Attending board meetings could be easier; musical chairs at the courthouse?
By Debra Moore
The Plumas County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet again this Tuesday, Jan. 12, in its chambers at the Plumas County Courthouse. The public could attend in person, but seating is limited due to social distancing requirements, or individuals could watch a live stream of the proceedings.
But for some, neither is an option. Portola resident Josh Hart has repeatedly contacted the Board of Supervisors as well as Plumas News to share his frustration at the lack of access not only for himself, but for others.
He said that coronavirus exposure prevents many from attending, and under the current stay at home order, individuals are told not to leave their home except for essential services.
Live stream isn’t an option for those with poor Internet access, and watching the proceedings via live stream doesn’t provide an option for those viewing to make comment. According to Hart that could be a problem with such important decisions on the horizon as the Portola mine proposal.
Hart suggests that the county offer other options. “The county must provide a teleconference solution such as a toll-free dial-in line or zoom access for people to listen to meetings and make public comments online and by phone.”
Plumas Unified School District, the three hospital districts, Feather River College and the city of Portola are among the local governmental agencies that all offer such an option.
Plumas News had made inquiries early in the pandemic, but was told the live stream option allowed individuals to view the proceedings and they could comment by email. The county also said that the public could attend in person.
Reached for comment Jan. 8, County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick said that the county is studying options. “Clerk to the Board Nancy DaForno is working with county counsel,” he said.
Who will move to the old probation building?
During their Jan. 12 meeting the Plumas supervisors will consider filling vacant positions as well as the vacant probation department building in East Quincy. It was most recently used by the administrative offices of Plumas Unified School District.
In information presented to the supervisors in advance of the meeting, Hydrick presented several options for the building’s use and sought some guidance before he priced out each option. During a Jan. 8 interview, Hydrick said, “Everything is on the table.”
Some of the scenarios include: relocating human resources and the county counsel’s office to the probation building; the district attorney’s office could move there or the offices of planning and building could move. All decisions would have a domino effect for other offices to move.
When asked what the pressing issues were that required such moves, Hydrick cited fire issues associated with the fourth floor of the courthouse (where the district attorney’s offices are); pressing space needs for human resources and county counsel; and Board Chairman Jeff Engel’s desire to turn the old probation building into a permit center.
During a phone conversation, Jan. 7, Engel said a permit center is his priority. “Four different agencies are involved in the permit process,” Engel said and listed: Public Works, Environmental Health, Planning and Building. Public Works would remain in its East Quincy building, but the other three could relocate to the probation building, which is very near Public Works. Planning and Building currently operate out of the building across the street from the courthouse and Environmental Health is in the annex. He said the moves would improve communication between the agencies and make it easier for the customer.
Engel said that he would prefer for the District Attorney to remain in the courthouse, as does Hydrick. “I want to state publicly that it is ideal to keep the DA in the courthouse,” Hydrick said.
That should make District Attorney David Hollister happy because he is adamant that moving out of the courthouse is not a viable option for his office. “Our proximity to the court is crucial as we file approximately 1,000 cases a year, making nearly 4,000 court appearances,” Hollister said.
Hollister believes that the safety concerns with the fourth floor have been mitigated and he would like to remain in those offices. He also questioned the costs associated with such a move.
When Hydrick was asked about the need to make any moves at this time given budgetary uncertainty, he said that leasing the building or portion of it remained an option and there was a potential tenant with the Plumas Crisis Intervention and Resource Center, but he needed direction from the board as to how they want him to proceed. That discussion is scheduled for June 12.