Board Notes 120611

Board Notes 120611

News and analysis with a twist of Fringe


The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session today.  All supervisors were present.


Several times during the meeting a disheveled man took to the podium.  He was arrogant, rude, opinionated, and interrupted the supervisors at will.  In my own defense, these were moments when the Board was clearly about to veer off the road, and I felt someone should say something.  I want to assure bystanders that, like most of the members of the Board, I am continuing to take my meds.  Aaaaany way…


Supervisor Peter Huebner made the motion to pull items from closed session to open session.  He maintained there was no reason for the Board to exclude the public from the discussion.  Thanks to his motion, read about the politics and hazards of appointing an interim Director of Health and Human Services, below. 

Genice Froelich, District Ranger for the Yuba District of the Forest Service addressed the Board.  Everyone was very civil.  Chair Lee Adams asked Ranger Froelich for a confab on the continuing problem of Forest Service Travel Management, the CHP, and so on.

Sheriff John Evans did a pretty good job of admonishing Mountain Messenger Editor Don Russell for a very funny article Russell wrote about a reverse 911 call Evans decided to make about a missing teen.  Evans made several good points about how Russell should have contacted him with questions prior to writing the article, but none of that detracts from the article’s point that we live in a nanny state that considers young adults to be children.  The article is such a knee slapper we stole it, find it HERE.  Still, it is clear that Evans was doing what a nanny cop does in this strange and distorted America.  Everyone is glad the 16 year old tyke in question returned safely, since we can laugh about the incident, which would have been harder to do if said truant had washed up downstream somewhere.  But, he didn’t.  Not to be left out, Director of Doing Good Timmy Beals chipped in that the sher’f had done the right thing.  He’s probably right in some sense, but Russell is still ahead on points, and on his steadfast insistence that life is a crapshoot and the government can’t change that by spending “Homeland Security” dollars.


Director of Impending Expense Tim Beals broke the news to the Board that, after careful analysis, the dump is “still breathing” but is going to have to close in 4 years, rather than 6.  It seems clear to the biased bystander that the state is using air and water quality boogies to close one of the last landfills in the state.  A recent aerial flight over the landfill, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, revealed that the dump is influencing more area than was anticipated.  Director Beals told the Board that a test revealed the landfill might be a source of “creeping methane.”  Due his unhealthy habit of working through lunch instead of going to the park for Tai Chi, Beals himself has been identified as a source of creeping methane. 

Let’s laugh about it while we can, because the grim reality is it’s about to become more expensive to get rid of solid waste in Sierra County, which will mean more junk in yards, more stuff being dumped in the woods, and more bureaucrats.  Beals told the Board that the imposed regulations on the landfill are “burdensome beyond belief.” 

The County Solid Waste Proposal has been prepared and is available for review by the public at the Planning Department.


The Sierra Butte Trails Stewardship presented a large check for three large to the Board of Supervisors.  Birthday boy Peter Huebner took the big check, which will be returned to the county fund from which it was drawn.  The money was for snow removal so the Downieville Classic bike race could take place earlier this year.  The Stewardship repaid the funds and used an additional $30,000 in funds and volunteer time to clear snow for the event.  The race, which will happen closer to August next year, is a major draw to the area.  Race coordinator Craig Threshie told the Board the group had been spending $4300 for Forest Service raptor studies each year, and he hoped the study for August would be less.  If the group held the race in September, families would have a harder time to come.  We’re wondering how to get the Forest Service to do a merchant study, to see what impact their efforts to protect our public lands are having on the people who live here.  The Board thanked the Stewardship for all the benefit they provide to the community, and for the money, which they are a little short on.


Happy birthday Peter, but the check is for the County.


Superintendent of Schools Stan Hardeman appeared to tell the Board that no one knows how much money the feds will cut loose for Secure Rural Schools, money the feds agreed to pay rural counties for the loss in income on forest service lands.  The schools, which came begging to property owners a little while back, are supposed to have surplus.  Supervisor Dave Goicoechea asked the obvious question: “when do we say ‘there’s no more money’; at what point do we have a plan B?”  Hardeman, like the polished bureaucrat that he is, assured Goicoechea we aren’t going to bus kids to Portola, “that isn’t my philosophical base.”  Here’s a head’s up, Mr. Hardeman: you can be replaced.  No one wants to bus kids or curtail school curriculum, but what we most care about is that local kids get the best education we can contrive to give them.  If we have to bus some kids (we are already busing some kids) somewhere, and it’s the best opportunity we can give them, that’s what we should do.  Here’s your new philosophy: you work for the kids.  Hardeman did get some things right; California no longer takes care of its schools.


