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Amador County – During an Amador County budget discussion Tuesday, The Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff discussed areas of potential reduction, management and comparing the department to other counties.

Supervisor John Plasse said back when Teri Daly was County Administrative Officer, Amador County Sheriff’s Department was seen as kind of a training ground, and experienced deputies would leave for other counties. He said Daly did a study of deputy payrolls and compensation rates, comparing other counties to boost local salaries. Plasse asked if they should not also compare management and operation costs with other counties.

Sheriff Martin Ryan agreed, but said it may be hard to compare. Supervisor Brian Oneto said Calaveras County has one incorporated town, while Amador has three cities, each with its own police department.

Ryan said it was not what we want but what we need. He said: “I am not an empire builder” and he is comfortable with where we are and wouldn’t be comfortable with a reduction of oversight.

Oneto asked if Ryan had considered a reduction in upper management. Ryan said his department was pretty streamlined and he wouldn’t ask for a reduction in management.

Supervisor Ted Novelli said “your upper management does jump in the ditches.” Oneto said the sheriff’s department has the big dollars, but the road department is also important to public safety, and when roads are not made correctly, lives are in danger. Ryan said deputies take away civil liberties in arrests and carry deadly weapons which they have used, and he did not want to take away the important oversight his management has.

Forster said he was surprised to see Undersheriff Jim Wegner making a field call in his district. Ryan said on Monday, April 30, Wegner was part of the Willow Springs shooting response. Wegner said he was headed home and came back to help because he knew they were short-handed.

Ryan said shots were fired, a man was down and two deputies responded where seven people also arrived in two vehicles. When the suspect came out of a garage with a rifle in his hand, they talked him out of the weapon. Ryan said during the incident there was also a stabbing reported, and the response time was 2 hours.

Ryan said CHP is down nine positions. They do get mutual aid backup from city police departments, when they are available, but you will not see them going up to Pioneer.

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Amador County – Amador County Supervisors last week discussed pending litigation in the state Legislature.

Supervisor Vice Chairman Richard Forster reported from a recent board meeting of the Regional Council of Rural Counties, now known as the Rural County Representatives of California.

Forster said RCRC discussed legislation that is bad for rural counties. He said AB2345 to create a “California Fairs Network Commission” was seeking to transition away from state money for fairs. Forster said Amador County Fair CEO Troy Bowers told him “this is already off the table,” and instead, there is a move to put county fairs under the auspices of the California State Fair system.

The Western Fairs Association and California Fairs Alliance were backing Senate Bill 1454, by Senator Doug LaMalfa. WFA reported that LaMalfa’s “bill authorizes the creation of an eight-character personalized license plate and directs the proceeds from the additional fees paid for these plates to California fairs, state parks and the Williamson Act.” The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee April 27 and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

RCRC also opposed AB1897 “Land Use: General Plan: Healthy Food Element” bill which bill “would require the addition of a new ‘healthy food’ element” to city or county “General Plans” to “increase access to healthy affordable food,” according to RCRC legislative advocate, Kathy Mannion, who wrote: “While RCRC certainly supports access to healthy affordable food, RCRC must oppose the addition of a healthy food element as a required element of the General Plan.” She said the bill goes “well beyond what the General Plan is designed to do,” would be expensive, and “the issue is best dealt with by other means.”

RCRC also opposed Sen. Christine Kehoe’s SB1241 to require that counties amend their “general plan safety element requirements for State Responsibility Areas and very high fire hazard severity zones.” It also attempts to extend state environmental law to apply to State Responsibility Areas (SRAs).

Forster said Kehoe has been “putting together bad language on SRAs” for years, including some that was vetoed. He said it is “not real good for the counties with SRAs.”

Supervisor Ted Novelli said at a recent California State Fire Association district meeting in Napa, he heard that if the Governor gets his way with SRA fees, some money would go back to fire districts, though the speaker did not know to which department it would go.

