District 5 supervisor candidates debate
Supervisorial candidates for the District 5 run-off election, Jon Kennedy and Dick Lundy, faced off one last time in Graeagle Sept, 30. Both candidates have had time to hone their messages, which were well presented and well informed regarding District 5 and county issues for the most part.
There were a number of similarities - both candidates strongly support developer Michael Schoff of Schomac Group, whose master plan for the Feather River Inn has been tied up in litigation between High Sierra Rural Alliance and Plumas County over alleged planning violations.
The Schomac Group recently purchased the bankrupt Nakoma Golf Resort/Gold Mountain, which owes nearly $700,000 in back taxes.
Both see Schoff as somewhat of a savior and the taxes as a hindrance to his ability to move forward with necessary development.
They are keenly aware of the economic travails of the county.
While Lundy repeatedly hoped for the resurgence of the timber industry, Kennedy looked toward aggressive marketing of Plumas County as a tourist destination.
Both candidates have families rooted in this area. Kennedy said his goes back 100 years, and he feels this is "the right time to represent my family's investment" in the county.
Lundy's investment is personal and financial. He attended school at the old Graeagle schoolhouse and, in the early 1970s, had his office there.
He's had significant involvement in developing portions of the Graeagle and Blairsden area, with developments in "Plumas Eureka, Graeagle Meadows, Sierra Estates and subdivision number nine in Graeagle." Lundy pointed to his experience with "planning, subdivision improvement, infrastructure," which included working "through planning, zoning and at the board level.
Kennedy, in contrast, has run a variety of businesses, big and small, succeeding at some, failing at others, as he readily admitted.
His experience gives him an understanding of the needs of business people. He also touted his ability to communicate with a wide spectrum of community members.
Currently, several large developments in the county owe back property taxes, penalties and interest, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. What would you do to expedite full payment from delinquent developers?
JK: Squeeze blood from a turnip? Some developers don't have it. We need to diligently try to collect, because that's the law ... You collect what you can from people that can pay ... some developers, there's about $700,000 in past taxes that have not been paid yet for The Dragon (Nakoma/Gold Mountain).
Fortunately, Michael Schoff, who has invested a ton of money in our community with Feather River Inn and has been hamstringed, bought The Dragon.
He is diligently working to get some of the penalties reduced, because he bought that subject to the taxes. That's the big portion of the taxes. He is going to make it right. He's a man that will make it right. But there's quite a few others that we need to work with.
DL: Good answer, Jon. You just cannot get money from people that they don't have. Plumas- Eureka had six or seven developers. But we were in better times and they'd take over, and they'd buy it out. Right now, you don't have people that will buy these things out except for Michael Schoff and the Schomac Group, and we're very, very lucky to get them there. Otherwise, you take the land, but then you cannot do anything with it. You add your interest, penalties, etc, but you still don't collect it.
Economic development, including tourism, has been a hot topic in board chambers during budget talks. The grand jury has examined this topic, and the updated General Plan will include an economic development element. Specifically, what are your ideas for promoting economic development?
JK: I didn't realize how important our General Plan was until about seven or eight months ago, and why it kind of hamstrings our county for doing anything.
First, get the General Plan done . . (then) we need to go out and incentivize businesses.
We need to go out and find some of these businesses that come in and bring their jobs to our county. Specifically, the tourism.
I really want to address the TOT - transient occupancy tax - that fund is about $1 million plus. That fund is at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors to spend whichever way they want. I want to fine-tune that. I want to make sure that we are spending enough of that money specifically to remarket our county.
Tourism is a big deal for our county. Our county has the best resources for everything in terms of tourism. We need to make sure that we are spending our money appropriately from that TOT to market our county.
And not only spending the money, but working consistently with the people that are in charge of that - the visitor's bureau, the chamber of commerce, we need to work with them and make sure that we get enough community involvement and input to make sure we're doing the right things.
There are a lot of smart people in this community, a lot of people that have a lot of knowledge about these types of things. We need to tap into those resources and implement them with the county.
DL: I think tourism is extremely important to us; it always has been. There are think-tank organizations right now trying to see what can be done. One of them is Graeagle Plumas Alliance. They're trying to put together as many ideas as possible to bring people in here. They're really working hard on the ski hill and trails around through the Graeagle Plumas Alliance.
They're trying to put together as many ideas as possible to bring people in here. They're really working hard on the ski hill and trails through the Graeagle properties. I think these are very good ideas and think that they need to be worked on to promote.
But I haven't yet given up on the forest industries, either. That's part of economic development. If we can get the Forest Service out from under this litigation, I think we have a chance or at least we should be working very hard to see if we can't get the forest maintenance moving again, and get some of the jobs back in the East Quincy area.
In Plumas County, many homes lie outside fire protection districts. Should they receive fire protection they're not paying for? What are your thoughts on the countywide fire district paid into by all?
JK: Yes, they should receive fire protection. I was a firefighter. I've been on 3,000 - 3,500 calls ... I know how it works and I know what volunteer fire departments go through and what they need to do to do their job.
A countywide fire department: Again, I want to receive input from the community. I don't think it's a good idea.
I think we definitely need to annex this 23 percent (of the county that is outside of fire protection districts). I think we should probably do it and combine it where it is logically combinable.
If you drive out to Whitehawk and pass by the town of Clio, it's not protected. But just out a ways, it is.
We need to consider the resources needed to annex some of these areas and make sure the current fire departments and the current chiefs are resourced in order to handle that influx of new fire protection.
That's what we ought to do.
We don't need a new fire chief that a lot of people are talking about. I think I can argue this one regardless of the common census. We don't need a fire chief in the county talking about this other 23 percent and how it should be done.
We'll let the fire chiefs that are already doing business in this county decide how it's going to be done, and annex those areas that are geographically close.
DL: The fire district will respond outside their districts, but then they'll send a bill for their service, which I think they have to do, otherwise they won't stay in business.
As far as the expansion: I did attend the fire chiefs' meeting at Whitehawk a few weeks ago. Basically, what I got out of that meeting is that they do not want a countywide district, but they do definitely want to consider expanding their district, provided that they could get LAFCo (Local Agency Formation Commission) to work with them, and provided they could get some of the revenue that's coming out of that area they're expanding.
They're thinking in that direction. They're also thinking they'd like to have a fire marshal, which would be not over them, but a liaison between them and the board ... that's being considered right now by the board. The big problem is they don't know whether they have the money to fund it.