Board Notes March

Board Notes 030210

Find the packet HERE and at the Loyalton Library

The Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session in Downieville Tuesday 2 March. Supervisors Adams, Huebner, Nunes and Chairperson Goicoechea were present; Supervisor Whitley was unable to attend.

Editorial Honesty: though arriving at the meeting well rested, comfortably fed and chipper, within just a few items a very heavy "meeting torpor" settled on this reporter. Being neither wake nor sleep, this state is how bears survive the winter. It is a mystical state, one reporters often have to resort to strong drink to achieve, and it allows the true initiate to perceive truth where others see only artifice. Like an extended DVD, this editorial will shift to Torpor Mode when appropriate.

Under public comments, Editor of the Mountain Messenger, Don Russell rose to deliver an eloquent complaint to the East Side supervisors. He pointed out that in Haiti and Chile transport planes of commodities are arriving, but here in Sierra County the East Side supervisors wouldn’t be bothered to bring donuts from Vicki’s Blue Moon in Loyalton. He asked that the Eastern Supes be censured. Goicoechea, the supervisor who drove right past Vicki's to get to the meeting, (and the Blue Moon is open early) accepted responsibility. "A man of your bulk… knows donuts". He promised to bring fresh donuts next time.


Vicki’s Blue Moon Bakery
700 Main St. Loyalton (530) 993-4634

Under more serious business, Chair Goicoechea noted that the SPI cogen plant in Loyalton had been cited for air quality violations. This is a serious complaint because the cogen plant is the East Side’s only real prayer for a rapid increase in employment. The dreams of some there billow with the steam from a locomotive but fail to see the real benefit in steam from the cogen plant. Loyalton, blessed as it is by being in a nook in the south East Side of the valley, is famous for an inversion layer which can be easily seen eighteen miles away. The preferred heat source in the town is the wood stove, and rumor has it Jim Beckwourth’s original stove is still in use in Loyalton. Still, the cogen plant, which is directly responsible for about 25 jobs and is peripherally responsible for 80 to 100 more in summer, is identified as the source of the problem. Again some with long memories can recall when the burner at the mill belched every manner of particulate, but the black streaks it produced were recognized as pennies from heaven. The cogen plant is many times cleaner, and is overall cleaner than a coal fired plant.

Dr. Carol Roberts took the podium to report that the subsidized jobs program is putting the county back to work. Fourteen applicants have signed up, and 19 employers are seeking help. So far there have been seven matches, which is a statistically significant increase in the flow of money to the county.

County Assessor/IT person Laura Marshall reported that there was cell reception in the courthouse; indeed, during the course of the meeting two non-attentive persons interrupted everything with incoming cell phone calls (I almost wet myself, I’d never gotten a call in Downieville before).

Tom Quinn, locally famous as the Supervisor of the Tahoe National Forest, took the stand to introduce the supplemental draft environmental impact statement (SDEIS) for changes to the national forest travel management plan on the national forest transportation system. For the whole story, go here. The long and short of it: while inventorying all the many roads people have created and used in the forest they got confused over a few. They tried to please everyone, but there is no way to please the people at headquarters who determined there would be no more unleashed use of roads, and the taxpayers who use the roads, and the enviros, and the old timers in the county. They did a fair job, but even at that, it isn’t up to Tom Quinn, he just makes a recommended plan and someone farther up the food chain decides.

S,TNF Quinn turned the proceedings over to Dave Arrowsmith who explained, clearly for the millionth time, what was gained and what was lost.

Supervisor Quinn came to the back of the room and sat by this reporter. After a moment, he thrust out his hand and said, "we haven’t met, I’m Will Farrell." This reporter at one point said, "thanks for coming back to the county," and he said something like "Oh, sure, blah blah" but what I heard was "I make almost $180,000 bucks a year including benefits. I can fire more people than live in this podunk county. And, I’m a foot taller than most of the people in the room. Will Farrell wishes he were me." But, that isn’t what he said, though.

