Opinion

Retiree makes a difference

Retired state employee Russ Cahill is going to be a hero in the African nation of Uganda.

That's because the former assistant director of the state Parks and Recreation Commission and former Fish & Wildlife Commission member has sent about 300 pounds of tools to assist a poor vocational school in the southern part of Uganda. Included in the shipment were 10 hand saws, seven hammers, a couple of hand drills, masonry tools such as chisels, and metric sockets and wrenches used by auto mechanics. He collected the tools mostly from friends and relatives. Cahill got involved after seeing a slide show that his friends, Olympians Dan Silver and Jeanne Koenings, created to show their experiences in working at an orphanage in Uganda. They did some construction projects at the orphanage and were assisted by a teacher at the next-door vocational school. They discovered that the school had almost no tools for teaching students carpentry, masonry and auto mechanics. It's tough to teach those skills without the proper equipment, so Cahill saw a need and decided he could contribute. Once the tools arrive at Entebbe Airport, they'll be picked up by a Children of Uganda truck, then transported five hours south of the capital, Kampala, to the Ssanje Vocational School, where they will be put to use teaching young Ugandans skills to help them find jobs. As Cahill proves, one person can make a difference.

More than a year after calculating its first round of paychecks, the state's $67 million payroll computer still has glitches. Some appear to be human caused, but others show flaws in the multimillion dollar payroll system. The state Department of Personnel has been working with state worker unions over complaints since the Human Resources Management System completely took over payroll processing for 65,000 state employees. The department has maintained that many of the perceived problems are either errors in entering work hours or slight differences between the old system and the new one that are mistaken for errors. "The system's working great. It's calculating payroll; it's processing payroll," said spokeswoman Meagan Macvie. "I think there's still a lot of learning going on." Not so, say officials at the state's largest employees union. "We believe there are major problems with HRMS. We have been meeting with the state to try and get some answers," said Washington Federation of State Employees spokesman Tim Welch. "They're talking with us, but whether or not we're getting through to them remains to be seen." Another union official agrees. Leslie Liddle, executive director of the Washington Public Employees Association, said her union is still getting complaints. She said there are so many areas of the payroll - deductions, reductions, leave - that the payroll system is responsible for calculating that are "screwed up." State payroll officials owe it to employees and taxpayers to get it right.

Hundreds of South Sound residents and visitors descended on Thurston County Fairgrounds last week to attend the Irish Cottage Faire. Kilts - or tartans, as they're traditionally called - were the attire of choice at the fair which featured toe-tapping Irish music, scrumptious corned beef and scones and vendors displaying Celtic jewelry, pottery and other items. Daisy Kubias, 9, and her parents, Terrance and Elizabeth, wore matching tartans from the Scottish clan MacLeod. "We have Irish in us, and I like to watch dancers and hear music, and also today I got my face painted," Daisy said, adding, "And I realized I really like Scottish terriers." The city of Olympia hosted the annual celebration, but when the Celtic Society of South Puget Sound took over two years ago, the event was moved to the fairgrounds. Society members include people of Celtic, Irish, Scottish and Welsh decent, as well as those who are "Celtic at heart," said society member Dani Na'Fey of Tacoma. "If you get a tear in your eye and a thrill in your heart when you hear a bagpipe, you're probably Celtic, or Celtic at heart anyway," she said.

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