Supervisor John Plasse said it could be given to Cal-Fire; and Forster said it could be given to Fire Safe Councils. He said the State Fire Safe Council supported the SRA fire fees, but local councils did not. ¶ Forster said some former county supervisors are making legislation that is harmful to cities and counties. Plasse said he had a petition in his office to go to a part-time Legislature.

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Amador County – Facing a potential $3.8 million budget deficit, Amador County Board of Supervisors opened a budget workshop Tuesday afternoon with discussions of potentially getting relief with changes in public works spending on roads and buildings.

Supervisors heard from Sheriff Martin Ryan, who said his department could meet the cuts needed by cutting two sheriff’s deputy vacancies that remain empty. He said it would be a $176,000 reduction and would affect 23 percent of patrolling operations. He said he would like to keep the vacancies open for the rest of the year as another option, because it will be difficult to get the positions back.

County Administrative Officer Chuck Iley said assessments were down 2 percent in the budget, from reduced values. He said: “There’s going to be one big reassessment this year,” the Sutter Gold Mining Company’s mines and properties. The rest are expected to be down 2 percent.

Ryan said one concern is always staffing numbers. He said the Amador County Sheriff’s Department normally has three cars on patrol but sometimes has two on duty.

Supervisor Vice Chairman Richard Forster asked about retirement. Undersheriff Jim Wegner said in 5-6 years it was possible they would see a complete change in the experience, tenure and layout of the department.

Ryan said patrol boat costs at Camanche are $118,000. Supervisor Ted Novelli asked if East Bay Municipal Utility District has ever been asked for a grant to help with vehicles. Ryan said it has never been requested under his tenure. He said East Bay’s deputy has access to the Amador Sheriff’s boat when needed.

Forster asked why vehicles were not listed as assets on the sheriff’s department’s budget. Iley said vehicle costs list as General Services asset, and also county travel.

Forster asked about costs being proportionally higher because of the casino. Ryan said it is hard to track, but he met Monday April 30 with CEO Rich Hoffman of the Jackson Rancheria Casino. Ryan said the money that the Rancheria gives the sheriff’s department is completely voluntary and not part of a compact.

The tribe has given the Sheriff’s department $247,000 a year, voluntarily, since 2006. Ryan said the funds pay for two deputies and the lease, maintenance and gasoline of a vehicle. He said obviously costs are going up, and the jail impacts, shown in the daily jail booking rates, and fees are about $80,000 short. Ryan said he is confident that number is going to go up.

Forster said the tribe likes to see the numbers that can show impact. Ryan said he will see what he can justify with the hard data. He did “not see it impacting the number of bodies we need on the street.”

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Amador County – Amador County Little League kicked off another season of baseball last weekend with opening day at Mollie Joyce Park.

Adam Dalton, chairman of the Jackson Band of Miwuk Indians in his weekly letter said the tribe was so grateful that Mollie Joyce Park was chosen to host opening day. He said: “We were able to get the park in good condition for Saturday’s festivities. The new upper field turned out spectacular! The kids seemed thrilled with the new field and all the extras at the park as well. It was truly an amazing day.”

Dalton said the “Tribe would like to thank Frank Halverson for his dedication to the community and continued support of our county’s little league program. Our entire family is thankful to you for the wonderful introduction you gave us on behalf of the park renovation project. It was apparent that your words were spoken from your heart and my family appreciates the gesture more than you know.”

Dalton also thanked his “multi-talented wife Janet Dalton, saying he was so very grateful to her. He said: “My wife has been responsible for the business details pertaining to this project and maintains structure and organization.”

He also wanted to thank the awesome employees of the Jackson Rancheria for their help with Mollie Joyce. He was “very proud of their professional, outstanding work,” and “my family is very fortunate to have such wonderful people working for them.”

Dalton, who was this year’s Sutter Creek Duck Race winner, also on Saturday, said it “turned out to be a special day indeed,” writing: “I mentioned to a friend that I bet my Mother is in heaven laughing her head off right now.”

