Supervisor John Gray

Supervisor John Gray

Supervisor John Gray 

November 2018 Supervisor Article:

Last month, I mentioned that our county is in need of volunteers to serve on various committees. Although we have seen a response to this request, there are still openings available.  The information on these can be found on the county web page at: www.tuolumne.ca.gov in the Committee and Commissions section. You can also call the Clerk of the Board at (209) 533-5521.  Be part of the solution to improve Tuolumne County.

Another organization that is welcoming volunteers is the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Community Service Unit. (CSU)  The CSU works under the control and guidance of the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.  The goal of the CSU is to make our county a safer and more enjoyable place to live, work and visit by relieving law enforcement officers of functions and duties that are not directly related to law enforcement.

Currently, the CSU is seeking these volunteers to bolster and expand existing programs. At this time the programs that are in place throughout the county include serving subpoenas, vacation home checks, working with boat patrol deputies, assisting with Sheriff’s vehicle programs, operating live scan fingerprinting, assisting Neighborhood Watch programs, working in the property evidence division or assisting the Sheriff’s clerks in the front office. Future programs might include “ride along” assistance as well as additional volunteer community patrol units.

In addition to assisting the Sheriff’s office, the CSU volunteers provide parking assistance at numerous events throughout the county. These could include the County Fair, Don Pedro 4thof July Fireworks show, Halloween Patrol, Home and Garden Show, Wellness Fairs, the Tuolumne Lumber Jack Jubilee, Twain Harte Rotary BBQ and the 49’er Festival in Groveland.  As you can see, there is a lot of work being done but there is always a shortage of help.

CSU offers training for this service.  If you are interested in helping your community and have some free time, just stop by one of our CSU offices located in Sonora (at the Junction Shopping Center), Twain Harte, Jamestown or Groveland and pick up an application.  A “presence” in the Don Pedro area would be welcome and a benefit to the residents in the area. We currently have no one to help in this community.

For more information on CSU, to learn how to sign up or to initiate a unit in your community, you may also call Dave Clevenger at (209) 743-7631.

Let’s go on to another local issue that can stir up a neighborhood. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive complaints about code compliance issues. High on the list of concerns in the public arena are trashy properties, building without permits, noisy neighbors, illegal cannabis grows, etc. Along with the complaint comes a follow-up comment that the County “never does anything about the problem”.

This is far from the truth.  I have asked Doug Oliver, our Chief Code Compliance Officer, to provide us with a statistical recap of the number of violation complaints on the table as active, open, pending and closed cases.

As of October, we have 762 active cases.  Of those, 170 have been opened and 162 are closed- indicating that code compliance had been achieved. Another 169 cases have been suspended and 40 notices of noncompliance have been filed. The remainder of the cases do not fit the Health and Safety priority that the Board of Supervisors has given the CRH Dept.  This means that they will be addressed as staff time permits.

New to this compliance list this year are cannabis related activities which are included in the total number. To date, there are 47 cannabis related cases.  The County has imposed $2.9M in fines and it has collected $26,302.

Staff is working hard to satisfy the valid complaints. As this is a legal process, it can take time and they will address Health and Safety issues as a priority.

A bright spot on the horizon. By the time you read this, and weather permitting, the Ferretti Road work should be well on its way!

With the holiday season upon us, I want to send my best wishes to you and those close to you. There will be no article for December but I will catch up with you after the New Year!

No office hours in Groveland during December.As always, please feel welcome to contact me or make an appointment to meet with me.                                                                                                  
email: jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us  or call me @ (209) 533-5521

Supervisor John Gray, Tuolumne County 4thDistrict

 

 

September 2018 Supervisor Article:

In a past article I wrote that my hope was that 2018 would be a year where our county would not have to deal with “State of Emergency” situations.  So what happened? March floods, additional dead trees and two major wildfires resulting in the closure of both highways 108 and 120 at the peak of the tourist season.

We are thankful for the efforts of the State and Federal firefighters and law enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line to protect us. My heart goes out to those that lost loved ones in the line of service.

With the catastrophic fires we have experienced in the west this year, it is ever so evident that we must change the approach on how we manage our forests and our tactics to fighting fires. No one has a complete answer but it is Tuolumne County’s goal to help find a solution.

On a new topic-When you go to the ballot box in November you will be asked to consider the fate of SB1, a tax on gasoline.  Some argue that this tax is unnecessary. However, it doesn’t take a genius to see that our State and County roads are in a sad state of disrepair.

Would it surprise you to learn that California ranks 48thout of 50 states in the quality and condition of our highways? Somehow I suspect you might’ve guessed we would be far down on the list and you would have been correct.

