County News

by Mark Scaramella, January 25, 2017

Ward & County Reach Tentative Settlement

For more than a year an ad hoc committee composed of former Supervisor Tom Woodhouse and current Supervisor Dan Hamburg allowed a dispute between the county’s long-time trash hauler-contractor Solid Waste of Willits and the County after fester while Jerry Ward's trash hauling outfit apparently continued to lose money on the contract to the point that his bank would no longer lend him operating money and Ward was pushed to the point of threatening to file for bankruptcy.

THEN in a matter of a few weeks when a sane supervisor, John McCowen, was appointed to the ad hoc committee to replace Woodhouse, a compromise deal was worked out which obviously could have been worked out a year ago had the pre-McCowen ad hoc committee wanted to.

ITEM 6c on the Board of Supervisors agenda for next Tuesday says:

6c) Discussion and Possible Action Including Consideration of a Proposed One (1) Year Agreement with Solid Waste of Willits (SWOW) Providing SWOW with Additional Revenue and Cost Saving Measures Related to the Provision of Solid Waste Services Pursuant to Five Existing Franchise and/or Transfer Station Agreements with SWOW (Sponsors: Supervisors Hamburg and McCowen)

Recommended Action:

A. Authorize staff to prepare an amendment to the County/City of Fort Bragg/SWOW Caspar Transfer Station contract to add scrap metal and electronics to the recycling commodity index. (This amendment will also require City of Fort Bragg approval, who is a party to this contract)

B. Authorize staff to implement the following items, including amending the contracts for Franchise Areas 1, 3, and 4 as necessary:

1. A 10.09% collection rate increase to the South Coast contract. (Franchise Area 4)

2. Transfer of ownership of the South Coast Transfer Station improvements to the County to relieve SWOW of property tax.

3. Increase gate fees by $3.25 per cubic yard at the Covelo transfer station to help fund purchase of roll-off containers. (Franchise Area 1)

4. Allow (temporary) closure of the Boonville, Gualala, and Westport recycling buy-back centers. The County will retain the right to direct SWOW to re-open these recycling buy-back centers in the future. (Franchise Areas 1, 3, and 4)

5. Contract with an independent contractor per the County's contracts with SWOW, to perform an independent financial audit and/or rate-setting study, with SWOW to pay 50% of the cost. This audit/study will be the basis for determining the County' response to SWOW's request for a Larger Rate Increase.

6. Draft an amendment to defer by 90 (ninety) days the required franchise fee payment due for the first and second quarters of 2017. (Franchise Areas 1, 3, and 4)

C. Waive the requirement approved by the Board and as stated in a January 10, 2017letter to SHOW from County Solid Waste staff directing SWOW to obtain five performance bonds for five County contracts

D. This proposed 1-year agreement will not take effect until the following contract terms are met:

1. SWOW pays the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority surcharge for September 2016, which is currently past due, and the October 2016 surcharge payment which is due on January 29, 2017

2. Caspar transfer station waste boxes are covered, with any potential leachate contained and treated

* * *

Estimated Value to SWOW of County Solid Waste Ad Hoc Committee Recommendations Prepared for January 24, 2017 Board of Supervisors Meeting

Ad Hoc Offers to SWOW (as of May 18, 2016): 

Estimated Annual Value (in parens):

1. Reverse a 4.13% collection rate decrease to the South Coast franchise ($39,972.95)

2. Move buy-back recycling center in Gualala to the South Coast Transfer Station. ($0)

3. Transfer ownership of the South Coast Transfer Station Improvements to the County to relieve SWOW of property tax ($5,811.04)

4. Move buy-back recycling center in Boonville to the Boonville Transfer Station. ($0)

5. Increase gate fees by ($3.25 per cubic yard at Covelo Transfer Station to help fund purchase of roll-off containers ($24,514.00

6. Add scrap metal and electronics to the recycling commodity adjustment in the Caspar Transfer Station contract (requires Fort Bragg consent) ($28,549.00)

TOTAL ESTIMATED VALUE, original Ad Hoc proposal: ($98,846.99)

Additional Ad Hoc Considerations (January 16, 2017)

7. Close Westport, Boonville, Gualala Recycling Buy-Back Centers ($131,455.04)

8. Raise South Coast (Franchise Area 4) rates an additional 5.96% ($57,684.93, $189,139.97)

TOTAL ESTIMATED VALUE, new Ad Hoc proposal: $287,986.96

* * *

Presumably, Mr. Ward will accept the ad hoc committee's new proposal and the problem will be solved for the time being, albeit with higher trash dumping fees, hauling rates, and fewer places to drop off recyclables.

 


County Prepares For Mental Health Gab Session

On Friday the 13th the Behaviorial Health Board met in Ukiah in preparation for their annual joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors this Monday, January 23. One of the topics on that unlucky day was Item 3: “Topics for Discussion at the January 23, 2017 Joint Meeting With BOS. The BHB (aka Mental Health Board but with substance abuse issues supposedly included in their nebulous purview) labored mightily for some time and produced the following proposed agenda for the Supes:

“Mental Health Housing

Crisis Stabilization Units

Staffing

Mental Health Education”

That was it. The entire agenda. Four vague topics.