Dalton said: “I decided to donate the $2,500 winnings to the Volcano Community Association to assist with renovating their park as part our next project. The Jackson Band of Miwuk Indians has chosen to match that amount with a total donation of $5,000.” He thanked the Tribe for their generosity.

Dalton said: “We are beginning some improvements in Volcano this week and are really looking forward to this project. We can’t wait to see you all up there. Stop by and see us!”

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slide1-awa_approves_gravity_supply_line_work_to_prepare_for_usda_loans.pngAmador County – The Amador Water Agency board of directors in a special meeting Monday approved $50,000 in consultant work toward qualifying for federal funding for a Gravity Supply Line project proposed in the Upcountry.

The 4-0 vote with Director Paul Molinelli Senior absent set staff also working to try to satisfy or extend existing easements for right-of-ways for the water pipeline that would carry water from the Tiger Creek fore-bay to the Buckhorn water treatment plant and serve 3,500 customers of the Central Amador Water Project.

District 3 Director Rich Farrington, appointed to his office last week, said because of the failing pumps and pipeline, the Gravity Supply Line (GSL) is the best project to avoid a catastrophic failure that would dry up the water to homes and hundreds of fire hydrants.

He said it is a green project, and will reduce costs, according to the Reed Group’s financial analysis. Farrington said to him, the GSL would be doing what the critics want, and that is saving the ratepayers money.

AWA President Gary Thomas said “to do nothing is not an option” and the people up there need that project. He said: “I’ll hang my reputation on the GSL any day over pumps,” and fixing the existing system.

Thomas said the GSL project is why the agency is working to create two Community Facilities Districts, to get the project funded and to pay the debt service on the Amador Transmission Pipeline. He said it beats solar and it beats everything.

AWA General Manager Gene Mancebo said the estimated 224 staff hours as part of the list of work would cost, on the high end, about $100,000 including benefits, but the agency will pay staff regardless and no additional money will be spent. It is just the hours worked and where you put your staff.

Director Robert Manassero said the cash outlays were not the same as staff outlays, and “we would use that staff time as best we can.” He said at coffee shop meetings last year when AWA directors discussed the GSL, 80 percent of the people who attended were in support of the GSL.

Farrington said reprioritizing work is not a cash outlay, and they would only outlay $50,000 on the work, including a list of some tasks from the USDA to meet in order to secure a $5.1 million grant and a $8 million long-term loan for the GSL. Farrington said $25,000 of what they would approve was work, such as easement re-negotiations, which have to be redone. He also noted that they need to make the spring survey of wildlife and raptors or lose another year on the project.

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Tuesday, 01 May 2012 08:24

Amador Supervisors OK $15,000 Meals on Wheels budget

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slide2-amador_supervisors_ok_15000_meals_on_wheels_budget.pngAmador County – Facing higher costs and loss of home-cooked meals, the Amador County Meals on Wheels program received $15,000 in funding from the Amador County Board of Supervisors last week.

Common Ground Senior Services Executive Director Elisabeth S. Thompson told supervisors that the program has switched to frozen meals that are heated and delivered. She said they have lost some interest in the meals because they are frozen, and no longer home-cooked, but they are keeping the integrity of what Meals on Wheels is, and that is the “daily wellness check.”

She said Amador numbers have dropped by about 30 people due to frozen meals, while Calaveras County has made the change as well, but has not had any complaints. Thompson said she feels they are feeding those who need it most.

Common Ground is working with Sutter Amador Hospital to do bulk preparation of about 200 meals for people. Supervisor John Plasse said the organization had a decrease in gifts of food in-kind, and he asked what donations they can receive. Thompson said they can take vegetables and canned goods. They have found another company to donate wheat bread.

Plasse said they should talk to some ranchers into donating a side of beef, to get frozen meats out of that. Supervisor Vice Chairman Richard Forster said processed meat must be stamped “not for public sale” and needs USDA certification and he suggested the organization work with the Ag Commissioner on certification.

