2015 District 2 Reports
By Merlin Jones
As I'm sitting here writing this article, the sky is cloudy and it's starting to rain, which is much needed. One of the biggest issues in the county is the tree mortality. It is predicted that we will lose about 70% of all our pine trees. If this happens it will totally change the way Mariposa County looks and the trees will not grow back in our lifetime, if ever. Normally when something like this happens the first plant that grows is the brush, which does not allow trees to ever come back. The best thing that can happen is we get a lot of rain and a very cold winter. The rainfall is supposed to be above average, but it is supposed to be a mild winter temperature wise. People talk about all sorts of things to do with the bug trees, but the cost in logging and hauling is more than the tree is worth. Also cut down bug trees lifespan is 18 to 24 months before they are worthless. People talk about biomass plants...just to get the permits is 2 to 5 years, not counting the time to find a place to locate one. The other problem is pine is one of the worst fuels to burn in a biomass plant. Another and the most important reason why I don't feel it will work is it is not profitable without government grants which can go away at any time and we are left with a big white elephant to look at. Mother-nature goes through cycles, and we need to learn it is much stronger and greater than man can control.
On September 9 we had a Coulterville-Greeley Hill advisory meeting to discuss the B&B and cottage rental requirements and what their advice was. The heads of our Building and Planning Department were both there to explain the options. Another item that was discussed was a new welcome sign in Greeley Hill. I suggested that Judy Starr draw up 3 different styles and let the people vote, at the community breakfast, on which one they most liked. So look forward to a new sign in Greeley Hill.
On September 24th, I had a meeting with Public Works about the bypass route while building 2 new bridges. One will be on Dogtown Road and the other around the corner on Bondurant Mine Road in Greeley Hill. They are coming right along and will be done by the end of the year. This will allow fire trucks to safely cross the Bondurant Mine Road then. Next year we should start work on the 2 lower bridges on Dogtown Road near Coulterville. Early spring we will start the Coulterville drainage project, which is a 1.5 million dollar grant project. This will solve all the drainage issues Coulterville has had for over 100 years.
I had a meeting with Public Works, on October 8, and one of the leaders in the homeless community about them wanting to volunteer to help clean up the town of Mariposa. I feel it would be a win-win for them and the county. At the same time, I offered them a paying job in Greeley Hill and Coulterville. I hope they take me up on it so the ones that want to get out of being homeless can.
On October 14, I met with our C.A.O., Supervisor Long and Rick Peresan, of the IT Department., on expanding our county's website to give the public more information about the county and so you, the public, can do more activity online instead of having to come over to Mariposa.
Another item that I got passed during the budget sessions, with the help of county's ag commissioner was to once again start spraying the roadway easements, so there will be less fire danger, safer roads for line of site, and also help make the roads last much longer. The weeds grow along the roads and get in the cracks which in turn breaks up the edges. This will save the county a lot of money in the long run.
People have been pushing me to run for another term as District 2 Supervisor. I have been giving it some serious thought and am leaning in that direction. I feel I have brought a lot of positive changes to our district, but with the government moving so slow, there is a number of items I would still like to accomplish. Look for my answer in next month's paper, along with a list of accomplishments and things that still need to get done to help District 2. I always remember I work for you, the people of District 2 and Mariposa County. Always feel you can call me at my office in Mariposa at 966-3222 and my Greeley Hill office at 878-3158.
While I am sitting here looking out the window, I see all the bug infested trees, and how fast they are spreading. If any of you get a chance, I would advise you to attend some of these tree mortality workshops. They explain what a person can do and can't do. A lot of it is up to Mother Nature. Let's all hope we have a wet winter so the trees can fight off the bugs. Talking about water, let's hope some of these wells in Lake Don Pedro will start producing water. The last report I got is that the Lake McClure water would last till about September sometime.
On June 22, I had a meeting with Steve Johnson, The county H.R. director about settling some of the old workman's comp. claims, so we can fill these positions. Also, we talked about safety programs for our county employees and also a rewards system for outstanding employees. Steve is doing a great job.
