Electronic communications go dead throughout County

The big news came during the Tuesday, Feb. 21, board of supervisors meeting when Sheriff Greg Hagwood looked at his watch, looked up and then told the board that he had just learned, 30 minutes before, that everyone in the county was going to lose their Internet, email, phone and 911 service in just over an hour.

Thankfully, Plumas and Lassen counties had earlier agreed to use the same type of communications equipment. Therefore, Hagwood reported that Lassen County would field emergency calls and provide dispatch for Plumas County.

The winds and power outages Monday night had broken the PG&E power line feeding a tower that carries communications into and out of Plumas County.

To make matters worse, the backup power generator at the tower short-circuited due to frequent power outages.

Hagwood reported that the tower was operating on battery power and the batteries were predicted to last only until 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Hagwood reported that a National Guard Chinook helicopter would arrive to fly technicians up to the tower to try to fix the generator and do repairs on the tower.

If they couldn’t get the generator to work, Hagwood said it might take longer, perhaps days, to locate a new generator and fly it up to the tower.

In the meantime, bulldozers would attempt to open the road to the broken power line and fix the line.

Backup batteries in the communications tower, predicted to go out at 1 p.m., started weakening at 7:30 p.m. and went completely dead at 10 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a Chinook helicopter from Stockton took AT&T technicians to the tower, but was unable to land.

However, a smaller California Highway Patrol helicopter was able to get the technicians up to the tower and fix the generator.

Meanwhile, the bulldozers that were being used to clear the road to the broken PG&E power line got mired in the mud and had to turn back.

However, county public works staff were able to make progress on the road using a lighter bulldozer-excavator and restore partial power to the hilltop.

On Thursday, Hagwood reported that there were still a lot of problems with equipment on the hilltop and throughout the county. He predicted “these problems would take months to deal with.”

Emergency funding

Plumas County Auditor Roberta Allen pointed out to the board that although federal funds would probably eventually pay the county back for most of its expenses related to recent storms, the county would need to have funds available now, as reimbursements from the federal government might take months.

Solid waste contracts, again

Renewed solid waste collection franchise contracts with InterMountain Disposal and Feather River Disposal hit one more pothole on the way to adoption and everyone seemed frustrated about it.

After hearing concerns expressed by Allen, the county decided to change the contracts to require that franchisees submit fiscal audits every year, as is currently done, rather than every three years as was originally proposed in the new contracts.

Greg Martinelli, area manager with Feather River Disposal/Waste Management in Reno, speaks before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors about the new solid waste franchise contract with the county Feb. 21. Photo by Steve Wathen

That issue seemed to be resolved when last minute concerns from Feather River Disposal’s attorney made it impossible for the board to adopt the two contracts at their Feb. 21 meeting as hoped.

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall expressed dismay with the five years that the process of getting new franchise contracts has taken, saying, “This is the most half-assed procedure I have ever been involved in.”

  At any rate, Thrall has decided she will not vote for the new contracts anyway, because she feels that a 10-year contract life is too long. She doesn’t want county residents stuck with a contract that might have problems in the future.

Supervisor Michael Sanchez told the franchisees that he doesn’t want to see any last minute changes when the contracts came up again for the supervisors’ approval in March.

Chairman Lori Simpson told public works and the franchisees, “Don’t even come back without a done contract.”

Finishing Graeagle subdivision

There was more frustration associated with how long it has taken for improvements to be finished at Unit 9 of the Graeagle subdivision.

Constituents of Supervisor Jeff Engel asked him to put the subdivision on the agenda so that the developers could reduce the amount of interest they were paying on an irrevocable line of credit. A line of credit substitutes for a bond to ensure that agreed upon work is done properly.

Both Bob Perreault, director of public works, and the engineering firm told the board that they had not been aware that the subdivision was going to be on the agenda for the Feb. 21 meeting until the agenda came out.

Perreault made the point that there was no reason for this item to come up on the agenda because it was being dealt with through normal processes.

In the end, the supervisors voted to lower the line of credit needed by the developer from $525,000 to $48,000. This amount was in line with how much work the developer still needs to do in the subdivision.

Grand Jury Month

The board acknowledged the crucial role that the Plumas County Grand Jury plays in the county’s judicial system.

A resolution acknowledging the grand jury read, “The grand jury reports on the efficiency, honesty and impartiality of our county government, special districts school districts, City of Portola and elected officials.”

This work is done voluntarily for a year at a time. To apply for grand jury service, contact the Plumas County Superior Court at 283-6297.