The California Department of Finance has calculated that the average Californian spends $762 a year for road caused damage to their vehicles. The Department also calculated that the average cost to drivers is roughly $10 a month.

What does this tax mean to Tuolumne County?

Our road network is rated 33 out of 100 which is considered “very poor” condition.  If SB1 passes, the County stands to collect approximately $4M dollars a year by the year 2020. This is a huge increase to the $775,000 amount that represents our share of the current distribution.

I probably drive more miles in a month than most of you reading this article.  This tax will mean a little more than $20 a month from my wallet but to have better roads to drive on is well worth it.

I am sure that many have seen the new articles about the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority and the controversy generated by a lawsuit filed by Ken Perkins.  A press release can be found on the TCEDA website. www.tceda.net.

One of my committee assignments as a County Supervisor is to sit on the TCEDA board.

We are working toward a settlement and, as with any settlement, no one really wins.  Perkins feels that he is “in the right” but, if truth be told, he has done a grave injustice to the taxpayers that must defend and fund the lawsuit.

It is my opinion, that TCEDA has done nothing but benefit the taxpayer by helping bring new businesses into our area while at the same time strengthening and supporting those that are already here.  Please read the press release and if you have questions, contact me.

I still hear complaints that the “County does nothing for the South County”. When  I ask the complainant “what do the other districts get that are so much better that what happens in district 4”, there is no answer.

As a small example of work in the 4thDistrict let’s refer to hazard tree removal. To date, 8 projects have been conducted in the Groveland area resulting in the removal of over 1500 hazard trees that threatened county maintained roads.  The cost of these projects is approximately $800,000.

Looking forward to the next few months, planned projects in the Groveland area include Old Highway 120, White’s Gulch Road, Morgan Drive, Second Garrotte and the PML Subdivision. Additionally, over $400,000 in State Responsibility Grant funds are earmarked for future operations in the Groveland area.

For those living in the Don Pedro area who have seen damage to roads during 2017 and 2018 please know that funding for repair and improvement projects are working their way through the process and should be available to be put to good use soon.

On a local note, I want to thank the PML Board for continuing to allow the Ferretti Road Detour. It is an inconvenience to the property owner in PML but this has been a neighborly consideration in light of an unfortunate road failure. This is very much appreciated by the drivers who must take this detour route to go to school, churches and their homes. I would also like to say “thank you” to my fellow supervisors for supporting the 100 % funding match to move the Ferretti Road repair project forward.

No one wants to see this road get repaired more than I do!

In closing, the County is in need of volunteers to serve on various committees.  If you want to make a difference and have some time to commit, please check out the committee section of the Tuolumne County web page.  You can also call the Clerk of the Board at (209) 533-5521 for additional information.

As always please feel welcome to contact me or make an appointment to meet with me. Groveland office hours from 8:30 to 10:30 on the second Tuesday of the month at the Mountain Leisure Centeror email at:  jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us  or call (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment.

Supervisor  John Gray, Tuolumne County 4thDistrict

 

 

August 2018 Supervisor Article:

Hope you enjoyed a great 4thof July holiday. For all of the aggravation that might be experienced from time to time working with, for or under government regulations, it’s important to remember that this is “Our Government” and it should be celebrated. We may not always agree on topics of import, but, as a people, we do have the ability to discuss, dispute and vote on significant changes.

This month’s article will focus on pending issues and changes in leadership positions and one other burning issue (pardon the pun)..

Thing are happening.. I would like announce that at the July 3rd meeting, the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) appointed Undersheriff and now Sheriff Elect, Bill Pooley, to fulfill the remainder of the term for retiring Sheriff, James Mele. I have no doubt that Sheriff Pooley will continue Sheriff Mele’s legacy to provide excellent law enforcement.

Sheriff Mele has been an outstanding Sheriff for Tuolumne County over the past 11 1/2 years.  He has served with the best interests of the people of Tuolumne County in mind and has been a pleasure to work with over these many years. He is a respected member of the law enforcement community and is to be commended for his untiring efforts to make our county safe and secure.

I will miss Jim Mele as a colleague but wish him well in his retirement. I am grateful for the friendship that has developed between us along the way.

At this same July meeting, the BOS appointed Assistant County Administrative Officer (ACAO), Tracie Riggs, to fill the position of retiring CAO, Craig Pedro.  Craig will be leaving the CAO position after nearly 40 years of government service. He will definitely be missed.

