Hemphill asks county to ‘ease up’ on COVID-19 enforcement

The Lassen County Board of Supervisors held its Tuesday, April 14 meeting at Jensen Hall in order to provide adequate social distancing for the supervisors, staff and the public.

Here’s a summary of the meeting.


Unagendized reports

During the unagendized reports portion of the meeting, Supervisor Jeff Hemphill asked the county to ease up on enforcing its COVID-19 regulations.

“Let’s just back off and kind of ease up,” Hemphill said. “The government can go broke and it won’t hurt anybody, but these small businesses are all hurting right now and getting letters from the county offices that they need to comply with different laws and stuff. I’m sure it’s law, but these guys are having a hard time, and it’s a struggle for everyone that’s in business. The government can go broke and they just print more money and we can go about our business, but when a small business goes broke, it’s done.”


Consent calendar

The board approved some items for its consent calendar, but several items were pulled for separate discussion.

Here are the items pulled for separate discussion.

Supervisor Aaron Albaugh asked Lassen County Auditor Nancy Cardenas to explain the county’s cash balance.

Cardenas said there are a lot of fund transfers that haven’t been completed by the auditor’s office yet. She said the second installment of property taxes collected as much as last year, but she wasn’t sure what the sales tax revenue was going to be. She said the sales tax deadline has been extended and the county may not receive that money until the third or fourth quarter.

“I think we’re going to have to hold on to our hats and try to do the best we can do,” Cardenas said. “Spend less and mitigate. All of it’s out of our hands. It’s kind of like Jeff said. We’re kind of like the small business of the government. The feds can print more money, and the state can take the fed’s money, but will the state give the county any of that money? And that’s kind of what we’re waiting to see … It’s going to be tough this fiscal year. There is no easy answer … We need money any way we can get money, and it looks like the streams will be delayed.”

Cardenas also said she didn’t know what kind of cannabis revenue the county would receive this year, and the county had extended some second installment taxes for about 10 small businesses as authorized by the governor.

Chair David Teeter said the county should not neglect the cannabis tax regulations approved by the voters.

The board unanimously voted to receive and file Cardenas’ report.

Supervisor Albaugh also asked for more information about the county’s agreement with the California Department of Social Services regarding legal services for the Family Resource Approval appeal. There is no impact to the general fund, but Albaugh said he believes such agreements may be good for the attorneys but not so good for children.

“I just wanted to bring this to light,” Albaugh said. “I just wanted to get on my soapbox and get that known by everybody.”

Teeter said in his experience legal documents are always long, complicated and frequently take away from the process they intend to serve — in this case, taking care of children.

The supervisors unanimously approved the item.

Regarding a report on road maintenance, Albaugh asked that more attention be paid to some rural roads that need more gravel on them. He said the roads are OK when they’re dry, but they’re not so good when they’re wet.

Larry Millar, the county’s public works director, said he expected to purchase more gravel later this year.

“I could put projects together,” he said.

But he added according to the funding requirements of SB1, chip/seal projects take priority. He said his goal was getting the best buck for the dollar.

Because of the funding priorities, he said, “I need direction (from the board). I just can’t fix a road.”

The board decided to approve the $2.3 million SB-1 agreement as written and seek additional funding for gravel roads. Albaugh voted no.

When the board discussed the county’s mileage report, Albaugh noted 56 percent of the county’s roads are gavel and 43 percent are paved. He said he understood the importance of the paved roads, but the county has to maintain the gravel roads as well because they’ve been ignored for many years.

Supervisor Chris Gallagher asked Millar to come back with a plan for gravel roads.

The board unanimously approved the mileage report.

Other approved consent agenda items included a personnel report from the county administrative office, minutes from the March 17 and March 24 meetings, the Certified Statement of Results from the March 3 Presidential Primary Election, a Prison Trial Costs Reimbursement report, an authorization to spend $59,339.87 for 28 Dell laptop computers for the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, a resolution delegating authority to the Lassen County Treasurer/Tax Collector to invest and reinvest county funds, a resolution to approve the county’s Investment Policy and receive and file correspondence.


Lassen County Children and Families Commission

The board unanimously appointed Phoebe Freeman to the Lassen County Children and Families Commission.


Industrial Disability Retirement

“It’s silly we just have to keep paying and paying,” said Albaugh. “When is the state going to step up?”

County Counsel Bob Burns explained while the board retained the final decision in granting industrial disability retirements, if one is disputed, an administrative law judge is necessary to complete the process. Without this contract, the county could not obtain the services of a judge.


COVID-19 leave policy

The board unanimously approved a resolution to allow employees to work at home with their supervisor’s approval, and a resolution adopting the Family First Coronavirus Response Act — simply an implementation of existing federal law.


Contact amendment

The board unanimously approved an amendment to an existing agreement in effect through June of this year for Prentice Long, PC, a law firm that represents the county in Child Protective Services cases. Burns said the firm had already earned most of $100,000 offered in the amendment and this revision was necessary because the amount in the original agreement was too low.

Burns said the firm has done excellent work for the county, and they have been necessary since Lassen County District Attorney Susan Rios left employment with his office.

He also said the resolution would also provide some funding for Lassen County Public Guardian’s Office.


District attorney

The board unanimously approved a request from Rios to apply funding from an unfunded position to increase the pay rate for a deputy district attorney she wanted to hire.

Rios said the change was necessary because the salary the county offers is noncompetitive, a problem she said many rural counties face. She said she did not have time to train an employee who wasn’t ready to go to work on day one.


Next meeting

The next meeting of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 21 at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds.