UKIAH 3/4/2017 — At its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 7, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors is set to address comments by the California Coastal Commission, approve the mid-year budget, and approve $70,000 in federal funds for the sheriff’s office to suppress illicit cannabis. But stealing the show will likely be the question of what will happen to marijuana farmers in light of the abrupt suspension of the “urgency ordinance,” the county’s most recent cannabis cultivation rules. The rules were suspended, without a formal announcement, late last week, leaving many growers in limbo. Calls have gone out for people to appear during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, with people across the county seeking clarity. (This issue is complex, for more please see our report on the suspension.)
Coming up in the consent calendar are several claims against the county by motorists whose vehicles were damaged by poorly maintained roads. The transportation director’s report will provide an update on efforts at repair. A hearing on an amended ordinance about building codes is also scheduled.
The Mendocino Town Local Coastal Program Amendment (LCPA) will be on the agenda again. Specifically, supervisors plan to discuss the California Coastal Commission’s response to the board’s last discussion about the LCPA.
At the board of supervisors meeting on February 14, supervisors expressed frustration regarding 565 pages of correspondence that had been received from the North Coast District Office about the Mendocino Town Plan. One analyst in particular was singled out for impeding progress on the plan. Both coastal supervisors, Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg and Fourth District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, recalled discussing both concerns with California Coastal Commission North Coast District Manager Bob Merrill. On February 27, California Coastal Commission Deputy Director Alison Dettmer wrote a letter to the board, saying “I encourage the County to please contact me about this or any other concerns relating to Coastal Commission employees before the comments are expressed in a public hearing.”
Dettmer also refuted other points that were brought up at the February 14 meeting, saying, “The fact is the Coastal Commission staff has not sent any correspondence to the County regarding the LCPA since the Coastal Commission staff published its written staff recommendations on the LCPA in September 2016.” Dettmer characterized the 565 pages of material as the staff report by the commission, plus appendices.
The board may provide direction to staff on Tuesday regarding a response to this letter.
Transportation director’s report
Howard Dashiell, director of the Mendocino County Department of Transportation, will deliver his report on storm damage and the Kasten Street stairs in the town of Mendocino.
Orr Springs Road, about five miles west of Ukiah, is still closed, while county crews along with workers from Green Right O’Way Constructors in Willits work on constructing a 150-foot Bailey Bridge across the 60-foot-wide sinkhole in the road. The Bailey Bridge is a prefabricated steel structure that can theoretically be assembled by hand, with four people carrying each component. This particular bridge has previously been used twice in the county.
The contract was issued on Friday, February 24, and began the following Monday. The Willits contractors will receive $30,000 for their work on the project.
The awards process for the Kasten Street stairs in the town of Mendocino will have to be begun again, as the bidder exceeded the $25,000 limit that had been allocated.
The Executive Office will present the mid-year budget report. The financial outlook includes rising home prices and property taxes, and which county departments are over or under budget. The sheriff-coroner’s office and mental health are over budget, while the departments of Transportation, Agriculture, and Planning and Building are coming in under their budgets. Savings have come largely from vacancies that have not been filled in several departments, including the Third District Supervisorial seat.
The report notes that home values in the county continue to rise. The median price for a home in Mendocino County is now $519,500. About half of the county’s discretionary money comes from property tax. The mid-year projection for current secured property tax receipts is $31,750,000, which is a $224,000 increase from what was in the adopted budget. The mid-year projections for the transient occupancy tax may be close to the adopted budget amount of $4,900,000.
Savings from staff vacancies include $42,529 from former Third District Supervisor Tom Woodhouse’s resignation. Another large savings from an unfilled position is in the auditor-controller’s office, due to the unfilled chief deputy position. The savings of $52,216 is slightly offset by an increase in services and supplies and reduced revenue due to uncollectible monies.
On the other side of the accounting books, the sheriff-coroner’s office is $1,123,312 over budget. The jail and juvenile detention facilities are $244,054 and $48,592 over budget, respectively. Mental health is $1,548,248 over budget, due partly to a $750,000 reduction in realignment funds from the state of California.
The board will hold a second hearing, and possibly adopt, an ordinance amending the county building code. The amended ordinance includes language about the expiration of permits, refunding fees, and the re-definition of several terms, including that of fire chief.
