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Supes Notes (July 22, 2020)

ONE OF THE MOST DRAMATIC bits of information to come out of last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting was an in-passing observation by Sheriff Matt Kendall, who is also the County’s Coroner. In response to a question about facial covering enforcement vs. other priority tasks that his Office has, Coroner Kendall said that during the Covid virus crisis in Mendocino County there has been a 38% increase in suicides and a 25% increase in drug overdoses. No one asked about the factors involved in this or what, if anything, can be done about these alarming increases or circumstances. Instead the Board went on at great length about whether a business has a right to deny service to someone who refuses to wear a face mask.

ANSWERING A QUESTION from Supervisor Williams Tuesday, CEO Angelo said that, while Mendo is not currently on the Governor’s “watch list,” if current upward virus trends continue, Mendo is on course to be put on it and re-close when cases, or especially hospitalizations, exceed Mendo’s ability to deal with them. No specific date was mentioned, but everyone seemed to agree that there wasn’t much more Mendo could do besides encourage people in every way possible to wear their masks, and keep their distances. If Mendo finds itself on the watch list, as seems likely, many of the limited re-openings that we now are permitted would be re-closed and conditions would return to something akin to the spring’s essential services only limitations.

WHETHER THAT HAPPENS or not, it looks like it will be under aegis of a new County Health Officer. CEO Angelo announced Tuesday that an as yet unidentified local medico has been hired to replace San Diego-based Dr. Noemi Doohan. An announcement is expected next week. 

OF COURSE, the board rubberstamped the six-month extension of Camille Schraeder’s Redwood Community Services mental health services operation for about $9.5 million, on grounds that staff is still working on an RFP for the work to be released in time for consideration at the end of the extension in December. Nobody was interested in what that RFP would look like or what kind of options would be included. The last time this contract came up for sole-source renewal, Supervisor Williams voted against it saying that it didn’t include any options, and requested that the contract be broken down into segments that could, at least theoretically, be separately bid. 

AS TO SUPERVISOR HASCHAK’S proposal to terminate the Board’s existing ad hoc pot committees, after being told by County Counsel Christian Curtis that ad hoc committees should not be terminated unless and until there’s a “full and thorough report,” the Board ignored Curtis and simply discontinued the existing ad hoc pot committees. Supervisor Dan Gjerde, a member of the pot economic development ad hoc committee said that his committee had concluded that economic development should be turned over to the “pot industry,” and that his ad hoc committee had no other “recommendations” to bring to the Board or report on.

TOWARD THE END OF TUESDAY’S BOARD MEETING, the Board voted 3-2 to approve renewal of a controversial federal Wildlife Services Predator Control depredation contract for about $160k. Supervisors McCowen, Brown and Gjerde voted in favor; Supervisors Haschak and Williams voted no. Opponents argued that non-lethal methods work well and would save the $160k per year for five years. Proponents said that non-lethal methods may work and are used when possible, but there are still situations when animals must be killed for one reason or another. Supervisor Carre Brown noted that illegal pot growers frequently release pit bulls into the wild which run in packs and cannot be controlled by non-lethal methods. Opponents also argued that the County should not be subsidizing one private sector and that if the ranchers want the service they should pay for it themselves. 

COAST SHEEP RANCHER Gowan Batiste who opposes the renewal of the contract said she was harassed by wildlife services employee Chris ‘Dead Dog’ Brennan of Laytonville due to her opposition to contract renewal as described in a Sunday Ukiah Daily Journal article.

In her formal written board comments Ms Batiste wrote:

“Since that article was published on July 12, I have been introduced to the culture of intimidation and harassment that exists in Wildlife Services. Both my seriously ill father and I have received threatening phone calls from a former Mendocino County trapper, current Wildlife Services employee and named individual in the lawsuit that suspended their contract here. The first time he represented himself as an angry wool grower with questions for me- the hostile tone of the message on my cell phone led me to google the number which revealed it listed as belonging to Chris Brennan. The second time he called my father, who picked up, and was told the caller was a blogger with the surname Summer who was seeking a meeting with me and wanted information about my location and contact numbers. When my father refused, Brennan shouted abuse at him and specifically mentioned my dogs in a way I consider an imminent threat. The number used to call my father was the same as before, listed as belonging to Chris Brennan. Why is a government employee trying to gain access to me by deception, albeit ineptly? Are these tactics endorsed by his employer, Wildlife Services, and are they endorsed by Mendocino County BOS? I have never had any interaction with this person before and did not name him personally when interviewed, so I believe I am being singled out due to my picture being featured in the July 12th article and being a female rancher whom he thinks he can intimidate. I demand an explanation from his employer, Wildlife Services. Can we expect this treatment should your contract be renewed?”

