Board Notes 051811
See the Board Packet HERE. Note the “dredge” letter from the Plumas County BOS, Lori Simpson, Chair.
The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session Tuesday, May 17; Supervisors Huebner, Nunes, Goicoechea, Schlefstein and Chair Adams were all present, and they immediately began to whine about how much work they have to do. Supervisor Schlefstein complained because on two separate days he has to be in two distant places at the same time. He complains that he can’t do this, yet he knew the job was dangerous when he took it.
His boo hooing caused Lee Adams tear up a little, too, and he decided to give a brief explanation of how he manages the many, many meetings he attends on behalf the county. This reporter scribbled feverishly but wasn’t able to accurately capture the advice the Chair gave SchlefsteIn; it sounded like this:
If the meeting is with a high ranking politico who has a busy schedule, he attends that first. If two meetings have equally high ranking attendees, he goes to the closer one. If one committee name has more “a’s” than “e’s” he’ll attend those meetings unless it’s on a Thursday. Meetings which supply lunch always have priority over meetings that don’t and if a meeting is at Los Dos Hermanos, it trumps even the governor. I may have missed some details.
Their discussion reminds us of the words of Penn Jillette, who observed that when a crisis comes, people do what they always do, but they do more of it. In this economic crisis, the full impacts of which we still haven’t felt yet, all the supervisors can do is attend meetings and write letters. They’re attending and writing their little hearts out, and we should be glad, because it’s literally the only faint hope we have of surviving as a county.
Supervisor Adams, from some of his many meetings, brought news, including the news that the suction dredge public hearing heard from many people, most of whom want the proposed unworkable regulations eased to reflect reality, but a few of whom don’t want anything disturbing the gravel of the pretty, pretty rivers. Worse news: a group is insisting that funds be cut to the suction dredge permit program, ending the controversy, and suction dredging, and causing a few more folks to leave Sierra County.
Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Carol Roberts reported that, in keeping with the new austerity imposed by the board, she was not going to apply for money to run a program for homeless severely mentally ill people. Dr. Roberts said that the program was burdened by administrative costs and that the department could continue to serve needy mentally ill people.
We’ll pause for a moment to consider that some might consider the Board’s mandate unwise. This is money from outside the county brought into the county by the Director. The money goes for staff, supplies, administrative costs like light and office space; in short, this is some of the manna from the Feds directors are schooled to receive. Lee Adams in particular, but the other supervisors as well, have been insisting that public money is public money. If everyone continues to act selfishly, the deficit will grow and grow. Further, history is fast proving that too much government isn’t really in everyone’s best interest.
Dr. Roberts assured the Board the funds would be available in the future; she did not add “if you come to your senses”. The response from some supervisors was that the funds won’t be there in the future to worry about.
Social worker Mary Thompson was recognized for 25 years of service to the people of Sierra County. Ms. Thompson has seen four directors during her tenure in social services. She said, “I love my job. I really appreciate Carol as my Director. She supported me. Thank-you.” She also thanked County Counsel Jim Curtis for helping her with court reports. Supervisor Scott Schlefstein read the resolution, including a typo of the date, which attempted to rob us all of the last two years and perhaps save us money on Ms. Thompson’s retirement. Ms. Thompson caught the error and Mr. Schlefstein promised to have it corrected.
District Ranger Quentin Youngblood addressed the board with news of the Sierraville Ranger District. As an aside, Youngblood is highly valued because of his skill at arranging agreement on some issues arising from the removal of timber and biomass from the woods. He is a significant player in Sierra County’s one real hope of existence, forest biomass. There are fears among some knowledgeable observers that if the Quincy Library Group funding is cut, the Sierraville ranger station might disappear, as the Forest Service once left Downieville going out for some milk never to return.
In this instance, Ranger Youngblood had generally good news. When he reported on the progress on some watershed restoration, some hackles went up in the room, but he assured everyone there were no adjudicated water rights involved, which means there could only be riparian rights, since virtually all water than makes it to a continuous watercourse is adjudicated.
He also reported on an orienteering event at Little Truckee Summit. The event, which is the Western State Orienteering Championship for 2011, will include more than 250 participants and guests, and will run three days. Learn more about this cool and interesting event HERE.
