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Sheriff again warns supervisors of critical staffing issues

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors covered a number of topics during its Feb. 7 meeting, which was dedicated to former board member Terry Swofford who died Jan. 21. Swofford, a Portola resident, represented District 1 for two terms. District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel made the request that the meeting be dedicated to the memory of Terry Swofford, and Engel acknowledged Swofford’s service to the county. Engel also went on to thank the county road crews, Caltrans, the sheriff’s office and Plumas Sierra Rural Electric for the “exemplary job” they did during the winter storms.

Sheriff comments

Sheriff Todd Johns updated the board on the status of his department, in particular the dispatch center. He said that one dispatcher is leaving because she is pregnant, and another is going to another county agency, where the individual can receive the same pay for a normal schedule. Johns said he has one potential dispatcher going through the background check, but said they will be “hired away” and another in training who just broke her femur. “We are going to be critical very quickly,” Johns said.

To cover the shifts, a deputy will be moved to dispatch as well as the OES director. Johns said that he is aware that the board can’t respond to him during public comment, so he invited them to call him to discuss the issue further. He also requested that the county not wait to reopen the negotiation process with the employees’ association.


District 4 Supervisor Greg Hagwood presented certificates of appreciation to Ron Trumbo for his work in “keeping citizens informed,” as well  to Tommy Miles for his “years of broadcast excellence.”

“I have had the distinct pleasure to work with these gentlemen at their respective radio stations over the last decades, but most acutely during the last few years,” Hagwood said. “You gentlemen and your staff and your families have been dedicated to keeping the communities informed on a daily and hourly basis.”

Auditing background anyone?

“We need folks with an auditing background as we move forward with staff changes (in the auditor’s office),” said County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero, when asked by Supervisor Greg Hagwood if the board could do anything to assist with the county’s finance-related challenges. As Lucero continues to work with the county’s finances, she has uncovered more issues. “We have not reconciled cash accounts ever with this system,” said Lucero, speaking of a new software program that went into effect in 2019. Lucero said the Auditor’s department is overloaded with work and will lose a key individual in that department.

Lucero also addressed the annual March 31 state audit deadline, which the county will not be able to meet it, and will result in penalties. Lucero said that the delay isn’t related to the current migration to a new finance system, but rather that the previous auditor worked from her personal laptop and there are some documents that are needed. Lucero said that “it won’t be like last year when it was months late. It will be days late.” When the documents aren’t filed by deadline, funding is delayed for every department that receives federal money.

Lucero and IT Director Greg Ellingson also presented the board with an update on the migration of payroll to the new software system. While it’s currently behind schedule, both are confident that the most time consuming portion of the work is now over and progress can be made.

No free ride

On the consent agenda was an item regarding Friends of Plumas Wilderness and its request to have the Portola Veterans hall fee waived for a community meeting. District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel pulled it off the consent agenda.

“I don’t mind waiving facility fees for Sober grad nights or something like that,” Engel said, but he thought this group could pay the fee.

District 3 Supervisor also questioned the request. “I’m all for free speech, but some of these groups have goals that are counterproductive to Plumas County,” he said. (Friends of Plumas Wilderness have broached the subject of national monument status for a portion of the county.)

“I just think they should pay like everyone else,” said Engel, who was less concerned about the politics, and more about everyone paying their fair share.

County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero asked if there was a policy in place that designated which groups paid and which did not.

County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr said that information is available through the Facilities department that maintains the rental of the county properties.

Emergency work to continue

At the request of interim Environmental Health Director, the board extended the timeline to remove structural debris, ash, hazardous trees and lead contamination from the Dixie and Beckwourth fires. “The work has basically stopped due to the weather,” Robinette said. “We aren’t asking for any more funding, just need to extend the time.” The work was paid for originally by the FEMA funds, and is almost completed.

“It’s not an option, we have to do this,” CAO Lucero said. The board agreed.

Stipend approved

The county had already provided a  $1,500 stipend from federal COVID funds to county employees as all are considered essential workers. During the Tuesday meeting, the board voted to also grant the stipend to the sheriff’s employees. Now, the only county employees who have not received the funds are department heads and deputy directors.

“Just the frontline workers received it,” Lucero said.

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