Documenter: Rachel Youdelman

Here’s what you need to know

  • The Board approved an EIR for the Rio Mesa Boulevard development, despite objections from a Leadership Counsel policy advocate, who asserted that County staff is spending time developing new communities at the expense of the needs of existing ones.

  • The Board voted to adopt new sewer rates in Gunner Ranch West, entailing approval of a deposit agreement with Valley Children’s Hospital for the repayment of their deposit for cash flow.

  • The Board approved an acquisition & reimbursement agreement between the County and the developers of Gunner Ranch, where a waste-water treatment plant is located, a project 26 years in the making.

Board of Supervisors (all present)

Brett Frazier, District 1

David Rogers, District 2

Robert L. Poythress, District 3 (Chairman)

Leticia Gonzalez, District 4

Tom Wheeler, District 5

Also Present

Karen Pogue, Chief Clerk

Regina Garza, County Counsel

Jay Varney, Chief Administrative Officer of Madera County


The Scene

Meeting was convened at 9:01 a.m. by Chairman Poythress. He immediately asked if there were any additions to the agenda. Counsel Garza confirmed that there were no additional agenda items. The Closed Session agenda item’s subject, read aloud, concerned a labor negotiation; there were no public comments about it, so the Board went into their closed session. When they returned at 10:00 a.m., Counsel Garza stated that there were no reportable actions from the closed session. The meeting was opened and closed in memory of Loretta Thomas, a Sierra High School classmate of Supervisor Wheeler, who fondly recalled Thomas with these touching words, setting the tone of the meeting: Thomas was a cook at The Forks restaurant in Bass Lake “for 100 years . . . she was a great lady, a great friend. She never bothered no body [sic].” Invocation and pledge of allegiance followed. The meeting was marked by several proclamations and acknowledgements of service, entailing a number of group photographs.

Public Comment

Matt Treber of Madera County Developmental Services spoke about a water pump breakage and said that after repairs, the well would be functioning in about 5 – 10 days. He discussed details of other wells which are being repaired after being out of service for some time. Next Jared Carter of Madera County Public Works reported on a successful “household hazardous waste” event. Then Fire Chief Matt Watson stepped to the podium as Wheeler loudly sang “Happy Birthday;” Watson introduced two men from nearby fire-fighting agencies who made a donation of $4,500 to Fire Station 19. Next Supervisor Wheeler asked to speak (from the dais), commenting that bears had been observed at his house, eating “chicken feed, peacock feed, and horse feed.” No members of the general public appeared to comment on items not on the agenda.

In the interest of time, Chairman Poythress selected some agenda items to address out of order:

Agenda Item #6a Resident Justin Bowe recognized for his acceptance to West Point.

Agenda Item #6b Presentation by social services department employees about “Elder Abuse Awareness Month.” “That’s me,” remarked Wheeler.

Agenda Item #6c Presentation of Proclamation naming 15 June 2021 as a day of recognition for Office of the Public Guardian/Public Administrator of Madera County

Agenda Item #7a (Public Hearing) Board of Equalization hearing. Board voted to postpone it until 6 July.