That was the end of the good news as Dr. Roberts introduced Elizabeth Morgan, well known environmental health person to give yet more bad news: Sierra County has to join the 21st Century, and it’s a scary, scary time to live. The County needs to get a grant to buy participation in the California Uniform Reporting System. Learn about it HERE. Long story short: it’s mandatory, it creates a shareable database, the information is not stored locally but is web-based, and it’s certain to one day become part of a uniform database on every person and every square inch of land. Let’s not blame Elizabeth. A supposed advantage is that emergency personnel will have up to the minute information during a crisis, but that probably isn’t true, because details of that useful level often aren’t updated, and it doesn’t take a genius fire fighter to know that Ed’s Propane is going to have propane. More likely, it is part of a web of gross detail data that will become more real to the system than what happens on the ground.
Next came cops. Probation Department CPO Bosworth, PO Henson, Detective Fisher and Sheriff John Evans appeared before the board asking for an unobtrusive vehicle, an enormous black SUV.
Detective Fisher described the bogeyman in the woods: pot growers. In the last two years 90,000 pot plants were seized. Anyway, this new gas guzzler is actually green because it allows more cops to respond at once, instead of everyone taking separate cars. We need more cops at once because it’s safer for the cops and for the possibly armed pot growers, he believes, if the cops get there and completely overwhelm and dominate whoever happens to be in the vicinity of a grow. He used the term “troops,” described heavily armed “bad guys” and just generally made a typical case for continuing the failed war on drugs. He did fail, however, to use the term “Mexican Drug Lords”. He had another scenario, though, of using the unmarked black SUV unobtrusively in camp grounds to reconnoiter the surrounding woods, which is more undercover, we guess, because instead of thinking these are cops, the other campers will simply think it’s a gay hunting club, where the guys get dressed in camo and walk in pairs in the woods, looking for deers.
If this was 1989, at the height of the drug war, this would have been an automatic go. But this is a different time, a time when we recognize that heavily armed cops sweeping in to dominate a situation over stimulate themselves and kill civilians. This is a time when we want the Forest Service, which has been so problematic to us, to handle its own problems. We also realize that if one modestly armed cop with a radio would go in and tell everyone they are under arrest, most people on site, who are usually minions and not big money makers, would flee, to show up later as labor to haul the stuff to the landfill.
Very often, when there is a firefight, cops shoot other cops; sending one cop in on a small motorbike would prevent that. Doubtful you’ll see that happen much.
The vehicle could be paid for by a grant; the county gets a bargain basement price on it through state purchasing. There isn’t much seizure associated with this kind of crime, so our protectors of the public peace can’t steal anything from the growers.
The board dug in its heels. The vehicle is simply too big. At a time when a lot of the county is praying the family jalopy will stay running, the cops and probation want to shuttle people from one side of the county to the other in a vehicle that is synonymous with the CIA, mobsters, and Black musicians.
Supervisor Peter Huebner allowed as how he always supported the police, but he can’t support this huge van.
Lee Adams said something similar to “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you can get what you need” (Rolling Stones, 1969). He pointed out that these are very hard times, everyone has to make do.
Dave Goicoechea went on record as saying he loves big trucks, and the more horsepower the better, but we have to make do with less. He encouraged them to come back with a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle.
Scott Schlefstein, former LE himself, supported the boys and their big black SUV, and he drives a big black truck himself. It gets great mileage, 24 miles to the gallon.
Supervisor Nunes suggested a Ford Explorer, and many Explorer owners in the room booed, but the fact is we get by with them, why should the cops have better?
John Evans took the podium to say that the vehicle was needed, that field work takes equipment, that the money was grant money and wouldn’t impact the general fund, and other things of a generally supportive nature.
Supervisor Goicoechea remarked that the Forest Service has an increasing problem, and Sierra County can’t make up the difference.
No one asked the obvious question: how can someone with 90,000 pot plants say they can’t afford to buy their own SUV?
CPO Bosworth, sensing the battle was lost, at least for now, agreed to go back for a less ostentatious vehicle, something between a Prius and the behemoth they asked for.
Stan Hardeman addressed the board with dismal news about funding for county schools. Secure Rural Schools money is drying up. Mr. Hardeman also thanked all the department heads for helping with the current situation.
Mr. Peachay is trying to save the old Dobbs mine from destruction by the FS by putting it on the Federal Register of Historic Buildings. Our hearts and prayers go with him, and with anyone who tries to preserve our heritage from the eradicating force that the Forest Service has become.
Dr. Carol Roberts presented Kevin Hickey, from Tahoe Adventures.