The issues involved legal right-of-way, jurisdiction and previous NEPA closures. It’s been a very big task, one that was mandated from on high, which TNF have done their best with. The FS has held several public hearings on this, but of significance is that we’re really talking about the crumbs here, the rest of it, including parking one car’s length off of a road or traveling over a closed road, which now becomes CROSS COUNTRY travel.

The Board heard information about the county’s efforts toward the mental health services act. Kara Yegge provided information about county services, and two residents stood to speak for their experiences with County mental health. They gave testimony to the benefits they’ve enjoyed and the positive effect it has had on their lives and those of their families. Their testimony was compelling, and they encouraged the board to continue to support mental health services in the county.

Director of Human Services Dr. Carol Roberts talked about mental health in the county. When people lose jobs, they can lose their bearings and they often benefit from a little guidance. There are many reasons someone might benefit talking with a mental health provider. The department can also hook people up with some kinds of financial help.

The Board voted three to one to allow the use of funds available for the purchase of a location to serve as a "stigma free" source of mental health services, a more comfortable and less formal source of help.

The board took care of business, including approving the inclusion of a piece of private property in the middle of the street in Sierra City into the county’s property.

The discussions began to drone, and the torpor set in. Several items were discussed, but only warranted a check mark in my notes. I began to breathe very, very deeply. Bleary eyed, I looked at Jan Buck for a clue of what was happening. Her head was bowed, her shoulders moved slowly. Don Russell had laid his head down on his keyboard.

And then the board began a discussion about whether the road crew, just the guys who go out and do the work, who have their own funding stream, and their own work requirements, shouldn’t have their own bargaining unit. They thought they did, do they or not?

At one point, in the distance, I heard Tim Beals saying "they can’t go home and get drunk, because they might get a call and have to go out. They could ignore the call but they don’t." They can’t go home to get drunk? I wept softly at the idea, and through my tears it seemed Russell was crying too.

Chairperson Goicoechea agreed that the morale of the road crew is too important to ignore, he seemed to look out the window to see if the rain was tuning to snow.

As nearly as I could tell, the Board decided to do something about this later, in Loyalton. It joined the list of things best dealt with by delay or procrastination.

Van Maddox, county auditor, explained that the county had gotten a second "ding" because, he explained, money that was supposed to be entered in one year came late and was entered in a subsequent year. The error wasn’t important, but it did mean that if it happened again the state was going to baby-sit us.

What? What happened? It sounded like he said something like "we had the money, we knew where the money was, it isn’t like I bought a hot tub or anything. Anyway, if we do it again they’re going to take our checkbook away or something." He didn’t say that, though.

The auditor described the county’s situation. Sales tax revenues are down, but not as bad as feared, and will still approach $100,000, down about $26,000 from last year. Also Rural Law Enforcement is down $63,000. Property tax and supplemental taxes are down $69,000. Interest is down $60,000, and planning fees are down.

Everything is less than we thought except the bills, just like most families in the county experience.

The rest, though, was good news.

County Council Jim Curtis was rehired without much fuss. Earlier in the day he’d allowed how his job is determining the "worst case scenario". No one disagreed.

No one asked him why he doesn’t live in the county, though I heard several people think it. Fact is, professional people can’t afford to live in the county, particularly if their spouses work in another city. If the question is that important, the county should be willing to pay a premium for that, for example, provide a house free. We aren’t likely to do that, and it isn’t legal or fair to require Curtis to live in the county, so no one asked him out loud, but I heard people think it.

Then, some other stuff happened, I can’t read my notes, which are all "toporized". Then…

At long last, the meeting was over.

I was too torpored to drive back. I had to visit with friends to sober up. Too many cops had seen me at the meeting, I was bound to be given a sobriety test; driving under the influence of the Board of Supervisors-- it wasn’t a chance I could take again.





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