I have worked with many people in and out of government over the past 50 years. Mr. Pedro is, by far, “one of the best”. He is a man of high integrity that has always made decisions that were a benefit to the County, its employees and the tax payer.

A County CAO is one of the most challenging positions held in any county government. Over the past 9 ½ years serving as your 4thDistrict Supervisor, I have never doubted Mr. Pedro’s honesty and I have admired the skills he has demonstrated as he navigated this difficult job. He has promised to make himself available to help our new CAO during the transition. We all wish Craig the best that retirement has to offer.

Tracie Riggs, Asst. CAO, will succeed CAO Craig Pedro. Mrs. Riggs will be in charge of the day to day operations of the County and at the same time Mr. Pedro will be “wrapping” up a variety of projects and serving to assist Mrs. Riggs in her new role.

Mrs. Riggs holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Administration and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.  With 12 years of government service in Tuolumne County Government, Tracie Riggs has demonstrated strong leadership qualities. She will be the first woman to hold the CAO title.  We are fortunate to have been able to offer her this position and even more fortunate that she accepted!  Approval of her contract will take place at an up-coming meeting.

Pot, Cannabis, Weed—By whatever name you choose, this is now and always been a “hot topic”. Even more so after “personal use” cannabis was legalized by California voters. You may recall that in past articles I have addressed individual-grow cannabis. At the July 3rdBOS meeting a resolution was adopted calling for an election to impose an ordinance to place a commercial business tax on commercial cannabis.

At this time Commercial Cannabis is not allowed in Tuolumne County and a number of people at the meeting spoke out against placing a tax measure on the ballot because we do not allow commercial cannabis grows now. Perhaps the future will allow or disallow commercial activity.  That is an unknown.

What is known is the problem that the BOS is facing has to do with the time required to place tax measures on the November ballot. If the BOS had not acted now, the earliest that a similar measure could be placed on a ballot, without having to hold a “special election”, would have been in year 2020. (The expense of a “special election” would have been approximately $70,000, at today’s cost).

In my opinion, this needed to be addressed now. There are many unknowns & questions at the State level that are still unanswered. Managing the legalization of cannabis is difficult and expensive and the burden has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the counties with no funds available from the state to enforce the laws.

Now, in Tuolumne County, cannabis is available from a supplier illegally but not legally. We do our best to chase the illegal activity but the funds for this action draw resources from funds that could be put to better use. There is no magic bullet. There is no help from the State or Federal Governments for enforcement.

On to road damage and projections- County staff is working on several roads in the South County.  Because of the amount of traffic and other issues, Ferretti Road is the #1 Priority on the list and it is on schedule.  Marshes Flat Road is in “design” and has been funded. Priest-Coulterville Road is also being addressed along with other roads that have sustained significant damage.

Details for specific roads is available. If you have a question,give me a call or email me. I will personally see that the road department gets back to you.

As always please feel welcome to contact me or make an appointment to meet with me. Groveland office hours from 8:30 to 10:30 on the second Tuesday of the month at the Mountain Leisure Centeror email at: jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us or call (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment Supervisor

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4thDistrict

 

 

June 2018 Supervisor Article:

I have mentioned a number of times that I hoped we could get through 2018 without a disaster to deal with—Didn’t happen!

In March we experienced a storm of monumental proportions that has impacted many lives. The rainstorm damaged many public roads in the fourth district, including the South County communities of Groveland and the Lake Don Pedro area.  The price tag for repairs approaches the $9M mark. This amount is on top of the $8M + figure, for road damage repairs in 2017.

No small rural county has the financial resources to fund this amount of property damage without the help of the State and Federal government and the process of working to secure the assistance is complicated, to say the least.

In May of this year, we received a letter of obligation from FEMA for the repair of Marshes Flat Road.  This request for assistance has been in the works since 2017. Now the funds are available and staff is prepared to expedite the construction process. With the engineering work well on its way to finalization, the construction could begin late this summer or early fall.

The County understands the importance of Marshes Flat Road and is doing whatever we can to get the road in safe navigable condition as soon as possible. A critical condition for any emergency designated project is to make sure that funding has been appropriated before work begins in order to obtain state and federal reimbursement.

With the Marshes Flat repair funds in place, the next priority project is Ferretti Road.  As County Director of Emergency Services, I declared a local state of emergency on March 23, 2018.  The Board of Supervisors (BOS) ratified this proclamation on March 28thand it has renewed the proclamation every 30 days.

The local proclamation requests the Governor to proclaim a State of Emergency at the highest level and to authorize financial assistance under the California Assistance Act, or any other state funding program available, and to waive regulations that might hinder or delay response and recovery efforts.  It further requests that the Governor provide assistance to expedite access to federal resources and any other federal disaster relief programs.

