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News Archive

News Archive (6192)

Monday, 10 August 2009 01:13

Major State Budget Cuts

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slide1.pngSacramento - Faced with a $26 billion budget deficit, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed off on a number of budget cuts that will have a direct impact on Amador County. During his State of the State address in January, Schwarzenegger called the massive deficit “a rock upon our chest, and we cannot breathe until we get it off.” Since then he has proposed draconian cost-cutting measures, from scheduling early release for prisoners to selling off historic state properties. The Legislature remained deadlocked in budget negotiations for months before finally agreeing on a solution July 28 that includes $16.1 billion in spending reductions. When included with the $15 billion in reductions last February, the cuts amount to approximately $31 billion. While the package makes it possible for the state to operate during the current fiscal year without new taxes, it spares few other areas, including $9.3 billion in cuts to education, $3 billion in cuts for health and human services and cuts in general government spending of $1.7 billion. Even then, it was still $156 million short of being balanced. Schwarzenegger likened the approval process to “the good the bad and the ugly.” Almost simultaneously, he signed off on another $489 million in spending cuts to eliminate the $156 million deficit and build up the reserve, borrowed $50 million from a state special fund and found $117 more in savings from last fiscal year. Many of theses drastic cuts will be felt locally. The largest cut was $80 million allocated to counties for child abuse programs. $27.8 million was eliminated from the Williamson Act program, which enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or open space use. $6.2 million will be eliminated from the state parks budget, resulting in the likely closure of 100 of the state’s 280 parks. $50 million was eliminated from the Healthy Families program, providing medical insurance to low-income families that don’t qualify for MediCal. $52.1 million was cut from the Office of AIDS Prevention and Treatment, eliminating all services except drug assistance and surveillance. Schwarzenegger said, “I see the real Californians that will be affected by the decisions made within this budget and nothing guarantees revenues won’t drop further, but this budget puts us on a path toward fiscal responsibility so we can focus on bringing jobs back to get California moving forward again.” Story by Alex Lane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monday, 10 August 2009 01:04

Gold Dredge Mining Ban

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slide4.pngSacramento – Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill last Thursday that will temporarily ban the use of suction dredges in gold mining following a California judge’s ruling. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch created a moratorium two weeks ago on the issuance of suction mining permits in California. The ban will remain in effect until a lawsuit against the Department of Fish and Game asserting that tax dollars are being used to illegally subsidize dredge mining is resolved. The lawsuit was filed in 2005 by the Karuk Tribe, who also claim the Department of Fish and Game allows the practice of suction dredge mining to occur in areas known to be critical habitats for endangered and at risk fish species. Mining groups like the New 49’ers Prospecting Association say there is no proof that dredging harms river environments. The New 49’ers urged the Governor to veto the bill, though there were enough votes in the Senate to override a potential veto. Approximately 3,500 permits are issued nationally each year for suction dredge mining. Many of these miners come to California’s Gold Country. The Mother Lode was ground zero for the original 49er movement and has since hosted hundreds of thousands of hopeful prospectors. Karuk Spokesman Craig Tucker said less than half the cost of issuing dredge mine permits each year is collected from permit fees. He said the rest “is subsidized by California taxpayers, including tribal, commercial and recreational fishermen who depend on healthy salmon runs for their livelihood or their businesses.” The ban will remain in effect until the state Department of Fish and Game completes an environmental review of suction dredging and creates new rules and regulations, said Lisa Page, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s office. Suction dredge mining is an underwater process that works like a vacuum to suck up and filter gravel from river bottoms. Miners who already have a permit can continue using dredges. Story by Alex Lane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monday, 10 August 2009 01:06

