Saturday, July 22, 2017

[Santa Cruz County] Report criticizes Santa Cruz Metro financials, long-term plans

SANTA CRUZ >> Despite efforts to cut costs, the Santa Cruz Metro is still struggling with long-term financial viability, according to the findings of a grand jury report.
The report, released June 29, takes aim at the transit district’s approach to sustaining itself financially.
Since the 2008 recession, the entity had regularly dug into its $25 million reserve to continue operation and stave off severe cuts to services. But that practice is not sustainable and the entity needs to focus on growing its ridership and community ties, according to the grand jury report.
“Current Metro Board actions and guidance to management do not address the need to grow income,” the grand jury wrote.
The Santa Cruz Civil Grand Jury investigates local governments, county facilities, special districts and schools.
Outlined in the report were five focal points for the body to address: funding, facilities maintenance, management, ridership experience and business development. But a chief theme throughout the 10-page report was the need to address long-term financial viability and growth.
While the grand jury commended the district for making attempts to cut costs through route reductions and decrease of stop frequencies, it cited the need for more grant writing and expanded partnerships throughout the county.
But Alex Clifford, CEO and general manager for Metro, says there is evidence that shows otherwise. The district had a great 2016 as far as grants. That list included a $3 million federal grant for three electric buses as well as grants from the state and the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission.
“How do you tell us that we’re not doing well in grants when we had an incredible year last year of receiving grants?” he said.
As is typical with grand jury reports, the entity in question must respond within a time frame. The transit district board has until Sept. 17 to respond while the CEO — Clifford — has until Aug. 28.
The board and Clifford plan to dispute much of the report, including the contention that the report omitted key facts and contained numerous errors.
While the report cited Metro’s projection that it would run into a deficit within two years — despite the body’s best efforts — Clifford said it failed to consider recent funding. The district is expecting funding from SB-1 and Measure D. He also added that the board recently adopted a five-year budget that eliminated the projected deficit.
“They’re just wrong and we’ll correct the record in our document that we present to the board in August and in September,” he said.
One point that Clifford and the grand jury do agree on is the recommendation that the district’s need for a marketing manager. While the role is open, it has remained unfulfilled because of budgetary issues.
The position could champion new methods of bringing in revenue, expand the number of partnerships and advocate for other programming that would grow metro.
“Currently these activities are disjointed and sporadic, and are constrained by a narrow definition of marketing. A business development manager would also examine the practices of similar and more financially robust transit systems to identify proven strategies,” the grand jury wrote.
The position has remained unfulfilled because of a lack of resources, Clifford said. Now that the board is in a better financial position, he said the position could be filled in the next few years.
Despite disagreeing with many of the findings, Clifford said he was pleased the body did not come back with issues concerning fraud, resource waste or abuse.
“Whenever you have any kind of audit or investigation, that’s one of the things you hope you’ll come through clean on,” he said.
July 8, 2017
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Calvin Men


[Marin County] Marin IJ Editorial: Grand jury nudges agencies to open their doors

