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Friday, 21 August 2009 00:55

Crowd Anticipated At Lungren Town Hall

slide1.pngAmador County - As the highly contentious debate over health care continues, passionate citizens from both parties are showing up in force at town halls across the country. Congressman Dan Lungren’s town hall meeting scheduled for this Saturday is expected to be no different. The Republican is vocal in his opposition to Democrat-proposed health care reform, which includes a public option. Speaking before the Plymouth Rotary earlier this month, Lungren said “we’re already $1 trillion in debt, and I don’t see how we can take on another trillion-dollar program.” He criticized President Barack Obama and Democrats for trying to push through a health package that will require more government oversight and spending. Like-minded conservatives nationwide have mobilized a vocal movement whose members' protests at rallies and town halls have successfully hijacked the health-care narrative. Much of the anger is voiced by senior citizens who are worried about how changes in health care will affect Medicare. During a raucous town hall in Massachusetts on Wednesday, Democratic Representative Barney Frank faced off with a protester who was holding a poster that depicted President Obama with a Hitler-style moustache. “On what planet do you spend most of your time?” said Frank. Randy Bayne, Chair of Amador County Democratic Central Committee, said over half of the people attending Lungren’s town hall in Citrus Heights on Tuesday could not get into the meeting room which held only 250. President Obama called his party’s health plan “a moral and ethical obligation” when speaking before a multidenominational group of religious leaders on Wednesday. “I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” he said. On the flip side of the debate, Dr. Ami Bera, a teaching physician and Democratic candidate for Lungren’s seat in June, 2010, will be holding a “community chat” on health care Tuesday, August 25 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The chat will take place at the Rancho Cordova City Hall, 2729 Prospect Drive in Rancho Cordova. “Come share your views and ask questions of health care professionals, the people with an inside view on the topic,” said Bera. Lungren’s Town Hall is scheduled for 10:30 am this Saturday, August 22 at the Civic Center, 33 Broadway in Jackson. Those who wish to sit are recommended to show up early. Story by Alex Lane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
slide2.pngIone – A public hearing Tuesday brought a complaint of a possible code violation at Joses’ Place Apartments in Ione. The Ione City Council approved a resolution for a project to seek funding for refurbishment of inside of the facility, with a sale of $3 million in bonds, despite the complaint, but staff will look into whether Joses’ violated housing code. A neighbor of the apartment complex, Larry Rhodes, said he thought the project was supposed to put up a stop sign when the remodel was approved. He also thought it had a 30-year requirement to be housing for only senior citizens and people with disabilities. City Manager Kim Kerr said Joses’ was approved for the refurbishment funding last year, but had not been able to issue the multi-family housing revenue bonds, for $3 million, “because the market would not allow it.” Kerr said the improvements are strictly on the building’s interior. Rhodes said there has been drug use at the complex, and a “drug-related stabbing death.” City Attorney Kristen Castanos said City Planner Christopher Jordan left the city hall chambers to pull the project file of the Joses’ complex and look through it, as the council, staff and public discussed the issue. Jordan would see if there were any violations of the conditions of approval, which “could influence your decision on this.” Mayor Lee Ard said he knows 3 or 4 people who live at Josie’s and “aren’t very happy with the conditions.” Gary Thomas, in public comment, said the bond issuance, for acquisition and rehabilitation of Joses’, was at last year’s values, which he thought may have “slid down in today’s market.” He said he hopes “we are not giving them a blank check,” and the council will see what work they will be doing. Kerr said a book on file at City Hall shows the intended work plans. The work “has to meet building code when they make improvements.” Jordan said housing requirements from the 1985 conditions of approval “were not crystal clear,” and in one area, it said eligible tenants must be handicapped and elderly, with very low, to low income. But elsewhere, it seemed to allow very low, and low income people who were not elderly or handicapped. Castanos said since the city has “received a complaint about a code violation, now staff can pursue that independently.” Kerr said in the meantime, the council could approve a resolution for the project to go out and pursue funding. The council passed the resolution, 4-0. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
slide3.pngPlymouth – Area ranchers last week urged the Plymouth City Council to plan for a future agricultural land buffer ordinance, to protect lands from expected city growth. Grielich Road ranch owner William Greer urged that in the future, the city get an ordinance on buffers, then, if needed, there can be a variance, and a discussion between landowners. Rancher Joseph Putnam said he has “cattle 12 months out of the year,” and said “we need some serious protection” in a buffer. Rancher Earl Williams said Caltrans has lots of buffers on highways, and “they become garbage dumps.” He said someone should be in charge of their care, “or it becomes a mess.” He said Hawk’s View, which neighbors his property, was supposed to have a 3-foot fence as a buffer, but some properties still do not have fences. City Clerk Gloria Stoddard said that was required of the original project, but after that owner went into bankruptcy, “that was all thrown out.” Consultant Richard Prima said the city should place those buffer area agreements in “land usage approval, so those things get attached to land usage.” One rancher asked about the General Plan’s “Planning Area,” which is “coming close” to his property. City Attorney Steven Rudolph said by the “inclusion of property in this planning area, it does not give the city any rights over this property whatsoever. It remains county property.” Foothill Conservancy’s Thomas Infusino said it was unclear about how they would “mitigate impacts of the city on county services.” He encouraged the city to work with the Foothill Conservancy to properly develop “standards and fees,” and said a buffer ordinance could help settle issues. Art Marinaccio, of Amador Citizens For Responsible Government, said it wasn’t the day for the discussion on the ag buffer, but “it is going to take an ordinance to deal with it.” He also noted that the term “prime” should be removed from the plan for Reeder Sutherland’s property, and “the annexation of lands for the purpose of not developing on it would not be approved by LAFCO.” He said he was representing Bob Reeder in the request. Reeder Sutherland intends to seek annexation into Plymouth of its 2 projects, totaling about 50 dwelling units of luxury housing. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Friday, 21 August 2009 00:49

