mountainecho.com

October 1, 2012

Editorial

Filed under: Uncategorized — waltblog @ 5:56 pm

Actions at the last Shasta Local Agency Formation Commissioner (LAFCO) Commissioners’ board meeting have me concerned. The commissioners overruled staff recommendations, waived fees and ignored policy to give the Fall River Community Services District representation what they wanted. First, if you can waive fees for the Fall River CSD, you can waive fees for the rest of the special districts in the county and second, 13 plus years ago Julie Howard resigned as executive director because she followed the law and the commission bowed to political pressure and overruled her. Are you folks going to step in the proverbial doo-doo and repeat history?
I am a 30+ year trustee, and past president of the Burney Basin Mosquito Abatement District and a past Commissioner and Past Chairman of the Burney Fire Protection District. I was also the first alternate commissioner representing Special Districts elected by the districts to your LAFCO board. I served while Julie Howard was the executive officer. I have also been an active reporter covering special districts for 35 years, which includes their occasional dealings with your LAFCO.
Having watched the attempted, and apparently successful, manipulation of your board by a small group of people representing a small number of people with grandiose schemes and bad tempers in the Fall River Valley, raises concerns.
In the past few months that small contingency has gone to your meetings, publicly attacked your employee, harassed her during breaks, tried to teach you law as they perceive it, attempted to harass individual commissioners on the phone and campaign trails. All things that raise red flags to most thinking individuals.
I don’t know a special district in this county that is happy with your annual (state authorized) fee.
Property taxes have been going down. Costs have been going up. Add to that State and Federal manipulation and district financing has become a paramount concern. Many are living or improving by writing grants which may also dry up at any time. I don’t know too many public entities, as well as the county itself, that aren’t strapped for income.
You folks opened Pandora’s box by waiving fees. I’m personally glad you did because the day will come when my district will need something done that requires your approval. It is nice to know that fees are discretionary and that if we are obnoxious or hire an attorney, we can get the fees waived. I won’t have any trouble showing my district is financially stressed, especially since you guys on’t do your homework, voting on emotion, not common sense.
You folks employ two people part-time and demand that they do their work, which includes completed complex and accurate documentations required to assure that districts don’t step on one another, follow the laws governing their ability to increase, decrease the size of their boundaries, extent of their services etc. You also expect your employees to follow the laws of the state as it governs LAFCO, keep abreast and keep you abreast of statewide LAFCO happenings, changes in the laws etc. The least you could do is back them for doing their jobs.
For those of you that haven’t the history, Julie Howard was the executive director of LAFCO for years. She resigned when her board failed to support her even though she was right.
Amy Mickelson has spent over 13 years with you folks. That is a pretty long time to keep someone if you didn’t feel she knew her job.
The Fall River Mills Community Services District isn’t strapped for money because you folks abused them. That district has well over a 20-year history of poor management of its infrastructure, money, personnel and operations. There were several years when they had to cancel some of their monthly board meetings because they couldn’t get a quorum of directors to show up.
During that period their infrastructure deteriorated, they put in a well that wasn’t properly thought out, their policies and procedures, along with their bank account declined. As the decline progressed, they also failed to properly complete the form keeping their parks and recreation status intact, didn’t complete their Municipal Services Review, skipped their annual independent audits because they “couldn’t afford” them.
The board made some strong moves in the right direction two years ago. They changed management, they started paying attention to their finances, and had their independent audits done.
It became obvious when they changed their name from Fall River Mills to Fall River Valley that they had bigger plans. Unfortunately they wanted the world and moved too fast. In the 18 or so months since the “old board” left and that manager was fired, there have been a total of seven changes in directors, two of whom, served twice, and they are on their second manager. All five board positions are up for election this November. One of candidates was on the board but quit in a huff because she didn’t like being criticized. One, an incumbent, is running in spite of having her new residence completed outside the district, one candidate is the wife of a person who has already been put on notice that he, along with the district, may be sued for libel by a LAFCO staffer.
They pass a rate increase for water and sewer, then go out and borrow $8,000 to get an attorney to intimidate you folks. They attempt to expand into Shingletown to pick up a hydro facility when they don’t have money, experience or charter to have one. They want to expand their sphere of influence to Little Valley in Lassen County to pick off another community services district while using extremely questionable, often illegal, techniques of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act, attempting to intimidate anyone who opposes them, including you folks, failing to follow up on promises made at board meetings, and failing to properly supervise or rein in their manager.
I really don’t think that LAFCO or any other governing body should condone that type of behavior, bow to that type of abuse or send that type of message to employees.

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