For more than a year the board has been demonized from both within and without for spending money to help with the economic development in the South County community on property abandoned by the army.
According to some estimates, the county has been spending perhaps as much as $80,000 to $100,000 each year for the past few years in Herlong.
Some of that money went to the salaries of county employees. Some has gone to paying the utility bills for businesses and public agencies in the core Herlong area.
As incredible as it might seem, in many cases the rents charged by the county don’t even cover the cost of those utility bills.
To make matters even worse, some of that money has been borrowed, improperly according to some critics, from county funds that may never be repaid.
Bowing to the public outcry, the board directed staff to stop the bleeding and find a way to divest the LRA properties in Herlong.
In the case of the C-Mart building, the Gashouse Deli, the building and property were sold last November, and the new owners received credit for improvements and repairs to the building.
The Herlong community benefits from having a functional business creating jobs, income and a tax base.
Building 170, the Chapel, enjoys a new heating and air conditioning system paid for by the county.
The building houses the Lassen County Heath and Human Services Department and Sacred Heart Church.
Building 2067, the Community Shopping Center houses the U.S. Post Office, Sierra Central Credit Union, Jenkins Realty, the West Patton Village Community Services District Fire Department, the Library, the Thrift Store and the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department.
The county expects to transfer Building 2071, the Theatre, to the Fort Sage School District.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars building and adjacent property was recently transferred to the VFW.
Now that the board is finally attempting to abandon this allegedly failed economic development program, the mixed messages begin to appear as South Valley residents suddenly want a number of improvement projects — heating and air conditioning systems, new windows, a possible youth center, etc.
Calling the treatment of businesses and agencies in Herlong a “fairness issue,” District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson, who represents the Herlong area, continues to argue businesses and agencies in Herlong should receive the same support similar groups receive throughout the county.
Hanson was the only supervisor to vote against a recent motion to charge all the businesses and agencies in the LRA properties a surcharge to cover their share of utility bills.
The supervisor often said he has the same vision for economic development in Herlong as he did in the beginning.
He’s right. The county should provide the same support to all.
And despite the complaints from critics, the county should do everything it can do to improve the economic climate in Herlong — even if that means holding on to the properties a while longer and taking a slower, more thoughtful approach.
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