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AGO 1963 No. 39 - July 24, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- COUNTY ‑- BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ‑- AUTHORITY TO RENT ROAD EQUIPMENT TO LOCAL CIVIL DEFENSE ORGANIZATION.

A board of county commissioners has the authority to rent county road equipment to local civil defense organizations of the political subdivisions of this state for civil defense purposes.

                                                               - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    July 24, 1963

Honorable E. M. Llewellyn
Director, Department of Civil Defense
P.O. Box 519
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 39

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we have paraphrased as follows:

            May a board of county commissioners rent county road equipment to local civil defense organizations of the political subdivisions of the state of Washington for civil defense purposes?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            A board of county commissioners, as the governing body of a county, has only such powers as have been expressly granted to it, or as necessarily to be implied from the expressly granted powers.  Sasse v. King County, 196 Wash. 242, 82 P.2d 536 (1938), and cases cited therein.

            Responsibility for the care of county property, generally, is vested in "the several boards of county commissioners" by RCW 36.32.120 (6).  Specific authority for the rental of county road equipment is expressly granted by RCW 36.82.220, which reads in pertinent part:

            "County road equipment or materials owned by the equipment rental and revolving fund may be rented or sold to any agency of the United States of America, the state of Washington,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and/or to any other county, city, town, or other municipal corporation.  The proceeds of such rental or sale shall be placed in the equipment rental and revolving fund."

            This statute, in our opinion, clearly authorizes a board of county commissioners to rent such county road equipment as is owned by the equipment rental and revolving fund for civil defense purposes to local civil defense organizations of the political subdivisions of the state of Washington.  See, also, AGO 61-62 No. 76 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Okanogan County]], dated November 14, 1961, a copy is enclosed for your information, in which this office acknowledged authority in the board of county commissioners to rent county road equipment to (a) the United States department of agriculture forest services; (b) the bureau of Indian affairs of the United States department of the interior; (c) the state of Washington, department of natural resources; and (d) a fire protection district, to be used for fire suppression purposes.

            Our conclusion is supported by various provisions of our state civil defense laws, chapter 178, Laws of 1951, now codified in chapter 38.52 RCW.

            The creating authority for local civil defense organizations is in RCW 38.52.070, which provides in pertinent part:

            "(1) Each political subdivision of this state is hereby authorized and directed to establish a local organization for civil defense in accordance with the state civil defense plan and program: . . . Each local organization for civil defense shall perform civil defense functions within the territorial limits of the political subdivision within which it is organized, and, in addition, shall conduct such functions outside of such territorial limits as may be required pursuant to the provisions of this chapter."

            The financial support of such organizations is provided for in RCW 38.52.100, which reads in pertinent part:

            "(1) Each political subdivision shall have the power to make appropriations in the manner provided by law for making appropriations for the ordinary expenses of such political subdivision for the payment of expenses of its local organization for civil defense."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The extent to which existing public materials are to be used by civil defense groups is detailed in RCW 38.52.110 providing in part:

            "(1) In carrying out the provisions of this chapter, the governor and the executive heads of the political subdivisions of the state are directed to utilize the services, equipment, supplies, and facilities of existing departments, offices, and agencies of the state and of the political subdivisions thereof to the maximum extent practicable, and the officers and personnel of all such departments, offices, and agencies are directed to cooperate with and extend such services and facilities to the governor and to the civil defense organizations of the state upon request."

            These various legislative mandates outline the fashion in which civil defense organizations are to achieve their objectives under normal situations.  The emergency power for local civil defense organizations to operate in disaster situations, through the governing political subdivision, without the normal procedures and formalities prescribed by law is provided in RCW 38.52.070 (2), which provides:

            "(2) In carrying out the provisions of this chapter each political subdivision, in which any disaster as described in RCW 38.52.020 occurs, shall have the power to enter into contracts and incur obligations necessary to combat such disaster, protecting the health and safety of persons and property, and providing emergency assistance to the victims of such disaster.  Each political subdivision is authorized to exercise the powers vested under this section in the light of the exigencies of an extreme emergency situation without regard to time‑consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law (excepting mandatory constitutional requirements), including, but not limited to, budget law limitations, requirements of competitive bidding and publication of notices, pertaining to the performance of public work, entering into contracts, the incurring of obligations, the employment of temporary workers, the rental of equipment, the purchase of supplies and materials, the levying of taxes, and the appropriation and expenditures of public funds."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            The disasters described in RCW 38.52.020 include:

            "(1) Because of the existing and increasing possibility of the occurrence of disasters of unprecedented size and destructiveness resulting from enemy attack, sabotage or other hostile action, or from fire, flood, storm, earthquake, or other natural causes, . . ."

            These statutes indicate that the "rental of equipment" is one of the normal procedures followed by political subdivisions on behalf of their local organizations.  However, such procedure may be avoided in "extreme emergency situations" as outlined above.

            Accordingly, we are of the opinion that a board of county commissioners may rent county road equipment to local civil defense organizations of the political subdivisions of the state of Washington for civil defense purposes.

            We trust this information will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

CHARLES F. MURPHY
Assistant Attorney General

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