Under the amended ordinance, permits would become invalid if no work is done within a year of permits being issued, though permits could be renewed or extended under some circumstances. Building officials would also be authorized to refund 80% of fees paid for projects where no work has been done.
Under the new ordinance, the definition of fire chief would be amended to read: “The chief officer of the fire department serving the jurisdiction, or a duly authorized representative; areas not located in the jurisdiction of a fire district shall be under the authority of a Building Official.”
The summary of the proposed ordinance reads as follows:
“This Ordinance is making several updates, revisions and additions to various chapters of Title 18 of the Mendocino County Code regarding Building Regulations. Chapter 18.04 is being amended, by adopting by reference the 2013 editions of the California Building Standards Code. These new editions of the Building Standards Code become effective statewide on January 1, 2017. Amendments to Chapter 18.04 will also make certain revisions to those codes to reflect local conditions and administrative practices, and will adopt non-required appendices related to agricultural buildings, flood resistant construction, signs, patio covers, manufactured housing used as dwellings, existing buildings and structures, sound transmission, light straw-clay construction, strawbale construction, swimming pool safety act, recommended rules for sizing the water supply system, explanatory notes on combination waste and vent systems, sizing storm water drainage systems, installation standards, combination indoor & outdoor combustion air, and the Ordinance will adopt local findings for those revisions as required by State law. The sections of Chapter 18.04 are also being reorganized to make it easier to read, understand and implement. Certain sections of Chapter 18.08 are proposed to be amended to reflect the changes made to Chapter 18.04.”
The consent calendar
Cannabis eradication funds
The sheriff is requesting approval of an agreement between the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, whereby the sheriff would receive $70,000 in federal funds to eradicate illicit cannabis on federal lands in California. The agreement would oblige the sheriff to “Provide law enforcement personnel for the eradication of illicit cannabis located within the State of California,” though no increase in personnel is provided. The money is intended primarily for overtime accrued as existing sheriff’s employees investigate and report on drug trafficking, send samples of illicit cannabis to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Potency Monitoring Project, and report on statistics and seizures using the DEA Internet Capability Endeavor, a special web-based reporting program. Additional funds may be approved for specific purchases, upon submission of special requests. The money may not be used to identify indoor or outdoor grow sites, to eradicate cannabis using herbicides without prior authorization, or destroy “Ditch weed.”
The sheriff’s office has previously requested and received federal funds for purposes of marijuana eradication, as reported by the Mendo Voice. This is a tense moment for federal – local cooperation, with the Mendocino County’s assemblyman, Jim Wood, recently introducing legislation that if passed would make such cooperation much harder. It’s not clear if that bill would affect this kind of cooperation, given that in theory it applies only to growing that is illegal under state and local law as well.
Claims against the county
Several claims against the county are in the consent calendar, all of them having to do with poorly-maintained roads or traffic collisions with county vehicles.
John Mabery claims that on January 5, his vehicle was totaled and he was concussed when a county employee turned in front of thim on Highway 1 and Odom Lane in Fort Bragg. Mabery said he was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision and that he lost time at work as a result of the incident. He is requesting over $7,000 in compensation.
Fred Schofner is also filing a claim about damage to his vehicle when the mirror on a county truck damaged his car as the two vehicles were passing on a narrow bridge in Potter Valley on February 11, 2016. Schofner is requesting $1,012.
Lauren Curlee claims that on December 16, 2016, her tire was popped, the rim was damaged, and she lost a hubcap when she hit “A very large pothole taking up the majority” of the southbound lane on Old Stage Road between the Dust Bowl Baseball Field and Gualala Court. Curlee requests $260.
Jay Ferrick also complains of bad roads, claiming his car was damaged on November 20, 2016, from uneven pavement at the intersection of Highway 20 and Potter Valley Road. Ferrick is asking for $403.
Lorraine Mathews requests $291 for damages she claims were sustained by a pothole on East Side Road near Main Street in Potter Valley. Mathews writes that her tire was torn on December 28, 2016.
The consent calendar also contains a request to write off $2,015,179.80 in debt, due to the age of the debt; death of the debtor; lack of assets on the part of the debtor; the inability to locate the debtor; or the fact of the debtor no longer being in the county. Amounts range from fifty cents to $13,829.
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