The Governor did proclaim a State of Emergency under California’s guidelines which makes state funding available. As for the funding at the federal level, the state is still trying to determine that there was enough monetary damage to meet the approximately $52M threshold to qualify for a Federal Proclamation.

The good news is that Ferretti Road is being funded through Federal Highway Administration and the California Offices of Emergency Services. County staff has filed an application for over $1M for the Ferretti Road repair.  This, once again, is a “process” and the county is doing everything possible to move it along more quickly.  We know how important Ferretti Road is and also understands the burden it places on the Pine Mountain Lake community.

Ferretti Road is a major collector with thousands of cars traveling over it each day.

Even with all of the recent storm related problems, your county continues to work on the tree mortality issue, as well. Projects for Big Creek Shaft, Old Highway 120 and Whites Gulch are targeted areas.

I intend to continue to hold office hours in Groveland from 8:30 am to 10:30 am on the second Tuesday of the month. Please contact me with any specific questions and I will do my best to get you a prompt answer. . If you wish to meet at a time other than this, please send me an email at jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us or call me at (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment.

Looking forward to a Successful 2018 for our county and the many residents who call Tuolumne County “Home”.

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4thDistrict Supervisor

 

 

 

 

 

April 2018 Supervisor Article:

Spring is springing but a Hot Topic remains just that.. “Hot”

Coming to grips with the fact that personal use marijuana is now legal in California has been a challenge for many. It was voted upon and approved by the voters of our state. I continue to receive calls and emails criticizing the Board of Supervisors (BOS) for not making Tuolumne County a “Cannabis Free Zone”. This is something that the Board does not have the power to do. We cannot override the will of the people.

In 1996 the voters of our state approved Proposition 21 –The Compassionate Use Act. The intent of Prop 215 was to enable those with a medical need for cannabis to be able to obtain and use it without fear of criminal prosecution.

In 2016, voters of the State approved Proposition 64–The Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The purpose of this act was to establish a comprehensive system to legalize, control and regulate the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, distribution, testing and sale of non-medical cannabis. This includes cannabis products for use by adults, 21 years of age and over to possess, plant, cultivate, harvest and dry process no more than 6 living cannabis plants within a single private residence or upon the grounds of that private residence at one time.

My intent is not to argue whether the consumption of cannabis is “good or bad”. We do know, however, that large commercial grows have been prevalent in our county for many years and that this situation has led to many problems such as stream and ground pollution, home invasion and property destruction to name a few.

At the direction of the State, the responsibility for the creation of rules under the broad umbrella of marijuana management was passed on to the County.

In March, the Board passed Ordinance 3327 which prohibits the commercial cultivation, processing, manufacturing, distribution, testing and sale of medical marijuana or non-medical cannabis in Tuolumne County. (The entire ordinance can be found on the County web page-Tuolumneco.gov.us under the ordinance section.)

If you are growing more than 6 plants-total-you are in violation of this ordinance.

All zoning districts allow a person to grow 6 plants indoors, or in an accessory building, per residence. In agriculturally zoned properties you are allowed to grow 12 plants outdoors if there are two residences on the property.

Again, please check the ordinance for additional rules and regulations on this subject.

The enforcement process will be handled through the Community Resource Agency as a zoning violation. Fines are hefty for violations. Questions and complaints should be directed to the CRA department at (209) 533-5536. You can also contact me.

We anticipate the cost to manage personal use cannabis to be in the $500,000 range annually. As I think back, I’m not sure if Proposition 215 would have been successful in passing had the voters known the financial burden imposed on the public to manage this new cannabis related “freedom”.

The Board and Staff are now working on the issue of commercial cannabis activity. For those that are under the impression that there is a “gold mine” in commercial cannabis and that it is sure to benefit the County-Think again! We haven’t found it yet.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT IF YOUR ARE GROWING MORE THAN 6 PLANTS-YOU ARE VIOLATING THE LAW!

In my December article, I wrote about the ambulance assessment and the value of the 24/ 7 ambulance service to the Groveland Area. At the February 23rd meeting of the Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board approved putting the Ambulance Assessment on the June 5th ballot.

Two public meetings were held in Groveland to get public input. These meetings were announced on the radio and advertised locally. After a very disappointing-no one there-meeting on the first date, the second fared much better. Members of our community offered positive comments and expressed their desire to keep this very necessary service available in our rural area.

