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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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8A Wednesday, June 23, 2010 Feather River Bulletin BUREAU, from page 1A chairwoman and Chester Supervisor Sherry Thrall announced that the budget committee's proposal coming into the meeting was to take the funding that had been going to Plumas Corporation and use it to create a county tourism department, located at the museum in Quincy. She said the recommenda- tion was for the department to have one staff member who would collaborate and cross train with the museum staff so that both depart- ments would know each other's jobs, with County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad overseeing the department. Thrall added, "Hopefully we would save some of the overhead cost, rent, supervision cost." She went on to say that the county information tech- nology department would help run a tourism website. She told her fellow board members that the plan would split the $233,000 that Plumas Corporation got from the county last year into $133,000 for the new county depart- ment, $25,000 to the non- profit to help it transition away from county funding, and $75,000 in a competitive fund that groups or indivi- duals could apply to use for various tourism or economic development related purposes. In a presentation before the board, Sheehan began by addressing the idea that rent would be saved in the transition. "The facility we're in now is a county facility. It was renovated with private funds by Plumas Corporation." "The rent payments are minimal currently; we've paid off the loan so there's no indebtedness." Suzie Brakken, who runs the visitors bureau, later indicated the rent was $567 per year. Next, Sheehan addressed the idea that his operation had too much overhead. "I more than welcome discussions with the county on that. We,ve never been I ? requested to have those discussions. We weren't re- quested to have those discus- sions this year." "The notion that we're spending too much on over- head is an interesting notion but one that I challenge everybody here to talk about and not just say that we're charging to much." "I don't think anybody's saying that you're charging too much. I think what we're saying is, whatever it is we have a potential to save it," Thrall responded. Quincy Supervisor Lori Simpson, who was on the budget committee with Thrall, Ingstad and Human Resources Director Gayla Trumbo, said she was upset that she had previously been under the impression that there wasn't a contract be- tween Plumas Corporation and the county and now found out there was one. It was an impression this year's grand jury shared. The grand jury had claimed that no contract was in place, but Sheehan responded that there was a renewable annual contract, and every year when the county decided to fund Plumas Corporation that contract was renewed. At the budget meetin K, Simpson asked Sheehan why the supervisors weren't told there was a contract. "Well, I would think it would be up to your staff to tell you that," Sheehan responded. Simpson persisted, "Well, you come for money every year; why don't you bring the contract with you?" Sheehan answered, "If that's a problem with you I'm sorry for that, but the county has staff that should let supervisors know when they come into office what exists and what doesn't exist. There are a number of contracts that we have with a number of entities." Simpson said the contract was "archaic" and should have been updated and re- viewed every year for the last 16 years. Sheehan told her he came in every year and proposed a "just because things have always been done a certain way, I'm sorry, they can be clone different and that's what you gotta get, everybody's gotta get that in their head, everybody in the county, in your life." Lori Simpson, County Supervisor program of work, with measures to show that the work was being done, and the supervisors approved it. Sheehan told her that every year at budget time the supervisors looked at his budget request and that was a perfect opportunity to look at the contract between the two entities. "I'm sorry you haven't seen it before and it was a surprise to you," he said. "I'm finding a lot of sur- prises in this county about agreements that have been in place for hundreds of years and nobody ever looks at them," Simpson responded before adding, "I'm sorry, past boards: out to lunch." Sheehan told her that the visitors bureau was moved under Plumas Corporation at a time when the county was expanding its spending in the tourism area. At the time the county felt that his non-profit was the group that most fairly and evenly represented the concerns of people throughout the county. He said the Plumas Corpo- ration board wanted to work with the supervisors "to give you a better feeling of comfort that we're doing what you want us to do." Ingstad commented that the budget committee and grand jury both recommended new contracts with more accountability for the cham- bers of commerce and Plumas Corporation. Sheehan said he was fine with that and his corporation received independent audits every year. Ingstad agreed, adding that he looked at the company's books at various times as well. He said the issue was, "I'm getting a lot of people in the community saying 'you're giving money to the chambers, you're giving money to economic develop- ment, what do you get for that money?'" "I see the line items. I see the salaries. I see the over- head. I see all those things, but I can't really say 'this public money accomplished this in the community.'" "We need now, because of tight budgets, to show that accountability, to say 'we're not just paying for people,' that we're accomplishing things, and I'm not saying you haven't accomplished anything. I'm just saying we need to do that every year now." Sheehan said he agreed with all of that and felt that Plumas Corporation had helped the county, even at times when the supervisors cut funding. Thrall said that the cham- bers would be required to sign new contracts as well. Near the end of the morn- ing session, Simpson de- clared, "Just because things have always been done a certain way, I'm sorry, they can be done different and that's what you gotta get, everybody's gotta get that in their head, everybody in the county, in your life." The afternoon session be- gan with an opportunity for members of the public to weigh in on the budget. Eight people commented on Plumas Corporation and all eight strongly disagreed with the budget committee's rec- ommendation to take the county's contribution from the non-profit and create a county department. Katherine Templeton told the board that seven people stayed in her lodge in Chester last fall when they came to Plumas County because they saw the visitors bureau's fall color promotion. ...... Solar .., .... Ul GET FREE ELECTRICITY - solar are installed on all new homes. Our homes are nergy Star certified which .I means lower homeownercosts, improves indoor comfort I ieve/and lessens the impact O0000000000:th,eenvironment. EYER53%'TAF 10 year home buyers warranty.