Documenter: Rachel Youdelman

Here’s what you should know

  • Madera County cats and dogs  owners can now microchip their pets at no cost.

  • The California Municipal Treasurers Association (CMTA) certified Madera County’s investment policy.

  • Congressman Costa sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors requesting more detail on their American Recovery Plan Act spending plan.

  • The Board opposes some proposed legislation: one regarding transfer and admission of patients to psychiatric facilities and another regarding transfer of ownership of family property, because of envelope-printing requirements of the proposed law.

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

Joel Bugay, Deputy County Administrative Officer, Finance

The Scene 

Meeting convened at 9:01 a.m. by Chairman Poythress and was accessible to attendees both in the Board’s chambers and via internet. Camera transmission and audio were very clear, though at times people spoke off-camera. The second agenda item was for a closed session which was to last one hour, so moments after convening, Counsel read into the record a summary of the nature of the closed session (conference with labor negotiators), and the Board members left the room. The video transmission was temporarily halted. At 10:00AM, they reconvened, and Poythress declared that they were “ready to roll.” The chamber did not appear to be crowded with attendees, and Chairman Poythress was brisk in his presiding over the agenda. Some items engendered very little discussion, though others elicited strong responses. However, even remarks about those items with which Board members seemed unhappy were notably brief. The meeting, after the closed session, lasted just one hour. The meeting was opened and closed in memory of a number of people across the county who had died only in the last two weeks, several cited by Wheeler and one by Frazier. 

Agenda Item #1 Poythress asked if there were any additions to the agenda (“Items identified after the preparation of the agenda for which there is a need to take immediate action. Two-thirds vote required for consideration. (Government Code Section 54954.2(b)(2).”) There were none.

Agenda Item #2a Closed Session. #2b County Counsel said that there were no reportable items, but she made this statement near the end of the meeting.

Agenda Item #3 An invocation was given (off-camera) by Mike Farmer, pastor of the Fourth St. Church, followed by flag salute, led by Karla Estupinian, Chief of Staff for District 4, also off-camera and identified by Poythress only as “Karla.”

Agenda Item #4 Public comment (for items not on agenda). None.

Agenda Item #5 Consent calendar. Wheeler requests that items 5-B, -G, and -K be pulled for discussion. He later also requests that item -J be pulled but only to correct the name of a contact person. Item #5-B concerned a grant of $19,240 to allow residents of the County to have their dogs and cats microchipped. Wheeler pulled this item because he wanted to thank “whoever done it.” He emphasized what a good idea it was. Jessica Leon from Animal Services explained that the grant, from California Animal Welfare Funders Collaborative (CAWFC), was designed to facilitate the return of lost animals to their owners while reducing the burden on shelters and Animal Services. Item 5-G concerns CARES Act funds, including interest in the amount of $12K and $512K in remaining funds (not spent) on rental assistance. Funds had to be spent by Dec 31, but the eviction moratorium was extended; subsequently the federal government issued additional rental assistance administered by the state. Joel Bugay, Deputy County Administrative Officer, Finance, explained it was known that they would underspend, and they needed to close their books. Meanwhile they planned to transfer some remaining funds to cover public-safety salaries. The transfer of funds will accomplish that and close the fiscal year on June 30. Wheeler expressed reservations but Bugay explained that the County had already reported the details and that they are not able at this point to “undo” the categories for reporting re the CARES Act. Wheeler persisted & asked why the money couldn’t be used for housing/rental assistance. Bugay explained that the County has received an additional $11 million for rental assistance, funds administered by a non-profit. Wheeler pressed on: why not help small businesses with the money? Bugay replied that they would have had to issue small business grants by Dec 31. Wheeler wanted to know why the $514K could not be used for small businesses. Bugay reiterated that they have already used it to cover public-safety salaries. Wheeler said “he guessed” he understood but that he would rather see the money used for “other stuff.” Poythress moved on to the next item, #5-K. Wheeler rose and walked to the podium where a representative of the public library waited to speak. He said something which was inaudible and was asked to speak into the microphone. He then handed two books to Krista Riggs, Library Director, and said they were written by “a girl” from North Fork “who don’t live there no more.” Riggs thanked him and talked about the success of a recent Backpack Literacy Program which offers books and materials to pre-school children and caregivers through a grant from First 5 Madera County (the Madera County Children and Families Commission, an independent public entity created via passage of Proposition 10 in 1998). The Program was offered to five communities where the County maintains library branches and is designed to help parents and child-care workers become their children’s “first teachers” by reading with them and developing early literacy. Poythress made some seemingly jocular comments about his district not receiving benefits equal to those of other districts, to laughter. No public comments. Roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #6a Agreement with Melton Design Group for design and engineering services for renovation of Courthouse Park. Brief presentation by County Project Manager, Jorge Mendoza, who explained how Melton was selected from among five candidates. Supervisor Gonzalez requested that the plans for the park include input from veterans’ groups, who will likely have suggestions about design of memorials as well as features which will be useful for public gatherings. Poythress noted that this is the first project being implemented through the Madera County Arts Authority ( ) and that the project is a partnership among the County, the City and the Madera Unified School District. He asserted that the County was “leading the way.” Roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #6b After jocular exchanges about photos of grandchildren, County Treasurer-Tax Collector Tracy Kennedy gave a brief presentation to the Board about defaulted tax sales. She said that the sale will increase revenue but noted that as the economy improves, there may be fewer properties on the defaulted tax list. No public comment. Roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #6c Presentation by Anthony Loza, Assistant Tax Collector, regarding the “milestone” certification of Madera County’s investment policy by the California Municipal