Agenda Notes, This Week

This curious Closed Session Item appeared on the Supes agenda for next Tuesday:

Item 9b:

“Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.8 - Conference with Real Property Negotiator - Property: APN 184-044-10-00, and Physical Address. 131 Whitmore Lane, Ukiah CA. Agency Negotiators: Carmel J. Angelo, Janelle Rau, and Darcie Antle. Under negotiation: Property Acquisition, Price and Terms.”

THIS is the “Alternate Care Facility” for quarantine and isolation that was originally leased for about $32k/month a couple of months ago but has not been used — yet. Lately there has been some informal mention of it being used to temporarily house infected or exposed inmates coming to Mendo from San Quentin on early release. There has also been discussion of staffing it, in part, with volunteers, particularly bilingual volunteers. But no staffing budget has been discussed in any formal budget meetings. Now the County seems to be considering buying the property outright. 

It’s listed as “for sale” on the internet with a total assessed value of almost $1.5 million:

“The building is single story. It has 39 units in a U-shaped configuration and two nurses’ stations. Shared sink and toilet facilities are located between all of the patient units. Of the four community shower rooms, one has been converted to a storage area. Adequate dining and activity rooms are available. There are two interior courtyards and a large, paved side yard on the south side of the property. An approximate 800 square foot detached building is utilized for storage and maintenance. The kitchen and laundry areas seem to be well equipped.”

According to another website it was purchased by the current Modesto-based medico facility owners for $700k in 2008. It has reportedly undergone several hundred thousand dollars in improvements since then. 

Back in May when the County leased it they also talked about making several hundred thousand dollars worth of additional modifications and improvements to make it usable as an isolation ward. It’s possible that the cost of those improvements has caused the County to consider outright purchase of the building since the combined cost of lease and improvements may be more than the facility is worth.

At the time of the lease, CEO Angelo said that the building was “ready to go now that work has been completed to re-establish utility services and ensure full functionality and that an after-the-fact authorization to establish a Capital Improvement Project for that work will be brought to the board at a forthcoming meeting.”

NEIGHBORS OF THE STILL-CONTROVERSIAL ASPHALT PLANT in the Black Bart Trail area near the top of the Willits Grade are going back to out-of-Mendo court again to appeal the Board’s approval of the plant’s operation and Mendo is planning to defend its decision with expensive outside counsel plus $85k for the Planning Department designated for the appeal:

ALSO ON TUESDAY the Board plans to officially appoint a new Health Officer in Closed Session, after which some big announcement will be made. Rumor has it that a local doctor will be hired.

A CONSENT CALENDAR ITEM 4b on Tuesday proposes: 

“Disband the Climate Action Ad Hoc Committee Comprised of Supervisors Williams and McCowen, Formed on April 16, 2019 (Sponsor: Supervisor McCowen)”

It will be interesting to see if the nearly dormant Climate Action Committee of 15 appointed locals comes up in conjunction with the Climate Action Ad Hoc Committee (their only function was to lobby the creation of the useless committee and try to appoint Alicia Bales as its well-paid director. After Gjerde and Williams disagreed, the budget was reduced to about $8k (still a waste), and Ms. Bales was hired at KZYX. (As far as we can tell the committee has met a few times but they haven’t done much besides gab about irrelevant, silly or impractical ideas and organize themselves with bylaws and agendas and minutes.)

THE MEASURE B COMMITTEE is asking the Board to approve $430 for weed work at the County-owned parcel next door to Camille Schraeder’s Mental Health operation on Orchard Avenue in Ukiah. What’s next? A $42.72 request for paper towels and disinfectant for when/if the Measure B Committee meets in person?

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