There are quite a few take-aways from the 2016-17 Marin County Civil Grand Jury’s report on governmental transparency.
First, the grand jury has counted 130 separate public agencies — large and tiny — across the county, from the Marin Board of Supervisors to local neighborhood-improvement districts.
Second, the report follows up on the hard work of the 2015-16 grand jury, which graded the websites of these agencies, A to F, and sadly found too many deserved D’s and F’s. Too many public agency websites lacked vital public information such as up-to-date detailed budgets, the terms of elected board members and payroll data, according to the jury’s Consumers Report-type review.
Third, the 2015-16 report’s grades and recommendations made a big difference, compelling, if not shaming, some agencies to dramatically improve their web presence.
The latest report details the progress made by many public agencies, but also turns up the public heat on those that need improvement.
These are assessments presented by the 19-member grand jury, an annual panel of civic-minded residents whose agenda is to improve public service. If the 2015-16 grand jury hadn’t raised these issues, it is doubtful, unfortunately, that many agencies would have made those improvements.
All too often, some agencies tend to treat public information as “for their eyes only” budget numbers, reports or payroll figures. Sometimes, they forget for whom they work and serve. Or they assume the approach: If the public doesn’t ask for it, it doesn’t need it.
The 2015-16 grand jury report corrected that assumption. The 2016-17 grand jury drove it home with its follow-up.
As it put it in its report, “A transparent website allows for more efficient interaction between the agency and the public and signals that the agency has nothing to hide from the public.”
In addition, with many agencies having reduced their office hours as a result of budget cuts, posting pertinent information online is even more important.
In response, many agencies made significant improvements. Some — such as the Marin Emergency Radio Authority, the Bel Marin Keys Community Services District, the Novato Fire Protection District and the Novato Sanitary District — went from F to an A.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District, for instance, went from a C-minus to an A-minus.
The county government — and many of its iterations such as the flood control district and tiny community agencies — still have a lot of work to do to meet the grand jury’s standards.
Some others continue to lag. The grand jury found there is room for improvement in the online information and services provided by many agencies, among them the Marin City Community Services District, the Marin Healthcare District, the Richardson Bay Sanitary District and the Strawberry Recreation District.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of posting minutes, budgets and contracts.
Neither grand jury reviewed the wide variation of details provided in different agency’s minutes — from nearly useless outlines to verbose accounts — but maybe the next grand jury can take up that task.
The 2016-17 grand jury’s follow-up report is an important reminder to Marin public agencies that their websites should, at least, meet a uniform public standard. That so many have responded positively is an example that improvements can be made if agency leadership believes it is a priority.
The fact that there is still room for improvement should compel the 2017-18 grand jurors to continue to focus on this issue.
July 8, 2017
Marin Independent Journal
Opinion


[Tuolumne County] Bravo: On Doing the Right Thing

Blog note: this article mentions that the grand jury began noting jail deficiencies 20 years ago. Sometimes implementation of grand jury recommendations takes a while.
New jail — While an argument can be made that the construction of a new jail for Tuolumne County is way overdue, the good news is it’s happening now. For years, the inadequacy of the existing jail on Yaney Avenue in a residential area in downtown Sonora has been starkly apparent.
Offices in what were once closets, Inmates mixing too closely with each other and their jailers. A roof-top exercise that offers nothing close to exercise. And now, this week’s grand jury report points out more alarming problems, including sewerage captured in tarps and funneled into garbage cans. Some effluent may back up and leak into hallways near the kitchen. That is just disgusting, inhumane and egregious. Imagine the smell.
Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele is right to say the county has escaped the iron fist of the federal courts for a long time.
The current jail is 56 years old. It’s been added onto twice. What was once the yard is now the intake building. City height restrictions prevent the construction of more floors. Every square inch of the landlocked property has been used — and then some.
Some 20 years ago, the grand jury began noting the deficiencies and has noted them in increasing numbers every year since.
This week, the Board of Supervisors approved a schedule for construction of a $40 million facility on the same site where the Mother Lode Regional Juvenile Detention Facility is located. We’ve already beat the drum about whether that facility should have been built, but it’s there so the county has to deal with it. The jail is the facility that has been needed longer and more vehemently.
If all goes as planned, construction on the jail will begin the week after Thanksgiving with completion expected sometime in mid-2019. The cost to operate will be higher — $8.3 million, compared with $7.1 million, mostly due to required additional medical care and staff salaries.
There are those who say people who commit crimes don’t deserve to live in such a place. Mele promises this is bare bones, not the Taj Mahal. And anyone who has ever been inside a locked facility knows it’s anything but a pleasurable experience.
Also, the jail population includes many people who have not been convicted of crimes, most especially staff, volunteers and those charged but not convicted.
The Board of Supervisors deserves praise in finally going ahead with this construction — much of which is being paid for by state funds. It’s not the most popular vote they’ve taken, but a courageous and necessary one.
July 7, 2017
Union Democrat
Opinion


Grand Jury Report takes issue with Solano County Family Justice Center’s current state

