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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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June 23, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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June 23, 2010
 

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FEATHER RIVER nd Surrounding Areas Since 1866 Wednesday, June 23:2010 50 CENTS i i County budget hangs in the balance OOUNTY BUDGn 2010-11 Joshua Sebold Staff Writer jsebold@plumasnews.corn For the time being the !county general fund budget i appears to be in some form of i relative balance, although ! county officials fear that may i be a temporary state. The nerve-wracking ques- tion mark looming over the upcoming fiscal year will be $375,000 in penalties and in- terest from unpaid property taxes that could arrive in the county counsel budget, but might not come in on schedule. County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad said he'd "lost confidence" that the funding would show up in time to be used in this budget. Acting County Counsel Brian Morris indicated new information made it im- possible for him to predict whether the funding would come in this year or be delayed to a later budget. In an e-mail Ingstad explained that one of the larger payments hanging in the balance was from Gold Mountain. He added that some of his and Morris's heartburn in terms of when the payment could be expected came from the fact that the Schomac Group, owner of the resort, was "exploring its options on not having to pay." Asked if it was safe to assume that the county was not in favor of Gold Moun- tain "not having to pay," In- gstad responded, "You got that right." Back at the meeting, Indian Valley Supervisor Robert Meacher explained that the funding was a one-time deal, meaning the county would likely have to address that hole in this budget or the next one unless revenues im- proved dramatically in the upcoming year. Aside from this potential stumbling block, the county Board of Supervisors left an all-day session a little after 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, with a balanced budget. That balancing process saw the veterans services depart- ment reduce personnel, while director Sheryl Austin and the supervisors promised to maintain the current level of service, with help from the county health department answering phones and provid- ing some customer service. The information tech- nology, museum and library departments all found creative ways to keep em- ployees that had been on the edge of the chopping block. Plumas Corporation and its visitors bureau survived the day with a $72,000 cut in county funding, compared to last year's $230,000 contribu- tion, which director John Sheehan told the board would likely result in at least one full position elimination. In a short phone interview the next day, Sheehan said the Plumas Corporation board was hoping to avoid laying off an individual per- son and considering reducing time on up to five positions to spread the pain around. The county currently plans to use $23,000 of the savings from that cut to fund part of the assistant museum director position, with the rest of the Plumas Corpora- tion savings going into a line item which will be available for the county to give out for local tourism and economic development projects or See Budget, page 14A Visitors bureau takes a big cut Joshua Sebold Staff Writer jsebold@plumasnews.com Plumas Corporation sur- vived the annual county general-fund budget process with a one-third cut in fund- ing, one of the largest relative losses of financial support taken by any one entity during the Tuesday,Jurie i4, meeting. The sheriff's office volun- tarily took a larger cut in terms of actual dollars, at $185,000, compared to the $80,000 lost by Plumas Corporation. But the non- profit's cut represented a much larger chunk of its operation in terms of the relative size of the cut com- pared to the previous year's funding. At the same time, there were moments when it seemed unlikely that Plumas Corporation and the Plumas County Visitors Bureau, which is part of the larger non-profit, would retain any of its funding. Executive Director John Sheehan was visibly and audibly relieved at the end of the day to keep $158,000 in county funding flowing into his office. As the long Board of Super- visors budget meeting began, See Bureau, page 8A Early deadlines for 4th of July holiday Due to the upcoming July 4 holiday, all Feather Publishing offices will be closed Monday, July 5. This will affect the dead- lines for the newspaper. Deadlines are set as follows for the Wednes- day, July 7, Plumas- Westwood editions: Display advertising is due by Wednesday, June 30, at noon. Classified display adver- tising is due by Wednes- day, June 30, at noon. Legal advertising is due by Wednesday, June 30, at noon. News releases/letters are due by Thursday, July 1, at noon. Classified ads are due Friday, July 2, at 10 a.m. IIl!ll)lJ!!1111!k!l!lJl!llL To subscribe to the Bulle[in, call o30-283-0800 Crawdads and dads Alicia Bagley and her brother Andrew race crawdads at the Quincy Crawfish Festival on Father's Day. The