Umatilla County’s charter is getting a pair of updates. And an ambulance service in Milton-Freewater got a big lift in last week’s election with a new service district and higher tax rate.

County voters approved measures to change the process to elect county officials and revise the charter’s language on the sheriff’s office. The results are not official yet, but the margins of victory in both are wide.

Measure 30-132 to revamp elections was passing 79.8% to 20.2%. The proposal asked whether voters would elect county officials in November and only require a May primary election if more than two candidates filed.

The answer was yes. The move cuts down on the number and thus expenses of elections. Kim Lindell, county elections manager, said elections cost about $1 per ballot, so for Umatilla County, around $44,000.

Measure 30-13 to replace the term “department of law enforcement” with “sheriff’s office” in the charter was passing 68.2% to 31.8%.

The change makes the county’s foundational document consistent with the actual name of the law enforcement agency and reflects the sheriff is an elected office. It does not affect the department’s operations in any way.

Both measures came out of the work of the county’s Charter Review Committee. Michele Grable chaired the committee, which kicked the tires on the charter during a span of 19 months to recommend improvements. Grable called the outcomes “excellent” but described the measures as housekeeping. The change to use “sheriff’s office,” she said, “has no substantive effect whatsoever.”

Grable stressed the committee’s most important recommendation never got before the voters.

That was the recommendation to adopt language in the charter requiring the county commissioners to hire a county manager. That was the “meat and bones” of the committee’s work, she said, which garnered the support of Commissioner George Murdock. Fellow commissioners Bill Elfering and John Shafer, however, did not vote to place that proposal on the ballot.

Last week Echo voters also renewed an operational levy for Echo Fire District by a 146 to 26 vote. The levy is for $30,000 a year for five years, costing property owners an estimated 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

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