During the discussion it unfolded that the “adventure” services are provided to “improve self-esteem and team building skills” in teens. When Dr. Roberts came to the county, the program was poorly supervised, and represented a dangerous liability. The teens went into the wilderness without proper supervision, perhaps allowing them to have adventures which aren’t authorized. The new program, run by Tahoe Adventure Company (.com) is much safer and more professional. Dr. Roberts is pleased with the job they are doing.
County Council Jim Curtis, though, had looked at the contract and discovered things he didn’t care for, or that seemed excessive. For example, the company gets SIXTEEN THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS or as much as TWENTY TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS for taking people on Ropes courses and so on. Further, they want a $7,500 deposit.
Those who enjoy watching Mr. Curtis could see he was in great form at Tuesday’s meeting. He was formal, detail oriented, skilled with his language.
The young man from TAC was pretty good, too. He explained that the company was already giving the county a great deal, up to 42% discount, because they want repeat business. He pointed out that all these events require skilled people, because minors are often involved. He said there were permits to pay for, and lots and lots of insurance.
Mr. Curtis talked about the deposit, and it was the one place he lost points. You don’t need a deposit from the government, we’re a sure thing. Government can be counted on to pay bills. Given the current state of the state, it was hilarious.
Mr. Hickey must apparently watch the news, because he wasn’t buying it. Though he didn’t say so, an “IOU” voucher from a bankrupt state or county government won’t put beans on the table like real moolah. There are only so many days in summer, if for some reason the County chokes, TAC would be left with unfilled time and lounging employees. Mr. Curtis clearly lost on points, but then look who he was defending.
Chair Adams wanted Dr. Roberts to put the program out to bid. Probably the flying snow out the window caused him to forget it’s nearly summer now, not leaving much time.
Van Maddox, County risk manager, talked insurance. Supervisor Goicoechea asked how much they needed; Mr. Maddox essentially said there is never enough.
Supervisor Goicoechea said what many in the county think: it isn’t up to the County to entertain kids and make sure their “self-esteem” is topped off. This sounds like great fun at a very good price considering the market, but why do it at all? Because there are funds available from the state?
But Supervisor Nunes felt things were going the wrong way and motioned to approve, which everyone agreed to.
We’ll wade in the water with Brother Goicoechea. Sure, such things are great, but you know what else is great, builds self-esteem and promotes team building? Work. Get a job, and since there are no jobs for people with no skills, volunteer and get some skills. Why should the county run such a program at all? Where in the responsibilities of government does “self-esteem” appear? Can I get an “amen”?
The Loyalton City Council appeared in the persons of Craig McHenry and James Beard, accompanied by citizen Kim Turner. They want to kill the contract they had using parks money and put forth a new project: a gazebo, somewhere sheltered from the sun and rain and wind that people could meet and have a small event. Sounds like a great idea, but it’s late in the game.
Further, it would require contract monitoring by County Public Works, where staff is already busy with 10 projects. Tim Beals, Director of Public Works said it would cost $3-5,000. Mr. Beals allowed that they could probably do the project, even though time was running out on the funds, but they needed to have proper control over the project.
Again at the top of his game County Council Curtis pointed out that the county was making a donation to the city of five grand, and the that Loyalton City Council would have to acknowledge that and agree to accept liability. Council Members McHenry and Beard assured him they would take the message to the council.
Director of Vanishing Resources Tim Beals addressed the Board saying that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is stealing Sierra County water, but since this isn’t news, we won’t report on it. Suffice to say that the water purveyors of the Tahoe Basin are trying to make up water diversions with Sierra County Water. Tim Beals, hopeful dreamer that he is, believes Sierra County should have a place at the table, since 25% of that water is Sierra County origin water.
The Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council addressed the Board. Mike Freschi and Cindy Noble, the operations manager and executive director respectively, gave the Board an update on SCFSWC activities.
The Council is moving toward the Sierra County Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update, which, when finished, will be integrated into the General Plan. The Council has created maps which were printed by the USFS in Sierraville. The maps are a way to track the continuing effort of hazard fuel removal by USFS, the Fire Safe Council and private landowners, and to identify Wild Land Urban Interface areas.
Upcoming projects include the Highway 49 Corridor, with the most over vegetated sections getting priority. The Council has applied for grants to do the Western portion of the county, and to have an additive effect on USFS thinning done near Loyalton Pines.
They’ve also sold 90 potentially life saving signs.
To learn more, and to buy a sign, go HERE.
Good Luck until next time!