The trials and tribulations of bringing anything close to full-scale mental health care to the Mendocino Coast continue.
In March, Fort Bragg's City Council approved an application for a grant that would fund a mental health services facility at 300 North Harrison Street. The Harrison Street operations would be run by Hospitality Center, an adjunct of Hospitality House, which provides meals and housing for some of the coast's homeless. Hospitality Center is in turn a subcontractor of Ortner Management Group (OMG), the Yuba City outfit that, a year ago, won the bid to provide privatized adult mental health services for all of Mendocino County. At the March Fort Bragg City Council meeting several residents in the neighborhood of 300 North Harrison Street spoke out against the mental health facility, the comments ran the gamut from “not in my backyard (NIMBY),” to concerns about property values, to what will become of the children in the nearby park, to claims that Hospitality House has had an inordinate number of police calls, so why bring that kind of trouble to our neighborhood too?
Some of the neighbors started a petition drive as well. This writer saw a copy of said petition on the checkout counters of a Fort Bragg grocery store. At the time (approximately a month ago) there were only a smattering of signatures, but recent rumors/claims purport hundreds of signatories to the petition opposing a mental health care facility at 300 North Harrison. Between the March Fort Bragg City Council meeting and early May a handful or two of the 300 North Harrison neighbors have held meetings with Anna Shaw, Director of Hospitality House and Hospitality Center as well as Mark Montgomery, vice-president of operations for Ortner Management Group (OMG). Also in early May, the Fort Bragg City Planning Commission had letters ready to send out to interested parties noticing a use permit hearing concerning the 300 North Harrison Street property. At some point short of mailing, those letters were pulled back and the 300 Harrison project is nowhere to be seen in upcoming Fort Bragg Planning Commission agendas.
In Mid-May a Fort Bragg newspaper printed a “community forum,” authored by one of the neighborhood residents in opposition to the mental health facility. The piece is pretty much a continuation of the March City Council meeting complaints, with one disingenuous exception. The letter writer in May praises the work of Hospitality House and makes no mention of the allegedly high volume of police responses to Hospitality House. There are some ripples of a different tactic being taken by others who oppose the 300 North Harrison Street project. Supposedly, at one of the smaller meetings a neighbor asked Ortner's representative, Mark Montgomery, to explain the business relationship between Ortner Management and Hilbers, Inc., the Yuba City building contractor which would also be involved in renovating 300 North Harrison into a mental health services facility. The obvious and seemingly inconsequential connection between Ortner Management Group and Hilbers, Inc. is that they are both headquartered in Yuba City.
Digging deeper, a corporate nexus reveals some odd connections. The chief officer of Ortner Management Group is its founder Tom Ortner. Mr. Ortner is also a managing member of something called 1535 Plumas Court Partners, LLC. Another managing member of 1535 Plumas Court Partners is an entity known as Hp-Gd, LLC. Probing into the background of Hp-Gd, LLC, one discovers that its managing member is Kurt Hilbers, the founder of Hilbers, Inc. So not only are Ortner Management Group and Hilbers, Inc. involved in the 300 North Harrison project in Fort Bragg, they have a previous business affiliation in Yuba City, though you'd never know it due to the alphabet soup that provides cover for the Hilbers family's involvement in several business ventures (other corporate holdings of Kurt Hilbers and family include: Hjp-Gd, LLC and Hjpk, LLC).
The business known as 1535 Plumas Court Partners, LLC (managed by Tom Ortner and two Hilbers family members under the disguise of Hp-Gd, LLC) may be the most curious. It turns out that 1535 Plumas Court is the address in Yuba City for North Valley Behavioral Health, the primary mental health facility presumably owned and run by Ortner Management Group. Whether it was built by Hilbers, Inc. or the property is still partially owned by the Hilbers subsidiary Hp-Gd, LLC is nebulous at best, but there is room here for questions to be asked by the City of Fort Bragg, the Board of Supervisors, the Mental Health Board, and Mendocino County's Health and Human Services Agency.
One last coincidence: the head of Mendocino County's mental health services is former Ortner Management Group employee, Tom Pinizzotto. According to notes from the March 19th Mental Health Board meeting, Hospitality Center's Anna Shaw stated that escrow had closed on the sale of 300 North Harrison. However, within Fort Bragg city hall multiple officials familiar with the 300 North Harrison Street project are thoroughly uncertain as to who currently owns the property.
One of these city officials directed this writer to a Greg Trainque, who is supposedly the agent for Ortner in the 300 North Harrison Street matter. Contacted by phone and asked about the status of the project or who owns the place, Mr. Trainque stated, “I'm not at liberty to tell you. You've seen the parties at the meetings.” How he knows what meetings I may or may not have attended is beyond my pay grade. He went on to say, “I'm not going to tell you because I might get in trouble.” Further research shows Greg Trainque listed as the director at Willow Glen Care Center in Yuba City or director of logistics at the same place. The President of Willow Glen Care Center is Tom Ortner. By the end of last week a “Notice of Withdrawal of Pending Permit” appeared on the outside walls of 300 North Harrison Street.