By Debra Moore
What happened during the Plumas County Board of Supervisors meeting today, Jan. 10?
County employee Ava Hagwood appeared before the board once again — asking the supervisors to increase compensation for employees. “Our wages have not come close to keeping up with inflation,” she said, which is contributing to low staffing rates and making it a struggle to hire qualified applicants. She also told the board that it’s shocking that the supervisors don’t know the state of their budget, which was a reason given in an earlier meeting for lack of pay raises.
DA seeks clarification
District Attorney David Hollister welcomed two new assistant DAs to the county. “They took huge pay cuts to come here,” he told the board and added, “They are invested in Plumas County.” He also lauded both the Sheriff’s Office staff as well as his own staff for the work that they do despite being short of personnel. He backed Ava Hagwood’s request for more compensation for all staff.
Hollister also mentioned a draft memo “being floated around” that would remove flexible schedules for staff, such as working four 10-hour shifts. He said that all but two of his staff work flex schedules because they work a second job or because of childcare needs. County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero said that it wasn’t true. “When you say it’s not true, you might have a different idea of how it’s being played out,” Hollister said. Lucero clarified that she is looking for a mechanism that allows flex employees to be paid. “We need something that says the Auditor can pay them,” she said. Hollister gained assurance from Lucero that it would not impact his employees’ schedules.
Consent agenda/Behavioral Health concerns
District 3 Supervisor Tom McGowan pulled two items from the consent agenda because he had questions regarding them. They were both contracts through the Behavioral Health Department — one $851,000 contract with Environmental Alternatives and one contract not to exceed $484,000 with Asana Integrated Medical Group for telehealth psychiatric services. “These contracts seem to have a history of being approved with no service updates provided. Is there an urgency to have this approved today?” he asked. McGowan, who represents the Almanor Basin, also noted that Seneca doesn’t participate with Asana because of what the healthcare provider considers poor service.
Interim Behavioral Health Director Sharon Sousa said that it’s necessary to have after-hour telehealth psychiatric services to protect the county, and that the contract is due. At Seneca, behavioral health interns are charged with assessing cases without the telehealth component available.
County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero said that part of the contract requires reporting, and that information would be shared with the board.
As for the contract with Environmental Alternatives, DA David Hollister, voiced some concerns about the large dollar contract and the board’s lack of control once the money is given to the agency. The agency is charged with providing transitional housing, specialty metal health services and case management services. He questioned whether the agency avoids the tougher cases and accepts the easier ones, and he also noted that the agency buys housing and then charges county agencies such as Probation to house clients there.
Sousa said that the contract with Environmental Alternatives was developed by her predecessor Tony Hobson to provide for residents in-county. The agency must follow MediCal guidelines. “There’s a lot of policy that defines the course of treatment,” she said.
The supervisors ultimately unanimously approved both contracts, as well as the rest of the consent agenda that included authorizing the Behavioral Health Director to fill a vacancy, as well as waiving the courthouse rental fee for the Groundhog Fever Festival.
Who’s going where?
Following up on two items from last week – who will do payroll and who would move into the former probation building in East Quincy — CAO Lucero provided recommendations to the board after meeting with all interested parties.
As for the payroll function, she recommended hiring a payroll specialist to be housed in Human Resources who would work between HR and the Auditor’s Office as the transition moves forward. “I will oversee this process,” she said. A Plumas payroll team would be developed led by HR and Information Technology personnel with payroll assistants from both HR and the Auditor making up the rest of the team. The departments would be cross trained to prevent issues when personnel changes. “It keeps payroll in the Auditor’s office and adds someone in HR that will be cross trained,” Lucero said. Additionally, videos will be made to aid in training.
As for who is moving to probation, Human Resources and Risk Management will join County Counsel in the East Quincy location. Ultimately the County Counsel’s office will return to the courthouse (it moved to East Quincy when its third-floor office flooded). When it does return it will inhabit the space vacated by Human Resources.
As for Planning and Building, Tracy Ferguson and Chuck White, the directors of those departments, said their current space (located diagonally across the street from the courthouse) would be sufficient with adjustments to document storage, security and a kiosk for environmental health information.
The supervisors approved the move as presented, with the exception of District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel, who wanted the planning and building departments located in East Quincy near the Public Works Department to offer a one-stop permit center.
The supervisors are scheduled to meet next on Jan. 17.