August 12, 2003 11:00 pm

Deciding how to spend public dollars should never be taken lightly or casually, whether the decisions involve $1,000 or $100,000. And generally, our local public officials take their responsibility seriously. But every once in a while something happens that causes editorial writers and public policy watchers to grimace. Such was the case with the county's decision to become a $1,000 corporate sponsor for the fireworks show.

When times are tight and budgets are being crimped, doling out dollars requires careful consideration. In the case of the donation to the fireworks fund and a $6,000 donation to the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show, the money came from the pool of lottery monies the county commissioners have at their disposal.

The issue isn't so much the money allotment — although the county did consider being the $2,500 title sponsor for the fireworks show — as it is the process the county went through in awarding it.

The decision to grant the money was made in a staff meeting, not a public meeting. When it comes to spending public dollars, public officials need to be beyond reproach. Such decisions need to be arrived at publicly.

Exercise caution

Drivers beware! Summer is the season for slow-moving vehicles on the freeways and roads, and motorists need to drive accordingly.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is asking motorists to be especially careful of slow-moving road construction and maintenance vehicles in or next to travel lanes. ODOT says motorists often misjudge the difference between their speed, say 65 mph, and that of the maintenance equipment, which can be traveling 5 to 35 mph. Slowing from 65 mph takes time.

Motorists need to remember that sweepers, repainting trucks and other maintenance and construction-related vehicles, equipment and workers are doing what has to be done this time of year. Motorists need to give them some space.

ODOT trucks aren't the only slow-moving vehicles on the roads this time of year. Farmers, too, have to move equipment from farm to field and need to use the roadways. Motorists need to keep an eye out for farm equipment, give them the space they require and not get impatient about passing until absolutely certain there are no oncoming vehicles.

Driving requires patience. Please exercise caution when out and about.