So the Umatilla County Commissioners and the public got their wish.

Ron Montgomery, who served as manager of the West Umatilla Mosquito Control District for the last 22 years, has decided he won't accept a contract with reduced benefits.

Instead, he'll step down and the WUMCD will begin the hunt for a new manager.

Montgomery, you may remember, found himself in the public crosshairs last year when details of his contract were published. Folks became incensed at what they saw as a deal overripe with salary and benefits, and the ensuing outcry resulted in the commissioners stepping in and "recommending" a change in the contract.

But  here's the rub: the move won't save the taxpayers a nickel — and it may, in fact, cost the taxpayers in terms of quality service.

Montgomery wasn't forced out because of his job performance. By just about all accounts — including members of the WUMCD Board of Trustees — Montgomery did an outstanding job.

But Montgomery also got crossways with a  few folks in power, and that seemed to be his downfall.

Technically,  the county commissioners don't govern mosquito control. It's a separate taxing district ostensibly governed by a board of trustees.

But the members of that board are appointed by the commissioners, and it's easy to guess to whom those trustees answer (hint: it's not the taxpayers).

From what we can tell, Montgomery raised some hackles a few years ago when the mosquito district balked at an agreement that would have sent money from a  windmill project to the county instead of mosquito control (where the money was originally designated). After some new trustees were appointed, the county did get its agreement and its money.

Next came a situation in which Montgomery fired a relative of a board member. That resulted  in some ill will that finally saw Montgomery file a tort claim notice. The claim was settled out of court, and included payment of all of Montgomery's legal bills.

Then came the public hubbub about Montgomery's benefits and the ensuing complaints about taxpayer money being wasted.

Now Montgomery is gone. The next mosquito manager will have what is likely a smaller salary and a less-generous benefit package.

But it won't mean as much as another penny in your pocket. The taxes you pay to the Mosquito Control District won't change.  According to board chair James Stearns, any money saved by the new contract will go into the district's reserve fund.  (By the way — voters who complained about the money being spent on mosquito control are the same voters who overwhelmingly approved a mill increase to support the district the last time it was on the ballot.)

What no one can guarantee — including the trustees — is that they'll be able to find someone who can match the 22 years experience and the expertise  Montgomery had developed in his time here. Say what you will about Montgomery's contract, the service his district delivered has been solid in every way by almost every account.

If the trustees can't find someone who can continue that kind of service, the money "saved" might be money taxpayers wish their district would have spent.

Especially when the mosquitoes start biting.

Folks looking for good news from the economy aren't having much luck these days.

A recent article in the Portland Oregonian noted that while foreclosure actions around the country dropped 14 percent in April, the story was much different in Oregon. Foreclosure actions actually increased 236 percent in the state in April, jumping from 1,100 to 3,700.

It's a similar — if not quite as dramatic — story in Umatilla County.

Steve Churchill of the Umatilla County Records office told us earlier this week that the county had 115 houses go into foreclosure in the first five months of 2011. Of those 115 filed, 44 —  or nearly 40 percent — were filed in April.

"It seems like there have been waves of activity," Churchill said  "It will go down, then pick back up. This is about our fifth wave."

Elsewhere in this edition of the Herald, you'll find a terrific story on the upcoming 65th  wedding anniversary of Hermiston residents Fred and Verla Jean Zielke.

My hearty, hearty congratulations. When I saw that number, I tried to think of something — anything — that I'll do for 65 years.

About the only thing I could think of is breathe. And that's if my luck holds out.

All five ensembles of the Inland Northwest Musicians will take part in the groups' final concerts of the 2010-2011 season on June 18-19.

The groups will perform an "All-American" concert on Saturday, June 18, at Hat Rock State Park, beginning at 4 p.m. The next day, they'll be at Weston Community Park, also at 4 p.m.

Their music is terrific and the price is right  (it's free, but donations are gladly accepted).

A press release says lawn chairs, blankets and snacks are encouraged.

Sounds like a great way to usher in the summer — great music, nice setting and a picnic.

It's not all bad news coming out of the state legislature these days.

Last week, the Senate Ways and Means Committee's education subcommittee actually added some money to Gov. John Kitzhaber's higher education budget.

Even better, a big chunk of those additional funds — about $9.1 million — would go to statewide programs such as the Oregon State Extension Service, which has a rather large presence in our area.

The bill hasn't been put to a vote in the Senate. But if it passes, that would be at least a glimmer of light in what's been a pretty dreary session.

Staying on the topic of (slightly) good news, gas prices seem to be dropping. The average price for a gallon of gas in Oregon at midweek was $3.83. That's still roughly nine cents higher than the national average and almost $1 more than it was a year ago, but  it's still a nickel cheaper than it was last week.

We'll take it.

And finally, a shout-out to Don Daggett and Banner Bank. The local business recently donated $10,000 recently to Martha's House, the family homeless shelter that will begin construction later this month.

That's what you call solid community support.

Know of something we need to be reporting? A piece of news you’d like to see in the Herald? Drop me a note at or call me at 541-564-4533.

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