Measure L will be a special tax for ambulance service at the rate of $90 per year. That is just $7.50 a month or 25 cents a day—less than the cost of a daily newspaper and mere pocket change for such a big benefit.

The polls will be open on June 5th from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. and will be counted at Election Central. Hope to see you there!

I will not be holding office hours in Groveland this month but if you would like to meet with me on topics of concern please feel welcome to send me an email at:
jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us or call me at (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment.

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4th District Supervisor

 

 

March 2018 Supervisor Article:

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) has recently conducted its annual planning retreat to establish a vision and goals for the operation of our county government for 2018. Retreats are not a new idea, but it is something that has only been done in our county for the past few years.

This year’s facilitator was Laree Kiely of The Kiely Group. Ms. Kiely, as she portrayed herself, is a “recovering academic”. She did a fantastic job leading us to a good conclusion.

I have mentioned in past articles how important it is to have a clear-agreed upon direction for the operation of our county government. These retreats give the BOS the opportunity to meet with all Senior Staff in an open setting to hear their concerns, desires and needs on the County’s day to day operation.

The first day was spent looking back on the success and failures of completing the 2017 goals. It was a great exercise. With the hard work of your county staff, the majority of the 2017 goals were completed.

We then discussed the internal forces that might affect us in the coming 3 to 5 years. During the presentations from the various Department Directors, the Board was able to get a better understanding of these forces. There are many unknowns concerning funding of Federal and State programs that will need to be watched. On the final day of the retreat, the BOS discussed prioritization of the issues that needed to be addressed.

County Administrative Officer, Craig Pedro, provided highlights of the retreat at the February 6, 2018 BOS meeting. I encourage you to go to the county web page and review the video of the meeting (item 19).

Another event for February 6th was the Ground Breaking ceremony for the Jack Dambacher Detention Center. This project of nearly $140 million dollars is the largest public works project ever to be accomplished in our county. Funding for the jail project will come from two state grants totaling approximately $33 million dollars. The remaining cost will be financed by the county.

The inadequacies of the current overcrowded facility has been discussed and debated for over the past 20 years and has been the topic of many Grand Jury reports. Inmate and sheriff safety are primary concerns. I am confident that most everyone wants to keep criminals that deserve punishment in jail. Because of limited space, we are unable to do that in the current facility. This new detention center will provide nearly twice the number of inmate beds as we now have available. The planned construction time frame is 19 months.

I want to commend the Sheriff, County Staff and fellow Supervisors for being steadfast in moving this project forward.

Some good news is in store for those residents in the Lake Don Pedro Unit 1 Service area 3. As you may recall, the County held a public meeting in Lake Don Pedro at the Hacienda to present and discuss road maintenance options. A poll was conducted and option #3 was preferred by those attending. At the Feb. 3rd BOS meeting, funding for this option was approved. Work is planned to beginning this summer. For additional information please review item 14 of the BOS meeting video on the county website.

I intend to continue to hold office hours in Groveland from 8:30 am to 10:30 am on the second Tuesday of the month. However, until we resolve the cannabis issue, office hours may have to be shortened from time to time. If you wish to meet at a time other than this, please send me an email at jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us or call me at (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment.

Looking forward to a Successful 2018 for our county and the many residents who call Tuolumne County “Home”.

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4th District Supervisor

 

 

February 2018 Supervisor Article:

We are well into the first part of 2018….After a few first days of         writing checks and letters with the wrong year entered, it is finally settling in that another year is upon us…

Hopefully, everyone reading has enjoyed a great holiday season. The first part of 2017 got off to a rather rocky start for me “health-wise” but fortunately the year ended with happy family gatherings, way too much food and lots of good intentions and brighter prospects for New Year.

With the New Year our county looks forward to new projects, the continuation of on-going project and issues and the completion of others. Tuolumne County continues to work toward the completion of the goals established each year by the Board of Supervisors (BOS). At the January 9th BOS meeting, our Chief Administrative Offices presented an update on the major accomplishments for 2017.

Full details of that report can be found on the County Web Page at www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov

A few highlights-

  • Completion of the Juvenile Detention Center facility-a $17,000,000 paid for, primarily, from State Funds.
  • Of major concern these past years were the aging IT systems that the County was using to conduct business. To that end, the property tax system was replaced; the finance system, Human Resources and budget systems were also replaced.
  • Computers have been installed in all Sheriff’s Patrol vehicles to provide up-to-the-minute information to the deputies.

All of these improvements will go a long way to providing better services to the public.