Ione Planning Commission: Q-Ranch Land Swap

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slide3.pngIone – The Ione Planning Commission added a series of changes to its recommendation for the draft city General Plan Wednesday, including a land swap for the Q Ranch development. The swap of Q Ranch “policy area” property gives a parcel from Rancho Arroyo Seco to Q Ranch, in exchange for one there. The properties were on opposite sides of Irish Hill Road from the rest of their respective properties. City Planner Christopher Jordan is a report said the 2 parties, the Toma family and Rancho Arroyo Seco, “have agreed to the principles for the transfer of property. The swap is subject to approval of a Boundary Line Adjustment by Amador County and execution of exchange documents.” Jordan said staff reviewed the agreement and recommended the swap be included in the final General Plan. Jordan gave the commission an e-mail in which Ciro Toma said he met with Bill Bunce and Tom Swett of Rancho Arroyo Seco and said he “agreed in principal” to the swap. A map approved to be recommended with the draft General Plan listed the former Arroyo Seco property would have “Open Space” and “Low Density Residential” land use designations. The commission also accepted recommendations form Jordan and General Plan Project Manager Daniel Hamilton for replies to comments from Mintier Harnish Planning Consultants on behalf of Amador Ranch Associates. Replies included mostly notes that questions raised had been address in the General Plan. Staff did not agree with Mintier Harnish’s comments that a Conservation & Open Space Element “action” was “too rigid,” and suggested a change. Jordan and Hamilton also recommended making no changes addressing comments from the Foothill Conservancy’s Thomas Infusino. In the letter, Infusino said the Conservancy is “encouraged by some language and state goals” in Ione’s draft General Plan, but said the “overall growth of the Ione area seems extremely high,” and noted the current population, 3,500, including Mule Creek. He said “it is assumed 2030 the development capacity of the proposed General Plan would be … a population of 18,182.” He said the “mitigation recipe lacks some key ingredients.” Infusino said in “many cases there are no established quantified objectives to guide policy implementation.” He said: “When deferring mitigation to some time in the future, key necessary ingredients are the sorts of quantified standards to which the city and the development community can be held accountable in the future.” He also said it was urgent to get development standards in place, before the approval of other projects. The public hearing on the General Plan was continued to August 26th, when the city council will convene. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monday, 10 August 2009 01:11

Ione Planning Commission: General Plan

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slide2.pngIone – The Ione Planning Commission voted to recommend the city’s draft General Plan Wednesday, and sent the document to the City Council. The commission requested more staff work on the zoning portion of the plan, and for definitions of the different zones. Commissioners Stewart Wilkerson, Mike McDermed and David Jenkins voted 3-0 to recommend the draft, with changes and clarifications made after comments were received, some as late as Wednesday. Ron Smylie and other members of the audience were concerned about the definition of the zoning, and McDermed said they were asking staff to clarify and define the different zones. Wilkerson said as a land owner, who lives close to Smylie, he said he is concerned about the effects of zoning on landowners’ rights. But he said the commission was also there and working for everyone in the city. Among additions to the draft General Plan, the commission added a map showing “existing conditions and anticipated future conditions for noise generated by vehicle traffic on major city roads.” City Planner Christopher Jordan submitted an edit to the housing element related to “very low-income housing,” with new text noting that “rental prices for 3- and 4-bedroom apartments, condos and homes were renting from $975 to $1,400, and therefore are out of the affordability range for these households.” A population density table was also added to the housing element, with ranges of minimum and maximum dwelling units and population allowed in each of 6 land use designation categories. Those were Rural Residential; Low, Medium and High Density Residential; Central Business District; and Downtown Transition. Density unit maximums in the latter 3 categories were 25 units per acre, and Jordan noted that “density bonus consistent with state law may be allowed to exceed the 25-unit per acre maximum.” Maximum population density was 39 people per acre for the latter 3 categories. The table include a maximum total estimated population of 17,258 people, and staff based its assumptions on data from the 2000 U.S. Census, which uses 2.64 people per singe-family household; and 1.56 people per multi-family units. The commission also added an “Action” section item on a “Child Care Program,” which said “In cooperation with private developers, the city will evaluate on a case-by-case basis, the feasibility of pairing a child care center in conjunction with affordable, multifamily housing developments or nearby to major residential subdivisions.” The program listed the city manager, planner, planning commission and city council and responsible for the program, and funding from the General Fund. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 00:31

Plymouth Talks Agriculture Land Use and Buffer Areas

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slide4.pngAmador County – The Plymouth City Council last month discussed the handling of agricultural policy and land use, with a developer suggesting case-by-case work. The council also heard that Amador County Ag Commissioner Mike Boitano wanted Plymouth officials to talk to property owners if they set agriculture land use policy, because he had not heard of such developments in Plymouth. City Planner Paula Daneluk said the planning department notified the county ag office by letter of its General Plan works, including land use designations. City Clerk Gloria Stoddard said Boitano “wasn’t going to say his office didn’t get” the letter, “but he wasn’t aware of it.” Vice Mayor Greg Baldwin said “if the city planners can produce a registered letter” proving notification, “then we can get on with it.” The city council will continue a public hearing on the General Plan update and Environmental Impact Report Thursday night. In public comment “on the Boitano issue, developer Stephanie McNair said: “there’s no one boiler plate solution to deal with” agricultural land “buffer zones.” She said the General Plan says they must deal with zone differences among different projects. McNair said: “I will have ag projects adjacent to developments,” and “different ag users have different ideas for buffer areas.” City Manager Dixon Flynn said Ag Commissioner Boitano mentioned “the very same thing” and said “we have to do this land-owner by land-owner.” McNair said she has done that “personally” with both ag owners her developments would share borders with in Plymouth, who both want secure fencing as a buffer. She said Jackson set a “300-foot buffer,” then when in place, a question arose of who keeps the fire risk down in those zones. The council returns to the General Plan public hearing 6:30 p.m. Thursday. In July committee reports, Plymouth Councilwoman Pat Fordyce said the Amador Fire Protection Association meeting included talk of hiring a consultant to help handle state sales tax revenue from Measure M. She said a consultant bid $38,000, while the AFPA has already received $400,000 in sales tax. Mayor Jon Colburn asked if there was talk of a county-wide fire department, but Fordyce said it was not at that meeting. She said there was some concern by Butch Martin over spending money to buy equipment. Councilman Mike O’Meara said he wanted a future agenda item to consider passing a city council resolution supporting the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the private ownership of guns by private citizens. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 00:33