Agenda Item #7b (Public Hearing) Hearing for Rio Mesa Boulevard project. Presentation by Jamie Bax, Deputy Director of the Community and Economic Development Dept. She was joined by Bob Delp of Benchmark Resources and Matt Treber from Madera Developmental Services. The location of the project is north of Ave 12 and will be a 2.6-mile secondary arterial between Ave 12 and Tesoro Viejo. Construction will take place in two phases and will entail roads with 2 – 4 lanes, bikelane, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping, as well as water/sewer/electric/cable infrastructure. Project implementation is through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the County and Tesoro Viejo Development (TV), approved at the 5 Nov 2019 Supervisors’ meeting. TV funds the design and construction; the County obtains permits. Approval of the Board was requested to certify that the final EIR report is complete, approve resolution to amend the official plan line, and authorize Treber, Chief of Development Services, to negotiate agreements as needed to implement the project. Treber confirmed that no County money will be used to fund this project, in response to Supervisor Frazier’s question. He clarified that this is a project initiated and 100% funded by the developer. Wheeler remarked that “they’ve been talking about this road forever,” since the mid-1990s, and that he can’t believe it has finally come to “frutation [sic]”. Discussion of public notice of the project ensued. Treber stated that “failure to receive notice” does not “invalidate the process.” Notice was posted in this meeting’s agenda, said Treber, and much was made of there having been notices in the Madera Tribune. A total of 4 notices were made public over the course of 4 years, per the presenters at this meeting. The discussion was opened to public comment, and Madeline Harris from the Leadership Counsel ( ) said that they asked the County for notice on 22 July 2019 but they were not notified of the scoping meeting that took place in Oct 2019. She said that they submitted another request for notice on 26 May 2021, but they were not notified about the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). She pointed out that despite Mr Treber’s claim that notice would be sent to those who request it, that did not happen. She further challenged the accuracy and thoroughness of the environmental review and also stated that residents were frustrated with seeing the many staff hours this project is absorbing, despite the fact that project funding is provided by the developer. Staff thus is spending time developing new communities at the expense of the needs of existing communities, she said. She urged the Board not to adopt the EIR for these reasons. Wheeler commented that “we wouldn’t be doing extra work for these poor communities if we didn’t have these types of communities paying for our staff to be able to do these kinds of projects.” Supervisor Frazier said that the EIR was satisfactory and made a motion to approve. Wheeler interrupted with a “Second” before Frazier was finished talking. The vote passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #7c (Public Hearing) Hearing to adopt sewer rates in Gunner Ranch. Public Works Deputy Director Andrea Saldate presented the information. There is currently one rate payer in the district—Valley Children’s Hospital. There are five property owners in the area; all have been “noticed,” and no written protests have been received, hence the adoption of the sewer rate is recommended by the Public Works department. There are multiple actions in this hearing: (1) sewer rate approval ($118.65 per equivalent dwelling unit—hospital’s rate is based on square footage of the building); (2) adoption of 2021 budget for the area; (3) acquisition of waste-water plant; deposit agreement with Valley Children’s Hospital who will deposit $90K into a fund for expenses associated with the area (eg, the waste-water plant management). Public comment was called for, and Jessie Hudgins from Valley Children’s Hospital appeared and offered to answer the Board’s questions. The vote passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #5 (Consent Calendar) Wheeler questioned some details about the following, which were quickly resolved: Items c, i, m, p, q, AB. Public comment: Madeline Harris from the Leadership Counsel returned to ask about Item 5-AG, which concerns a cash-flow loan for the Fairmead Well. She urged the Board not to apply interest on the loan to avoid driving the community water system further into debt. She reviewed the matter with Fairmead residents, and they want a clear record of transfer of funds relating to the water system. Matt Treber of the Development department spoke and said that they would be pushing for state funding and that it has accrued about $12K in interest. He recognized that the interest is “an issue” but emphasized that they would attempt to get state funding. The consent calendar was then passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #6 (Discussion Items)

Agenda Item #6d: “Housing for the Harvest” Expansion Program. Supervisor Gonzalez recused herself and left the room. Deborah Martinez, Director of the Dept of Social Services, presented the proposal, an expansion of the Housing for Harvest (H4H) program launched by Governor Newsom in July 2020. The program provides temporary housing for Covid-19-infected/exposed farm and food workers not requiring hospitalization but needing a safe place to isolate other than the family home, where they may infect others. The program is state-funded; no County money is used. A portion of the budget is for administrative expenses, and some of the work will be outsourced to the Central Valley Opportunity Center (CVOC), where Gonzalez is a Board member, hence her recusal. The vote passed 4-0 (1 recusal). Gonzalez returned to the room and Wheeler joked, “We voted it down, since you weren’t here,” and touched her shoulder as she sat down.

Agenda Item #6e SB823 Juvenile Justice Realignment Block Grant Plan. Chris Childers of the Probation Dept presented this item, seeking the Board’s approval for receipt of state funds pursuant to SB823’s realignment: per the details in the agenda packet, the bill (signed Sept 2020) “formalizes Juvenile Justice Realignment at the state level. It decentralizes Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities for youth who commit the most serious crimes. It also transfers care, custody, and supervision from state to local jurisdictions. The intake of youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice will end 1 July 2021, and local jurisdictions will assume that responsibility for these youth. This realigned population consists of youth, both male and female up to age 25.” Childers offered to answer questions, and Poythress jocularly thanked him in advance for answering Wheeler’s questions. There were no questions, however, from the Board or from the public. Passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #6f PG&E Public Safety Power Shut-off Program: presentation by a PG&E representative, Nathan Alonzo, who spoke about the threat of wildfiires and reviewed the Public Safety Power Shutoff Program (PSPS) and the Community Wildfire Safety Program (CWSP). Alonzo said that PG&E is taking various pro-active measures (making temporary generators available, using a variety of alert systems, etc) to minimize the need for shutting off power when there are wildfire-related causes. Some of the measures included food replacement for loss occurring in a PSPS event, which indicates that PG&E is expecting such incidents. Deborah Martinez (Social Services Director) commented that her department also provides critical support for elders in events such as PSPS and expressed a wish for more formal coordination between the two entities. No vote required.

