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County Notes (Nov. 21, 2018)

DURING LAST TUESDAY'S FIRST QUARTER BUDGET UPDATE the Board of Supervisors discussed several capital improvement projects. One of them was the estimated $25 million jail expansion project. Apparently, the project has to be scaled back somewhat because of likely construction cost increases since the time of the estimate. The County has to put up about $2 million as the local match on the project and will have to have at least $1 million set aside just to cover the gap between when the contractor submits a bill and the state decides to cut the check.

One of the items that Supervisor Dan Gjerde highlighted was the proposed elimination of a sewer grinder which was not explicitly required by the state expansion grant.

Gjerde: “I guess the general population inmates will sometimes flush things down the toilet which then create problems downstream in the sewer system. Has the county talked to the city of Ukiah's wastewater systems staff? It might be in their interest to help pay for the cost of the grinder to prevent those downstream problems for their wastewater treatment plant.”

Sheriff Allman: “I appreciate you staying on top of the jail expansion program. This is a very important question that we have spent a lot of hours on. I have never spoken about a sewer grinder in front of the Board of Supervisors before, but I will because I know a lot about it now. The sewer grinder is put in place in the municipal-city sewer line after the sewage from the jail or any institution goes into the city sewer line itself. The fact that we have inmates flushing T-shirts and sheets and pillows and so forth — that would not affect our plumbing at the jail as long as we plan ahead. Captain Pearce has worked with and toured many other facilities and we certainly have ways right now that are going to lessons learned from other jails not about how to not prevent it from happening but much more so getting quickly on it and preventing flooding from occurring. I don't think we can stop the action other than prosecution of an inmate for vandalism and tell him that if he flushes a sheet he’s going to go to jail, but he's already in jail so a lot of them have no concern about that. But our concern is to get it quickly taken care of so that flooding at the jail doesn't occur as it is currently happening in Building 1 and 2 and specifically Wing 4.”

Gjerde: “So the bulk of the problem is downstream in the city’s sewer system when it occurs. So it sounds like the county is willing to speak with the city of Ukiah because it might be in their interest to help pay for the grinder because they wouldn't want that stuff arriving in their sewer plant.”

Allman: “I will pass that on to Captain Pearce I myself will have that conversation.”

* * *

IN OTHER COUNTY RUN-OFF NEWS Supervisor Georgeanne Croskey wanted to know the status of the roof leaks in the admin offices and the so-called “bucket system” which they are currently using, pending a possible capital improvement reroofing project to deal with the leaks.

Croskey: “I heard a comment that our bucket system is working well. I have a hard time with depending on a bucket system for our roof. What items are we currently protecting with that bucket system and what if they fail? I see ‘critical’ on here [referring to a list in front of her]. That makes me feel that we might have certain items in here that if the system were to fail it would cause catastrophic problems for the county. I'm inclined to move forward with this. But I would like to know what things are currently being protected by our bucket system rather than having $1 million go towards phase 2 [of the roofing project]?”

Deputy CEO Steve Dunicliff: “Certainly the admin center and the buckets, or ‘water diversion bladders’ are being added to and moved every year. We have the county’s server room which is sort of the heart of the county’s facility. We have county staff being protected from leaks. We have had county staff members come into work after a weekend of rain with ceiling tiles that have swelled with water and fallen and exploded all over desks and bookcases and so forth. We have the county system being protected by the bladders once they are in place but certainly the most difficult thing is when the leaks are exposed during a rainstorm.”

Deputy CEO Janelle Rau: "As you do for the repair of these roofs more damages can be discovered. We know when we go into these areas that we find damage that is not available to the naked eye as you dig through. So you have structural damage, potential for mold and deterioration in the interior structure of the building. That's just an added detail that's not pretty.”

Supervisor McCowen followed up with a question about repair of two other leaky roofs, the one over the main jail and the one over the emergency operations center: “They also need repair. But at the moment we don't have enough budget information to allocate funds to any of them because nobody knows what the real budget situation is because none of the revenue data has arrived.” And no one has attempted to quantify the effect of the supposed 12% vacancy rate and the amount of possible savings from unspecified under-budget departments, even though the under-budget departments are much smaller than the departments currently running in the red. (More on the budget mess later.)