Mining Claim Fee Deadline: September 1st

slide4.pngSacramento – The Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday the deadline for filing annual mining claim fees is Tuesday, September 1. The hundreds of mining claimants throughout the region who wish to hold on to mining claims on federal public lands through 2010 must pay a $140 maintenance fee or file a maintenance fee waiver certificate. “Unless the appropriate forms are filed by the deadline, miners risk the loss of their claims,” said BLM Acting State Director Jim Abbott. “The Information Access Center is available to answer questions regarding any concerns on filings and maintaining of active claims.” BLM’s Sacramento Information Access Center, located at 2800 Cottage Way in Sacramento is open for payment or filings from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Mailed fees and forms can be sent to the same address and must be postmarked before midnight, September 1. Each payment must be accompanied by a list of the claim names and BLM serial numbers for which the maintenance fee is being paid. For more information on the filing deadline, the claim fee or the small miner waiver, call the BLM Information Access Center at (916) 978-4400. Staff Report This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
slide1.pngPlymouth – Plymouth City Council last week approved a General Plan that left out any limits to growth. A city water pipeline could be in place by fall, lifting a building moratorium and paving the way for a major building boom. At least 9 development projects have sought housing and commercial projects in Plymouth. City Manager Dixon Flynn said Petaluma went through such a building boom, with 1,700 homes were built. “Problems were pointed out, but looked over because things were happening,” and his children attended split shifts at schools, where minimum class sizes were 50 students. Amador School Superintendent Dick Glock told the council that schools could handle the growth expected in Plymouth, listed in the plan at 23 to 36 homes a year. Flynn said that statement in the General Plan would equate to 2,000 to 2,500 homes by the year 2025. He said it was not a policy, but the council could return to the issue and put a growth policy in place. Flynn said another number in the plan, the “worst case scenario”, was required, and it showed how many houses could be built in the entire city “Sphere of Influence,” and the “Planning Area.” That was 10,000 units, a number Flynn said could never be reached, as it “would mean building on every square inch” in the Sphere of Influence and Planning Area, but would never happen because the city would need parks. He said the council must decide if it wants to establish growth limits. Past Councilwoman and Planning Commissioner Elida Malick said besides “character based development,” growth control is the most important aspect of planning, and not considering common concepts is a bad idea. She asked that they stick to a “4 percent growth limit on development.” City Planner Paula Daneluk said the plan in one area listed 1,024 lots, “taking into account what the city already has on the books.” It also kept 1,065 EDUs, which Amador Water Agency says the new pipeline will serve in the city, over and above the 530 existing EDUs in town. Daneluk said she was instructed by the council to leave AWA’s number in the plan. Vice Mayor Greg Baldwin said: “We want to tread lightly on trimming growth percentages out of the city. If growth comes, let it happen. No developer wants to spend money and not recoup some of it.” Flynn said they should remember Petaluma, and if they have one child per house, schools would be overwhelmed. Baldwin said the “council is not going to deal with those numbers,” but the correct number is 2.3 people per house, and “that doesn’t mean every house will have a child.” He said the city would likely attract more retirees without school-aged children. He said the economy will determine the growth rate of the city. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 00:42