In February we will be breaking ground on the new jail. This $47,000,000 project will be funded in the majority by State Grants of about $32,000,000 and the balance financed by the County. This project has been “in the making” for over 20 years. No longer will we have a revolving door for offenders due to lack of space. (Again, for a more detailed list please visit the Tuolumne County web page it, too, has been improved and is much more “user-friendly”.

For those that have been affected by the damage done by Mother Nature to Marshes Flat Road …Good News! FEMA has approved funding to repair the damage that occurred last February. This project is estimated to cost about $2,000,000. Engineering and design is underway now. If everything goes as expected, the road should open late fall.

Regarding roads…You can expect to see minor road delays throughout the 4th District this year. We have a long list of Funded Capital Projects for 2018-2019. Some of those will be the Lime Kiln Road Bridge, Algerine-Wards Ferry Bridge at Curtis Creek, Algerine-Wards Ferry Bridge over Blanket Creek, Big Creek Shaft Bridge and preventative maintenance on 11 other bridges, as well.

On the storm damage repairs, we are receiving funding from FEMA for the Hardin Flat road repair and the Jacksonville Bridge will have new deck coating and repairs, funded by Federal dollars.

Caltrans has four big projects in District 4 that they will be working on. (1) The State Route 108 Peaceful Oak Road Ramps (2) The Groveland walkways grant application (3) Yosemite Junction Intersection improvements (4) The $27,000,000 State Route 108/120 pavement overlay between Oakdale and Moccasin.

The State is making good on its promise to spend gas tax increases passed last year.

It’s interesting to know that I have received many inquiries about road repairs and just as many complaints about traffic delays while work is being done to make road repairs. It just proves that it’s tough to make everyone happy.

The National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) project is moving forward. The BOS has directed staff to look at the building of 2 Community Centers, one in Groveland and one in Tuolumne. The amount of funds available is nearly $20,000,000.

The County has posted a Property Solicitation for land on which to construct the centers. For details please visit the County web page under NDRC.

At the December 13 meeting, the BOS approved a letter of understanding to create a Master Stewardship Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions and the Tuolumne River Trust to partner in Forest Improvement projects.

With the increase in catastrophic fires within our region the BOS has consistently acknowledged the importance of protecting the forest and the watersheds. With this collaboration under the Mater Stewardship Agreement, the Forest Service and the Partner identify high priority projects to improve forest and watershed health. The Forest Service contributes 80% and the Partner contributes 20% in kind funding through grants and gifts.

This long term agreement is the first of its kind. Your County continues to lead!

In ending, to my surprise, I will be the new Chair of the Board for 2018. With the many millions of dollars’ worth of projects to look forward in the coming months, it appears that I will be busy, but I will still have time to listen to the public.

I intend to continue to hold office hours in Groveland from 8:30 am to 10:30 am on the second Tuesday of the month. However, until we resolve the cannabis issue, office hours may have to be shortened from time to time. If you wish to meet at a time other than this, please send me an email at or call me at  jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us  or call me at (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment.

Looking forward to a Successful 2018 for our county and the many residents who call Tuolumne County “Home”.

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4th District Supervisor

 

 

 

December 2017 Supervisor Article:

Who you gonna call?

During a time of emergency or crisis we are taught to grab a phone and dial “911”. It is almost taken for granted that our call will bring immediate aid to our situation. Who are these with whom we entrust with our safety- first responders-emergency medical personnel (EMT & Paramedic), ambulance, fire and police, to name a few.

As many of you may already know, the Groveland area has a 24 hour 7 day a week (24/7) ambulance service provided by Tuolumne County. This cost of this service is funded, in part, by a $70 annual fee assessed to each property owner and the cost of which is reflected on the annual property tax bill in the Groveland and Big Oak Flat area.

The assessment has a long history… Back in the late 1970 to late 1980’s, an ambulance service to the Groveland area was provided by the Pine Mountain Lake Association, mortuaries and hospitals by contract. This service was abandoned due to the extreme cost that came as a result of low call volumes and in return low reimbursements.

In the late 1980’s, a group of Groveland and Pine Mountain Lake members, along with other citizens of the County, got together and worked to co-sponsor a county-wide assessment for ambulance services. This proposal was brought to the ballot box and the county-wide measure WAS NOT approved by the voters. Tuolumne County residents in the Lake Don Pedro area were included in this failed ballot box measure.

Yet, the South County group did not give up as they began a grass roots campaign effort to establish a 24/ 7 ambulance service for the Groveland-Big Oak Flat area and the Highway 120 corridor. The balance of Tuolumne County decided to go another route for emergency services.