= Closing costs are paid! (up to $5,000) Take advantage of the California $ IO,OOO tax credit.= SIERRA0000,gPARK Visit us for a personalized quote on one of these fantastic solar homes She argued that if the board applied that number to all of the businesses through- out the county, it added up. She said the visitors bureau filled a different role than the chambers of commerce. "We are all individual silos that operate in our own little world, but the promo- tions that bring the county together as a whole is that visitors bureau." Mike Wood, a local union representative for mill workers, told the board he wasn't very familiar with Plumas Corporation's work in economic development because that wasn't his area but that Sheehan's work with the Feather River Coor- dinated Resource Manage- ment group, Plumas County Fire Safe Council, Quincy Library Group and Plumas County Economic Recovery Committee was" exceptional." "I would imagine that he would apply that same type of skill to the tourism industry also." He said he could not see how you could replace the knowledge base at Plumas Corporation "with something in house." "To me it sounds like dropping a dime to pick up a penny, and you have a great asset here." Simpson asked him to give her a specific example of economic development work that the non-profit had done. Wood repeated that he didn't work in that area and wasn't the person to ask. "OK, you answered my question," Simpson said. She later said that the for- mation of the Plumas County Economic Recovery Commit- tee, which she and Sheehan are both members of, must indicate that Plumas Corpo- ration wasn't doing its job, because the two groups focus on the same topic. Eastern Plumas Supervisor Terry Swofford added that the Graeagle Plumas Al- liance, a relatively new chamber-like organization, was formed "out of despera- tion because they didn't feel they were being represented at our end oEthdd6unty from Plumas Corporation." Local attorney and QLG member Michael Jackson said the current tourism sys- tem had served the county well and "it just really tears up my heart to hear people attack each other simply because they think maybe something went wrong with- out looking at what's gone right in these communities for a long time." "I think the whole commu- nity is watching what you do here to see whether or not we're actually just gonna go down or whether or not we're gonna pull it all together and use all of the resources that we have to try to build this economy." "I hope that you look at it optimistically. I hope you keep the relationships that we have so far because it's so easy to tear things down." Brakken, of the visitors speak next. "I have heard discussion that the visitors bureau is not accountable and that just absolutely confounds me since we track absolutely everything we do." She said the reports for how many people come to the bureau's website and walk into the office and how many major periodicals the county has been mentioned in could all be found online by going to plumascounty.org and clicking on "Visitor Centers." Brakken sarcastically added that she hoped "you're getting this level of account- ability from all the people that you're funding today with the contributions budget." She argued that if the county wanted to have a tran- sition in the tourism area it should do it over time instead of overnight. She said Via magazine's deadline for a story on Plumas was the next day and it was going to list informa- tion about the tourism website and the location of the office. If the county didn't follow up on the article correctly it would waste money and create "a PR disaster and its gonna be an embarrassment to this county." Simpson asked her, "Do you agree that the museum and chambers do visitor services?" As Brakken began to respond, the supervisor con- tinued, "because I was in that industry. I know they do." "Yeah, absolutely, that's part of the whole partnership effort and that's part of what we..." Brakken began before Simpson interrupted her again to add, "I mean we refer people and tell thera where to go and things like that." Sharon Roberts, a business owner who spoke in favor of the bureau earlier, said she couldn't send people to the Chester chamber. She said she walked into the Chester chamber office on the Fourth of July the pre- vious year and heard a new worker telling a customer that Highway 89 ended when it intersected Highway 36. Roberts said she ended up spending 45 minutes with the customer "because the chamber staff doesn't have the knowledge of the Plumas County product." Thrall interjected to say that the discussion was getting off topic because the chambers weren't the item on the agenda. Simpson then explained some of her reasons for wanting to cut Plumas Corporation. "I've heard that we reduce your budget but you don't re- duce your staff. You took out a $30,000 - $40,000 advertising budget, and it's all staff now and Facebook, and I don't put much stock in Facebook and taxpayer money being used for that." Brakken responded that staff was cut at various times but expanded again in 2001 "when we saw that the Internet was going to be the way to go." Staff was cut again two years ago when the county lowered its contribu- tion by $60,000. Simpson added that she heard the Via magazine article would have happened w'ithout the: bureau. "It was't like you guys got ,era here." Brakken said she had breakfast with the Via editor 10 years ago and "gave them hell" for not putting Plumas in the fall color articles. She put a lot of advertising into Via for fall color promotions over the years, but "I don't want to take credit for it all, Lori." She added that Via called her to fact check the forth- coming article. Swofford asked how much money was spent on advertis- ing. Brakken said there was less money spent on actual ads in magazines and news- papers because the world was moving towards Internet marketing. She said her staff created all the content on the website and put out five blogs and five online newsletters. Simpson commented that Colorado maintained the webpage. Brakken said her staff created all the content and it was just the literal server that the website is stored on that is in Colorado. "Why don't you do it locally?" Simpson asked. Brakken told her the bureau went to the lowest bidder and it cost $2,500 per year for technical services related to the website. Simpson said one of the largest parts of the idea of making a county department was that the county IT staff could do that part. "We're thinking a little bit out of the box, and I think that's commendable for us to look forward and think that things don't always have to be done the same way they've been done for the last 17 years," she added. Brakken said she talked to the county IT director, who told her he wouldn't be creating the content on the website. She said it seemed strange for the county to conduct this entire transition to potentially save $2,500. Thrall said they should get 149 Lee Road, Suite A, Quincy 530-283-9301. www.sierraparkatquincy.com See Bureau, page 9A