On the last regular meeting of 2012, and the last meeting with this set of Board members , the Board had a mix of issues before it. Two new Board members will be seated in January, replacing Linda Hartman (District 4) and Glenn Hawes (District 3). It was an agenda that fairly represents the range of issues dealt with over time by the Board: personnel management; governance; fire response; public health. Here are some of them.
The Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Teamsters, Local 137 – Shasta County Trades and Crafts Bargaining Unit, for the years January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2014. The MOU includes no salary increases for the duration of the agreement. Employees agreed to implement a Health Savings Account plan that is offered through the Teamsters Health Trust plan. The new formula for calculating county costs is anticipated to save the county $100,000 in the first year and additional funds in the future, and to result in lower premiums for employees as well. Perhaps the most notable statement in the staff report is that “there are no practical alternatives (to adoption of the MOU) since the proposed MOU is the product of a good faith process in which both the Teamsters and County have agreed.” County staff and supervisors noted how positive and constructive the bargaining was. Larry Lees, the County Executive Officer, gave special kudos to Teamsters for creativity in saving costs for both the county and employees.
The Board appointed two members to the Shasta Lake Fire Protection District Board of Directors, in lieu of election for four year terms. Discussion noted that three vacancies existed for the Board but only one person filed to run for the Board in the November election. That person was appointed previously. Two additional persons were appointed at this meeting, pursuant to recommendations from the Fire Protection District Board. Supervisors commented that given the costs of filing and running for office for districts like this, this less than ideal system of appointment instead of election will happen again in future. Is this an economic problem? Or a civic engagement problem? Likely both.
The Board considered a proposal to increase the Response Stipend for volunteer fire fighters from $6 to $10 per call. Of particular interest is that the Shasta County Fire Department consists of two full time engines staffed by career firefighters and 18 Volunteer Fire Companies. These Volunteer Companies have approximately 193 volunteer firefighters, approximately 68% of what the Fire Department believes would be adequate. The Fire Department is also concerned that the mean age of these volunteers is 42; career firefighters retire at 50. The Fire Department believes that the low stipend level, intended to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket travel expenses for training and incident response, wear and tear on personal clothing, and other incidentals, is a deterrent to participation, especially for younger volunteers who have lower income or less stable income sources. The Board responded strongly that the increase was still too limited. There was consensus to direct staff to bring back a proposal for an increase to $12 per call next month.
The Board also adopted new Environmental Health regulations to implement new state legislation involving Cottage Food Operations and Safe Body Art. In the case of Body Art, the regulations require that body art facilities pay a registration fee annually (instead of the current one-time registration fee). Body art facilities continue to be required to pay annual inspection fees. Fees were also adopted for retail and wholesale cottage food operators. These are generally home food operators who offer for sale non-potentially-hazardous foods that don’t require time and temperature control. The intention of the state legislation is to safely expand small, “artisanal” food operations beyond farmers’ markets and farms and to expand, especially in rural areas, the number of food-related micro-enterprises. The new county fees provide for Cottage Food applications for registration and permits. Information about the new definitions of Cottage Food Operators can be found by going to www.leginfo.ca.gov, and searching for AB 1616, Chapter 415, Statutes of 2012. What do you think about this? Is it a good idea to expand retail (and wholesale, for that matter) access to food processed in a home?
The Board also considered again the county’s corrections responsibility. A future column will tackle this contentious issue.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. She served as a Consultant to the California Senate Budget Committee in 2001-02, reviewing Social Services, Employment Development, Aging, Community Services, Alcohol and Drug Programs, Rehabilitation and Child Support budgets. From 1989-2000, Catherine was Executive Director for the California Mental Health Directors Association. During that period, Catherine staffed the county mental health system’s restructuring of public mental health through Realignment of community and long term care programs from the state to the county, transfer of the management of specialty mental health Medi-Cal services to those counties that agreed to provide them, development of risk mechanisms for consortia of small counties, and advocacy and policy analysis for the operation of public mental health programs throughout the state. Her prior experience includes Executive Director to the California-Nevada Community Action Association, Principal Consultant to the Assembly Human Services Policy Committee, and Director of Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.