Board appoints new chief building official; pulls from Teeter funds for disaster recovery project; discusses federal advocacy for county

A portion of Murphys Drive near Arnold was washed out from 2017 winter storms. Repairs will start in the coming months.

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors appointed Douglas Oliver as the new chief building official at a meeting Tuesday.

The position has been filled on an interim basis by Jeff White since Ed Short left the role in January.

A Calaveras County resident, Oliver has served as the chief building official in Tuolumne County for the past 12 years.

“Mr. Oliver brings with him a vast range of knowledge within the building industry as he has worked in areas from counter technician to supervising building inspector and building official in his 20-plus year career within the building department,” according to the agenda item.

“All I can say is that I’m humbled,” Oliver told supervisors. “Twenty-two years of public service has led me to this point. I’ve had the distinct honor to serve Tuolumne County for 12 years, but I consider this a significant step up because I have the honor to now serve my community. I am thankful for this opportunity and … the trust you have put in me for the performance of these duties. I’ll do everything I can to represent and defend this county.”

He also currently serves as the vice president of the Copper Cove Homeowners Association, but will be stepping down to eliminate conflicts of interest, he said at the meeting.

Oliver will start on Sept. 30 with compensation set at $58.25 per hour, or $121,160 annually.

In other business, supervisors made a $448,000 Teeter transfer to fund the Murphys Drive Disaster Recovery Project. The decision came after a lengthy discussion over whether to draw from the county’s General Reserve, as recommended by Auditor-Controller Rebecca Callen.

The goal is to repair a culvert crossing of Moran Creek on Murphys Drive in Arnold that was destroyed in the 2017 winter storms. It will restore access along Murphys Drive, as the roadway was washed out and has remained closed since that time.

The project is one of many that require an upfront investment with the expectation that the county will eventually be reimbursed by state and federal emergency agencies, with 75% to come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and 18.75% from the California Office of Emergency Services.

Callen said the county has still yet to be reimbursed for $3.2 million in expenses for disaster recovery projects that have accumulated since 2015. FEMA will not issue a reimbursement until a project or grant is closed or the scope of a project is changed, which could take up to five years, Callen said.

“This will be the first time I’m really advocating that we need to pull from the General Reserve,” she told supervisors.

District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli was concerned about utilizing reserve funds before final budget discussions in September.

“I do support the project, I just disagree with how we’re looking to fund it at this time,” he said. “Shouldn’t it be coming back to us at final budget with other expenditures? There’s no time frame for when this money will be coming back.”

District 3 Supervisor Merita Callaway said that although she agreed with Tofanelli’s concerns, delaying the project would be doing a disservice to the community members in the area.

“This hasn’t been easy for the county since the Butte Fire, I understand that, but by waiting, we’re going to be pushing this project out another year or at least until spring,” Callaway said. “I think it would be a disservice to a community who has been waiting for a prior commitment that this board has made that we will fix Murphys Drive.”

The board eventually reached a compromise to use Teeter funds for the project instead – by Tofanelli’s suggestion – but Callen forewarned that the board will still have to pull from the General Reserve eventually to make up for the millions of dollars being poured into disaster recovery projects that have yet to be reimbursed.

Supervisors also authorized a budget transfer of $64,000 to extend a contract with O’Connell & Dempsey LLC for federal advocacy services to two years. The role of the county’s federal lobbyist, Mia O’Connell, is to participate in study sessions to review key federal funding and grant areas of interest and opportunities, and develop federal legislative platforms for ensuing fiscal years, according to the agenda item. The areas of interest that the county has identified are “water resources, forest management and rural development.”

The board voted 4-1.

Callaway opposed the item, citing concerns that the county’s return on investment in a federal lobbyist was not clearly displayed in the staff report.

District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills praised O’Connell’s work in helping to secure federal grants for local road projects and rural broadband efforts.

Callaway emphasized that she didn’t doubt O’Connell’s capacity, but was concerned that some of the priorities listed in the agenda item didn’t fall within the board’s purview, such as water infrastructure and flood control.

“There’s nothing on here about roads, bridges, nothing on health and human services,” she said. “If we’re spending more money on advocacy issues, is there anything that staff would like us to be reviewing on a federal level?”

Supervisors came to an agreement that an item should be scheduled to develop board priorities for federal lobbying in the near future.

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Reporter

Davis graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies. He covers environmental issues, agriculture, fire and local government. Davis spends his free time playing guitar and hiking with his dog, Penny.

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