The South County group really understood the problem and went about finding ways to solve it. South County residents met the challenge and were instrumental in getting the first ambulance assessment tax passed. The result was a local medical emergency ambulance center established in the heart of downtown Groveland. This station is manned 24/7 and available to serve the needs of the community.

The average response to the 500 plus calls from the Groveland Station (Medic 41) is about 13 minutes. In contrast, all other units in the county have an average response time of about 30 minutes when responding to the Groveland area.

Approximately 90% of the Groveland Station-Medic 41 calls are for residents of the south county community and they comprise just a little over 6% of the total county-wide 7,600 calls.

Medical personnel use a term “golden hour” which refers to the first 60 minutes following an incident that requires emergency medical care; severe trauma, a stroke or heart attack. This is defined as the time in which medical intervention is necessary to stabilize the patient. In simple terms, the faster you can get advanced life support care, the better your chance of survival.

The County ambulance service is contracted with Manteca Ambulance to provide this life-saving service. The funding is accomplished through an enterprise fund-meaning that tax dollars are not spent on operation. It is a “fee for service” fund. Most reasonable people would agree that having a 24/ 7 ambulance service and response team (EMT & Paramedics) is paramount to life and safety and for the past 29 years, the people of the South County have chosen to vote in favor of an annual assessment in order to keep this service in our community.

The Groveland ambulance carries advanced diagnostic equipment that allows the paramedic team to quickly respond to the needs of the patient and greatly improves the outcome when deployed quickly.

In recent conversations with residents, I found that there is a misconception that the $70 annual assessment on your property tax bill covers the cost and pays for the service. It doesn’t. The $260,398 collected by way of the assessment is applied to the operational costs which are estimated to be just under $786,000 for the 2017-2018 budget year.

Over the next 3 years funding, under the present structure, is estimated to be short by approximately $106,000 per year.

This present $70 annual fee has been in effect for 5 years and will “sunset” in June 2018. In order to continue to provide the service for the next 5 year period, a new assessment will require a place on the ballot and a “yes” vote. Measure “L” will be on the June 2018 ballot. Community meetings will be held prior to the vote that will go into greater detail about costs and services.

The previous measure passed with over 70% of the voter approval. This approval has provided life-saving services to the residents and visitors of the South County.

As many of you may be aware, I recently experienced some severe medical issues. If something similar happens to any one of us living in the South County, it’s “dial 911 and an ambulance ride”. To put it in perspective, the current cost of the service is just a fraction over 19 cents a day. How much is your life and the lives of those you love worth? I hope that the service will be there when needed.

Watch in the months ahead for notices posted in articles and on the county website to alert you to meeting times to discuss the ambulance issue prior to the June election.

The holiday season is upon us and as we look forward to happy, healthy days and months ahead I send you my very best wishes. Enjoy this time with shared experiences with family and friends and keep your eye on the future!

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4th District Supervisor

To meet with me in person to discuss matters of importance to you and others, please feel welcome to meet visit me on the second Tuesday of the month from 8:30 to 10:30 at the Mountain Leisure Center in downtown Groveland. If you wish to meet at a time other than this, please send me an email at jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us or call me at (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment.

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4th District Supervisor

 

 

 

November 2017 Supervisor Article:

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it is important to remember that we, as Americans enjoy many freedoms, but with those freedoms come responsibility and choice. We work together as a society to choose the direction that will guide us as a community.

Last month my article took on “a life of its own” and grew in size because I tried to cover so many topics at one time. This month I’ll cover only one topic.. Marijuana- which is a big topic on its own.

The County Board of Supervisors (BOS) and staff have spent countless hours working on this subject. A brief history follows.

In 1996 California voters approved Proposition 215, “The Compassionate Use Act”. 215 was passed and implemented as a legal means to enable persons to obtain and use marijuana under limited circumstances, for medical purposes, without fear of criminal prosecution. One condition under this act was that the person requesting the substance must possess and present a medical marijuana card issued by a medical physician.

California courts have affirmed that cities and counties have the authority to regulate, and even ban, the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana.

In 2015, the California legislature adopted the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act establishing a State regulatory system for the commercial cultivation, processing, manufacturing, distribution, testing and sale of medical marijuana. This act reaffirms the city and county’s authority to regulate medical marijuana and to require that applicants for State permits must also apply for and receive a local permit, as well.

How are the various activities in the act defined? “Cultivation” is the growing or marijuana plants. “Processing” is the cutting and drying of mature marijuana plants. “Manufacturing” is the incorporating of marijuana with other products. This includes marijuana “edibles” as well as the production of products (for example: “honey oil”) through the use of volatile solvents such as butane. “Distribution” is the transportation of marijuana and marijuana products from cultivators and/ or manufacturers to retail establishments. “Testing” references the testing of marijuana and marijuana products for potency levels. “Sales” is the selling of the product to the consumer.