A Solano County Grand Jury report last month concluded that a local center created to help victims of domestic violence was failing to meet the standards established for itself place upon creation.
The Solano County Family Justice Center, first conceptualized after President George W. Bush issued an initiative in 2003 endorsing the concept of Family Justice Centers to combat domestic violence, began operating in 2011, under the guidance of the Solano County District Attorney’s Office.
The center’s objective: to offer resources and support to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, human trafficking and sexual assault by having the center serve as a central location for law enforcement and partner community-based non-profit organizations. Provided to the victims at the downtown Fairfield location are legal aid, health assessment, child and adult welfare case workers for consultations, and victim advocacy programs.
All the while, clients are guided to feel comfortable assisting in the prosecution of their offenders. A 2014 California Assembly Bill set forth the standards for which family justice centers must adhere to. The SCFJC is administered by the District Attorney’s Office of Family Violence Prevention (OFVP).
Through their research, the Grand Jury concluded there were a number of issues within the center. The first was that the center, at its roughly 10,000 square feet 604 Empire Street location, was incapable of accommodating on-site partners or providing privacy to victims. Namely, the report pointed out the absence of sound-proofed dividers to permit private group meetings.
Furthermore, the report adds that the present building is smaller than the one originally proposed, with little room to add on for incoming partners. In a statement signed by Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams, and SCFJC Director Angel Aguilar, both stated they partially disagreed with the claims.
While acknowledging the center’s limited space, the District Attorney’s Office confirmed that client privacy takes top priority. Moreover, Aguilar has designated each on-site partner an office, with private meetings seeing “white noise machines” placed outside rooms to ensure optimal privacy.
However, Abrams too feels the current post limits the reach of the SCFJC, adding that a new location is desired as the center continues to grow. The report also claims the SCFJC fails to meet the original goal of embodying a “one-stop shop” for victims of domestic violence throughout the county, for which the District Attorney’s Office partially disagreed once again.
The District Attorney’s Office and the SCFJC countered by mentioning the diverse set of employees on staff at the center, which ranges from law enforcement personnel to medical personnel, to social workers. When addressing the Grand Jury Report’s conclusion that transportation options for all Solano County residents to the center was lacking, the District Attorney’s Office and SCFJC argued that steps have been taken for individuals who reside a substantial distance from the center’s downtown Fairfield hub.
Additionally, they revealed that the issue of transportation for clients would be addressed soon during budget discussions. The District Attorney’s Office and SCFjC, however, did disagree entirely with the report’s statement that they failed to raise awareness of the center’s existence and its services.
The District Attorney’s Office pointed out the many events that are held throughout the county that are planned with those exact intentions. Moreover, the District Attorney’s Office agreed that the center’s resource guides and website would be updated before the end of June 2017.
In noting the increased funding for the Center, the report recommended taking an aggressive pursuit of grants and a non-profit foundation to better the organization’s financial stability.
Lastly, the report mentions that there is no regular calendar of meetings between domestic violence victim support agencies in the county to amplify more services for victims. In response to the report’s recommendation of quarterly collaborative meetings amongst support agencies, Krishna Abrams and Angel Aguilar disagreed, and responded that such meetings already occur regularly.
July 7, 2017
Vallejo Times-Herald
By Dom Pruett


[San Bernardino County] Grand Jury focuses on improving ambulance availability in the High Desert