ACES Waste Granted Waiver For $250,000 Franchise Bond

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slide3.pngAmador County – Citing increased dumping rates and an inability to get a $250,000 franchise bond, ACES Waste Service Incorporated succeeded in getting a bond waiver from the Sutter Creek City Council last week. Paul Molinelli Senior told the council last Monday that “the way the city is asking for the bond, they will not supply it,” so he appeared to ask for the waiver. He said “we are seemingly unable to get the bond.” Molinelli said the Sacramento landfill where ACES hauls its loads is raising its rates as it sees load numbers going down. Assistant City Manager Sean Rabe said ACES hauls trash from Sutter Creek, Jackson, Ione and unincorporated areas of Amador County. Molinelli said: “Our family has been in the garbage business since 1917.” City Attorney Dennis Crabb said “that $250,000 bond came from me,” because of significant problems from another franchisee, which he worked for. Crabb said the council can waive the requirement after 2 years, and “the council can always accelerate that waiver, as allowed in the contract.” Councilwoman Sandy Anderson asked if the council waived the bond requirement that ACES would commit to doing 2 major neighborhood clean-up projects a year, instead of 1. Molinelli said: “We certainly would. We would do one in the fall and one in the spring.” Molinelli’s bond agent, Robert Manassero, told the council he recommended Molinelli ask for a waiver. He said as far as he knew, ACES “has never had a bad contract.” Manassero said: “I do realize I don’t make a commission on this,” but the way it was written, he “felt it was unfair to ACES.” The council voted 4-0 to amend the contract with ACES to have 2 major neighborhood pick-ups a year, and to waive the requirement of the $250,000 bond. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 00:35

Sutter Creek Explores Gold Rush Conditions of Approval

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slide2.pngSutter Creek - The Sutter Creek Planning Commission met Thursday to continue their ongoing review of Gold Rush Ranch and Golf Resort Conditions of Approval, with hopes of having a final recommendation for the City Council next week. The schedule was supposed to include a presentation by Gold Rush representatives, but Consultant Anders Hague said it was postponed until last night’s meeting due to “changes in schedule.” Commissioner Robin Peters said they will still shoot “for a recommendation on (August 10) if the stars align.” Hague led the commission line-by-line through the latest changes in the Conditions of Approval, a process that began at 7 pm and didn’t conclude until 10:45 pm. Even then, the review of technical and grammatical changes within the document was incomplete and was scheduled to continue at Monday night’s meeting. Sutter Creek Assistant City Manager Sean Rabe sad that because of these delays, commissioners are now aiming for a new date of August 24th to develop a recommendation for city council. Monday’s meeting also was planned to include a development agreement presentation by Sutter Creek Attorney Dennis Crabb, a Transportation Mitigation presentation by Amador County Transportation Director Charles Field and a presentation by the Gold Rush applicants. Story by Alex Lane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Thursday, 30 July 2009 00:25

