Answers to additional questions, posted 3/10/10
The difficult debate about costs and use of the Loyalton Pool should have been conducted in the community with the issue ON THE BALLOT. I'm in complete agreement with Pat Whitley on this. The people of Sierra County are quite capable of deciding what is best for ourselves. Everyone had a valid argument: costs, maintenance, profits, re-model, money, taxes and community value. All of those concerns, debates, and questions should have been discussed during an open, free election.
I quote James Madison on the property rights issue: "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses."
The founding fathers felt strongly about the ownership of property and considered it a fundamental right of which without, we would not be a free society.
I feel the same way and I'm a strong supporter of private property rights.
Candidates for District 5 Supervisor were provided a number of questions by the Prospect.
Here is the first response, from Scott Schlefstein:
A. One of particular interest to the District 5 supervisor is the water system at Sierra Brooks. The water supply is not sufficient for current use patterns.
What would be your solution to the SB water problem? How would you fund it?
First of all, let me say thanks to the Prospect for being on top of local issues and keeping Sierra County informed in the pages of your online newspaper. I think your reporting is a value and service to this community.
One of the reasons I am here today is the Sierra Brooks water system. It was this issue which caught my attention and focused my interest on the way Sierra County government is operating. Was it efficient, respectful and accountable to the residents the way it should be?
After calling the county in 2006 on the issue, it was recommended to me that I attend the Sierra Brooks water committee meetings to get involved. From that point on, I attended meetings, read the engineering reports, and quizzed the engineering firm’s representative along with our two current supervisors on the proposed water system fix, as well as how it would be funded.
In the engineering report are several options on how to fix the water system. They give us estimates on solutions ranging from a $90,000+ dollar old tank refurbish and valve system, so two tanks can be utilized for potable water usage, to the "Cadillac" plan on the table now. The "Cadillac" plan is a two-zone system where a new water tank would be placed near Antelope Road on Fish & Game land. The way I understand it, this plan requires permission from F&G, a low interest USDA loan which would be paid for over 40 years and would raise our water bill to only an additional $23 or less dollars a month. I was assured this fee wouldn’t go above $23 dollars. The only way this fee could be raised in a foreseeable future, would be to put increases to a full vote by the water district users (Sierra Brooks residents). This is the insurance to us tax payers, that we wouldn’t see surprise hikes on our water bill at the whim of any future government desires. I think this keeps government accountable. There is also a $500,000 dollar grant available if we pursue this particular path. The system would be updated, new pipes installed, a two-zone system would be in place and additional water tank would insure constant water supply and pressure to our homes and for fire protection as well as the ability to service the system without shutting us off.
This is only one option and it would have to meet the approval of Sierra Brooks residents. There are other options on fixing this problem which would be cheaper and there is also the idea of forming our own private water district and going that direction, but it would require starting all over again and doing it on our own without the county’s help.
At some point, hopefully in the very near future, we as a neighborhood have to decide and get it done once and for all. I would like to hear from the people on what path suits our community best, because if I’m elected that will be my job – to listen to what the people want.
B. The Loyalton Landfill site is one of the few such sites remaining in California. The June, 2009 solid waste study indicated several key issues including:
1. the need to meet AB 939 solid waste diversion goals immediately
2. a budget shortfall of $12,000
3. the closure of the landfill site in eight years
4. the likely closure of transfer stations and shift to mandatory pickup.
If elected, how would you propose to deal with the pending solid waste crisis?
AB 939 is the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 which places mandates on local jurisdictions for waste diversion of as much as 50%. In 2002 Sierra County asked for a reduction in this diversion percentage by petitioning the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Rural counties/communities can seek this reduction due to factors such as geographical issues, unemployment conditions, and general economic problems due to the nature of a rural community.
The State of California conducted some drilling-soil tests in our un-lined landfill. The soil is clay and held up well without the required liner all these years, however since the drilling and testing occurred, the State has found some problems. I’m told the approximate time frame for closing the landfill is around 8 years. Sierra County cannot afford the millions of dollars to install a liner in the landfill, so unless we find these funds to install one between now and then, we may have to close the site.
Another policy-related issue I want to talk about is that the landfill can and should check Sierra County residency for allowance into the site for dumping. There is no reason employees can’t check proof of residency before allowing customers through the gate. We already stop vehicles for load checking, so what is one more safeguard to insure our landfill is not being used by non-residents who don’t pay taxes to support solid waste expenses and upkeep. Again, this has a lot to do with accountability to the tax payer here.
The budget shortfall of $12,000 you ask about, can be fixed by cutting that amount directly out of the Miscellaneous line in the Solid Waste Operations Budget which is $13,548. If you can’t tell us what your spending the money on, then why is it so important that it causes solid waste to fail "budgetarily" at the end of the year? We have to work harder to cut expenses, taxes, fees and the burden on tax payers.
Transfer station closures are something I would have to take a serious look at, but at some point due to financial issues we may have to go toward a mandatory pickup system like they have in Washoe County. We will have to cross that bridge when we get there.
B:1 If elected, how would you propose to deal with the pending solid waste crisis?
My job as a county supervisor would be to find ways to manage the crisis, whether that be to petition the State for an alternative solution, find a way to pay for the liner in the next decade or prepare the community for the closure. I would like to see the landfill stay open.
C. The economic depression, resulting falling timber revenues, and the crisis at the state has forced difficult decisions on the supervisors. A large budget item is personnel. All employers have to balance the need for qualified employees with the need to pay as little as is feasible. What suggestions do you have for meeting that balance with County employees?