SAN BERNARDINO >> To improve ambulance availability in the High Desert, a public education plan, enhanced 911 screenings and better coordination between ambulance service providers were among the recommendations in a report by the San Bernardino County grand jury.
The report, called “High Desert Ambulance Availability and Bed Delay,” highlights a statewide, national and international issue which centers on the length of time it takes an ambulance crew to release its patient to hospital emergency room staff.
“The ability of a community to maintain a viable EMS (Emergency Medical System) is related to solving this problem,” said Dr. Howard Backer, director of the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, after reading the San Bernardino County grand jury report.
California is in the process of collecting the information to develop a statewide picture of how widespread the problem is, Backer said.
For 2016, the grand jury report said there were 11,695 hours of Ambulance Patient Off-load Delays at the three High Desert hospitals in San Bernardino County which operate emergency departments.
This total is in addition to a 25-minute grace period for each ambulance patient delivery — a wait time when ambulance vehicles and their crews are in a holding pattern with the clock not running.
The grand jury report found that contributing factors in the data were:
• An increase in the number of newly insured patients as a result of the Affordable Care Act, placing higher demands on an already strained, overcrowded emergency department.
• A disproportionately low number of local primary and specialty care physicians.
• An aging population with additional medical needs and the evolving role of EMS in health care systems.
B.J. Bartleson, vice president of nursing and clinical services for the California Hospital Association, said that a large number of High Desert residents received medical insurance under Obamacare, but they can’t get to see doctors on a timely basis, if at all.
So they show up at hospital emergency rooms, which by law must see them, she said.
In November 2015, the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency, which oversees ambulance services in Inyo, Mono and San Bernardino developed a plan, at the request of the Hospital Association of Southern California, said Tom Lynch, the agency’s EMS Director.
The grand jury report recommended implementation of that plan, called the Centralized Medical Control Proposal.
Among other proposals, the plan called for creation of enhanced 911 call screening, designed to identify patients who do not require EMS response or an emergency department to care for their medical complaint.
• Development and implementation of an ongoing public education strategies to address appropriate use of the EMS system.
Those two proposals were separately listed in the grand jury’s recommendations.
The ICEMA report also recommended development of protocols to guide transportation of patients with behavioral health conditions to appropriate health care settings.
Backer said the dangerous part of this problem is that because of hospital bed availability or staffing issues, emergency service equipment and crews are tied up and not available to accept other calls.
To help alleviate this problem, the San Bernardino County Fire Department created an ambulance operation staffed by paramedics and emergency medical technicians who were not also trained firefighters.
That way, firefighting equipment and their crews were not kept out of service waiting to deliver a patient to the hospital, said Tracey Martinez, a department spokeswoman.
The problem of long waits for patient deliveries at hospitals “has been going on for a long time and getting progressively worse,” Martinez said.
American Medical Response said its San Bernardino County operations experience the highest level of delays of its California operations.
“Due to the lack of a trauma center in the High Desert, patients suffering from traumatic injury must be transported outside the area, which places additional strains on our staffing in AMR’s High Desert operations,” said spokesman Jason Sorrick.
To address High Desert issues, including time delays for off-loading ambulances, “AMR is paying to put our own EMTs through paramedic school, flying in personnel from other parts of the state to run calls, offering $10,000 signing bonuses and increasing compensation,” Sorrick said.
The grand jury recommended the creation of a new San Bernardino County Hospital in the High Desert similar to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, which includes a trauma center.
Asked for a response to the grand jury report, Lynch said that “the report is being evaluated and a recommendation on the response will be developed for review and approval by the board of supervisors.”
Jennifer Bayer, vice president for external affairs for the Hospital Association of Southern California, said her organization is “pleased the grand jury is illuminating this issue.”
July 7, 2017
San Bernardino County Sun
By Jim Steinberg


[San Bernardino County] Grand Jury probe targets charter school maintenance, oversight

A San Bernardino County Civil Grand Jury investigation recommends that Desert Trails Preparatory Academy (DTPA) in Adelanto be compensated for money spent on campus repairs of “major maintenance issues.”
The Grand Jury focused on two charters overseen by the San Bernardino County Office of Education: DTPA and Norton Science and Language Academy (NSLA), the San Bernardino-based sister school of Apple Valley’s Academy for Academic Excellence.
Adelanto’s DTPA made history in 2013 when it became the first school successfully transformed from a public to a charter through California’s 2010 “parent trigger” law, which allows parents to change administration because of poor school performance.
In December 2015, the Adelanto Elementary School District board denied DTPA’s charter renewal petition. Last March, the County Board voted 3-2 to become DTPA’s overseeing agency, making it only the second such school in the county.
Excelsior Charter Schools, which has been overseen by the Victor Valley Union High School District, conditionally became the third countywide charter just last month.
Both Excelsior and NSLA are county “benefit schools,” allowing them to be multi-campused. In the case of DTPA, the county’s only role is to take the place of AESD in overseeing the school’s performance, a California Charter Schools Association official told the Daily Press last year.
The Grand Jury report says that an inspection for DTPA was conducted in August last year, when SBCSS first became its oversight agent, the visit resulting in “six high priority items.” Among them was an active classroom without a functioning air conditioner, “trip hazards” around the basketball courts and other areas, a cracked slide, holes in the rubberized play surface and the lack of a handicap ramp to a building.
The Charter Facilities Agreement between AESD and DTPA from June 2013 said that the district “shall be responsible for the major maintenance of the (school site).”
DTPA paid independent companies for repairs “when AESD did not respond in a timely manner” to maintenance requests, the Grand Jury report said.
“When AESD denied DTPA’s petition for renewal for 2016-2017, AESD believed that DTPA would be seeking other facilities to use. DTPA planned to remain at the same school location,” the report said. “To reach a solution regarding use of the school location, legal counsel for each entity agreed to select (an) arbitrator.”
The conclusion was that DTPA has the right to exclusive use of the school site, located at 14350 Bellflower St. in Adelanto, under their original Charter Facilities Agreement with AESD.
A work order submitted by DTPA to AESD last September for a suspected leak on campus saw “little progress” toward repair by February, the report shows.
“At the December AESD Board Meeting, it was reported in the public comment time that water consumption for a six-month period at DTPA showed twice as much consumption as in a previous six-month period,” the report states. “If the major repair or replacement of the valve had occurred in a timely manner by AESD, funds that would have been spent on the scholars and their educational programs would not have been expended on wasting water during a multi-year California drought.”
The Grand Jury recommends that DTPA be compensated for repairs the school paid for, that further major maintenance repairs are made at its campus and that work orders received by AESD be prioritized and repaired accordingly.
AESD Superintendent Amy Nguyen-Hernandez said the district was formally made aware of the Grand Jury’s report on Wednesday.
“We haven’t had adequate time to complete our review of the finding and recommendations, but we will be providing a formal written response to the Grand Jury by the stated deadline of Oct. 1, 2017,” Nguyen-Hernandez said. “The District remains fully committed to maintaining a positive and cooperative relationship with Desert Trails, its students, staff, administration and the community we serve together.”
The district did not respond to whether it concurred with the Grand Jury’s findings or provide explanation for not providing maintenance repairs that DTPA used independent companies to complete. DTPA officials were not immediately available for comment Friday.
Other findings listed in the Grand Jury report included that both DTPA and NSLA neglected to post Brown Act-required information on their school websites, including approved meeting minutes within five days of their approval, and that parent and teacher attendance to school board meetings was limited.
July 7, 2017
Daily Press
By Charity Lindsey


