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Who will pay for code enforcement?

Twice in one day, the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office experienced setbacks at the hands of the Board of Supervisors.

During the morning session at the Sept. 11 meeting, Sheriff Greg Hagwood listened as supervisors allowed Plumas County Probation Chief Erin Metcalf to remove funding that cost the sheriff’s office one deputy and one corrections positions.

In a second move, supervisors decided to wait on determining if cannabis code enforcement officers within the sheriff’s office should receive reclassification and additional pay. That pay would be retroactive to July 3 when supervisors told Hagwood to begin code enforcement.

Susan Scarlett, county budget fiscal consultant, brought the situation to supervisors’ attention.

She said she knew supervisors had agreed to pay for supplies, fuel and other things concerning code enforcement on the cannabis moratorium approved in Nov. 2017. But when she questioned the sheriff’s fiscal officer about it, no funding was showing up on the sheriff’s new fiscal budget draft.

Although supervisors directed Human Resources Director Nancy Selvage to do the required paperwork providing the sheriff’s office with the essential information for an upgrade and pay, Selvage told the board she hadn’t had time.

Selvage was called to the supervisors’ chambers Sept. 11 to discuss her role in preparing for code enforcement. “It’s a work in process,” she said. She then detailed what was required of her to make the necessary changes for pay and reclassification to move forward. “I just not have had a chance to complete it,” she told the board.

Scarlett pointed out again the money requested for code enforcement was not in the budget.

County Counsel Craig Settlemire told supervisors they needed to find the money. He said they could make changes later and provided suggestions.

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said she was concerned about where they would find the money. She said they could use one-time monies, “which is not good fiscal policy.”

While supervisors pondered various options, Thrall said, “It isn’t going to fall from heaven.”

Scarlett was optimistic that supervisors could find the funding somewhere within existing funds.

Eventually, Supervisor Lori Simpson questioned what would happen if Measure B passes. That’s the law allowing or disallowing commercial cannabis grows in Plumas County. If that law passes, several departments anticipate increased workloads — meaning more costs associated with that increased responsibility.

When asked what Auditor Robert Allen anticipates should Measure B pass, she said there isn’t enough information to really budget for it.

July 3 meeting

Hagwood was before the board July 3 stating he needed $100,000 for an assistant cannabis code enforcement compliance position and extra duties for other officers.

Code enforcement traditionally falls under civil law. With additional cannabis code enforcement, the sheriff’s office needed to better understand civil code process in abating grows and penalties associated with those grows.

The code enforcement part of the moratorium was approved May 31. Enforcement began in early July.

Typically, a code enforcement officer from the county’s building department would handle these calls, but there is a certain risk connected to investigating cannabis grows not associated with other code enforcement. Hagwood agreed to take over code compliance in good faith, believing his staff would be paid and expenses met.

Although supervisors, county counsel and others discussed funding ideas for enforcement, Hagwood had to ask supervisors at the end of their discussion what they had decided.

The bottom line was supervisors agreed to come back to the issue later — leaving the sheriff’s office unfunded for a new county mandate — at least for now.

Will moratorium code enforcement continue?

Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said it was terrible to have to tell his code enforcement staff that the Board of Supervisors hadn’t budgeted funding for a reclassification of one position and additional pay.

“We’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of hours putting this program together,” Hagwood said about his staffs’ commitment to code enforcement.

Hagwood said his code enforcement task force has had 30 cases — those are incidents where people are growing more than the legal six plants per household as approved under California’s recreational marijuana use law.

And to date, Hagwood said they have won every case. His code enforcement staff has followed the law and presented their evidence to an independent hearing officer. Thousands of dollars in fines have come in when growers did not abate their plants within the specified time. “It’s really a quality program,” Hagwood said.

We were “not obligated to take on code enforcement,” Hagwood said following the Sept. 11 meeting. But they did.

Hagwood said he was taking his time before making a decision about continuing code enforcement without any firm commitment by the board of supervisors to pay his people.

Hagwood could decide to step away from code enforcement. That decision would leave supervisors with a moratorium they approved and no immediate body to enforce the code.

This also raises the issue as to whether code enforcement hearing officer Lynn Strom is getting paid.

Strom is being paid $80 an hour with a limit of $25,000, according to Nancy DaForno at the request of Supervisor Lori Simpson. That funding is coming out of the general fund and contracts.

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