sheldon told the audience.

Last year, marathon legislative sessions surrounding a new state capital budget were held to avoid a partial government shutdown.

A capital budget is not being debated this session Sheldon said, but a supplemental budget could be decided on.

"Things will happen very fast," he said.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 7, 2016

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