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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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May 12, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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May 12, 2010
 

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FEATHER RIVER r 'nd Surrounding Areas Since I866 Wednesday, May 12, 2010 Vol. 143, No. 40 50 CENTS JUDGE SAYS YES TO PETITIONERS Court orders mail ballot for Aug. 31 Linda Satchwell Staff Writer Isatchwell@plumasnews.com In a stunning victory for tax limitation initiative proponents, Butte Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly ruled in favor of their right to write the ballot language; ordered Plumas District Hos- pital to hold a mail ballot election Aug. 31; and granted a temporary restraining or- der preventing the hospital from selling any more bonds until the election has occurred. Kelly made a point of saying that he had read every petition, reply, supplemental memorandum of points and authorities, and declara: tion--in short, every last word on the case -- before he made his judgment. He also heard oral argu- ments and responses from both Holly Whatley of Colan- tuono & Levin, counsel for PDH, as well as Bret Cook, counsel for the petitioners. He thanked both sides for the quality of their arguments. He then made a statement of personal neutrality, claim- ing that local judges had rightly recused themselves because they were taxpayers in the district, whereas he was not. After oral arguments, he made a point of reviewing the Election Code in front of the court, and then said "just now and prior" that he had reviewed the Election Code, which is central to this case. Forest Service raises boating, camping fees Joshua Sebold Staff Writer jsebold@plumasnews.com The Plumas County Board of Supervisors voiced con- cerns at a meeting Tuesday, May 4, about the Plumas National Forest's plans to raise camping and boating fees in the Feather River Canyon, Bucks Lake and Antelope Lake areas. Acting Assistant Resource Officer Lisa Sedlacek, from the Mt. Hough Ranger Dis- trict, presented the changes to the board and tried to address the supervisors' concerns. She explained many camp- ing fees would rise from $20 to $23; lakefront sites would go from 823 to $25; and a $7 boat launch fee would be added at Antelope Lake, where no fee existed previously. Sedlacek told the board the boating fee would be charged from the beginning of April to the end of September and the forest would offer a $35 season pass. Her background materials indicated the Sandy Point boat launch fee at Bucks Lake would rise from $5 to $7. (See sidebar for the new prices at affected campsites and boat launches.) Sedlacek said the conces- sionaire who ran these areas for the last several years "de- cided not to continue," which forced the forest to put out new bids before selecting Royal Elk Park Management. Quincy Supervisor Lori Simpson asked when the fees last went up at the sites in question. The resource officer told her she'd been working on the Lassen National Forest until very recently so she wasn't sure, but added that fees usually couldn't go up more often than every three years. The supervisor followed up by wondering why the Ante- lope boat ramp suddenly needed a fee. Sedlacek replied the concessionaire needed to maintain the site and had to be able to make a profit. The Forest Service repre- sentative indicated the fees would cover "utilities, propane cost, vault and septic pumping, garbage collection, the transient occupancy tax, any kind of liability insurance. "We require they do water testing and the county's fees associated with that. "Also we like to have good reliable communications so within the campgrounds the campground hosts have Internet service and some kind of telephone service." See Fees, page 8A SPI re-opens small-log mill Mike Taborski Publisher mtaborski@plumasnews.com Citing an improvement in the lumber market with housing starts expected to be "modestly higher" this year, Sierra Pacific Industries is once again operating its small-log sawmill at the Quincy facility. Company spokesman Mark Lathrop said several mill workers would be placed in new jobs at the plant, so this first week is a training week. A second shift, creating some 50 jobs in all, is scheduled to begin its production next week. Because of the soft lumber market, the large-log sawmill was recently reduced to a single shift, so the net gain is approximately 33 jobs between the two plants. Lathrop added that the wet spring and heavy snow has made it difficult to keep SPI's mills operating because of log supplies and not being able to operate in the woods. Faced with continued sup- ply and demand challenges, SPI ceased its small-log pro- duction in Quincy in May 2009. At that time, the com- pany said the closure was be- ing considered permanent, but added it would keep the plant's equipment in place and operational in case conditions change. "We are encouraged to get people back to work and sincerely appreciate all the support from Quincy and the surrounding Plumas County communities," Lathrop said. As a further move to estab- lish his neutrality, he said, "No matter how I rule, I'm not saying whether I think the initiative should fail or succeed." In a precursor to all three rulings, Kelly pointed to Elec- tion Code 9302, saying that "the initiative process is a special breed of cat ... it's a process whereby a group of people prepare a petition, circulate it, and ... it becomes a ballot measure. This is not the Legislature creating something to vote on. It's not two people run- ning for office. It's