The information below was taken from today’s Times-Standard and shows how the county plans to subsidize the most lucrative part of or local economy (cannabis growing) but stick it to the not-for-profit parks. These farmers buy the latest pickups and earthmoving equipment, gigantic green houses, regular water deliveries. How dare we charge them upfront fees to cover the cost of the most high profit business around?
With more than 84 applications submitted for the county’s new medical cannabis commercial cultivation permits and at least another 300 more expected to follow in the year, the county Planning and Building Department is seeking approval to hire five new staff members to address the new workload.
The board is set to approve this request, granting the departments three new planners, an administrative analyst and an office assistant. As the new permitting system just took effect in February, the staff reports states that the permitting fees may not be enough to cover the costs of the new staff members in this beginning phase and could require some startup funding from the county’s General Fund.
The new positions are estimated to cost about $52,400 for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, and about $285,800 in subsequent years, according to the staff report.
Both Fennell and Lovelace said the additional staff is necessary to make the program successful, regardless of their potential cost to the General Fund.
According to the county Public Works Department, its annual Parks Division insurance costs have increased from about $6,000 to about $91,800 between 2013 and 2015, with insurance now making up 42 percent of the Parks Division’s services and supplies budget.
The elevated insurance rate will remain in effect for the next five years, with the county having to pay about $500,000 during this time, 3rd District Supervisor and board Chairman Mark Lovelace said. Lovelace said half of this amount has already been covered by an adjustment through the county’s insurance.
In response to its reduced budget, the Parks Division has used more volunteer work and jail work crews for maintenance, deferred vehicle and equipment upgrades, and stopped maintaining the Luffenholtz Beach access property.
But 2nd District Estelle Fennell said these are not long-term solutions.“That’s not going to be sustainable at all and I think we’re going to have more of a discussion on it when we get into the 20162017 budget, because that is when we’ll really start looking at for more extensive changes,” she said.
As part of the larger discussion, the Parks Division staff report lists several options that could cover the increased insurance costs in the coming years.
Such options include discontinuing the temporary dam for summer swimming at Freshwater Park, charging day-use fees at Clam Beach and Mad River beaches and cutting bathroom maintenance services at Moonstone Beach.
The most troubling proposal for county residents, Fennell said, is another option of selling or relinquishing county parks such as A.W. Way County Park, Crab Park, Centerville Beach, Table Bluff County Park and others.
Fennell said she agrees with her concerned constituents in that she does not want to close or sell any of the parks. “We have to figure out a better approach,” she said.