Yes, there is definitely a balance between qualified employees and the need to pay less in our struggling rural county. Balance is the key word, because if you look at the $3.6 million dollars in a certain Sierra County budget, we have to ask ourselves why $1.9 million of that is payroll in a county of 3, 000 residents. That would not be a balanced figure in private industry. The reality of our current economic climate, and the size of our county is not the kind of reality which fosters super high salaries of employees who reach a certain seniority. We need to come to terms with that or we will never get our house in order. There must be a way to balance payroll and the need to be responsible to our tax payers, as well as State/County budgetary shortfalls.
D. The supervisors have to travel a great deal, and most often they do so out of pocket. The travel is to take part in groups that support rural counties, like RCRC, biomass groups, QLG and so on. Those networks give Sierra County clout greater than its small size. The supervisors approved a salary increase some time ago but it has never been collected. Would you be able to travel to county membership groups?
This is a great question because I don’t think the community at large really understands how much time, work and travel is involved in the business of a productive county supervisor. Often out-of-pocket expenses are not covered by the county.
I would do my best to be as involved as possible because RCRC and the other rural community related organizations are important to our county. As a private citizen, I have to cover my own costs of travel when I travel to meetings, and volunteer time at the Economic Committee for ideas on how to improve our economy. I do this because I think it’s important and it is a service to our community. The reason I’m running in the first place, is to serve the people. I will stay involved and stay active, yes.
E. One of the most important, and riskiest, roles the Board of Supervisors has is as mediator in land use decisions. The supervisors balance the needs of residents and communities with the environment and state and federal requirements. What philosophy would you use to guide your land use goals?
My philosophy is to be on the side of landowners. Founder James Madison made clear that it is government’s role to not only insure property rights, but to uphold and support them. Sometimes certain "environmental" organizations over-reach, as is the case recently with a particular activist group that has been infringing on property owners wanting to build homes or divide their own ranch land. Of course we need to be responsible with the 1-2% buildable land we have in Sierra County. We also have to remember that we live in America where private property is a fundamental right. Property owners, should have full access to land-use decisions on their own land – especially when the land is originally zoned for a related, specific ability. Also, the CEQA should not be used as a weapon against Sierra County residents either - and that is what has been happening around here in the last few years.
In addition, I’m hoping the water set-back issue before the Board of Supervisors can be decided in order to codify existing common law practice and keep the process reasonable. I believe the definition will insure fairness and respects any and all relevant interests.
F. The state and federal governments both have bills moving forward that would impact surface water rights and users. What ideas do you have to protect the few remaining "county of origin" rights?
We need to defeat these types of agendas, bond measures and legislation. This is a direct threat to our private property rights and is completely un-American. Elections have consequences and as we can see over the last year, we have a stream of threats to our liberties, rights and values. In order to protect our "county of origin" rights, we need to insure our state representatives understand our will, and other groups who promote disabling these rights must be defeated through grass-roots efforts.
G. What do you see as the county's best resource, and how should the county develop that resource?
That depends on whether we are talking about goods or services. Since the timber industry has been decimated, we should look at tourism which is a combination of the two. We have a beautiful county and people come here to snowmobile, fish, hunt, visit, camp, boat, and other recreational things. I think we should promote that through our chambers. If we can get past some of our issues, such as seasonal hotel closures and capacity limits, Forest Service restrictions, a neglected Loyalton Main Street, and other logistical matters, we could vastly improve our tourism dollars. If we take the Prospect’s "Sierra County India" idea, I would go one step further and try to get some small industry into our county. As an example: call center or phone bank where employment of local people (who are the resource), would benefit the community greatly. We have to stop placing obstacles in the path of small business. It’s time for some common sense around here.
Finally, what experience do you have that makes you the best candidate for this office?
The most important reason I’m the best candidate for this office, is because I will listen to the people of District 5. Voters will have a voice in the Sierra County "beltway" of policy decisions. It is time for the "regular guy" to get in there and try to make a difference.
I have been on the brunt side of bad policy, and over-reaching local government. Government doesn’t exist to step on the tax payer – it exists to serve the tax payer. This is the reason I want to be county supervisor. District 5 deserves a positive and productive future.
As a "self starter" and independent thinker, I operated a small business for almost 14 years. Two of 2010 judge candidates and one sitting judge were clients at one time or another through the years. I worked for the State of California Department of Justice, County of Plumas, County of Placer, and almost all of our California counties as a private contractor for legal services. I have a good, solid knowledge base of how business and small government works. While I would have a lot to learn, my experiences would help me understand how to better cope with problems and find solutions.
I have lived in Sierra Brooks for 9 years with my wife Nancy. We have a son and daughter who are both students in Loyalton and also we participate in community sports programs as well as attend the Loyalton Assembly of God Church.
This community is special in many ways. We are a big family here in Sierra County, and while there are times we don’t agree on things, I can see the true heart of our community. We are honored to live here and to be a part of this beautiful place.
I also wanted to tell you that this month I have a novel coming out called The Dream Tide which is a story set in "Smith’s Creek" (Loyalton), Truckee and Blackrock desert areas. We look forward to seeing it on book shelves and in book store websites. So far, one book signing scheduled, and we plan on something here in Sierra County.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and share my thoughts!
Scott A. Schlefstein
2010 Candidate for Sierra County Supervisor, District 5.