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Letter to the Editor: Telephone access to BOS meetings

To the Plumas County Board of Supervisors:

County board meetings should be as accessible as possible to our community during this public health crisis. Unfortunately that is not currently the case. Currently, many county residents are blocked from accessing county board meetings because of a lack of high speed internet service. Adding a toll-free number so people can call in, listen, and comment on meetings is essential during the pandemic which makes indoor gatherings dangerous and ill-advised. The county must offer dial-in access to board meetings, as other jurisdictions including the City of Portola and Eastern Plumas Health Care have done without issue. 

Not everyone in our rural community has access to a fast internet connection or long distance phone service. This particularly affects people with low incomes who cannot afford the inflated cost of internet in our area, as well as people with certain disabilities, including electromagnetic sensitivity and neurological injuries, whose ability to interact with technology is limited. In addition, many areas of the county lack high speed internet access altogether, because they are not profitable for internet service providers. In these places, landline telephones provide essential emergency and every day communications. The “Voice Over Internet” telephone system recently adopted by the county has been an unreliable failure, and has further cut off residents from county government services.

We all need to be able to continue participating in the public process during this public health crisis. There are many decisions that affect our lives being made in inaccessible meetings, including massive construction projects that threaten to negatively impact our quality of life in Plumas County.

Plumas County must make the public process accessible to all, and provide a toll free telephone number for all public meetings. It is both an ADA requirement for people with disabilities, as well as a social equity concern for people who are poor, and other rural residents being denied internet services by AT&T, PSREC and other providers.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter,

Josh Hart

Plumas Wired!

Portola, CA

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