Treasurer’s Association (CMTA). Loza noted that this is the first time for this certification, application for which was initiated in October 2019. Certification was granted in March 2021. Loza also pointed out that in the 1990s, the County’s investment pool was $60 million; it has grown to the current $600 million. Benefits of the certification are transparency in record-keeping, adherence to best-practices, demonstration of due diligence, and satisfactory results of audits. No public comment. No vote. A group photo was taken.

Agenda Item #7a (Public Hearing) Resolution to approve land assessment by Assessor of the Chowchilla Water District for the fiscal year 2021-2022. No discussion, no public comment. Roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #7b (Public Hearing) Adoption of a resolution to annex territory in Maintenance District No. 22 into benefit “A” zone, Oakhurst Sewer System. A resident requested the annexation (of 2.6 acres). There will be a permanent sewer connection installed for the annexed parcel, with no fiscal impact. Public Works’ Jared Carter gave a brief presentation, and Wheeler remarked that the annexation would be good for the resident and the sewer district. No public comment. Roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #8a  Authorize a response letter to Congressman Costa’s letter of March 12 which requested an outline of the Board’s plans for use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Joel Bugay very briefly provided a general explanation. As per the agenda notes, “On June 1, 2021, Board adopted the allocation of the ARPA funding into three  categories: 1. Earmark for budget stabilization, 2. Allocation for Fire Station 3 construction, and 3. Allocation to support the economic stabilization of low-income households and businesses in the unincorporated areas. Staff was directed by the Board to return with recommendations on use of the funds allocated for stabilization of low-income households and businesses in the unincorporated areas. On June 7, 2021, your Board adopted a Fiscal Year 2021-22 Budget that utilizes funding included in the earmark for budget stabilization. These funds allowed the County to partially mitigate its budget deficits. The ARPA funding will allow critical essential service departments that rely on discretionary revenues to reduce costs through attrition of staff over a period of time and prevent layoffs that would have otherwise been necessary, had the Board not earmarked this funding”—none of these details were discussed, however. A roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #8b Ratify a letter in opposition to a state legislative proposal to impose a fiscal penalty for counties which “fail to reach an In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS) collective bargaining agreement” with labor organizations re wages and benefits for in-home caregivers (per memo from County Administration Dept, included in agenda packet). Before Poythress finished reading the agenda item, Wheeler interjected, “Approve.” Gonzalez asked that Joel Bugay explain for the record why the Board should be in opposition. Bugay explained that the penalty was only for counties which did not reach a collective bargaining agreement and that Madera County has reached one, so Madera would not be subject to penalties, yet he still advocated opposition to the plan. Frazier spoke; he asserted that the reason it is so difficult to reach collective bargaining agreements is because “the state” changed the funding mechanism and created an “unfunded mandate.” He continued, “Now they want to impose a penalty on top of that? I mean, they’ve already defunded it to a level where it’s hard to reach an agreement, and they want to penalize people for it. It’s insane.” He went on, “It was never a problem to reach agreement before their other legislation. Now they’re making it out that the counties are the bad guys, and it’s because of their poor policy.” Poythress was heard to say it’s a “back-door way to shut ’em down,” but it was not clear what he was referring to. No public comment. Roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #8c Ratify a letter in opposition to SB539, which stipulates that a property “transferee must continue using a property as their principal residence to continue receiving the constitution’s extraordinary tax benefit for an inherited family home”

( ). However, the Board’s objection to the bill centered around a requirement that the web address of the County Assessor be printed on County tax bills, to direct taxpayers to the Assessor’s website so they can file a claim under the law created by Proposition 19. Anthony Loza again appeared before the Board to offer details. Loza complained that “you can’t click” on paper. He said that “tax collectors often purchase envelopes in bulk” and the new requirement would mean that he would have to purchase new envelopes, at which point Wheeler interjected a one-word comment: “Stupid.” Loza did not mention the cost or compare that cost to the alternative. He also did not mention that a recipient could type the web address into a browser window on a computer. He further explained that the Assessor’s web address is printed on the correspondence inside the envelope, but that this web address is also printed on paper did not draw the same scrutiny as the proposed one on the envelope. He asked the Board to support, based on these arguments, a letter in opposition to SB539. Frazier was heard to say, “This is proof positive that we have way too much legislation,” then, grimacing, he repeated, “Printing a link on an envelope . . .” Wheeler interrupted and repeated twice, “Move to approve, move to approve,” his voice drowning out those of others. Frazier quipped, “I would actually like the letter to just be a link to our website,” to appreciative laughter and a comment from Wheeler, presumably directed at state legislators, “This is how stupid you look.” No other aspects of the bill’s provisions were introduced or discussed. No public comment. Roll-call vote passed 5-0.

