Oct. 1—The Sutter County Board of Supervisors filed responses last week to the findings of the 2020/21 Grand Jury related to Sutter County Fire and Emergency Services and the Gray Avenue property.
The Grand Jury made five recommendations regarding the Sutter County Fire and Emergency Services. The grand jury recommended the board direct staff to identify a sufficient permanent funding source of funding for each fire jurisdiction in the county that maintains pace with rising population, increased number of structures, equipment costs, optimal manning, salaries comparable to neighboring counties, and workers' compensation insurance costs before the end of fiscal year 2022/23.
Supervisors said the recommendation had not been implemented yet but will be by the 2022/23 timeframe. Staff estimate funding sources will be identified by June 2022. The county has established a Fire Services Ad Hoc Committee to address the financial situation within the fire department and research possible solutions including an increase to the existing special fire tax, a new property-based tax assessment to cover all areas covered by Sutter County Fire and a possible sales tax measure. Sutter Fire received a FEMA SAFER grant for additional staff and will reapply in 2022.
The second recommendation was for the board to immediately find or create alternate revenue streams such as recouping costs from motor vehicle accidents involving commercial and reckless or impaired drivers. In their response, supervisors said the recommendation will be implemented by Dec. 1. Sutter County Fire presented an ordinance to the board to address cost recovery from motor vehicle accidents. The ordinance will not have a direct financial impact on the public as the fees are already paid by auto insurance policies of those involved in at-fault accidents.
The grand jury recommended that the board start a planned campaign to educate the public on the need to increase the amount and scope of the special fire tax to include the reset of the county and to include a cost-of-living adjustment for the next open election cycle. The board said this recommendation will be implemented by April 2022. Once it is confirmed what action will be taken to secure needed funds, county staff will schedule town hall meetings to discuss the financial situation of the department.
Fourth, the grand jury recommended that the county administrative officer (CAO) develop and institute a viable capital improvement plan for firefighting equipment in Sutter County before the end of fiscal year 2022/23. Supervisors said this has already commenced with the adoption of the recent 2021/22 budget and will be completed by the end fiscal year 2022/23. Funding issues for the fire department need to be resolved before any capital improvement plan can be viable, according to the board's responses.
Finally, jurors recommended the board of supervisors direct staff to work with the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for consolidating all county service areas (CSAs) and fire protection districts into one that is run by one paid fire chief by the end of fiscal year 2022/23. The board said this has not been implemented but a related municipal services review process of CSAs F,C and D has begun. The review is being done to prepare for the Sutter Pointe Phase One Response Plan.
Gray Avenue property
The grand jury provided four recommendations about the former Kmart location at 850 Gray Ave., Yuba City, that has been vacant for the last seven years. The county plan is to consolidate and house the Health and Human Services Department personnel and equipment onto this property.
It was recommended that the board of supervisors oversee the CAO to create a policy that provides guidance and procedures for efficient leasing, purchasing, management and disposal of property to be completed in 120 days.
"This recommendation will not be implemented," supervisors said in response. "It may be beneficial to adopt a policy regarding leasing, but subjecting transactions to a 120-day limitation may not be realistic as every transaction is different."
The second recommendation from the grand jury was completed as the purchase of the building is complete. Third, jurors recommended the CAO work through the Department of Development Services to complete the renovation of the facility and relocation of HHS by the summer of 2025. The supervisors said this will not be implemented. The response said the cost of building materials and labor has made construction under the current plan cost prohibitive. County staff is working to revise the design and layout of space to incorporate post-pandemic work environments.
"The timeline suggested by the grand jury may not be feasible given current construction conditions," the supervisors' response read.
Finally, the grand jury recommended supervisors request the CAO provide semi-annual reports on financing, expenditures, renovation and relocation progress beginning six months after the close of escrow. The board of supervisors said the recommendation will be implemented and that bi-annual reports will be provided to supervisors beginning this December.
To access the full grand jury report and responses, visit suttercourts.com.
October 1, 2021