The newly-seated Eureka County Commission held their Quarterly meeting in Crescent Valley on Jan. 15. Normally, the session is a joint meeting of the ECC and the Crescent Valley Town Advisory Board. This past election, however, only Dawn Gann of Crescent Valley filed and was elected to the CVTAB. The other two seats remain unfilled. The agenda item laid out what’s at stake: “Discussion and action related to future of CVTAB, in consideration of lack of candidates for the 2014 Election, and consideration of results of a survey/questionnaire distributed to Precinct 4 registered voters in 2014 regarding whether the CVTAB should sunset effective January 2015 or continue with Commission appointed members.”
Chairman J.J. Goicoechea told those assembled that last April “we voiced our concern that there were no candidates” and rather than prematurely eliminating the CVTAB, sent out a survey to the community of which 9 were returned to sender, 94 did not reply, 16 indicated they wanted to see the CVTAB ‘sunset’ and 33 expressed the desire for the CVTAB to continue.
Vice Chair Mike Sharkozy said he heard a lot of different things in Crescent Valley in the last few months with some not in favor of continuing the CVTAB, but with the majority in favor of keeping the Town Advisory Board. Sharkozy said, “My stand. I think it’s a good thing” as it “gives people something to vent to if they want to. I don’t see too many people coming to those meetings.” Sharkozy added there “should be more people coming if we continue.”
Commissioner Fred Etchegaray asked whether “leaving it out there like it is till the next election cycle” is possible; to “leave it open” until the next cycle when individuals can “just step up and run.”
Goicoechea noted there was “no counsel here today,” but acknowledged the possibility of leaving the CVTAB in place but with only one member therefore unable to meet without a quorum. “We do not sunset it that way,” Goicoechea agreed with Etchegaray.
“Leave it in limbo,” Sharkozy said.
The Commission could appoint eligible people to the vacant seats, but Goicoechea said, “I said and I said in this room, I don’t like appointing.” He reminded the public, “As a democracy you have to step up and take a lead,” and already the Commission has had to make appointments for the “last three or four boards. We don’t want to appoint. Who do you want to bring your concerns to us? That’s what we want.” Goicoechea said, “Our appointments must not be right” because “they never run again.”
Goicoechea said he’s “not going to abolish it. It serves a purpose” but said if citizens are “not willing to step up and do it” he doesn’t “want to be making those decisions to do it.”
Sharkozy said, “That would make us wait till the next election cycle” and would leave “no representation for two years.”
Goicoechea remarked that the Quarterly meetings could still be held in Crescent Valley and reminded those assembled that the Town of Eureka “does not have a board. We serve as the board.” In addition, he noted, “You have a commissioner right here in your neighborhood” which wasn’t the case in the past when the sitting Commissioner for the District generally came from Pine Valley. “I know you can go to him,” Goicoechea said of Sharkozy. Goicoechea said he likes “to see the Quarterlies here” and didn’t “like having a meeting without counsel.” Goicoechea noted without the District Attorney he doesn’t “know what is the status of Nona [Kellerman, Advisory Board Secretary]; what is the status of Dawn [Gann, the only elected member of the CVTAB.].” Goicoechea said, “I have to go through counsel and he’s not here.”
Sharkozy noted that the public “could come to those quarterly meetings” and make comment at Commission meetings “during public comment.”
Goicoechea reminded those assembled, “We meet twice a month” and pointed out the public can participate via the interactive video. “We didn’t used to have that. And so it was very important to have a town advisory board” since at the time “we didn’t know if there was a concern.” Goicoechea noted that during commission meetings “you guys have input to us” which is “in real time and that does help. When my dad was on this board, we didn’t have it.”
Goicoechea said if the people of Crescent Valley want the Board to come back they need to “put your names out there on the ballot.” He remarked that “once we stop governing ourselves and are appointing it is not democracy.”
Kellerman asked about the possibility of a “special election if someone does come forward.”
Goicoechea said by statute the Board is set up to fill vacancies by appointment but said it’s a “question we’ll write up and we can answer on commissioner update at the meeting next week on Tuesday.” He added, “Special elections are very expensive.”
Sharkozy asked if “there is a letter of interest, then and therefore you still will not appoint?”
Goicoechea said he “said I will not appoint.”
The Commission tabled the matter until further discussion with legal counsel and moved to put it on the agenda for the February 6 Commission meeting.
Gann asked if “we’re going to wait for two years” how “do people go about any improvements to the town or anything?” Generally, the CVTAB has formulated and overseen the budget for the Town and committees like the Crescent Valley Community Development Implementation Plan Committee answer to the CVTAB and how the committee could continue to function came into question.