On June 26, Cara from the Mariposa County Arts Council came up to our home to plan the 3rd Annual Northern Mariposa County Art Show, that will be held on Sunday, September 13. It will include art of all kinds: quilting, painting, woodworking, jewelry making, etc. It will be free for both artists and spectators. I have always been a strong supporter of the arts council and all the different activities they hold for the community such as storytelling, music, photo classes and much more.
On the 27th of June, I went to the Sausage and Suds benefit in Mariposa. This fundraiser was put on by the Friends of the Fair committee to help keep our fair financial sound and be able to continue to have a fair in Mariposa. This year, for the first time, it looks like we may get a little money from the state. For the past few years, all funding had been cut. We, the people of Mariposa need to make sure we keep the fair going. It's always around or on Labor Day. I hope to see you there supporting the FFA, 4H, destruction derby, rodeo, and all the other fun events.
We started removing some of the unsafe playground equipment, on July 1, from the old elementary school site in Greeley Hill. The School District will be opening a K-12 school in mid - August. I would like to thank the Gold Rush Charter School for all they have done these past 3 years. I am looking forward to working with the School District and Robin Hopper, the new superintendent.
On the 9th of July, I attended the Solid Waste Task Force meeting. We were updated on when our baler will be arriving. This will help make the garbage profitable instead of costing us money. We will then be able to bale cardboard, aluminum cans, paper and much more. There are some bills in the state coming down which will cost us more money to put garbage in our landfill in Mariposa. We are now looking at other options.
On July 14, the mining issue came before the B.O.S. on whether to put "conditional use permits" on mining or leave it as a permitted use on most land in Mariposa. The audience was split about 50/50. Supervisor Long (District 3) had to recuse himself so that left 4 board members voting. The majority decided to approve more restrictions than the state of California already has. I opposed this, for I feel this is another way to kill jobs and industry in the county.
I enjoy working for you, the people of District 2 and the county of Mariposa. Always feel free to call me at my office in Greeley Hill at 878-3158 or in Mariposa at 966-3222.
As I sit here writing this article, the weather has turned much warmer. The temperature is 93 degrees today and everything is extremely dry. I hope everyone has their fire clearance around their homes and have a plan in case there is a fire. Let's everyone be extremely careful not to do anything that could create a spark. As I am looking out over the forest I have never seen so many bug trees and trees that just plain dying for lack for lack of water. We need to be as careful as possible in conserving water. I was just notified today that the CSD in Lake Don Pedro subdivision could possibly run out of water as early as sometime in August because MID was denied relief in releasing water downstream of Lake McClure. They are appealing and I hope common sense prevails. Since when are fish more important than man.
On May 18, one of the meetings I had was with Steve Johnson, our new HR Director. He is doing a great job. One area, in particular, he is working on is many of the workmen's comp claims. Some of these are 2 years old, which costs the county money and it creates an empty spot in our workforce. Another meeting that day was with Charlotte Kelsey regarding opening the Greeley Hill school back up as a district school. Thank you, everyone, in the school district.
On the 21st of May, I had a meeting with Keith Williams about our TOT tax and how much it is up this year so far. This is what keeps the county running. It is about 50% of our discretionary spending. We also talked about a business license in the county, not to generate money from the license, but so we would know the businesses who have flammable products and companies would pay their share of the property taxes. I will keep you updated.
I spent the whole day interviewing for a principal for the district school in Greeley Hill on May 22. I am very happy with the person chosen. I feel she will be a great fit for our community. Thank you to everyone who applied and everyone who was involved in the decision-making process.
I hope everyone took a few moments to reflect on what Memorial Day means and how many people gave their lives for our freedom.
The Hotel Jeffery fundraiser was held on May 30th. It was one of the largest crowds ever seen in Coulterville. It raised between $23-25,000 to refurbish and restore the hotel. "Thank you" everyone for all your help, donations and bidding during the auctions.
On June 3rd, I had a conference call with our planning department and the Forrest Service on getting a roadway into the Hazel green project. It looks like that will finally happen after almost 20 years. This project will bring a lot more revenue into the county, and create many more jobs. I'll continue to update you on how this project is progressing.
I met with Cara Groger, from the arts council, on June 8th. She updated me on all the projects they are doing in Mariposa County, for all the age groups....from storytelling, art shows, photography class, concerts, etc. Again we will be holding the 3rd Annual Northern Mariposa County Art show at our home in Greeley Hill. It will be held on Sunday, September 13th. Plan to attend and visit with all the great artists. It is free to the artists as well as the spectators.