Plymouth City Council

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slide1.pngAmador County – The Plymouth City Council last week approved a $1,500 dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people who vandalized the city’s water storage tank. The main water storage tank holds the city’s potable water after it is treated at the city plant. The reward was approved by the council Thursday. The city’s maintenance staff found bullet holes in the tank last week, and found shell-casings on Fiddletown Road after that. The tank has since been repaired. Also last Thursday, Plymouth City Manager Dixon Flynn said state funding to remodel Lodge Hill has become available to the city, in a reimbursement format. Flynn told the Plymouth City Council last Thursday that the state had notified his office and told him the funds are there. Flynn said a state official told him that “about 3 weeks ago, they made the money available.” The official said “if we mail an “invoice to her, she will get us immediate reimbursement.” City Finance Director Jeff Gardner said the funds totaled $220,000 dollars, in Proposition 40 funding, for the purpose of remodeling the main level of the old Lodge Hill. Flynn told the council: “I’ve instructed Terry (Cox, city grant writer) and Roark (Weber, city engineer) to get an invoice together so we can get some money up front. This money is already set aside and they’ve assured me they have the money for us to move forward.” Flynn said the state water board “wanted a cultural resource analysis,” to look for the presence of American Indian significance and impact, before proposed repairs at the city water treatment plant. He said the cost is $4,000 dollars, and the amount of studies “they have had to do to get this done has been unreal.” He said they were requirements to get $1.8 million dollars in funding for the treatment plant work, and the city should learn by the end of August if it gets the money. Councilman Mike O’Meara said the city has water flowing into town and the Amador County Fair Grounds through the Arroyo Ditch. Said water was being used to green-up the fairgrounds. O’Meara said: “We’ve got a lot of water running down there. At least someone is really green. It looks really nice.” Meanwhile at the other end of the county, Thursday morning, Amador Water Agency contractors and workers were laying pipe perpendicular to Ridge Road, across the road from the Tanner Water Treatment Plant. The potable water line is expected to be online in the fall. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Thursday, 30 July 2009 00:19

Amador County

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slide3.pngAmador County – The Amador County Planning Department will host a public scoping session in 2 weeks to take staff reports and public comment on the county’s General Plan Update and 8 of its 9 elements. County Planner Susan Grijalva in a release Wednesday announced a Notice of Preparation and Notice of Public Scoping Meeting August 13th. The public Scoping Meeting will be held at a joint meeting of the Amador County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission to identify the scope of the Program Environmental Impact Report to be prepared for the adoption and implementation of the County’s General Plan Update. Grijalva said the Draft General Plan will consist of 9 elements, or chapters, that together meet state requirements for a general plan. The elements are: land use, circulation, economic development, conservation, open space, noise, governance, safety, and housing. The Draft General Plan will also include an introduction chapter and a glossary. Grijalva said “the Housing Element will not be considered in this EIR as it is proceeding on a separate timeline from the balance of the Draft General Plan Update.” Therefore, the “county will complete a separate environmental review process for the Housing Element Update.” The Draft General Plan represents the county’s policy for determining the appropriate physical development and character of Amador county, and establishes an overall future development capacity. Grijalva said the “environmental impact analysis in the Program EIR will be based on the change between existing conditions and those associated with likely development in accordance with the Draft General Plan by 2030, as well as at theoretical build out.” The Scoping Meeting is scheduled for 2 sessions, Thursday, August 13th. The 2 p.m. session begins with comments from public agencies, followed by public comment. “The 6 p.m. session will be a continuation of public comment though any agency may appear at that time as well.” Grijalva said “It is not necessary to attend both sessions.” Written comments may be submitted through the close of the “Notice of Preparation” period, ending 5 p.m. Monday, August 31st. Information pertinent to the meeting can be found at the planning department’s web pages at, including Preliminary Goals and Policies, and a Draft Land Use Map. Copies of the Notice of Preparation are also available for viewing at the Amador County Library in Jackson and at the Planning Department office. The meeting will be held in supervisors’ chambers, 810 Court Street, in Jackson. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Thursday, 30 July 2009 00:17

Amador Regional Planning

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slide4.pngAmador County – The Amador Regional Planning Committee agenda next week includes “future agenda items.” The regional planning committee meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 5th at the Sutter Creek civic building on Church Street, and will get a report from Sutter Creek on its wastewater plant and operations. The agenda includes discussion and possible action on all items listed. The only item listed under the agenda was a presentation by the city of Sutter Creek on the Amador Regional Sanitation Authority Master Plan. Three issues were listed under future agenda items. They include: Recirculation of an updated MOU; presentations on General Plan updates and “current and proposed wastewater treatment and recycled water distribution facilities and programs.” They will also see a “draft of a program document supporting the sharing of revenues from major new and relocated commercial developments, and establishing a system to share personnel and material resources between jurisdictions.” Dates for those agenda items were not yet listed. Regional Planning Committee members are Sutter Creek Mayor Pro Tempore Tim Murphy, Jackson Mayor Connie Gonsalves, Amador County Supervisor Chairman Ted Novelli (District 1), Amador Supervisor Brian Oneto (District 5), Ione Councilwoman Andrea Bonham, Plymouth Councilwoman Pat Fordyce, and public member at large Renee Chapman. The meetings are open to the public. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.