[San Joaquin County] Grand jury says fire dispatch should consolidate: ‘Our citizens deserve better’

Saying that egos and politics are getting in the way of public safety, the San Joaquin County civil grand jury this week called for the consolidation of two separate emergency fire dispatch centers.
Most local fire agencies support having just one dispatch center, the grand jury said.
But it’s never happened.
“This is a significant leadership issue,” the grand jury concluded in its report. “Our citizens deserve better.”
The grand jury cited “egos, politics and fear of change,” without naming names. The report blamed agencies for failing to negotiate and find a solution over many years.
Today, the Stockton Fire Department’s own public dispatch system handles most of the urban areas of the county, including Stockton, Lodi, Tracy, Manteca, and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District.
The Valley Regional Emergency Communications Center in Salida, which is operated by the private company American Medical Response, handles calls for 13 mostly rural fire districts and dispatches all ambulances within San Joaquin County.
The two dispatch centers use different communication systems that sometimes conflict with each other, resulting in “serious public safety issues,” the grand jury found.
Valley Regional offers state-of-the-art technology that is better than Stockton’s, the grand jury found, and can offer its services cheaper. The report cites a consultant’s finding in 2014 that Stockton could save $1.25 million by using AMR to handle fire emergency calls.
A city of Stockton spokeswoman declined immediate comment Thursday, saying the grand jury’s report would have to be reviewed. The city is one of 19 local agencies and fire districts required to respond to the report within 90 days.
The issue of dispatching emergency calls became hotly controversial one decade ago after county supervisors awarded AMR an exclusive contract to dispatch ambulances. Stockton sued, but a judge later sided with the county.
“A long history of litigation between the county and the city of Stockton, (and) politics and egos has hampered resolution of these differences,” the grand jury reported.
Dan Burch, administrator of the county’s Emergency Medical Services agency, said the county has approached the city several times about merging dispatch centers, but the city has declined.
“This is something we’ve been trying to achieve since 2006,” Burch said.
July 6, 2017
Stockton Record
By Alex Breitler