Sheriff Evans told the Board about a recent jail inspection.  With the possibility of more state prison draftees being returned to the county, the jail is a little bit more critical.  Of the 120 measures, the jail passed 114.  The remaining had to do with staffing and exercise area.  These are problems which could be solved with money, and the SO has a little bit, but everyone wonders if this is the best way to spend it.  The Sheriff noted that a couple of vehicles have over 175,000 miles on them and need to be replaced. Supervisor Schleftstein noted that there are several unsecure “contraband” locations in the back of the jail, so if you’re hoping to get your inmate some pot or a couple of Penthouse magazines for Christmas, that might be the way to go.  Eventually, the area at the “sally port”, which was built in 1952, will have to be made more secure.  Clearly, prisoners today are much more mean and dangerous than they were in ’52, or maybe people shot escaping prisoners back then so none escaped.  We do know, as the Sheriff told us, that his deputies can’t shoot a fleeing prisoner today, not even with a tazer.  Oh, well. 


The Board discussed the interim Director of Human Services.  In brief: the position should be filled by a qualified person with at least a Master’s degree in Social Work and preferably a license to counsel, and 5 years of experience.  The current assistant director has none of that.  Still, Rhonda Grandi has been at the helm, doing her best under the circumstances.  The Board is making all possible haste to find a qualified director for HHS. If you know of a qualified mental health or social services professional who is ready for the challenge of service in a small community, refer them to our front page or to the Sierra County Home Page.


Director of For Your Own Good Tim Beals broke the news to the Board about the new building codes.  Building codes and the need for building permits are, of course, the most blatant violation of our right to live and be self-sufficient and a clear violation of the intent of the term “pursuit of happiness.”  The rationale is that codes and permits are for our own good, that we are safer because of codes.  My response is that the simplest farmer in the most primitive land is allowed to live in a mud hut; only in California does the government make you homeless for your own good. 

The Board of Supervisors has very little power over the building code.  What power they had, they tried to exercise with prudence.  The Board and Director Beals discussed how large a shed can be without getting a building permit.  If there is no 110 volt electricity, it can currently be 120 square feet.  A big concern is snow load.  The Board decided a person can have an agricultural building on General Forest and Ag land, but not on TPZ.  They worried about water in barns: as long as it doesn’t connect to a potty or kitchen sink, it’s probably OK.  Solar panels, not on the roof, are OK unless they hook to an inverter system and then to a 110 AC system.  We can have a little light, but not a lot of light.  They struggled to give us a little reasonable freedom, but not the kind of freedom a simple farmer in a primitive land might have.  They refused to listen to reason from the disheveled man at the podium.  Director Beals worried about shipping containers, which are temporary buildings but which can be made to be quite nice.  Clearly, no one is allowed to have something that is quite nice unless they’ve given money to the County.  The snow load on a shipping container is about a zillion pounds. Mr. Beals showed the Board some huge books; part of the new building code.  There are many more such books, constituting about five feet of otherwise useable shelf space.  The code covers such things as outside landscaping and green building methods, all of it for our own freaking good.


The Board discussed Aquatic Invasive Species, a problem which threatens our lakes and rivers.  Bivalves, weeds, and icky mosses top the list of plants and animals that could clog our waterways as they have done in the Great Lakes, and even the Thames River.  As lakes around Tahoe get inspected in a complicated scheme to keep AIS out, there are reasonable fears that our Sierra County lakes will get more traffic as a result.  Something has to be done, something expensive and discouraging to tourists. The Supervisors consider this too important an issue to ignore, but not too important to dump on someone else.  The hit should fall on the California Department of Fish and Game, or some other state entity, but instead it is being left to locals to protect their watersheds.  As Dave Goicoechea said, “AIS is the flavor of the month.  It’s something no one understands, but everybody wants to do something about."  Likely we’ll wind up under the jurisdiction of a “regional” body.


The Board entertained a discussion on the Fire Fee.  This “fee” instituted by Governor General Brown, taxes rural residents for Cal Fire.  The money would go for education and hazard fuel removal.  The fee is a tax by another name.  Supervisor Bill Nunes asked what the greatest risk to the state’s water supply was?  Wildfire.  Who loses when the forest burns up?  Wood and paper product users.  Who loses when the lakes and rivers are destroyed by fire?  Recreational users.  Since all these people benefit by keeping the woods free from fire, why does the burden fall only on the people who live here?  That’s a damn good question.


My notes end here.


Good luck!






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