Goicoechea reiterated that “dissolution is not where we’re going” and that he is “very reluctant to continue to appoint.”
Next the meeting turned to the topic of the Crescent Valley Activities program and its Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget which has been reduced by 52.5 percent.
Karen Bowser, CV Activities Coordinator gave an update on recent Crescent Valley events including the Annual Spook Walk which cost $1248.63, $140 under budget; the Craft Fair to which 15 vendors came, including two from out of town and which was followed by the Thanksgiving Community dinner which Barrick Gold paid $2700 to have catered. The event brought in $670.75 plus the donation from Barrick.
Bowser also detailed the December 19th Christmas event which received $920 from Klondex Mines in the form of gift cards for community children and a dinner prepared by Bowser and Senior Center Director, Adell Panning, served to some 125 people.
In addition, Bowser related that the Activities Program is publishing and distributing a monthly newsletter around town which the “community appreciates and looks forward to.” Bowser said an Easter event is in early planning stages and she is working to “grow the activities program and incorporate new and fresh ideas” and sees the “program headed in a positive direction” with the “generous support from Eureka County.”
Turning to the topic of the budget shortfall, Panning said, “Basically, in a run down, last year” she “emailed the Budget Director [then Mike Rebaleati] on March 6 and told him I didn’t feel” there would “be any changes in the Activities budget.” Panning said she “expected a 15 percent cut” and never heard another word or was asked another question about the Activities’ program budget during the budget process. “Shame on me for trusting,” Panning said, and having no reason to suspect the budget had been cut so extremely, she “did not immediately get a copy of the budget in July” because they “weren’t doing anything” and “did not get the first one until November was when I got it to find out that it was cut 52.5 percent.”
Panning’s concern is that Bowser, hired as a casual employee at 1039 hours has a $16,000 a year wage that should be in the budget, but the 2014-15 budget only allotted $6500. Panning said while she probably wouldn’t employ Bowser 1039 hours, “that number needs to be in there just in case. I know we talked about that we have to give hours, work with volunteers,” and noted as a salaried employee she puts in well over 40 hours a week to oversee the Town Activities, but pointed out Bowser “cannot give you hours. Under the Labor Act she has to be paid the wage” or “we can get in trouble.”
Panning noted there are three more events coming up during the Fiscal Year and with $2800 left in the budget and the Easter event projected to cost, $1039, May Clean Up, $734 and $735 needed for support of the local wrestling team, “I don’t have it. I need direction from you guys” asking if the Commission wants her “to pick one of these three. We can swing one of the three or where do you want to go?” Panning noted just on funds for activities planned they are $1700 short on funds. She also reminded the Commission that regardless of whether donations are raised, the budget number is the limit and funds raised generally go to the general fund for use the following year rather than being available in that fiscal year to the program. That was why she’d worked hard with Klondex Mines to get them to donate gift cards rather than a check.
The $1700 short-fall does not include the elimination of funds for Bowser’s salary.
Etchegaray suggested with the “Advisory Board in limbo” maybe “we could take some funds out of that and keep it running.”
Town Secretary Kellerman said, “With us possibly not having a board in place, who is going to be handling the budget?”
Goicoechea noted that meetings with the new Budget Director, Mike Mears, will be starting soon in what he sees as a “long budget cycle” with projections down, meaning “less money.”
Sharkozy motioned and the Commission voted that the question of funding for the CVAP program be tabled until counsel is present on the 6th and included in the motion that the Commission will “make sure we have monies available to continue the program through June 30.”
Newly-seated Sheriff Keith Logan gave the Quarterly report on the jail noting the quarter saw 14 new inmates; 364 inmate days, averaging out to 3.95 per day, a decrease of 1.1 inmates per day for a 2014 average of 3.6 inmates per day, an increase from 2.3 the previous year and 1.09 two years ago. Logan said the increase is due to “long-term serious crimes resulting in convictions” whose sentencing recommendations and pre-sentencing requirements have expanded the inmates time in jail. Some of those cases are “coming to termination this Friday.” Logan said February should see some population decrease at the jail.
Turning to animal control, Logan said there were 15 animal control calls, 10 from Eureka and 5 from Crescent Valley in which three animals were picked up and returned to owners while two were transferred to shelters.
While the total number of reports generated went down, Logan noted there have already been 3 fatalities in 2015. Traffic stops are down while of those stopped, 17 percent received citations.
With another mine death accident this year, Logan noted that with three deaths in a short period of time, the budget line item for autopsy examinations “will be pretty much used up,” reflecting the “unpredictableness of what we do.”