Editor’s note: This is a synopsis of a candidate forum held for the District 2 supervisor race. It is not a verbatim transcript of every word spoken during the 90-minute event.
It was a first for the Long Valley Fire Department in Cromberg — as fire trucks were pulled out to make way for candidates and constituents the evening of Feb. 4.
For the third time in a week, three candidates for the position of District 2 Supervisor, introduced themselves and fielded questions from the audience: Greg Cameron, Kevin Goss and Mike Grant. A fourth candidate, Phil Shannon, was only able to attend a forum hosted by Indian Valley Academy students due to his work schedule.
About three dozen people attended the Cromberg event, which was emceed by Mike McCourt. His wife, Sue, is the county’s fire prevention officer, and the fire station proved an apt backdrop for some of the evening’s questions.
Indian Valley comprises the majority of District 2, but it also extends down the Feather River Canyon to Storrie, and along the Highway 70 corridor through Cromberg to Camp Layman.
Goss and Shannon reside in Indian Valley; Grant lives on Chandler Road in Quincy, and Cameron lives in Greenhorn, east of Quincy.
Meet the candidates
Greg Cameron is a veteran, a local employer, college instructor and probation department employee. “Plumas County is very special to me,” Cameron said and noted his family’s relationship with the county since the 1840s. He said he was seeking the office because the “district has lacked representation.”
Incumbent Kevin Goss is in his second term representing District 2 on the Board of Supervisors. He moved to the area with his family in the ’70s and manages the family business, the Village Green Pharmacy, in Greenville.
“This is a great district, a great place to be,” Goss told those assembled. He said that he originally ran for supervisor to repay the county for all that it had given him. He cited his work on the general plan, special districts and abandoned vehicles as among his accomplishments during his tenure.
Mike Grant is a 40-year resident of Plumas County and works for the Sheriff’s Office. He also runs the county’s Search and Rescue program. Grant has been crisscrossing the district and said that he has visited the residences of 1,800 registered voters from Storrie to Cromberg.
As a result, he said he has a “good understanding of the issues” that are not different from one area to the other.
If elected to the board of supervisors, what would be your first order of business?
Grant outlined the need to deal with fire insurance and expand broadband service, but focused the bulk of his remarks on the roles of county administrator and county counsel.
“The board of supervisors is too bogged down in routine issues,” Grant said. He advocated giving more duties to the county administrator. “We have a very good one right now.”
Conversely, he would like to see the county counsel play a smaller role. “The county counsel has way too much sway,” he said. Grant said that the county counsel had been a “hindrance” in his work at the sheriff’s office and described a contract renewal delay.
Grant also noted that department heads seem to want to work for the benefit of their departments at the cost of the county.
Goss said that he agreed with Grant 100 percent when it came to giving the county administrator more work. “It’s time to take the training wheels off,” he said, of the still relatively new county administrator.
As for the county counsel, Goss agreed that the office is bogged down with its workload, but that he had researched the situation Grant referenced, and he thought both sides were culpable in the delay.
Cameron said his focus would be on attracting business. “We need commerce,” he said and plans “to come up with an actual plan to bring rural jobs back.” He cited tourism and agri-tourism as two examples.
Cameron addressed criminal justice and said that realignment has caused a lot of problems, but he acknowledged the Community Corrections Partnership for accomplishing some things.
He also suggested that the county could spend its money better.
Fire departments are struggling to get volunteer firefighters; do you favor consolidation to one county fire department?
Goss acknowledged the difficulty in recruiting volunteers with the time commitment that entails, but that in Greenville a new chief has meant an increase in recruitment.
He couldn’t envision the consolidation of the districts into one county fire department because of the county’s geography, but could see the districts consolidated into four or five based on the county’s main population bases.
As chairman of LAFCo, the organization charged with overseeing district consolidations, Goss said he is familiar with the process, but said that it needs to come about by mutual agreements between departments, and not forced by another entity.
“I support anything that works,” Cameron said. He admitted that he doesn’t know about the departments in all of the areas, but he hopes that people would be open to change.
He said the lack of volunteers is due to an aging population with a lack of jobs to keep young people in the area. Those who are here “don’t want to volunteer because it’s hard to exist.”
Grant agreed that he didn’t think one county department could work, and that territorial issues would remain with individual departments.
As for volunteers, he said that he runs search and rescue and in the last recruiting effort, 14 people stepped forward. “They were great volunteers and they all had jobs.”
However, of those 14, two have stayed on the team and they haven’t been on a call yet.
Grant said that during his door-to-door campaign visits, he estimates that 10 percent of the residents have either had their insurance cancelled or premiums raised to the point that they could no longer afford insurance. He suggested that more volunteers would enable fire departments to have higher ISO ratings that could positively impact insurance coverage.
Residents are facing fire insurance cancellations or having their premiums increased. What would you do to help?
Cameron said that even though he isn’t a fan of the state, he thinks a legislative fix is necessary. “It’s the only way it will change,” Cameron said.
He thinks the local board of supervisors should work with other supervisors in the area to press for legislation.
He also favors reduced rates for those who keep their yards clear. “It would be mandated that they provide relief for people who care for their yards,” he said of insurance companies.
Grant reiterated that far too many of the people he has met during the campaign have lost their insurance. “We need to approach this from every angle that we can,” he said.
