Supervisor Kirk Provides Update On County Issues
Keely Cashman Heads to the Olympics
Keely Cashman of Strawberry is heading to the 2022 Winter Olympics as part of the US Ski Team. To compete at this level, she has literally had to give up everything. I know from experience as a competitive freestyle skier, everything changes, from the way you eat, amount you sleep, training with purpose, competing, focus, mental health, battling injury, pushing through fear and pressure. It’s a lifestyle that literally consumes you and you can’t do anything less if you want to be the best, but you do it because it’s your passion. Keely is also so fortunate to have unwavering family support. Keely, if you are reading this, Tuolumne County is so proud of you for all your hard work and your commitment to excellence. Go get ‘em and Godspeed on the slopes!
2022 Tuolumne County Goal Setting: You have a Voice!
Our annual board retreat starts February 8th. The main purpose of this retreat is to set board priorities for 2022. Supervisor Kathleen Haff (Vice Chair) wrote a great blog which can be found below. Please review her blog and take the survey as the comments will be considered by the board when setting our goals.
Requesting USFS to Re-Implement their August 2021 Initial Fire Attack Policy
While looking for more solutions to combat the fire insurance issue, I became aware that US Forest Service Chief Moore changed fire attack policy in the middle of the 2021 fire season. The policy change was to extinguish fires immediately. Unfortunately, he then lifted this directive permanently on December 20, 2021, returning to the “let burn” policy. This led to many conversations and policy review with a consultant and others in natural resources and firefighting. A discussion is underway at both the local and national level for the USFS to temporarily extinguish all fires immediately until the USFS uses their own rulemaking policy to establish a formal policy (including local and public input) per the Administrative Procedures Act. USFS fire attack policy can dramatically alter the trajectory of fires and has a direct impact on fire insurance.
On October 20, 2021, Assessor-Recorder K. Whitman and I authored a letter to the insurance commissioner proposing solutions to mitigate increases in fire insurance premiums and cancelations.
Fuel Reduction Project in Cold Springs
Thanks to our partners at the Forest Service, a 660 acre fuel reduction project on the Federal Response Area in and around Cold Springs will start in March or April and will be done by the fall. This project is similar to the project around Cedar Ridge which is already underway.
The Tuolumne Fire Safe Council
The Tuolumne Fire Safe Council received the inaugural Bruce Turbeville Resilience Brilliance Award from the California Fire Safe Council. The North Tuolumne County Fuel Break System received the award.
The North Tuolumne County Fuel Break System consists of over 40 individual, strategically placed contiguous fuel break extending 27 miles, and has treated over 3,000 acres. It covers geography from the Rambling Hills/Columbia area to Lyons Dam and the Apple Colony/Tuolumne City area to Lyons Dam. Protected areas include the City of Sonora, population centers scattered throughout the north Tuolumne County geography, and communities, subdivisions, and isolated homes built in the wildland-urban interface as well as vital infrastructure.
Multiple grant sources funded the project including Prop 40, PG&E Vegetation Management, State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention, USFS Steven’s/Wyden funds, Resources Advisory Committee funding, and CAL FIRE California Climate Initiatives Fire Prevention grants.
Outdoor Audible Alert System
The board directed OES to develop a policy for outdoor audible alert systems (fire sirens) as there are several pre-existing fire sirens and three new sirens in Strawberry, Cold Springs and Groveland, recently installed by Tuolumne Safe. A policy will be prepared by May 2022 in preparation for the 2022 fire season.
Tuolumne County Recognized with CSAC Challenge Award
The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) annual program honors innovation and best practices in county government. This year, CSAC received 433 entries – the most in the program’s history. An independent panel of judges with expertise in county programs selected the award recipients. Tuolumne County received a challenge award for Resilience through Shared Forest Stewardship in the category of Environment & Natural Resources.
Sherriff’s Department Gets a 10% Raise
We need more Sherriff’s deputies, especially on the Highway 108 and Highway 120 corridors as they currently have no one assigned and are jam packed during the summer which creates issues for fire evacuations, and during the winter our roads are plugged full of folks snow playing. More Deputies would help in these areas. If you live in the unincorporated area of the county, when you call 911 for help it is sheriff deputies who respond.
The Sherriff’s office has been having an extremely difficult time as they cannot attract or retain staff. Our board took an unprecedented step towards addressing that issue by negotiating a 10% pay raise. Although it is a step in the right direction, the deputies are still 16% below the average, I believe we will quickly fall further behind if not addressed.