Mule Creek Inmate, Frazier, Found Dead In Cell

slide2.pngIone - Mule Creek State Prison inmate John Linley Frazier, 62, who was serving a life sentence for five counts of first-degree murder, was found dead in his cell on August 13 by a prison correctional officer. A news release issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Frazier’s death is being investigated as a suicide. Police reports on that same day referred to his death as “a hanging.” Frazier was convicted of the October 19, 1970 murders of Dr. Victor M. Ohta, 46; his wife Virginia, 43; his two sons, Derek, 12, and Taggart, 11; and his secretary, Dorothy Cadwallader, 38, in the Ohta’s home near Santa Cruz. Frazier was sentenced to death in San Mateo County on December 30, 1971 and was sent to state prison on December 30, 1971. He was resentenced to life in prison on January 8, 1974 after the California Supreme Court found that the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the state constitution. California did not have the life without parole sentence at the time. Story by Alex Lane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 00:36

Social Services Suffers As Aid Requests Rise

slide3.pngJackson - Matt Zanze, Director of Amador County Social Services, presented the Board of Supervisors Tuesday with a dire picture of the state of his department during our current economic recession. “As you know, given the situation in the county and the country, we have a lot of people requesting social services for the first time,” said Zanze. Applications for all assistance programs have remained above 350 since December of 2008. Zanze said there are currently 2,133 social services cases in Amador County through which people are receiving benefits from the County Medical Services Program, MediCal, Food Stamps and Cash Aid. Continuing social service cases for all assistance programs have increased from 1,918 in July 2008 to 2,133. Food Stamp issuance has steadily increased from $186,084 in July of 2008 to $318,407 in July of 2009. Supervisor Brian Oneto questioned why there is such a high increase in food stamps compared to other areas of aid. Zanze replied: “People are now on food stamps that have never been on food stamps before in their life.” Zanze said “the number of people applying for aid has grown…and applying for aid is not an easy process.” Zanze expressed concern over a state proposed 10 percent reduction in child welfare services. In addition, the state is considering cuts to child/vocational programs and cuts in medical aid. Some of this legislation may not go into effect until 2011. Social Services will receive allocation letters determining how much they will get from the State by late September or early October. “We don’t want to run out of money by April or May because we’re spending money we don’t have,” said Zanze. Perhaps most worrisome to Zanze is what he called a “statewide push” for fair hearings. Under California law, anyone who applies for aid is allowed a hearing if the aid they receive is discontinued or reduced. Zanze said these hearings must go before a limited amount of administrative law judges and there is a movement backed by unions and advocacy groups for the disabled to bring as many people to these hearings as possible in order to “prove a point.” On the subject of fraud, Zanze said, “there is a certain amount of fraud in just about every program.” He recalled the story of a woman who was pulling in two incomes from Amador and Calaveras County and not reporting that additional income to his department. “I can’t say (fraud) is a zero, but it’s minimal. Every worker is, in a sense, a fraud investigator’” he said. Board Chairman Ted Novelli thanked Zanze and his staff for all of their hard work and service to the county. There was no action taken regarding the presentation. Story by Alex Lane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
slide4.pngJackson – Interfaith Food Bank Director Kathleen Harmon, speaking before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, said her organization’s resources have been stretched thin due to the strains of the current economy. “We’re seeing between a ¼ and 1/3 increase in business this year,” said Harmon. She said the majority increase is clients who have never applied before. “That’s dramatic,” she said. She projected her organization will be serving around 1,000 families a month by December. The Food Bank is entirely community supported and depends on the generosity of citizens to survive. Harmon said she is searching for ways to find more funding to meet increased demand. One of her current priorities is paving the deteriorating parking lot at the food bank. She said she typically arrives in the morning to find a line of people waiting for aid. She said she realized too late that she could apply for Federal Community Development Block Grants to fund capitol improvements and she “cannot in good conscience take money people have donated in prudent reserve for parking lot improvements.” Her second priority is finding more freezer space to accommodate food donations. She said Swingle Meat Company in Jackson is temporarily storing beef donated from the livestock auction at the fair. Supervisor Louis Boitano suggested the old Safeway building in Jackson as a possible storage space for extra donations. “If dreams could become reality, (the old Safeway) could be used as a combination homeless shelter, safe place…and food bank,” said Harmon. She said the food bank is “actively seeking fresh produce”, much of which currently comes from Sacramento. The food bank received over 20,000 pounds of fresh homegrown produce last year. Supervisor Richard Forster suggested declaring a county-wide food bank day, although no action was taken. On the bright side, Harmon said the EFAP program formerly managed by the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency is now through her organization, bringing an additional $40,000 in administrative funding to Amador County that has resulted in two jobs. Harmon was most impressed with the show of support from the community, saying: “I’m astonished by what Amador County can do for its neighbors.” Story by Alex Lane This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monday, 06 July 2009 00:49