In researching the situation, he said he learned that insurance companies carry insurance as well and they have been mandated to unload some of their risk. He said that sometimes the decisions as to who loses insurance make no sense.
He would like to see more Firewise communities and buffers built around them. “We need to lobby the Forest Service to get the job done,” he said.
“In Plumas County, we have one of the best Firewise programs in the state,” said Goss. “Thank you Sue McCourt.”
Goss also stressed the need for buffer zones and said he’s concerned about the people who can no longer afford to pay their premiums. “I want people to be here and not forced out because they can’t afford homeowners insurance.”
Resort owners collect 9 percent from visitors in TOT (transient occupancy tax), which brings $1.2 million into the general fund. How much should be used to promote tourism?
Goss reminded the audience that the board’s decision to put TOT into the general fund happened before his tenure on the board.
He thinks a portion of the money should be used to promote tourism, maybe $50,000 to $100,000, but said, “There is a delicate balance between the county budget and promoting tourism.”
Goss also discussed the effort in the western end of the county to form a TBID, which would provide funding for tourism.
Cameron said that he had been talking to business owners about the subject and “the majority say they get nothing for TOT.”
He said that tourism isn’t the only answer to the county’s economy, but that it’s necessary to spend money to make money in that area.
Cameron said it’s also important to ensure that businesses are collecting and paying the taxes that they should.
Grant said that his family owned a small resort in Twain for 23 years and that he saw the TOT raised from 7 to 9 percent. The increase was supposed to be earmarked for tourism, and it was, he said, but for just a short time. Then it became part of the general fund.
“The county has become so dependent on every income stream,” he said, noting that when a department would obtain a grant, the board would want to know what it could do to alleviate the general fund.
Grant said not every tourism issue is promotion. He cited the example of a Quincy business owner who is running at nearly 100 percent capacity; their need is more space.
What is your position on commercial cannabis?
“I want it to stay like it is,” Grant said. “No commercial cannabis in Plumas County. I like the policy as it is today. No grows. No sales.”
He said that the state thought it would bring a big tax windfall, but the government isn’t getting its share.
Goss is very familiar with commercial cannabis in Plumas County. “I spent a year and a half chairing the cannabis working group,” he said.
He said there are commercial cannabis activities in the county — they are just underground (illegal) and above ground deliveries. He noted that people are legally allowed to grow six plants, which should provide for their needs as well as excess for others who can’t grow.
Goss also said that at some point the state might require that the county put in a dispensary. “We will deal with that when it gets here,” he said.
Cameron said it’s “short-sighted to have no commercial cannabis.” He said that he doesn’t smoke, but in his line of work he’s been in grows and is “well aware of the crime and black markets.”
But he said a lot of people utilize cannabis and don’t cause problems.
“I’m not saying I want to embrace commercial cannabis, but it needs to be treated like a vice business.”
What method does the county use in an emergency to notify residents and does the county need to offer more services?
Cameron listed social media, telephonic notifications, radio and knocking on doors as all methods that are used.
He said there is a problem with the communication infrastructure. “It’s an archaic system that needs to be upgraded, modernized.”
He said he would listen to people who know more about such systems than he does.
“This is part of my full-time job,” said Grant of his work at the sheriff’s office, and described Code Red, the reverse 911 system.
Landlines are automatically part of the system, but they are down from 22,000 to 10,000 as more people switch to cell phones for their primary phone.
Local improvements have included notifications through a cell tower, which notifies everyone in the vicinity, including visitors.
Grant said there is also an effort by local fire departments to put up sirens.
Referencing the Camp Fire, Grant said one of their communication issues, was that dispatchers were overwhelmed. The state will be providing a 911 system that would allow other jurisdictions to help.
Additionally, Grant discussed 211 notifications for public health, which would include such information as boil water notices.
Goss said part of the communication challenge is due to the diverse population. Some elderly individuals won’t use cell phones, and in some areas, cell phone coverage isn’t available.
“We would need to canvass Plumas County to see how they communicate best,” he said, adding that emails and text messages would work well for some, but not others.
“We’re not where we should be as a county,” Grant said and then listed some of his prime concerns.
“Fire insurance cancellations will push property values down and for most of us it’s our biggest single investment,” he said.
He also said that infrastructure projects need to progress and cited broadband as an example.
He told the audience that he is the only candidate that sees the board of supervisors from the other side as a county employee.
Grant promised that if elected, he would make tough decisions, be accessible to the entire district and know what the district, as well as the county as a whole, needs.
Goss also discussed his availability, which he said would be through social media and in person, while recognizing the vastness of District 2.
He noted that following the 2020 census, it would be time for redistricting. He said, “We can see if we can fit more of you folks in District 5 if that’s what you want.” (District 5 is Graeagle/Blairsden and much of Mohawk Valley.)
Goss concluded by saying, “I hope you look at my experience and the relationships I have made in the past seven years.”
Cameron said, “I’m glad it’s been civil.”
He discussed how important Plumas County is to him.
“I am the only candidate with outside experience — local, state and federal.”
He reiterated the importance of jobs — those that pay $15 per hour and those that keep people in the community.
“I hope to earn your vote,” he said.
The ballots have already been mailed. Those who were expecting a ballot and have not yet received one should call 283-6256. Ballots must be returned to the county clerk’s office by March 3.