In discussing at the quarterly joint meeting the reduction of hours at the Crescent Valley Town Hall in November, citizen Angie Black asked the assembled Commissioners, “Do us taxpayers on this end get a break in our taxes since you guys keep taking from us to balance out this?”
With the proposed changes, all county offices will remain open in Eureka, Monday through Friday for regular business hours, even with staffing cuts, while Crescent Valley’s Town office will only be open for four hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Black pointed out, “You’re trying to bring people in to this town to promote growth, but then you’re going to close this office down which is basically your hub for people to come get information. That’s not really right to us.”
Commission Chairman J.J. Goicoechea responded, “The office will still be open; it’s going to be decreased. There’s no doubt; and as Ron [Damele, Public Works Director] said we’re retiring two out of Eureka. So, we’re not going to give them a break either. We’re all in this together, Angie.”
Black asked, “How many employees do you guys have over there? A lot more than we do.”
Goicoechea answered, “That’s where the County seat is, absolutely.”
“But we pay taxes, too. We don’t have a school, pool, we don’t have the museum. You can’t cut something there to keep our office open full-time?” Black said.
“We are cutting things there. We are cutting hours of operation and services in all departments in order to make this fit. Everywhere. Just like Ron said. He’s the first one; that’s why we’re feeling it at both ends but we are cutting everywhere. We have to,” Goicoechea said.
Commissioner Ron Sharkozy said, “It’s a matter of balancing the budget.”
Black said, “Which we should have been doing for five years.”
“Just so everybody’s aware: there’s a $12 million difference between this year and last year. That’s a lot of money, folks, and it’s only going to go one direction: down for the next few. Because we have got to be frugal; and we will; and we’ll do the best we can. I don’t enjoy being in this position, believe me. I don’t think Mr. Sharkozy does either. That is where we are and we will get through it; we’re going to run it like a business. We have to. Other comments?” Goicoechea said.
Four days later, at the June 20th Commission meeting, the County Commissioners further considered whether to accept the staffing proposal as presented by Public Works at the June 6 Commission meeting, and at the June 16 quarterly meeting in Crescent Valley, that outlines a Road Department and Crescent Valley Public Works staffing reduction and reduction in office hours for the Crescent Valley Public Works office.
Lisa Wolf, who has been a resident of Crescent Valley since 2004 and is a Eureka Sentinel Correspondent, a member of the Eureka County Economic Development Board and the Crescent Valley Community Development Implementation Plan Working Committee, felt compelled to speak as a citizen on the matter.
“I’m just going to have to say that I don’t think that it’s a wise way to redistribute. Somebody communicated to me recently, if the position is not important why was Mrs. Drenon there for 20 years? It’s going to have a very severe impact. You have Nona Kellerman who is the Town Advisory Board Secretary. You could do some things, and we don’t know if the Town Advisory Board is going to continue, but you have resources perhaps under other departments’ supervision that could be able to likewise provide a public presence for the County without basically shutting our Town Center down. Eight hours a week is nothing. It’s like closing the town. I understand Ron’s [Damele] rationale and I appreciate that but I think you guys may need to think some more outside the box and focus more on really what is best for the general community in Crescent Valley. You know, I just think there are other options; and then what are you planning on doing with the building? I mean it’s one of the nicest buildings in Crescent Valley. You know, what: it’s open for the Library; maybe the Historical Society will use it? I just don’t understand. I think it’s not wise with all due respect. Thank you.”
Chairman Goicoechea said, “Let me start in on that, Ron. We’re not locking and chaining the doors on that building. The Public Works Office is going to be open eight hours a week. There’s still going to be access to that building. And, I just have a question, Lisa, because we’re talking the Public Works building now where they go in to have help with their water, pay their bills, etc.. They’ll be able to do that on Tuesdays and Thursdays now which is kind of what we’re kicking around. You’ll still have a drop box there. When you call that phone will ring and it will be answered by Public Works still even if it’s outside of those eight hours. So, help me understand a little bit when you say ‘we’re shutting the down;’ what else is Public Works doing there?”
“It’s not just Public Works. It’s the Town Center. I understand you’re cutting staff equally in Eureka, but the Opera House isn’t closing; the Court House isn’t closing. Public places aren’t closing. ‘Come back Tuesday. Come back Thursday.’ You know, Vicki Drenon, I mean, she hasn’t had a political position; she’s been under Public Works; but we all know that Vicki has been the public face of Crescent Valley. It would be like having Jackie [Berg, former Clerk/Treasurer and presently the Commissioners’ Executive Assistant] up here; always there to meet the public; and in the past having worked in situations in universities and stuff doing customer service I know what the presence of that person is. You know, Vicki was the face of Crescent Valley, and beyond Public Works, you know; and it’s a big deal.”
“We appreciate your in-put. We’ll see where this drop-box and the feed-back we get; and you’re right: she’s been there for twenty years; and twenty years ago not everyone in Crescent Valley had my cell phone, and Jim’s cell phone and Mike’s cell phone either. I think we’re more available. Thankfully, we have technology like we’re communicating on now that we didn’t have in those days. I think we’re not shutting the north end of the County down. We’re not trying to shut you off” and “you’ll still have all the access on a daily basis short of going and talking to her.”
“I would just reiterate the option of thinking long-term and looking at the asset we have in Nona Kellerman because I live here I watch everybody and see who’s competent and who’s struggling; who hits the learning curve and thrives and we have some assets here that can be moved around to continue to accomplish the public function that we need as a community presenting itself as ‘a town with a future,’ not a town ‘on hold’ or a town in ‘hunker down budget fear mode.’ Please excuse me, I don’t mean to offend anybody. I just feel it’s very important.”
Sharkozy said, “I think we need more coverage up there.”
“We adopted a Resolution this morning right here that talks about what we’re going to do so we don’t have to lay people off and Ron came to us as a department head with an idea to help and I applaud him for it. I’m sure he wishes he wasn’t the first guy,” Goicoechea said.
Commissioner Ithurralde then made a motion to accept Damele’s recommendation and Goicoechea and Ithurralde voted to thereby reduce the Crescent Valley Town Center hours to two half days a week while Commissioner Sharkozy voted against the motion.