Plasse said maybe they can create some sort of community meat processing system. He said Mule Creek Prison actually cuts and wraps all the meat that is distributed through the California prison system. He said even good, lean ground beef is a good, nutritious food.

Thompson said the funding stays in Amador County, and the Meals on Wheels program served 43,000 meals last year, up from 37,000 the year before. She said they serve 230 unduplicated clients. Costs are almost one dollar per meal, including gasoline. For a lot of people, this hot meal is also the only thing that they eat in a day. Some must choose between food and medicine. They serve 100 to 130 meals a day in the program.

They also started the “congregate site program” in the third week of April, serving 12 meals at the Upcountry Community Center. Congregate meals are “definitely where we want to go.”

Thompson said “the goal this year is to work really hard with other groups.” They are working on putting congregate sites to serve meals in other isolated areas like River Pines. Forster said it is very true that these are the only hot meal of the day for some people.

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slide3-california_transportation_commission_allocates_900_million_to_61_highway_projects_across_the_state.pngAmador County – The California Transportation Commission on Friday announced the allocation of more than $900 million dollars to 61 transportation projects around the state.

Angela DaPrato of Caltrans in Stockton’s District 10 said the CTC is “continuing the push to rebuild California’s infrastructure and spur job growth.” The bulk of the funds came from Proposition 1B.

Caltrans Acting Director Malcolm Dougherty said Prop 1B “continues to provide the vital funding we need for transportation projects that relieve traffic congestion and improve the quality of life for all Californians.” He said “investing in our infrastructure is strengthening our economy at a time when we need it the most.”

Approximately $800 million in funding was provided by Proposition 1B, a transportation bond approved by voters in 2006. The remaining allocations came from assorted state and federal transportation accounts. In total, about $12 billion in proposition 1B funds have been distributed statewide.

Sacramento County received $25.8 million to improve the Watt Avenue and Highway 50 interchange, by widening Watt Avenue and adding bike, pedestrian and public transit facilities. San Joaquin County received $3.8 million to reconstruct the French Camp interchange on Interstate 5 and add northbound auxiliary lanes.

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slide4-awa_authorizes_work_toward_securing_usda_funding_for_the_gravity_supply_line_project.pngAmador County – The Amador Water Agency board of directors voted 4-0 Monday in a special meeting to authorize its general manager to proceed with all items identified in a staff report last week that are required to satisfy a list of USDA conditions for grant funding for the proposed Gravity Supply Line.

The board also allocated $50,000 from the agency General Reserves to fund costs other than salaries and benefits to do the staff work. The USDA conditions are for tasks to complete in order to quality for a USDA Rural Development grant and loan for the Gravity Supply Line in the Central Amador Water Project service area.

Critics of the GSL, including Ratepayer Protection Alliance members Ken Berry and Bill Condrashoff called it a “boondoggle.” Condrashoff asked how much money they have spent to date on the GSL and what was the cost of labor that they were going to approve.

AWA General Manager Gene Mancebo said the AWA board has spent $1.3 million on the GSL. Board President Gary Thomas said there was $900,000 spent on the GSL “before you and I took these seats,” referring to Condrashoff’s stint on the board. Thomas said “this is the project” or there is the do-nothing project, or fix what you’ve got.

Berry said the GSL was built on “false premises” when “you buy into the nonsense argument your general manager makes.” Mancebo said “this project saves money” over the cost of fixing existing facilities.

District 3 Director Rich Farrington said “the GSL is the action that’s needed,” and the Reed Group’s analysis shows it is the best way to go. He pointed out that the Amador County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution 5-0 supporting and encouraging the development of the GSL project.

Thomas asked about answers to questions Condrashoff raised last week, when directors discussed the GSL, and a related Community Facilities District that they AWA plans to put in place in the Central Amador Water Project to fund the GSL. Mancebo told Thomas that he did not have the answers ready Monday.