inaugural event at Gansner Park, coupled with the Father's Day Fly-in at the nearby airport, drew hundreds of people from the community and a good number of tourists for unique food and entertainment. For more photos and information, see next week's newspaper. Photo by Shannon Morrow Kusel OboJeCts to closed board session n conflict of interest Linda Satchwell Staff Writer Isatchwell@plumasnews.com At the Plumas Unified School District board meet- ing June 15, it was the agenda itself that was cause for contention. Board member Jonathan Kusel questioned the board's closed session conference with legal counsel for potential litigation. Kusel had clearly done his homework, citing the Brown Act, which determines what can and what can't be done behind closed doors and away from the public. Kusel has been vocal in trying to get the quality edu- cation and services that he believes his struggling area of the county deserves. Kusel also is founder and executive director of Sierra Institute, which in 2007 joined with Greenville Junior-Senior High School to launch a Natural Resource Academy that integrates field-based projects with classroom work. Hio organization a!so spearheaded the networked, school-based telehealth project in Plumas County to provide greater access and better quality care for the county's most underserved residents. At issue during the recent school board meeting was the legal reporting requirements for the Form 700, which must be filled out by all board members and administrators for the district, as required by the Fair Political Prac- tices Commission of the state of California. The Form 700 is, in simple terms, a state- ment of economic interests. The point of filing is to make sure that public officials aren't engaged in any "conflict of interest" issues. When Kusel was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board, board member Sonja Ander- son asked about conflict of in- terest. His response was that in any votes that impacted his Sierra Institute, he would simply recuse himself. That answer seemed to satisfy the board at the time. Since then, however, Kusel did not fill out his Form 700 completely, like some other aware of what needed to be reported and what could be left out. Once his error was pointed out, he quickly amended his form and turned in the new one to the district. He has been very public about the mistake he made on the form, and does not believe that there is any conflict of interest as long as he doesn't vote on issues affecting the Sierra Institute. Though his answer to the board when he first was appointed seemed good enough, it no longer appears so. The board, closely directed by Superintendent Glenn Harris, has the district's legal counsel, Michelle Cannon of Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiede- mann, and Girard, on the case. Kusel, who feels that he's being singled out and "marginalized on the board" for "protecting the interests of Greenville and Indian Valley schools," wanted his "excoriation" to take place in public because, he said, he has nothing to hide. Harris, however, repeatedly instructed the board to take the matter behind closed told board members they could table the matter for the time being, but Harris again instructed them to take matters into closed session. With Kusel voting against the agenda, which he be- lieved was illegal because of Brown Act issues, and refus- ing to follow the rest of the board into closed session, the rest of the board passed the agenda and dutifully met in private. After the closed session, Kusel asked Cannon if it was common practice for a superintendent and school board to talk about taking legal action regarding a Form 700 mistake against one of their own. After all, he reasoned, since the form was filed with the district, couldn't his mistake simply have been pointed out to him and amended? Cannon admitted she had never personally seen this type of action before. After Kusel questioned the legality of the closed session item, citing the Brown Act, Harris said legal counsel could take these questions in closed session. "My direction J-]-UIII IU:ll L, UUJ.1OUI 1 tlltt these (closed session items) See Conflict, page 14A Museum group saves position Joshua Sebold Staff Writer jsebold@plu rnasnews.com The Plumas County Muse- um Association likely saved the assistant museum direc- tor position at a Tuesday, June 15, county budget meeting, when its board of trustees offered to cover the position,s salary for the upcoming final year. ". The idea began to percolate when Museum Director Scott Lawson told the county supervisors in the morning budget session that the association might be willing to pay for the service and supply area of his budget, around $20,000 Lawson explained there weren't many places left in his budget where cuts could be made and he would be the only person left in his depart- ment if the assistant position was eliminated. Quincy supervisor and for- mer county museum employee Lori Simpson advocated to her fellow board members t0 restore the position to the county general fund budget, See Museum, page 9A SAVED! White Sulphur Springs on the comeback. See page 1B Watchdogs Final Grand Jury Report inside.