While campaigning for my first term, I heard the community was tired of potholes. During my research phase, I discovered other jurisdictions were applying a hot patch product. Why not us? I am thankful our roads team found such a machine and did so under budget. This machine will provide long lasting patches. Over the next few years, we are hopeful to get ahead of the pothole problem.
At the September 14th BOS Meeting a ten-year contract extension was discussed. I was unhappy with the situation. I raised some hell regarding the concerns of my constituents and their displeasure with the lack of services from WM over recent years, specifically lack of services during winter due to snow. When the contract returns for our boards review, I will not support it unless specific issues are addressed and held to contractually moving forward.
Twain Harte Shopping Center
There is much talk about the Twain Harte Shopping Center as they have started the re-zoning process. As a Supervisor, I want you to know I am aware of your excitement and concerns. I am listening and will comment once all the facts are presented to the board at a future date.
Tuolumne Community Resilience Center
On June 8, 2021, Boyer Construction broke ground on the $9M Tuolumne Community Resilience Center. The NDRC grant monies made available after the Rim Fire will provide the Township of Tuolumne a community center for future community needs. Completion is projected to be in October, 2022.
What is a RAD card? A RAD card is basically a gift card boosted by matching funds. The BOS approved using $500K from the American Rescue Plan dollars to match RAD cards up to $100. If you purchased a gift card up to $100, we would match it 100%. The cards could only be used at approved local businesses and restaurants in Tuolumne County (not big box stores). I am pleased to announce that by December 1, 2021, all RAD card matching funds were expended. During a few short weeks, the $500K program injected $1M into the local economy.
I would also like to thank the Sonora Area Foundation for their generous gift of an additional $100K to the RAD program.
$500K of Grants to Community Groups and Non-Profits
Our board partnered with the Sonora Area Foundation to identify and distribute $500K in the form of $20K and $50K grants to community groups and non-profits who serve our community. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act. The grant application closed on December 20th. We are looking forward to the results.
Some businesses could benefit from a business license for insurance reasons. Some feel they need one to show some “proof” or “certificate” of being in business. The majority of the board, myself included, agrees having economic data would be useful for economic planning. However, I support the license being optional, therefore I voted against the mandate to require one. Although the proposed license has passed a few readings, the final requirement for a business license has yet to gain final approval.
COVID and Parents’ Right to Choose
I don’t believe vaccines should be mandated. They should be a medical decision between you and your doctor. At the end of the day, any substance you put in your body should be your choice and not coerced. On that note, the flu is more deadly to children than COVID-19. I support the parents’ right to choose for their kids. No kid should have their right to attend school violated because of a shot. While the final decision for such a mandate has not yet been decided, I stand for parents’ right to choose on the matter.
Letter to Hetch Hetchy
On November 10th, 2021, I authored a letter to the City and County of San Francisco regarding Equal Employment Opportunity violations regarding their vaccine mandate policy for many of our residents who work at Hetch Hetchy.
Domestic Violence Awareness
Due to social issues, many relating to COVID, domestic violence in Tuolumne County increased in 2021. If you know anyone who is being abused, please suggest they contact the Center for a Non-Violent community at 209-588-9305,
IT and Cyber Security Awareness Month (October 2021)
On October 12, 2021, Tuolumne County proclaimed its first resolution proclaiming October as National Cyber Security awareness month. The board has invested $1.2M in cyber security over the last two years under the guidance of Roger Root, our IT director. Although the cost may seem high, the cost of a cyber-security breach could potentially cost much more.
Change in Medical Insurance Saves County Money
On September 7, 2021, the board voted to switch from PERS healthcare to PRISM to provide healthcare insurance for its employees. The change saved most of our employees’ money (unfortunately not retirees) with better coverage; overall, it saved the taxpayers money.
Water Turbine Project
On November 9, 2021, our board voted to move forward with research on a possible water turbine project to generate renewable power by using solar power to pump water uphill during the day and letting water run downhill through a generator to produce power at night. The water system is closed-loop, which means that once operating, the system consumes virtually no additional water. The water would also be available for firefighting.
I am Running for a Second Term as District 3 Supervisor
Since announcing my desire to serve a second term as District 3 Supervisor, I have been overwhelmed with your support via emails, phone calls and yes, your contributions. Election campaigns are very expensive, and I could not do it without your support. Already my campaign committee has raised more money in a short amount of time than we did in the entire primary last cycle! Thank you! If you would like to support our efforts, please go to my website