County gets good grades for most services
Major crimes decrease as development of parks lags
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Clark County’s streets are not being swept as often but they are safer, according to a report released Wednesday.
Major crimes in the unincorporated area of the county decreased in 2009 by 11 percent and arrests increased 15 percent, but budget cuts have meant that neighborhood streets were swept three times last year, down from a high of eight to 11 times in the three previous years.
If street sweeping and crime seem like an odd pairing, well, that’s representative of the assortment of statistics available in the county’s seventh “Service Efforts and Accomplishments Report.”
“This is the report card to the public,” said Auditor Greg Kimsey.
The report covers five years, from 2005 to 2009, during which the population increased 10 percent, from 391,500 to 431,200.
With budget cuts and reduction in staff, the county is operating at 2005 spending levels (adjusted for inflation) with 2000 staffing levels.
In light of that, Steve Stuart, chairman of the Board of the Clark County Commissioners, was pleased the county was maintaining most services. Stuart said the report was a tool for department managers to refocus on providing essential services.
In one particular area where the county appeared to be lagging — developing regional parks — commissioners said the statistic was an unfair representation of the county’s commitment to a quality parks system.
Regional park acreage stayed the same during the five-year period, keeping the county well below its goal of 10 acres per 1,000 residents.
Numbers show the county has 5.4 acres of regional park space (such as Lewisville and Vancouver Lake) per 1,000 residents.
That doesn’t mean there’s a lack of scenic places to go, commissioners said.
Commissioner Marc Boldt said when he wants to walk his dog, he doesn’t care whether it’s at a regional park, a conservation area or on an urban or regional trail.
In some areas, such as urban open space, the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department has exceeded goals while falling short of its goals for neighborhood and community parks. The parks acquisition team “is actively pursuing adequate properties to meet the goal by the end of 2010,” according to the report.
Here are some highlights from the auditor’s report:
• Fire marshal inspections decreased 17 percent between 2006 and 2009 but the office continued meeting its goal of inspecting 100 percent of churches, schools, hotels and motels.
• The hospital readmission rate for mental health patients decreased last year by 27 percent from 2008, a sign of the effectiveness of programs.
• The number of new residential and commercial permits requiring plan review decreased 65 percent from 2005 to 2009; staffing in those departments decreased by 58 percent.
• Sheriff’s deputies’ response times for urgent 911 calls increased from 6.4 minutes in 2008 to seven minutes in 2009. Response time has hovered between six and seven-plus minutes since 2005, with a high of 7.7 minutes in 2006.
• The number of concealed pistol permits issued by the county has nearly doubled in five years. The county issued 2,329 permits in 2005 and 4,614 permits in 2009.
The full report can be viewed at http://www.clark.wa.gov/auditor/audit/audreports.html or obtained by calling 360-397-2310.
Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.