On June 9th, we held a discussion and direction forum at the B.O.S. meeting about the homeless in Mariposa. This is a problem that is getting worse and has introduced all types of needs of the homeless that must be addressed. The problems range from mentally impaired, to those that need just a little help, to the ones who just like that lifestyle, but they all need to abide by the laws of the county.
I want to thank all the people in Mariposa County and especially those in District 2 for letting me work for you. This is only about 10% of the meetings I attend. When you see our county employees doing a good job, please take the time to let them know you appreciate them. If you ever need any help or have any ideas, always feel free to call me at my office in Mariposa at 966-3222 or my office in Greeley Hill at 878-3158.
As I'm writing this article the sun is shining and it is a beautiful spring day. Then I look out at what used to be snow covered mountains this time of year and now the mountains have just a couple of white spots on them. The temperatures have been warmer than normal and there is virtually no snow in the high county for the summer. Water is going to be scarce, so we all need to conserve as much as possible. In the Lake Don Pedro CSD they have implemented 50% rationing. Even with cutting back that much they are still looking at the possibility of running out of water. The CSD is drilling wells in hopes of getting enough water to make it to winter, which I hope is a wet one. I hope Governor Brown's emergency declaration will help with some of the funding for the wells. There is an old saying, "water can be worth more than gold." Let's everyone do their job in conserving water.
I went to the Tourism Board Meeting where they discussed some of their future plans. They have been doing a great job promoting Mariposa County, and in return, our T.O.T. is way up again this year, which puts more money into the general fund so we can continue to provide services to the county residents. The money from the T.O.T. is almost half of our discretionary spending money. Without it we would have to cut many services such as the library, parks and recreation, and all the other non-essential service.
There will be some meetings you should be looking for. J.C. Fremont is going to be having a board meeting in Greeley Hill. The County's Health and Human Resources is going to have informational meetings with a number of the organizations on different services they are going to be providing in District 2. I heard that there will be snacks at these meetings. Another item I am working on is getting prescription drugs delivered over here to the J.C. Fremont Clinic in Greeley Hill. This will make it much easier for people with a transportation problem.
George Reed is back working on the DRI road project again which includes Dogtown, Schilling, and Bonderant Mine roads. Schilling Road and the bottom part of Dogtown Road to Coulterville is all they need to finish. This is the largest road project done in Mariposa County. If you get a chance, take a drive on the finished parts and you will see George Reed has done a great job.
One issue I have been working on is that the Mariposa County department heads haven't had a raise in 6 years. After releasing and retiring some, I feel we have an outstanding group of individuals working for the County. In the past 6 years, to recruit, past boards have given raises to some department heads and not others which has not been fair for the ones who have been dedicated, long-serving employees. I worked on a 3-year plan with the C.A.O. to get everyone back in line and give them their cost of living increase. I'd like to say a "Big Thank You to our department heads." I look forward to working with them in the future.
I have had as many or more meetings this month. Some have been working with the U.S. Forest Service on gate issues and also on the Hazel Green project. Another big issue was whether mining on agriculture land should be permitted or a conditional use permitted. I have been trying to get the airport with a F.B.O. running it and I have also been working with our I.T. department to keep our system running.
On April 16, I sponsored the first of 3 employee appreciation luncheons. We served hamburgers from the 2014 Mariposa County Fair's Grand Champion Steer to about 1/3 of the county employees. The employees brought side dishes and desserts. For the next 2 Thursdays, we will have luncheons for the rest of the employees. This is one way I can show how much I appreciate all their effort to make our county a great county. "Thank you for all you do." A special thanks to Marie, Rhonda, Elaine, Rene', Tracy, Mike Akers and Steve Johnson for all their help in putting this together. I would like to make note, this was at no cost to the County.
Always feel free to call me at my Mariposa office (966-3222) or my Greeley Hill office (878-3158). I always remember I work for you, the people of Mariposa and District 2.