Supervisor McCowen also pointed out that there's nothing they can do about repairing the roofs for this winter anyway, so they should wait to allocate roof repair funds until the budget picture becomes clearer.

Mr. Dunicliff replied that, Yes, they couldn't get anything done this winter and it would be tight for next winter because of the time it takes to do the design and bid process and then select a contractor and find one given the increased demands for all kinds of building trades in the post-disaster Northern California construction market.

AND SO WE HAVE yet another “critical” demand on diminishing general fund dollars that nobody knows how to budget for or where the money will come from.

* * *

SINCE THE ROSY BUDGET DECLARATION LAST JUNE, there has been just one (1) passing mention of Sheriff’s overtime in August casually noting they had already expended 45% of the budgeted amount in just two months. (Presumably of the $300k, but it could be 45% of the $1.6 million that’s still showing up in their budget charts, which would make the situation worse.)

ON TUESDAY, November 13, the CEO’s budget staff reported that the Sheriff’s office (not counting the jail) was about $2.1 million over-budget, primarily due to a significant (but unspecified, unreported) amount of overtime and some success in filling vacancies (not leaving them open) leading to somewhat less overtime but more base salary. 

* * *

SUPES GOUGE FIRE VICTIMS and they don’t care. 

Wendy Escobar, the woman whose home was destroyed in the October 2017 Redwood Valley/Potter Valley Fire along with the homes of many other County residents, came before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to simply request that the Board consider waiving or reducing building permit fees for uninsured fire victims. 


Escobar: “I'm back again to talk about the outrageous cost of the building permits. Nothing is being done to decrease the amounts that we are having to pay, like $6000 or more than that for the building permits. I did not bring a lot of people here today on the advice of Supervisor [Carre] Brown. But I do have petitions. We have over 300 signatures for you, the Board of Supervisors, to waive the building fees. I'm not suggesting that we waive the building phase for people who have adequate insurance or don't object to it. But I have 300 here and I have about three more petitions out that have another 200 or so signatures on them that I have not picked up, in Potter Valley and a couple more in Ukiah. This fire has been a real cash cow for this county because without us having to pay all these building permits you would not have that income. Besides that, look at all the money we are paying in sales tax. We are having to buy ovens, refrigerators, lumber — all sorts of things that we wouldn't have had to pay before. At least you could charge us like a remodel fee or something where it's not — we've already built the house once. We've already paid the building fees. Plus, the contractors are charging outrageous prices now. Lumber has gone up, everything is increasing. We are having to pay that. So all of our insurance money is going to permits and upgrades and a lot of people are just leaving. Without us you won't have any taxes. You know, to give yourselves raises, or whatever you want to do with the money. We need to have something done or put on the agenda to address this issue. I can bring a lot of people here. I've got tons of people who are willing to show up here. But on the advice of Ms. Brown I didn't do that. People are hurting. They are paying rents now where they didn't have to pay rent before. One of my neighbors is paying $1100 a month rent where previously they owned their house, they had no mortgage. Now they are living paycheck to paycheck. I respectfully request that you people do something for us and not just look the other way. Here's an article in the newspaper and there will be a follow-up saying ‘Mendocino County gouges fire victims’ and that's true, and there will be another follow-up in a week or so. So I respectfully request again that this be put on an agenda and let people come and talk and then we can take it from there. If you would like these petitions I can leave them here.” 


“Do you want them?” 

Acting Chair Georgeanne Croskey: “You can leave them with the Clerk of the Board. Thank you, Wendy. Those are all the speaker cards I have. Do we have any further public expression?” 


Croskey: “At this point the Board will convene as the Air Quality Management District.” 

The last time Ms. Escobar appeared before the Board to complain about the fees back on September 11, Supervisor John McCowen at least replied, “The question of how much are they — that's up for discussion…”  

Now there’s not even that.

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