Council directed city administrator to continue negotiation with SIR on collaborative position at its Nov. 16 meeting

Susanville Mayor Quincy McCourt and City Administrator Dan Newton provided details on a possible economic development partnership with the Susanville Indian Rancheria at the Susanville City Council’s Nov. 16 meeting.

The item — 9C on the agenda — was called “Approved Position List.” The council took no action and directed Newton to continue his negotiations with the SIR to develop the new collaborative position.

Responding to a question from a resident, McCourt said, “What we have in Lassen County and here in the city — we essentially have three local governments — the Susanville Indian Rancheria is one of our local governments, we have Lassen County and we have the city here. So many months back, we recognized, and we agreed that economic development was a priority for the city for the future of our economy. And so, we went to the county and presented an opportunity to partner, we went to the Rancheria and presented an opportunity to partner, and we also presented it here. And so, for a couple of months it sounded like all three of our local governments were considering it strongly, however, at this point it seems like the only two local businesses (sic) taking this partnership opportunity to focus on economic development is (sic) the Susanville Indian Rancheria and the city of Susanville. So, they would be (a) 50/50 partner in this venture for the benefit of all of us, for the Rancheria, for the entire community. We’ve got some ideas in the direction that we’ll be going, but it’s just an awesome opportunity to 50/50 partner with some of our other great community members … “

Responding to a question from Lassen News on Saturday, Feb. 25, Lassen County Administrator Richard Egan clarified the county’s position in regard to this proposed partnership.

He said the county has discussed economic development with the city many times in the past and would be willing to discuss the matter in the future.

“There are a variety of logistical issues in dealing with a position like that, not the least of which is who’s going to supervise, who’s going to be responsible for that employee, and I don’t think those issues have been locked down yet,” Egan said. “The county is certainly willing to have discussions like that, but I think it needs to be in a thoughtful manner with long-term objectives, and I don’t think those have been developed yet.”

Egan said, from his perspective, one of the biggest hurdles to creating such partnerships is what do the words “economic development” actually mean? He said “economic development” is so nebulous because it means so many different things to so many different people. He said those words should be clearly and precisely defined at the very outset before developing any such partnership.

Staff report on Nov. 16
According to the staff report, it is Newton’s role to “appoint and remove or promote or demote any and all officers and employees of the city with the approval of the city Council. The approved position list is a mechanism used to demonstrate City Council approval for the positions that the city administrator can fill. Any new positions not on the approved position list need to be approved before the position is advertised or filled.”

Regarding this new position, according to the staff report, “The city administrator requests consideration to add the position of assistant city administrator to focus exclusively on the development and implementation of economic development programs and activities within the region. The position as proposed will be hired by a separate employment agreement and unrepresented by an employee bargaining unit. Additionally, the proposed salary range will be approximately $111,000 to $150,000 dependent upon qualifications. A key city partner in this effort is the Susanville Indian Rancheria.

“Embarking on a robust economic development effort has been expressed as a priority of the City Council. Existing staff does not have the capacity to consistently focus on the activities outlined in the Economic Development Implementation Plan Framework specifically the role of collaborator/manager. A role that involves leading the economic development charge within the community by collaborating with stakeholders, existing businesses and potential new businesses.”

Nov. 16 city council minutes
According to the minutes of the Nov. 16 meeting, “Mr. Newton provided an explanation of the item and the position being proposed as well as the partnership with the Susanville Indian Rancheria regarding the position. Eileen Richard, public, inquired as to whether or not (sic) the SIR is only considered a preferred business or something else. Mayor McCourt responded that the SIR is a partnering agency, not a business. Arian Hart, SIR Tribal Chairman, stated that this is a big opportunity for the community as a whole and this partnership will have some lasting effects. Dwayne Sherman, SIR Tribal Administrator, stated that everyone is having a hard time attracting professionals to the community. He added that the City, the County and the SIR all have a CEDS document and suggested that a partnership be had to work together instead of all agencies working separately. Councilmember Brown stated that he is for it, Councilmember Stafford stated that it needed to go back to the ad hoc, which should include a tribal member, to work out specifics, qualifications and to adjust the pay range. Councilmember Schuster and Mayor pro tem Herrera are also for the position. Mr. Newton stated that there are still quite a few details to work out, but there will still be an opportunity to do so. He added that there is no budget being requested at this time, and he would like to work with the Rancheria. Mayor McCourt inquired as to whether or not (sic) Mr. Newton felt direction was received to which he stated his understanding was to move forward, working closely with both the ad hoc and the SIR, as it would be a collaborative effort.”