As I am sitting here looking out the window, the temperature is about 72 degrees, which is extra warm for this time of year. When I looked up the precipitation, it is well below normal and time is running out to get much more rain. In looking up at the high country where there should be lots of snow to help fill our lakes in the summer, there is very little snow. If this continues it will be the fourth drought year in a row, so I hope everyone prays for rain or do a rain dance, or whatever else you can do to get some more snow and rain.
On January 15, I had a meeting with Pete Judy, head of the Probation Department., about department heads salaries. I have felt for quite some time that they have not gotten any increases for a number of years, and the cost of living has continued to increase. I visited with a number of other department heads and I feel we are all on the same page. I plan on working with our interim C.A.O., Mary Hodson, on putting together a plan that will bring these salaries more in line, but at the same time make it affordable to the county.
I went to Sacramento on January 21st, to meet with Cal-Recycle about what they expect from Mariposa County, because they have been wanting more information and data that we could provide, and they also didn't realize how many visitors come through our county and dump their garbage. After meeting with them for a couple of hours, I came away realizing that they couldn't give us clear numbers we had to reach, but we just have to keep trying to do better, and if we don't, they can fine us. I'll be meeting with them in May, and I hope we make them much happier. Our state regulations on everything continue to get worse.
The B.O.S. held interviews for the head of H.R. on January 22nd. I feel the person who was selected will do an excellent job. We have two more department head positions to fill; C.A.O. and Public Works. These are always tough decisions and we always hope they will be a good fit for our county.
On January 29, I met with the Forest Service about the road to the Hazel Green property. Jim Junette, the district ranger, has been easy to work with and in the near future we will be having a meeting with all parties involved in Tuolumne County, Mariposa County and the Forest Service to see if we can't get a final agreement, so we can move the project along. I'm excited about it, and I feel it will be good for Mariposa County and Dist. 2.
On the 4th of February, we had interviews for a Public Work Director. There were a number of good candidates, and I feel the one we choose will be a good fit for our county. The Public Works Department is so big and entails so many different things, it is hard to get one person who knows about all these, so instead, I feel we need to find the best leader who knows how to hire the right people under him, and I feel that is what we did.
I attend the Lake Don Pedro Owners Assoc. meeting on February 14. This was a special meeting to give everyone an update on the water situation for the district. The CSD gets virtually all its water out of Lake McClure. Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties had their Environmental Health officers at the meeting along with the CSD's manager, Pete Kempa who gave a report and projection of the future. These are some of the facts. Lake McClure is 560 feet above sea level and the bottom is 550 feet. April 1st, MID will need to release more water for the fish. They would run out of water by the end of June. The cost to pump the water that high is $20,000/month. The CSD is looking to drill 3 good wells at $400,000 a well. It will take at least 60 days. All the sites will be in Mariposa County. To move the barge closer to the dam would cost 10 to 20 million dollars and take 1 year. They will be purposing going to a 50% reduction in water consumption. CSD has gotten one $60,900 grant. The district doesn't have the money. Right now this is the highest drought problem in the state. The total reserve money right now is $1.3 million, so in short, everyone is going to have to work together to get through the drought.
On another note, just a reminder to dog owners, if your dogs are off your property, they must be on a leash, which can't exceed 8 feet in length and the person in charge must be competent and keep the dog under control. Dogs can be off leash when they are working livestock on the property the livestock is on. So lets everyone obey the leash law in Mariposa County and Tuolumne County.
These are only 10% of the meetings I attend and only some of the major issues. I always remember I work for you, the people of Mariposa County and District 2. Always feel free to call me at my Greeley Hill office at 878-3158 or my Mariposa office at 966-3222. Thank you for letting me serve you.
I'm writing this article with the sun shining through the window and the temperature outside in the mid-60s. This is much too warm and nice for this time of year, especially when we haven't had any substantial rain in a number of weeks. In driving to work, I noticed the wild oats are already heading out. That means there is not a lot of growth in the plant, which means another bad year for the cattle industry. It also means even higher prices in the store for us, the consumer. Let's talk about the water because we can't find much to see. Lake McClure and Lake Don Pedro are both extremely low and in danger of not being able to provide enough, even limited water to the public. Let's talk about snow because we can't find much to look at or touch. For many years I would look out the window where I am today and see the snow-covered mountains and the land around our house covered with snow, now all I see is dirt and mostly bare mountains up high. We are now at the point where it is getting very serious. Let everyone pray for rain and snow, and those of you who do your rain dance....dance.