“Mental Health Housing” is a long-time non-starter because 1. the Board and the County’s Rural Housing Association can’t even agree on an effective presentation to the three local city councils on what they can do to identify possible housing sites, and the County can’t even identify low cost housing sites, much less those for mental patients. And 2. Even if they did the grants for such housing projects are drying up. The best option would be to make an arrangement with the old Howard Hospital. But someone’s always coming up with an excuse for not pursuing that option too.

“Crisis Stabilization Units.” We’re not sure what this even means. According to a report last Saturday in the Ukiah Daily Journal by their new reporter Mr. Erik O’Donnell, “The county could look to other jurisdictions in California as examples of ways to intervene once crises flare up. Jenine Miller, the director of behavioral health, pointed to Sonoma County and the city and county of San Francisco, which employ 24/7 mobile crisis workers who respond directly to reports of people in mental distress. In Santa Rosa and Berkeley, mental-health workers work in tandem with police officers, responding to calls as a team, she said.”

This is what we’ve been calling for for years — a crisis van, one inland and one on the Coast. We’ve even cited those same examples/models in Sonoma County, San Francisco and the East Bay. The last time this came up was 10 or 15 years ago when the County’s was trying to think of ways to spend the Prop 63 mental health supplementary money. Somebody suggested something like a crisis van. But, of course, it was botched because the County mental health department refused to consider operating it, so they went out for bids (a terrible idea; it would have to be county employees working closely with cops) and nobody bid. End of subject. If Ms. Miller can make any headway at all on this subject she’d make instant fans out of us.

“Staffing” — mental health staffing is a problem across the state. No amount of Board gab will help this at all.

“Mental Health Education” — a complete waste of time.

Mr. O’Donnell’s account of the Friday the 13th Behaviorial Health Board meeting also mentioned several other dubious discussion points:

“The board narrowed down a wide range of possible future services to six – housing, case management, education, psychiatric care, help maintaining social connections, and mobile emergency responders – that it will recommend to the Board of Supervisors at its next meeting Jan. 23.”

Mr. O’Donnell continued, “Participants argued that the county should employ case managers to help people overcome the logistical and financial difficulties of finding permanent shelter, which meeting participants saw as a barrier to mental stability.”

“Case management”? That’s already a requirement of the contract the County has with their private mental health contractor, Redwood Quality Management. It certainly was a requirement of the contract with Ortner — one which Ortner was paid twice the going rate for but didn’t do much of. Why the BHAB now thinks it’s a “possible future service” means something is very wrong with the privatization of mental health services.

Mr. O’Donnell also reported, “The discussion follows the narrow defeat of a November ballot initiative that would have created an inpatient facility for people in crisis. The returns for measures AG and AH narrowly fell short of the two-thirds supermajority needed for approval but signaled a strong public majority in favor of paying for expanded mental-health services.”

No it didn’t. It meant that we need a local FACILITY, not more money for “expanded mental health services.” The County already pays a whopping $27 million a year for mental health services with nearly nothing to show for it. Nobody voted for “expanded mental health services,” we voted to keep our mental patients in Mendocino County and spend the money in more practical ways to provide real services — not more case management and pill dispensing “docs in a box.”

The Sheriff’s Department still does the on-the-street mental health work and they don’t get a nickel of that $27 million.

Mr. O’Donnell added, “Sheriff Tom Allman, who led the campaign to pass measures AG and AH, has said that law enforcement has become, by default, the county’s first responder in mental-health emergencies, a role it is not trained or equipped to fulfill. Health and Human Services is currently working with the Sheriff’s Office to arrange classes for deputies this summer and fall, Miller said.”

Guess who will pay to have deputies sit in these “classes” (that have been talked about for at least three years now with no progress)? That’s right. The Sheriff will pay. Again, none of that $27 million will pay for any deputy training, training which wouldn’t be necessary if the Mental Health Department was doing its job.

Mr. O’Donnell concluded with “The board held its discussion amid a clear public desire for mental-health services to improve, [Supervisor Dan] Hamburg said after the meeting. The failure of a third-party contractor, Ortner Management Group, to adequately manage the county’s adult mental-health system last year bred impatience for solutions to the county’s longstanding service shortfalls, which include an inpatient facility of the kind that would have been created by measures AG and AH, he said.”

Hamburg was the point man for those who questioned how the County would staff the facility which lead directly to its narrow defeat. Now he’s rewriting history saying that the vote was for more services when it was actually for a facility Hamburg fretted over staffing (while all his Supervisor colleagues said they’d make sure it was staffed with existing funds, no more —no problem).

The Behavioral Health Board and the Supes should spend a lot more time figuring out why they get so little for their $27 million and a lot less time talking about subjects they clearly don’t understand — and putting those time-worn subjects on an agenda for a meeting that will do nothing to improve the situation.

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