Condrashoff said the money sunk could have been spent on refurbishing the existing system. Farrington said staff estimates show that the GSL is cheaper than fixing the existing system. Thomas said the GSL “beats solar, it beats everything.”

The board voted 4-0 to have staff resume work, which includes trying to extend agreements on right-of-way easements for the GSL path. Mancebo said “we’ll work with property owners” and if they get the easement agreements renewed “it could result in savings” for returning to the preferred route of the Gravity Supply Line.

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slide5-east_bay_mud_passes_2040_water_plan_without_pardee_project.pngAmador County – Last week, the East Bay Municipal Utility District board of directors voted 7-0 to finalize its District Water Supply Management Plan 2040, which did not include an earlier plan to expand Pardee Reservoir in Amador County.

Opponents of the expansion announced the vote in a joint release, saying “the expansion would have destroyed at least a mile of the Mokelumne River.”

The original 2040 plan adopted in 2009 was challenged in court by Foothill Conservancy, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Friends of the River. A resulting court order required East Bay Municipal to conduct further environmental review and consider participating in an expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County. The revised 2040 plan includes a partnership with Contra Costa Water District, and the Los Vaqueros Expansion is expected to be completed later this year.

Foothill Conservancy President Katherine Evatt said “we’re grateful to (East Bay MUD) for changing course.” Chris Shutes of the California Sportfishing said “west-of-Delta storage is a forward-thinking approach that should be front and center for the entire Bay Area.”

John A. Coleman, East Bay Municipal board president said: “This process worked. We listened, we heard, and we acted. It has always been our intent to do the right thing for our customers and partners.”

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Monday, 30 April 2012 06:52

AWA special meeting to ponder GSL tasks

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slide1-awa_special_meeting_to_ponder_gsl_tasks.pngAmador County – Amador Water Agency board president, Director Gary Thomas last week called a special board meeting for Monday, April 30 to consider approval of $50,000 to commence the work toward qualifying for a loan and grant for the proposed Upcountry Gravity Supply Line.

The AWA board on Thursday discussed a list of the work needed to be done to qualify for a USDA grant of $5.1 million and a loan for about $8 million. The list of 17 tasks required by the USDA includes the “kingpin,” that is, the source of funding for the project. AWA General Manager Gene Mancebo said the USDA pays for 40 percent of the cost, and requires the agency to show its source for funding the rest of the project. He said Community Facilities District studies and consolidated rate studies by consultants undertaken to show that source of funding.

The list includes an estimated total of 224 staff hours, $38,000 in consultant work, and $11,400 in other fees, for work to be done on lands and right-of-way, permits, environmental reviews and engineering. The work needs the board’s reauthorization, along with the funding.

Mancebo said after a Community Facilities District election, if successful, another 33 hours of staff work is required, plus $25,000 in consultant work and $125,000 in easement work.

He said USDA has extended a deadline to Sept. 30 for the qualifying tasks, and “now we need to show how we will meet the loan payment.” He said eight “purchase option” agreements for right-of-way easements for the Gravity Supply Line were negotiated and signed. One, which held some AWA assets, was already purchased, but the eight agreements expired because the agency did not pay for them by the end of 2011.

The agency sought extensions from property owners on the agreements, but six still remain to be renegotiated, and two have been “in contact with outside parties who have actively discouraged them from cooperating with AWA.” Mancebo said one owner in the Antelope Creek area, “with whom previous negotiations were successful, is refusing to sign the new easement agreement extending the deadline,” and told the agency the party “won’t sign a new agreement because the Agency is out of money and this project will never get built.”

Another owner in the Highway 88 area “parroted the same issues as the Antelope Creek property owner” and also refused to extend the agreement. Mancebo said the route is preferred, but an existing utility easement could be used, though it “introduces additional constructability issues.” The Antelope easement also could be built around.

Mancebo said there remained $50,000 in staff and consultant work to do before a Community Facilities District election could be held. The unbudgeted costs will be subject of a special meeting to consider authorizing the spending. The board meets at 1 p.m. Monday, April 30.

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