The Board of Supervisors met in Downieville on Tuesday, March 5 and what was thought to be an easy, short agenda had some exciting moments, and it didn’t take long for those moments to arrive.
Supervisor Huebner, Schlefstein, Roen, Beard, Auditor Maddox and Editor Russell (back to camera as usual)
Chair Scott Schlefstein called the meeting to order and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, no one took advantage of the Public Comment Opportunity. Under Committee Reports Supervisor Paul Roen gave a brief account of meeting with District Ranger Quentin Youngblood and a FS Biologist. The Board moved on to Department Manager Reports and Director of Health and Humans Services (H&HS) announced the east side Mental Health Psychiatrist was retiring and the county needs to find someone to contract with for the future. So everything was quiet and orderly and they moved on to the USFS Update.
A quiet, orderly, unassuming woman stepped to the podium and announced herself as Kathy Van Zuuk, a Community Liason and Botanist for Tahoe National Forest (TNF).
TNF Community Liason Kathy VanZuuk
Van Zuuk said that District Ranger Genice Froelich was unavailable and had sent her to give the report. The report was 1) Robert Stuler has signed the relinquish documents to the USFS for his cabin on FS property and the cabin will be used as a training burn with the cooperation of DVFD and USFS.
2) The Peachay Mining Claim Cabin will be destroyed. This brought on quite a bit of dissension as various Supervisors and the audience muttered about the USFS abuse of power and wondering why this decision was made prior to the determination of the historical significance of the site which was established prior to the existence of the FS. (see Peachay letter here: Peachay letter)
3) The Barbara Foust Claim was going to be addressed including occupancy trespassing. Which quickly tipped the issue to the boiling point as this was the first mention of the issue. Van Zuuk said a letter had been sent to Supervisor Lee Adams, who was not present during the Board meeting as he was in Washington, DC with other RCRC representatives meeting with representives about Secure Rural Schools funding, no one else had seen the letter and asked when it had been sent and she replied sometime after Feb 25, right around the time Adams had left on the trip. Lot’s of discussion bordering on anger ensued about District Ranger Froelich’s cowardly act of sending Van Zuuk into the fray knowing the news would not be taken well. Don Russell wanted to know why the County hadn’t been consulted as had been promised by the FS after the Nixon Mine debacle in Sierra City. He said, ” because you can doesn’t mean you should”, in referring to cabin and historical site destruction by the FS. Tim Holabird, District Rep for Congressman LaMalfa referenced the USFS actions as “an abuse of authority by an agency out of control.” An audience member mentioned the displacement of people living on these various sites an it was just a wrong action by the FS.
Van Zuuk maintained her composure and said the FS was continuing to work on a Communications Plan during wildfires in the county, still addressing issues at the Kentucky Mine in Sierra City and expanding the parking area at Fiddle Creek Campground. After her report there was a break and both Supervisors and audience members apologized to Van Zuuk for having to experience anger that Ranger Froelich should have been there to address. More than one thought it was a deliberate attempt by Froelich to distance herself from the “firestorm of dissent”.
And then the Board Meeting began: Director Janice Maddox discussed the portential impacts of Healthcare Reform on Sierra County H&HS and it was referred to H&S Committee.
A Professional services agreement with Priscilla Russell for the completion of H&HS Policies and Procedures was approved.
Update on the Loyalton Skilled Nursing Facility possibility of closure was given. Supervisor Jim Beard said the total job loss would be 40, in addition to having to find other facilities to lodge our seniors in need of a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Chair Schlefstein said he had contacted Senator Ted Gaines, and Beard said he had called Assemblymember Louis Alejo, sponsor of AB900 even though it was “painful calling a Democrat”, forgetting for a moment that Supervisor positions are non-partisan.
A discussion about creating a a H&HS community consortium was civil. A letter from C. Ingrid Larson requesting non-profits be exempted from having to subscribe to solid waste collection service had been pulled from the Correspondence and added to the regular agenda. The discussion included County Counsel Jim Curtis who suggested, “just on legal grounds and Prop 26, the difference between taxation and fees is tightened up, and they have to maintain structure and not invite dissension” and the Board just can’t make those kind of exemptions.
Another letter pulled was from Sheriff John Evans regarding assault weapons ban of 2013 and the dismantling of the 2nd Amendment. Chairman Scott Schlefstein said he pulled the letter just because he wanted to commend the Sheriff for writing such a letter and “putting it out there.” Supervisors Beard and Roen agreed.
The Auditor, Treasurer/Tax Collector requested a letter in support of Assembly Bill 182 Capital Appreciation Bond tightening rules on issuing these types of bonds. Roen moved and Beard 2nd and it was approved.
An update and discussion on Secure Rural Schools Funding and report of the Quincy Library Group meeting included the news that Congressman Doug LaMalfa was committed to the QLG and SRS and that Supervisor Lee Adams was presently in Washington.DC with RCRC lobbying for continuing SRS funding for rural counties.
Supervisor Adams in Washington. DC
Presentation of Bids and adoption of a resolution awarding a public works contract to the lowest qualified bidder for the Ridge Road Rehabilitiation Project in Alleghany resulted in 8 close bids ranging from 1.9 million to 2.2 million and it was awarded to Knight River Construction. The firm who did the Highway 49 surfacing last year. Sierra County residents will be happy to welcome the construction firm’s return they did good work and helped the local economy. Contract Administrator Brian Davey said the project will be 100% federally funded including a $210,000 bid for the construction inspection and materials testing for the project by Omni-Means Contractors.
A presentation was made by Loyalton resident Don Yegge, a veteran suggesting that the County of Sierra might be well served by having a Veterans Service Officer or joining in with a nearby county who does have an established VSO position and program. According to statistics provided by the California Department of Veteran Affairs Sierra County has 410 resident veterans. A good showing in a county of 3500 population. Various scenarios and logistics were discussed along with the stringent requirements by the CDVA regarding confidentiality and programs. Tom Holabird from Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s office promised to work with Yegge on possible solutions and report to the Board in a month.
Tim Holabird and Don Yegge confer in the lobby of the Courthouse after meeting with the Supervisors
The following picture says a lot:
Water dispenser and bottles waiting to be returned to vendor.
This wasn’t a topic of conversation during the Board of Supervisors but it was an act of the Board a few months ago saying that water dispensers and bottled water in the courthouse and offices of county workers were no longer being provided in cost cutting measures. The program originally was one designed by a Risk Manager and Safety Officer for the county. In addition to providing cold water to employees it cut down on loss of employee hours due to sick leave via no longer sharing drinking fountains frequently a source of transferred viruses in the workplace. It was a strange cost saving as all employees, department managers and Board of Supervisors benefited from the water dispensers and the cost was borne by funding from the Trindel Insurance Safety Program rebates. It isn’t apparent if the funding is now being spent for employee benefit or in some other endeavors, at any rate it is just another example of how little the administration values the health of employees.