On December 16, Supervisors Bibby and Stetson both retired. I will miss working with both of them and wish them well in their retirement. Marshall Long and Rosemarie Smallcombe will be replacing them. I am sure we will be able to all work together making the tough decisions coming before the county in the next couple of years.
On the 17th of Dec., I had a meeting in the morning with Public Works and some citizens on Dogtown Road about the road project, and also I visited with an engineer about the two bridges that will be replaced. In the afternoon I met with County Counsel and the Planning Department about a proposal to transfer the sewer in Lake Don Pedro to the C.S.D. so it is a win-win for everyone, and at the same time lower the sewer bill to the public.
On December 18, I met with Jim Junette, the District Forest Ranger, about a number of issues. Right after that, I took our grant writer for a ride to inspect and see the fruits of her labor on getting the grant for Dogtown, Bonderant Mine and Schilling Roads paved. "Great job, Tara!"
I had a walk through the Greeley Hill School on December 19th, with the Mariposa Unified School District Superintendent, Robin Hopper and a number of other people, to look at the possibility of reopening the school or working with the Gold Rush Charter as a joint effort for the children of Greeley Hill.
I had a few days off around Christmas to spend with family and friends.
On the morning of December 29, I met with Public Works and Sup. Kevin Cann. I had a luncheon appointment with School Superintendent, Robin Hopper and at 1 p.m. I had an appointment to interview for a new health officer for Mariposa County. I feel we chose a great person to fill the shoes of Dr. Moser.
Sunday, January 4th, I attended the Greeley Hill Community Club breakfast. As usual, the food and company were great. It was nice seeing the county D.A., Tom Cook over here enjoying the event.
Monday, January 5, was another busy day. I met with the Sierra Conservancy about their meadow restoration project in Greeley Hill. I'm looking forward to the project because I think it will encourage other people to bring back these great historical country meadows. I also attended the swearing-in ceremony of our new judge, Mike Fagalde.
Tuesday, January 6, we had the swearing-in ceremony of the rest of the county officers and supervisors. I took over the chairing of the B.O.S. for this year. Sometimes I feel like it's like herding wild cats.
I attended a task force meeting, on January 8th, regarding recycling and our landfill. One of the bright spots is we are working on getting a baler to bale anything from paper to cans so we can make money on all these products.
Saturday, January 10th, I attend the L.D.P. Owner's Assoc. meeting. I let them know what is happening in the county and had a Q&A session about the indemnification of the P. and E trails. Following, I met with the owners of the Mariposa Events Center. They are doing a great job and look forward to developing their facility.
On Sunday, January 11, I attended the Northern Mariposa County History Center breakfast at the old Coulterville schoolhouse. This is one way they work to keep the history center open. Don't forget to attend the history center opening gala, February 7. It is a fun event and you can see all the new displays for the 2015 season.
On the 12th of January, I started the morning with the agenda review meeting. I go over Tuesday's agenda with the C.A.O., County Counsel and the Clerk of the Board. This meeting helps everyone understand what is coming before the B.O.S. the next day. As Chairman of the B.O.S., this meeting will be added to my schedule every Monday. Immediately after this meeting, I met with Sup. Cann and the Yosemite Renaissance. They will be doing a presentation at a B.O.S. meeting on where the money goes that they are asking for. After no lunch, I met with Sup. Cann and Greg Olivier, regarding the landfill and some problems he was having. Greg is going a great job.
The B.O.S. meeting, on Tuesday, January 13, was a busy meeting. We divided up all the agencies, commissions, and department liaison positions available. This year my plate is even fuller than last year, but I enjoy it.
This is about a fourth of the meetings I attend, but I hope it gives you a sampling of what goes on in Mariposa County. One of the things I have been working on is restoring the Hotel Jeffery, back to a nicer and better hotel than it has ever been. Mark Becker of Becker Construction is doing a great job remodeling and organizing the project.
I would like to thank all our county workers. I always remember I work for you, the people of District 2 and the great county of Mariposa, the Mother of Counties. If I can be of some assistance to you, my office number in Mariposa is 966-3222 and in Greeley Hill is 878-3158.