Agenda Item #8d Ratify a letter in opposition to AB451, which would require that psychiatric units in hospitals accept patients not for evaluation only, but for both evaluation and treatment. The intent of the bill is to minimize transfer of patients from one facility for diagnosis to another one for treatment. Poythress introduced the item and mentioned that it was introduced by Assemblyman Arambula, at which point Wheeler again spoke out of turn with a remark attempting to pun on Arambula’s family name: “He needs to ramble back up to Sacramento and stay there.” No one responded. Bugay explained, addressing Chairman Poythress, that though the problem the bill attempts to address should be acknowledged, the issue, he asserted, is that psychiatric units or facilities where emergency cases are brought “already don’t have enough beds” for more patients. Frazier chimed in, asserting that the Central Valley has a deficit of psychiatric beds, hence this proposal “coming from a Central Valley legislator is like . . .” at this point his voice trailed off and he made an exasperated facial expression, but as he drew a breath to continue speaking, Wheeler broke in, “He [referring to Arambula], must not be paying attention,” and some cross-talk ensued for a few seconds. Bugay reiterated that the problem was hospital capacity, but the text of the bill states, “If a health facility subject to this chapter does not maintain an emergency department, its employees shall nevertheless exercise reasonable care to determine whether an emergency exists and shall direct the persons seeking emergency care to a nearby facility that can render the needed services, and shall assist the persons seeking emergency care in obtaining the services, including transportation services, in every way reasonable under the circumstances.” Further, the bill stipulates clearly that one of the conditions required for a psychiatric facility to admit a patient is the availability of a bed. ( ). No public comment. Roll call vote 5-0.

Agenda Item #9 Supervisor and staff reports:

Frazier: Reported he spent the July 4th holiday at Bass Lake where there was a sizable crowd; it looked like “real life was back.” He praised the Choe family, who own the Pines resort there. Vacationers from as far away as Denmark were present, he said. He called the experience a “throwback to simpler times” and remarked on the beauty of the County. “No one knew what district they were in,” he said, to which Poythress replied jocularly “They never heard of Tom Wheeler.”

Rogers: Reported that he attended Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) in person. At this meeting, four attendees, all scientists, gave a presentation on snowpack during which they asserted that enlarging water delivery systems and re-charge will be the best way to manage the difficult water availability we are experiencing. California Secretary of Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot, was also in attendance. In response to Rogers’ questions, Sec. Crowfoot told Rogers that there is change in “Sacramento” regarding management of forest health. Though he did not elaborate, Rogers said he hoped Crowfoot “was right” and that “legislators” were acting in conflict with what needs to happen, but, again, he did not say what specifically he had in mind.

Gonzalez: Reported that she attended a Madera County Transportation Commission (MCTC) meeting. She also noted that she visited an exhibition called the Lisa Project sponsored by the Dept of Social Services, about child-abuse prevention and which highlights the traumatic experiences from a victim’s point of view—she urged all to attend.

Wheeler: Held a town hall on July 1st. Several presentations on health care, fire safety, and other areas of concern caused the meeting to run 30 minutes overtime, and despite that, no one went home before the meeting’s conclusion. Some County staff were in attendance, and Wheeler thanked them. There were both in-person and online attendees. On the 28th he attended a regional water management meeting, but he did not elaborate. On the 29th, he attended a demonstration of what sounded like a procedure which is an alternative to agricultural burning (per recently passed state law, there will be a ban on agricultural burning after 2024): a wood-chipping machine which, for example, can reduce grape vines to wood chips and plow them into the ground, eliminating the need for burning. Finally, he mentioned his attendance at the 61st annual Loggers’ Jamboree. He went on to note his attendance at the fireworks celebration on July 4, which featured an aviation display commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Poythress: Read an article by Geoff Vanden Heuvel of the Milk Producers Council, who was very flattering to Madera County for setting its groundwater allocation policy, but he did not elaborate on specifics, nor did he cite the source of the article. Wheeler interrupted Poythress to say he had forgotten to mention news of a documentary film about the Choe family, who were mentioned earlier by Frazier.

Garza: Counsel Garza noted that there was no reportable action under Agenda Item #2a.

Pogue: Nothing to report.

Adjournment Poythress adjourned the meeting at 10:53 a.m.

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