The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors received a tree mortality program update, approved a new trench restoration policy, and extended a waste disposal contract, among other items tackled on Tuesday.
The county’s tree mortality program offers a free service for landowners to have dead trees that threaten county roadways removed from their property.
Since the program began in 2017, more than 7,100 trees have been removed at an average cost of $450 per tree, according to Tad Mason of TSS Consultants, whose contract with the county was recently renewed to continue managing the program.
Mason said there are currently 1,000 unreturned Right-of-Entry forms that were sent out to homeowners to allow county employees onto private property.
Tree mortality continues to be a pressing issue in higher elevations, Mason said, adding that the consulting firm has been poring through Assessor’s rolls to ensure the addresses receiving ROEs are correct.
For next steps, TSS Consultants is looking at the possibility of securing California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (Cal Fire) grants to fund tree removal along private roads, which the program has not traditionally been able to reach, Mason said.
Applying for a chunk of a statewide $80 million pool of Cal Fire funding, the firm plans to pursue fuels reduction projects that would tie in with projects currently underway throughout the county, Mason said.
On a related note, Mason said the firm, having received numerous landowner complaints, is starting to document instances of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. leaving downed trees along private properties.
“Some of these trees have been down for two to three years. They just dropped trees and left them,” said John Osbourn, director of the Calaveras County Office of Emergency Services. “They are littering Calaveras County forest floors with fuel. This program (is) fighting hard to remove those fuels from our forest to reduce fire risks and get a healthy forest.”
Osbourn said he has reached out to PG&E about this, but has received little response from the utility giant to address the issue.
The board asked Osbourn to draft a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E and other utilities in the state, as a next step.
In other business, the board approved a new trench restoration policy. The policy was established with the goal of holding utilities and contractors accountable in their efforts to repair roadways after trenching in county rights-of-way so as to lessen future maintenance costs and impacts on public safety, according to Public Works Director Josh Pack.
Pack told the board that over the last 20 years, the county hasn’t been able to make significant investment in its roads. That’s changing soon, however, with $20 million to pour in for road maintenance and restoration projects starting in 2020, he said.
In another Public Works item, supervisors adopted a resolution to form a Permanent Road Division (PRD) for the Murphy Oaks Subdivision to allow area landowners to pay for private road maintenance.
Located on the north side of Highway 4 and west of Bret Harte Drive in Murphys, the subdivision consists of 45 residential lots and two public utility lots.
The special tax election received eight “Yes” votes from the eight landowners in the subdivision.
In a separate special meeting in the afternoon, the board proclaimed a local state of emergency for PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) events that affected county communities from Oct. 23, 2019, through Oct. 31, 2019.
The outages “affected most if not all of our county communities in one way or another … I feel that it is beyond the scope of our local resources …” Osbourn said.
Supervisors also approved a one-year contract with Gambi Disposal, Inc. for operation of the county's Solid Waste Transfer Stations at a base facility fee of $124,047 per month.
That includes monitoring solid waste and recyclable flows, compaction and transfer of solid waste to the Rock Creek Landfill, and the transport of recyclable items to various locations operated by California Waste Recovery Systems.
Part of the contract requires Gambi to maintain and improve Transfer Station infrastructure, including the purchase and maintenance of emergency generators at five of the six stations. Deputy County Administrative Officer Brian Moss recommended the board approve a 10-year contract, citing a positive working relationship with Gambi Disposal Services and the fiscal benefits of paying for new generators over 10 years rather than one.
Supervisors, however, said they were hesitant to get locked into a 10-year contract given the unforeseeability of state regulations, and encouraged Moss to get the Solid Waste Task Force to start meeting again to educate community members on integrated waste management issues in the county.