Lady Bulldogs hoist the 2B state volleyball trophy after defeating LaConner Saturday at the Yakima SunDome in a five game battle. This is the third consecutive year Colfax has claimed the trophy. See Page 7 for more coverage. An ecstatic Oakesdale Nighthawks claim the 1B volleyball gold at the Yakima SunDome after beating SE league foe Pomeroy Saturday. The title win over the Pirates was the first win after three previous meetings ended in defeat. See Page 8 for more coverage.
By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter
A common sight across the Palouse last month was dust rising up as many area farmers combed through their fields, completing the winter wheat seeding in dry conditions. This practice is called “dusting in” and is quite common in this area. “Eight years out of ten we have dusted in,” said Steptoe area farmer Randy Suess. According to Steve Van Vleet, WSU Regional Extension Specialist and Associate Professor of Agricultural and Natural Resources, winter crops should usually be seeded by mid-October. “If you start seeding after October 15th, you start losing yield,” he said. “It is pretty much a cut-off date.” Suess said the hot and dry conditions from the summer, which made the spring yield a lower quality than usual, affected the winter seeding. “It is pretty dry,” he said. “We do not have ideal most years.” Recent rains have helped though, he said. “At least it was enough that we got the wheat up and going,” he said. “If you are seeding into moisture, it will come up within a week.” Rain totals through Nov. 10 totaled 1.72 inches, which is more than 67 percent of the normal for the entire month. In October – when the new crop year began – rain total ran .30 below normal, but the rainfall in November has made up for that. Though the recent rainfall has been much needed, Suess said it is not quite time to celebrate it. “We only got a couple inches. We have got a long way to go before we can say it is going to be a good crop,” he said. With that said, he is remaining optimistic, as this crop year has started out better than the last. “The farmers should be smiling pretty big right now,” he said. “It should be enough that it sustains it.” Van Vleet said the worry now is winter temperatures setting in too soon. “The farmers are hoping to not get freezing temperatures and then moisture,” he said. “It is when we get below zero temperatures that it gets to be rough.” Van Vleet said freezing temperatures too soon could cause the crop to freeze over and not be viable. “Farmers always have something to worry about,” he said. “It is a godsend that it finally rained, though.” Van Vleet said that as winter temperatures set in, snow will be okay, as it will provide a blanket for the crops. “They will be warm enough under the snow,” he said. He added that the recent rains have been a great start to getting the wheat up, but more is needed to make up for the deficit from a short rain season last winter and a hot and dry summer. The surface moisture, he said, is fine right now. “Because we were so dry our subsoil is not re-charged yet,” Van Vleet said. “We need another good inch of rain to be where we are going to be smiling anyway.” With it too early to tell how the winter crop will fare in the current weather patterns, Suess has one request for everyone: “Do your rain dance, will you?”
By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter
Whitman County is working with the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) to establish more sound financial and reporting practices following audit deficiencies earlier this year. The county began working with GFOA, which made a series of recommendations for combating the financial woes which have faced the county for more than a decade now. As a first step, the county has worked to clarify roles and responsibilities for several positions. A 22-page roles and responsibilities report – a supplement to the larger GFOA report – details the steps the GFOA is helping to implement in order to clarify roles and responsibilities. “A common issue identified in GFOA’s assessment was the lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities among front-line staff, elected officials and department heads as they relate to finance and IT functions,” the report read. Clarifying the roles and responsibilities was necessary for several reasons, including a lack of standardization with position descriptions, outdated position descriptions, unclear duties and responsibilities and duties identified, but not followed, according to the report. “Our analysis is intended to serve as a baseline to help the county define the roles and responsibilities related to its finance and IT functions,” the report read. “Ultimately, the county will need to conduct an internal review of the individual position descriptions so that they align with the related functions of their respective departments.” County Commissioner Michael Largent said the county is very committed to implementing the recommendations and moving forward. “This is that first step we need to take in implementing the GFOA recommendations with regard to finance and accounting issues,” said Largent. “We need to take that seriously. We have to start at the beginning to fix the system.” The report called for the county to create an organizational chart that shows different positions and how they relate. “The county will need to create an organization chart that outlines how each component of the county relates and interacts. … By creating a visual of the organizational structure, county employees can easily identify the broader relationship and delineation of departments, offices, etc.,” the report said. That organizational chart has been created and was endorsed by the county commissioners at their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 16. The report also provided summaries of recommended financial roles and responsibilities and highlighted which position(s) should be in charge of certain roles and responsibilities. Largent said a project team comprised of county officials from the treasurer’s and auditor’s office has been formed in order to implement the recommendations. He added that the county is following a model which has been attributed to author Ken Miller, who wrote “Extreme Government Makeover” and “Change Agent.” The goal of his books is to make government work better. We are trying to draw from people’s experience, Largent noted. County Administrative Director Gary Petrovich, who is the project manager on the project team, said the county is committed to following the GFOA recommendations, but it will not happen overnight. “It has taken years for the county to get themselves into this mess, and it will take years to get out of this mess,” said Petrovich. He said Monday at the commissioner’s meeting itwas a big step with the commissioners endorsing the roles and responsibilities recommendations. “That was saying, ‘This is going to be our path,’” he said. Petrovich said the “best way” to move forward is by taking seriously the recommendations put forth by the GFOA and making the process transparent. Largent said endorsing the roles and responsibilities was a pre-requisite to following other recommendations and that the county is committed to forward progress. “This is for me, personally as a commissioner, my most important priority.”