Agenda Item #6g Extension of recycling surcharge rate for fiscal year 2021-22. Jared Carter from the Public Works department said that the rate adjustment is based on contracts with vendors, cost of fuel, and the consumer cost index—“the cost to do business.” New rates will be effective 1 July 2021. Frazier asked why some rates changed annually and others did not. Carter replied that he was merely asking for ratification of the rates, which did not directly answer the question. Wheeler interjected “Probably because of the fuel costs.” Treber reiterated what Carter said but framed the presentation of the increases as being “upfront.” But Frazier noted that the presentation was not simply information, that there is a resolution to be voted on. Treber then said that the recycling surcharge can fluctuate and requires Board approval. Vote passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #6h Jacqueline Torres, Treasurer-Tax Collector Dept, spoke about increases in certain administrative fees within her department, as well as some tax-sale functions which do not entail fees but which should. The vote was to waive the first reading and set the second reading for 6 July 2021. Passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #6i Contract with Talley Oil for  2021 Maintenance District Cape Seal Project. A cape seal is a roadway-surface treatment designed to extend the life of the pavement.

This item would normally have appeared on the consent agenda, but as Mr Treber explained, the Public Works Dept is seeking approval because of the “big dollar” cost. Measure T funds are included in the annual budget for this work. Passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #6j Gunner Ranch waste-water treatment plant. Andrea Saldate, Deputy Director of Public Works presented info about this item, which concerns “transferring infrastructure” from the developers to the County Service Area 22 Zone C, Gunner Ranch West (CSA22C), which includes physical elements as well as existing warranties, etc. The transfer is effected via two bills of sale, one from Gunner Inc. and one from Valley Children’s Hospital, a developer within CSA22C. The land to be received has a waste-water treatment plant and a well. A contract exists with Fluid Resource Management (FRM), which operates the waste-water treatment plant. Licensed utility workers must be hired, which will make discontinuation of the contract with FRM possible. An acquisition & reimbursement agreement between the County and the developers must be approved. Approval was also sought for moving from the initial phase of development to the next. There was a public comment from Dave Tipton, Chair of the CSA222C Municipal Advisory Council, which met, he said, in June and voted for approval of the proposal. Carter from Public Works acknowledged the expertise of his colleague Andrea Saldate in managing this project. During the roll-call vote, Wheeler thanked the Public Works staff for realizing what had been a long-term project (having begun 26 years ago) while managing its financing without incurring burdensome costs. Passed unanimously. The Board expressed relief and pleasure in the resolution of this long-running issue.

Agenda Item #8a Letter of support for SB619 regarding organic waste recycling; the letter proposes limitations to penalties for noncompliance with SB1383 regulations, which were adopted only in Sept 2020. The purpose of the limitations is to give local agencies time to adjust their practices so they can implement measures per SB1383 regulations. Chairman Poythress asked if there were any comments from the public, and Wheeler interjected, “We the public say, ‘Hallelujah.’” A public comment via phone was from Dan Metz in Oakhurst, who suggested some changes to the wording of the letter. Carter from Public Works said that the letter had been reviewed and approved by Rural Counties Representatives of California (RCRC), so changes are not advised. Mr Metz had further questions and concerns, but Chairman Poythress noted that public comments are time-limited and advised Metz to call Jared Carter of the Public Works dept to discuss further. However, Poythress then called for a vote, which passed unanimously, which seemed to have made further questions about the letter moot.

Agenda Item #9 Supervisors and staff reports:

Gonzalez: Attended the Rescue Mission open-house, as did several partner agencies. She mentioned a Juneteenth celebration at Courthouse Park, 9:00AM the coming Saturday.

Rogers: Scheduled to attend an RCRC meeting 15 June, in-person for the first time in 1.5 years.

Frazier: Scheduled to host a “Coffee & Conversation” 16 June at 8:30AM.

Varney: Attended the swearing-in of the incoming president of the California State Sheriffs Association.

Wheeler: Held a town hall the previous Thursday

Garza: Nothing to report

Pogue: Nothing to report.

Adjournment Wheeler moved to continue the closed session at the next meeting, as he had a lunch appointment. Counsel suggested the Chair decide, as a motion was unnecessary. Poythress promised the closed session would be short. The Board returned to Closed Session at 12:26PM. They shortly returned, and Counsel Garza reported that Supervisor Rogers left the session at 12:42PM, and Supervisor Wheeler left at 12:53PM, both for prior appointments on their calendars. Garza said that there were no other reportable actions, and Poythress adjourned the meeting.

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