City focuses on Lost & Found Bike Race

At a very lightly attended regular meeting of the Portola City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 8, council members put the spotlight on the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder and Bike Race that has taken place in the Lake Davis area for the past three years.

“This year would be the fourth year for the race,” stated speaker and Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship Executive Director Greg Williams. “The race started off with about 200 participants in its first year, and went up to nearly 700 in its third year. This year, we anticipate capping off at 1,000 people, but we’re running into some speed bumps.”

At this time, the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is attempting to work with the Beckwourth Ranger District to get the race route approved and permitted, but due to the possibility of interfering in “Wildlife Control Areas,” the route may need to be redesigned.

Another issue with that is the fact that the majority of the racing route is currently inaccessible due to snow, and as Williams put it, “There’s really no way to tell what kind of surfacing that the roads have up there currently. We don’t want to plan a route off of Google Earth and then find out that the route is washed out; many of the racers come up on street bikes, and we don’t want to send these riders out onto washboard roads.”

The race has swiftly become quite the economic driver for event-based tourism in Plumas County, bringing in riders from all around the globe. Williams said that the ride is a national favorite, and is ranked as one of the top 10 mixed terrain races nationwide.

“An event like this really benefits the entire county,” Williams commented. “Last year, attendees maxed out every camping area in the vicinity of Lake Davis, and we would like to discuss adding temporary camping sites within city limits for the overflow this year, if all goes to plan.”

Council member Bill Powers agreed, stating, “Having such a large amount of people in the area benefits everyone — the businesses, the city and the county as a whole. I think we can all agree that the race is a real urgency item, and losing the race would be a kick in the gut.”

Community member Cal Patterson also agreed, saying, “The event was very well run last year, and very professional. The community supports the event.”

Williams explained that time is of the essence, as deadlines to apply for permitting and $25,000 of non-refundable deposits are at stake, as well as concern that prospective racers may not wait for the race to open registration.

“There is a major deadline on March 10 for the permit plans, and until we can get that pushed through, we can’t really market the event or open registration. Generally, registration opens in January.”

The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is committed to being a strong partner with the city and U.S. Forest Service, and to help those efforts, Mayor John Larrieu stepped in to suggest that the City write a letter in support of the race and send it to the local Forest Service district office.

The Beckwourth District Forest Service ranger on deck to attend the meeting was unable to attend due to severe weather. However, the council will look forward to a response to what Larrieu termed “an urgent imploration” that this race be permitted as soon as possible.

The council also volunteered to put together an ad-hoc committee as a touch point for Lost and Found race coordinators, enlisting council member Phil Oels and Bill Powers.

Planning commission reappointed

Also on the agenda, the council discussed and approved reappointment of the current planning commission members, as well as noting two vacancies on the commission that will need to be filled at a future date.

Fire tax on track

Fire Tax Ordinance 345 was also adopted for the second time at the meeting, as City Attorney Steve Gross noted that the originally passed ordinance occurred during a special meeting of the city council instead of during a regular meeting.

“To keep everything on the same page and clear to understand, we need to officially adopt the ordinance at this regular meeting,” Gross explained. The ordinance was passed unanimously.

City financials in shape

Finance Officer Susan Scarlett wrapped up the meeting with some discussion of finances, and the news that Gallina, the former auditors for city finances, is merging with a company called Clifton Larsen Allen Certified Public Accountants, and Clifton Larsen Allen are experts in government finance standards.

“I am recommending that we approve the use of CLA as the auditors for the 2016-17 fiscal year,” Scarlett said. “We will be able to use them as a resource during the year, which is great news for me as a part time finance officer. The fee in the proposal is $500 higher than the former contract, but I feel that we’ll get a lot for our money.”

Tom Cooley, council member, pointed out that the recommendation was to contract with CLA for one year, with the option for two additional years.

“I feel more comfortable starting with a one year contract,” Cooley said. “Then we can ensure that the merge fits well with the city, and renew the contract from there as we see fit.”

The council approved the new contract unanimously for the next fiscal year, and Scarlett went on to touch on the state of the city’s funds.

“I would like to start by saying that Todd Roberts has been putting in huge amounts of work, dealing with all of the snow and rain damage, and we all appreciate him so much.

“That being said, snow damage is going to be the big-ticket item that will make a large impact on the budget, as we are already at a $30,000 average for contract snow clearing. We just don’t know what the final cost will be yet, but it will come out of the general fund.”

Overall, the finances look to be in good condition, and Scarlett hopes that things will stay that way. “My goal is to ensure that the budget as a whole stays in line.”

The council concluded on a high note, with the announcement from Powers that the Union Pacific Grant earmarked for a new disc golf course along the Riverwalk had come through in the amount of $7,500.

“We look forward to making use of the new course, once we have a Riverwalk again.” Powers joked before concluding the meeting.