In the spring of 2016, after receiving numerous complaints about illegal marijuana grows, a zoning ordinance was adopted to establish regulations for personal cultivation of medical marijuana.

The regulation allows a qualified patient or caregiver residing on a parcel to cultivate up to 12 plants outdoors, or 24 plants indoors, within a 50 square foot contiguous area. If two or more qualified patients or caregivers reside on a parcel, up to 24 plants can be grown outdoors. (Go to Tuolumne County web page to view this ordinance under Ordinance Code 17.67).

In November 2016, the marijuana picture took a dramatic change when voters approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). This act authorizes a state regulatory system for recreational marijuana. The AUMA allows the cultivation of 6 plants for personal use per residence. Cities and Counties preserve their ability to regulate.

AUMA also provides for taxation on commercial activity. One of the uses of this “tax money” will be the provision of grants to local agencies to assist in enforcement activity. Cities and Counties that ban commercial activity will not be eligible for these grants.

Governor Brown also signed SB94, a trailer bill which integrated the regulatory system for medical and recreational use. SB94 shifts the responsibility for informing the State of local regulations.

The State anticipates accepting applications for commercial licensing beginning January 1,2018-this is a “start date”, not a deadline.

Earlier this year, the BOS adopted a complete ban on commercial marijuana growing. The Board formed a marijuana working group to gain input and information on how to address the marijuana issue, both commercial and medical.

The BOS is committed to ensuring that any regulations adopted reflect the community goals and visions. This will not be a speedy process, but the more that the community becomes involved in contributing their ideas and viewpoints, the better the end result.

You can assist us by weighing in on the subject. The following is a partial list of questions to be addressed.

  • Should Tuolumne County consider allowing commercial marijuana activities?
  • If so, which types of commercial activities would be appropriate? Cultivation, processing, manufacturing, distribution, testing and/ or sales?
  • If so, what safeguards should be in place?
  • If so, would you support a tax on commercial activity?
  • Have you been impacted, either positively or negatively in your life or neighborhood
  • What concerns or ideas do you have with regard to marijuana regulation in Tuolumne County?

There is no easy answer and this is not an easy topic. If you have questions or wish to submit comments or participate in the process, you may contact David Gonzalves, the County Community Resource Agency Director. He is the County Point Contact on this topic.
Call (209) 533-5633 or email: dgonzalves@co.tuolumne.ca.us

To meet with me in person to discuss matters of importance to you and others, please feel welcome to meet visit me on the second Tuesday of the month from 8:30 to 10:30 at the Mountain Leisure Center in downtown Groveland. If you wish to meet at a time other than this, please send me an email at jgray@co.tuolumne.ca.us or call me at (209) 533-5521 to schedule an appointment.

John Gray, Tuolumne County 4th District Supervisor

 

 

October 2017 Supervisor Article:

It has been quite some time since I have submitted an article to our local papers but I assure you that the delay certainly has not been due to “nothing going on”.

On September 5th the Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the 2017-2018 Budget. This new budget is approximately $26 million higher than that of 2016-2017 for a total of $205 million. This increase is primarily due to the construction of the new jail, a project 20 years in the making. This project will be accomplished with the majority of the funds coming from the State.

Of great public concern during the budget formulation was the question of whether or not there would be sufficient funds for libraries and for recreation departments to operate. I am happy to report that they are both being fully funded with no anticipated reduction in service.

A copy of this full budget package (i.e. budget memo, attachments, and controller reports and line items details), can be viewed at the following link: http://www.tuolumnecounty.ca./gov/budget. The information will be easy to find.

In August, Tuolumne County in collaboration with its website partner-Civic Plus, completed a “makeover”. Unlike past versions of the County website that emphasized viewing on a traditional computer, the new website is formatted for use with mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets and i-pads. The County utilized statistics to determine which web pages are most frequently viewed and assigned links for quick access to these pages. If a user cannot easily find what they want, the improved site also offers a powerful search mechanism. From flashy new pictures to ease of access, we are hopeful that the website located at: www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov will help residents and visitors alike to access the resources they need.

We have finally received some good news from the State on the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC). As a result of the State’s agreement with the Federal Government on “Process”, it has allowed the BOS to move forward in hiring an architect for the project. The BOS has chosen the firm Lionakis Architecture from the Sacramento area. Now, the real work begins…

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Supervisor John Gray’s previous articles.

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