[Fresno County] Grand Jury: Audit Recommended for Kingsburg Hospital District

An audit has been recommended for the Kingsburg Tri-County Health Care District after the Fresno County Grand Jury concluded that the District had not used public funds properly.
“In its investigation to determine whether the Kingsburg Tri-County Health Care District has been fiscally responsible in the use of public funds, the grand jury found that the District demonstrated a lack of sound financial management,” the grand jury report stated.
According to the report, the district board of directors may have handed over its financial responsibilities to outside contracted professionals. The jury’s findings also stated that the district was unresponsive to numerous requests for financial information that may substantiate the district’s audited financial statements, indicating that they did not have the requested information.
The jury has recommended that the Fresno County Auditor conduct or contract with a certified public accountant to conduct an audit of accounts and records.
Kingsburg Tri-County Health Care District is a hospital district whose boundaries include parts of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties, with Fresno as the principal county.
The district owns the buildings previously occupied by Kingsburg Hospital and represent substantially all of the district’s physical assets.
The district filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999. The case closure was filed in bankruptcy court in 2006 and the district closed the hospital 2010.
Its acute care license expired in 2013.
July 6, 2017
The Business Journal
By The Business Journal Staff


Grand jury wants more done to address Napa County congestion

Napa County’s master plan to deal with the ever-increasing number of cars idling in congestion needs an octane boost in the view of the county grand jury.
The 2016-17 grand jury studied the Napa Valley Transportation Agency’s Vision 2040 plan. It deemed the strategies and list of $1.9 billion in proposed highway improvements, new buses and new bike lanes “inadequate” to truly solve the county’s traffic problems.
“This 400-plus page document should be the guide for planning and funding of Napa County transportation needs for the next 25 years, but it does neither,” a new grand jury report said.
The NVTA is a joint effort by Napa County and its cities to tackle regional transportation projects. Board President and St. Helena Vice Mayor Peter White said he didn’t view the grand jury report as being negative, but rather as saying the NVTA could do better.
“I think anytime there is a grand jury report, I like to take the tact we look at it positively first and not just look at it negatively,” White said.
NVTA Executive Director Kate Miller said the agency Board of Directors will consider responses to the grand jury comments at its July 19 meeting.
Vision 2040, completed in September 2015, includes projects ranging from Soscol Junction improvements and a Highway 29/Trower Avenue overpass to increased bus service. About $600 million would go to maintaining existing infrastructure.
But the plan lacks measurable goals so the public can monitor progress, the grand jury said. In contrast, the Sonoma County plan calls for reducing the hours people are delayed by traffic by 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2040.
The grand jury submitted a list of recommendations to both the NVTA and Napa County Board of Supervisors.
County Supervisor and NVTA board member Alfredo Pedroza said Vision 2040 needs an update more than a rewrite, but he shared the grand jury’s sense of urgency. Napa County has experienced much success in a short period of time and transportation plans haven’t kept pace, he said.
“I do see the Board of Supervisors and NVTA being compelled to address transportation issues with real solutions,” said Pedroza, who is also the county’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission representative.
The grand jury sees high stakes for Napa Valley and its wine-centric, tourist-driven economy.
“Extreme traffic congestion has the potential to threaten the livelihood of Napa’s tourism business, along with diminishing the quality of life for all county residents,” the grand jury report stated.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors should form a task force by December that includes traffic, economic, employment and housing experts. This task force would develop a transportation plan with innovative funding sources and measurable goals, the grand jury recommended.
“I think looking at it from a regional perspective and being inclusive is only going to mean positive outcomes,” Pedroza responded.
But White and Miller were uncertain why such a recommendation would go to the Board of Supervisors, instead of to the NVTA.
“We’re not a body of the Board of Supervisors,” Miller said. “It’s not like the Board of Supervisors would have jurisdiction over any other jurisdiction.”
The NVTA should set clear expectations and timelines and establish measurable traffic congestion performance targets, the grand jury report said. It should begin making annual progress reports to the public in January.
The grand jury viewed traffic woes in a larger context.
Napa County workers in 2014 had a median annual income of $38,168. A household would need to earn $95,000 annually to buy a median-priced Napa County home of $606,000. This mismatch will continue fueling commutes into the county and traffic congestion, the grand jury report stated.
If projections are accurate, the number of workers commuting into Napa County daily by 2040 could increase 45 percent to 30,000, it said.
Meanwhile, federal and state transportation dollars are shrinking. Vision 2040’s project list calls for $1.9 billion in local transportation spending over 25 years, with only $1.1 billion thought to be available.
“The net result is that the NVTA needs to find other ways for Napa to self-fund transportation solutions,” the report recommended, without elaborating what these ways might be.
In March 2015, the Napa County Board of Supervisors voiced its intention to revise the circulation element of the county general plan, including looking at a traffic mitigation fee to be paid by new rural development. Work on that idea is continuing.
But county Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison doesn’t expect such a fee, if enacted, to bring in huge amounts of money for congestion-relieving projects. The county approves only about 16 winery projects and 35 homes annually.
“It’s not a panacea,” Morrison said.
NVTA officials at an April 2015 retreat mentioned the idea of seeking a transportation sales tax from voters to help fund Vision 2040 projects. Officials said they thought the agency first needed to bolster what they feared was a nondescript public image.
Pedroza said this week he’s not yet ready to support new transportation taxes. First, he wants to look at using existing transportation dollars as an enticement to land more regional money.
Local sources include traffic reduces fees in cities and the Measure T half-cent sales tax for road maintenance that begins next year, replacing the expiring flood control tax.
“I want to be careful and very sensitive to overtaxing our local constituents,” Pedroza said.
The grand jury also looked at the NVTA’s identity in the community.
The NVTA runs the VINE bus system and recently helped build the Oak Knoll section of the Napa Valley Vine Trail. Its other accomplishments include helping to bring about the 2014 Highway 12 widening in Jameson Canyon. It is a congestion management agency tasked with developing a regional transportation vision.
Yet the grand jury said it thought the agency does a poor job communicating the full scope of its responsibilities.
“The NVTA has not educated the community (nor even convinced some of its own Board members) that it serves functions other than managing buses and building bike trails,” the grand jury said.
White disagreed with this assessment. He views the NVTA as a “full-service” transportation agency, one tackling such projects as proposed Highway 29/Soscol Junction intersection improvements, and said it has tried to reach out to the public.
“Dealing with congestion management will always be a challenge,” White said. “Just trying to get people out of their cars is a challenge.”
The grand jury issued two commendations. It praised the way the NVTA works with the private sector on developing the Vine Trail. It also praised the agency for being helpful and responsive to all grand jury requests.
July 6, 2017
Napa Valley Register
By Barry Eberling