a unique process." It appeared that Kelly read his role as that of making sure the will of the people, as laid out in the Election Code, not be impeded. In other words, he maintained a petition that legitimately follows process should come to a vote in what he deter- mined was a timely manner. He implied, as well, that the will of the people neces- sarily must be subject to constitutional restraints -- to potential rulings regarding validity. He was, in fact, pointing out the balancing act between the will of the people and the rule of law. "Over the past few years," said Kelly, "there's been a lot of these (initiatives) state- wide. Some of which have then had to withstand judi- cial scrutiny because ... right See Yes, page 13A Horsing around Horses from Giddy Up and Go Carriages will be among the many fun activities planned for the 22nd annual Children's Fair this Saturday, May 15, at the fairgrounds in Quincy. Events begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m. For more information, see page 4A. Photo submitted "There really isn't anything for us to do at this point. The warranties don't begin until the plant is completed and turned over to us." He reported the ACOE sent an engineer to the plant last week, after repeated requests by the county. "We told them that we need to get this done. It's summer and peak usage time. The city's had to go on rationing in the past, and we don't want that to happen this summer," Morris said. Once the pumping station is operational, the remaining pipeline testing can resume. Morris said the pipeline has been tested and maintenance completed except at the very end by the city's water tank. "There's a pressure reduc- ing and flow control station that we completely rebuilt. To test that, which is tied in to the city's system so it can be remotely controlled, we have to have the plant op- erational so we can generate water into the pipeline," Morris explained. There is a leak. City staff has monitored the water in the tank and the water level has been dropping. The pipe- line is in approximately 30 sections and the first step will be to isjlate the section where the'leakage is occurring. Meanwhile, the city is concerned about what it will cost to operate and maintain the plant. The estimates prepared by Sig Hanson, plant designer, have already proven inadequate. After the city received a 815,000 heat- ing bill, Murphy declared costs might end up two or three times the original estimates. Operation of the plant might run about 8285,000 per year, perhaps to 8300,000, Murphy said in his manager's report to the city council. Grizzly Lake Resort Im- provement District, for its part, decided costs in that range would double rates in its district, and General Manager Frank Motzkus thought residents would vote it down. "We are confident that water rate increases between 95 -100 percent will not be ap- proved. GLRID is exploring other sources of drinking water for the Crocker Moun- tain and Grizzly Retreat resi- dents, and drinking water from the Lake Davis Treat- ment Plant will not be needed at this time. As such, GLRID will not be negotiating with the city of Portola for drinking water from the Lake Davis Water Treatment Plant," Motzkus said in an April 7 letter to the city. GLRID and the city of Portola do not have a contract. In recent months, the city council and the GLRID board of directors each approved a different version of a contract. See Damage, page 13A 01!000tll LIIIIIII!HILIIIIIHII00 To suhscrihe to the Bulletin, caU 5[J0-283-0800 The Lake Davis Treatment Plant was supposed to begin water testing in June and be online for the city of Portola in August. That was June and August of last year, not this year. A year later, water testing and the first flushes of water down the pipeline have not begun, halted by frozen pipes, cracked pumps and valves that didn't make it through that first cold spell in Decem- ber. In a city manager's report Diana Jorgenson Portola Editor djorgenson@plumasnews.com in April, Jim Murphy said the Army Corps of Engineers had declared it significantly complete in December. Prior to that, Plumas Coun- ty Flood Control District, who owns the treatment plant and has a contract with the Department of Water Re- sources (owners of the pipeline) to maintain the pipeline, asked the city to take over maintenance of the plant right away rather than when the plant was officially turned over to the city. The main reason for that was to establish propane, electrical and Internet accounts in the city's name. In retrospect, that was probably a bad idea, Murphy admitted, since the transition allowed the contractor to slip away before everything was signed off. There are a number of things not completed to the satisfaction of the city and the county, not that unusual at the completion of a construction project. There are a number of things, such as paving and fencing that were not part of the ACOE bid and are still the responsibility of the flood control district. But that nasty cold spell and its attendant damage in December really halted progress for the rest of the long winter. The damage is not to the treatment plant it- self, but to an outside pump- ing station situated by the flushing ponds. The outside pipes had insufficient heat tape and the heater supplied to the unit structure turned out to be inadequate. Both pumps were damaged and check valves cracked. ACOE and the contractor dispute whether it was a de- sign problem or construction defect, but either way, tho ACOE is ultimately responsi- ble for both. Brian Morris, general man- ager for the Plumas County Flood Control District, said, Lake Davis treatment plant suffers winter damage