Ione Wastewater Options

slide3.pngAmador County – Ione is preparing for effects on its wastewater system, but the good news last week was that Ione is sitting on a good sized reserve. City Manager Kim Kerr gave a report last week to the Amador Regional Planning Committee of the state of wastewater treatment in Ione. Kerr said the city has $5 million dollars in developer fees in the bank, and they have “made it a point not to use that money.” Those funds are from Wildflower and JTS Properties developments fees. Kerr thinks Ione has more options for its wastewater systems, than Jackson (due to its location) or Sutter Creek. Kerr said Ione’s 2 plants have a treatment capacity of 1.6 million gallons a day. But they do not charge the Amador Water Agency the full rate they could. Ione also paid $20,000 dollars in ARSA system work. Ione faces potential changes in wastewater flow in the Amador Regional Sanitation Authority system, from Sutter Creek and the Amador Water Agency. That water is treated and sent to irrigate Castle Oaks Golf Course, and Mule Creek State Prison. She said the agreement between Ione, Mule Creek and ARSA requires a 5-year notification for change in wastewater flows. Ione City Councilwoman Andrea Bonham said “there has to be a plan in place and notice has to be given.” Kerr said Ione will have to build its plant with the inclusion of capacity commitments to ARSA. She said “before (they) take ARSA out, Ione would have to have the plan in place to place the water on the (Castle Oaks) Golf Course.” Kerr said Ione doesn’t want to accept raw water, and Sutter Creek needs a secondary plant. She said a wastewater pipeline would be 9 miles to Ione. Kerr said Ione cannot send secondary water from its city plant to its tertiary plant. But ARSA can and does send secondary water there – about 1/3rd of the plant’s capacity. Councilman Tim Murphy said it made him think about some things Sutter Creek was talking about doing, and AWA’s recycled water system. Murphy said maybe later on they can talk about regional approaches. Kerr said she believes Ione will always treat wastewater, being at the bottom of the hill. They will try to run it more efficiently, and see if they can get approval to put tertiary water in toilets, to free up storage space. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monday, 06 July 2009 00:56

Ione Wastewater Plan

slide2.pngAmador County – Ione City Manager Kim Kerr told the Amador Regional Planning Committee last week that Ione is waiting for a state decision on its wastewater master plan’s Final Environmental Impact Report. The problem is, the person in charge of its review for compliance was promoted and the position unfilled. The Regional Water Quality Control Board said it could be as long as 120 days before the FEIR is reviewed. Kerr said Ione has 2 water treatment plants. One is a tertiary level treatment plant that treats secondary-level treated wastewater piped in from Sutter Creek, in the Amador Regional Sanitation Authority system. The other plant in Ione is a secondary-level treatment facility, which handles Ione’s city wastewater, which is then stored in the city’s 7 storage reservoirs. The tertiary plant in Ione cannot treat the effluent from the secondary plant. Kerr said Ione wants ARSA’s wastewater. But the supply could change, as Gold Rush Ranch & Golf Resort has a plan to upgrade Sutter Creek treatment plant from secondary to tertiary. Tertiary water is cleaned to a quality that it can be used for irrigation, in this case for Gold Rush Golf Course. Sutter Creek Assistant City Manager Sean Rabe said “there is a tendency at the state level” that instead of expanding the size of a secondary plant, they require its expansion to a tertiary level. Kerr said through ARSA, Amador Water Agency takes about 1/3rd of Ione’s capacity. Sutter Creek Councilman Tim Murphy asked what the impact would be when ARSA activated a tertiary plant. Kerr said Ione “will have to replace that water.” The city already sends 700 acre feet of water to Castle Oaks Golf Course. The city would have to discuss the issue with Castle Oaks. Kerr said storage options might include Preston’s reservoir, and 16 acres on Arroyo Seco Ranch. She said “for farmers and ranchers that want (their) tertiary water, it’s just a matter of finding storage in the winter time.” Kerr said “unfortunately, to do your EIR, you have to plan for” removing ARSA. That includes finding storage and planning for increases in the flow elsewhere. She said the city can treat a maximum of 1.2 million gallons a day at its tertiary plant, “but there are storage problems” at the Henderson storage reservoir on a canal in the ARSA system. The committee next meets August 5th, and will hear a report on ARSA from Sutter Creek City Manager Rob Duke. Story by Jim Reece This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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