Day 1 of Nevada County BOS workshop – focus on public health and safety

Grass Valley, Calif, January 22, 2020 – The annual workshop held by Nevada County to discuss Board of Supervisors priorities started today in Grass Valley. On today’s agenda: updates from the CEO, the Sheriff, the county’s fiscal team, Board objectives update, wildfire preparedness, OES achievements, General Plan safety element and planned actions for next year – and that was just the morning session.

Nevada County CEO Alison Lehman introducing the emergency preparedness portion of the BOS workshop. Photo courtesy Nevada County.

Wildfire, emergency preparation remain a top priority

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The OES segment demonstrated the collaboration between Nevada County, local fire departments, CAL FIRE, non-profits like the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County and community organization like the Firewise Coalition.

Sheriff Moon, whose office is in charge of evacuations, stated one of her priorities is to be part of OES – something that the Sheriff’s Office had never done before. “That comes at a cost to my staff time, but I reallocated the available resources to make sure we are part of it. It is one of our most important services we provide in an emergency,” Moon stated.

Nevada County Consolidated Fire Chief Jim Turner echoed the comments made by the previous speakers “It doesn’t matter what patch we have on our uniform, it can be state, local, federal, we provide the closest resource.” Turner explained the system provides the fastest response to the community. Recalling the 49’er fire, he also commended the residents for their proactive part – especially the plethora of Firewise communities. People are willing to do the work. We just need to provide them the support and some additional relief on the cost. How that is achieved is a huge task. But, you have the support of the fire agencies. I give you my word that we will do our part to ensure this community is as safe as it can be.”

CAL FIRE Chief Brian Estes during today’s BOS workshop. Photo courtesy Nevada County

CAL FIRE Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit Chief Brian Estes highlighted the collaboration between fire, law enforcement and county agencies. “I have about 30 years of experience in different regions in our agency. We have a tremendous commitment to Nevada County.” He related some of his conversations with County CEO Alison Lehman about cost/benefit analyses for the goals [see chart below] set forth by Nevada County and said that from a CAL FIRE perspective there is “much more bang for the buck. They are really, really good goals. When we talk about creating safe evacuation roads countywide to protect lives, certainly Sheriff Moon has the jurisdictional authority for evacuations, but the evacuation and egress routes are such a key component. Yes, it does take maintenance, but the maintenance compared to a project like Ponderosa West pales in comparison. The big difference between access and egress is that the county does have that jurisdictional authority to do it… When I look at those measurable and attainable goals, I could not agree more with access and egress routes for evacuation planning being one of the top priorities for the county – and money well-spent.”

No vote taken on proposing a tax

After a brief beak for lunch, the discussion turned to a possible tax measure providing stable funding to accomplish the goals of the Wildfire Preparedness Action Plan. Grant funding, staff explained, is not a secure source of funding. State and federal agencies can, at any moment, decide not to renew grant funding opportunities and the competitive process never guarantees a favorable outcome. While Nevada County OES grant applications have higher success rates than the national average, delays between awarding grant funding and actually receiving the funds can stretch for years.

During a workshop, no votes are taken, but Supervisors signaled agreement to direct staff “to engage stakeholders in developing a public safety evacuation and hazardous vegetation reduction tax measure to submit to the voters in November 2020.”

If the BOS decides to move forward and put the tax on the November 2020 ballot, a two-thirds majority of Yes votes would be needed.

Staff will now prepare a detailed proposal, including cost estimates, the amount of the proposed tax, and then bring the item to the BOS for discussion and a possible vote.

Other topics

The OES overview was followed by a presentation of the Homeless Plan Update and a legislative update. Tomorrow, the BOS will discuss the county’s Vision, Mission and Value Statement, hear updates on the capital facilities improvement plans for public safety facilities, the needs of the animal shelter and library facilities.

The county’s engagement with residents and an update on the cannabis permitting process will take up the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, updates from Planning and Ag departments will take center stage. The day will conclude with discussions by supervisors on topics raised during the day. On Friday morning, the whole session will be devoted to economic development before the BOS’ 2020 objectives will be summed up by the facilitator.

The workshop is open to the public and starts at 8:30 am at the Foothills Event Center on Idaho-Maryland Road in Grass Valley.