[Tuolumne County] Grand Jury Shines Light On Fire Department, Library, IT And Others

The 19-member jury was again tasked with reviewing the efficiency and effectiveness of local government.
The new report took a detailed look at the Tuolumne County Fire Department and its contract with CAL Fire for dispatch services, emergency response, emergency fire protection and basic life support. The Grand Jury concludes that it may be a conflict of interest having the same person fill the role of both Tuolumne County Fire Chief and CAL Fire Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit Chief. It also raises concerns about having four separate, but interactive, dispatch centers serving the county (Sonora Police, TC Sheriff, CAL Fire In San Andreas and CHP in Merced).
It recommends that the CHP not continue to be the primary contact for 911 cellular calls because the dispatch in Merced does not always know the geographic layout of the county. It also noted there is a desire among many to have a multi-agency dispatch center established on South Forest Road in Sonora, which has been discussed for several years.
Related to the Tuolumne County Library system, the Grand Jury found that the lack of a head Library Director, since 2010, has been detrimental in that there is a “vague chain of command,” and a lack of a direct voice for the library to the CAO and Board of Supervisors. To keep the library operational, some employees perform duties outside of their realm, without compensation, “resulting in low employee morale,” according to the Grand Jury.
The report adds that the library has become increasingly popular, noting, “At the time the Library Director position was eliminated, and library staff and hours were reduced, there were 27,664 active cardholders in Tuolumne  County….In 2015-2016 there were 32,372 active library cardholders.”
The Grand Jury recommends a study be undertaken to look into a possible parcel tax and/or sales tax increase to supplement the General Fund budget for the library.
The report also detailed glaring security risks related to information technology, and a need to increase IT staff and funding. The report states blatantly, “The Grand Jury was terrified. Security, policy and procedures, training, and project management need to take  more prominence in the IT Department and throughout Tuolumne County.  Serious security issues exist throughout the county’s fleet of devices, and  staff are untrained and unfamiliar with current best practices to respond to security  incidents.”
The Grand Jury also reviewed Brown Act Violations with the Groveland Community Services District, and looked at how pay raises are carried out for the county’s Board of Supervisors.
In addition, it reviewed the operations of the Sierra Conservation Center, Jail and Juvenile Detention Facility.
The items referenced above are just a snapshot of the 158 page report.
July 6, 2017
MyMotherLode.com
By B.J. Hansen