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Tribal Chair Mathiesen Upset Over County’s Lack Of Action On Fire Partnership

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Jamestown, CA — The Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me Wuk Indians will begin construction on a new tribal fire station in the coming weeks, investing up to $7-million into the project.

Located on Nelson Road, off Chicken Ranch Road, in Jamestown, it will include a $4-million facility, a $1-million engine, and other brand-new apparatus and equipment that is needed to operate a station. It will be staffed by nine full-time firefighters.

We reported earlier that it is being done in partnership with the City of Sonora’s Fire Department, which will oversee operations and staffing.

Shortly after announcing the partnership with the city, the tribe reached out to Tuolumne County about a potential partnership that could pave the way for an automatic aid agreement, so that the Tribal engine could also respond to surrounding areas, even as far up as places like Columbia. Tribal Chairman Lloyd Mathiesen’s request to the county, as a symbol of the partnership, was for the building department to waive the development fees for the new fire station. He says it equates to just under $10,000, and the county would benefit from the millions of dollars the tribe is investing in local fire services.

With the county challenged for fire funding, Mathiesen argues, “We were trying to see what we can do to benefit the hard-working people of Tuolumne County. We just wanted to help out. Really, we weren’t asking for much, just a simple partnership.”

Some early conversations took place in October of 2021. The Tribe was told that the request would take action from the board of supervisors and some legal issues would need to be reviewed. The Tribe later checked in many months later and Mathiesen was disappointed by correspondence from the county’s legal counsel that indicated the supervisors had other issues higher on the priority list, and it would take more time to review.

Mathiesen did stress that the Supervisor for District Five, who represents Jamestown, Jaron Brandon, has been supportive of the partnership, and upfront with him throughout the process. However, he feels the Tribe has been hitting roadblocks from the CAO’s Office and the county’s legal counsel.

Matthiesen says the $10,000 waiver to initiate the partnership comes down to principle, and he notes that it is a small amount of money in the overall big picture of the project.

He argues, “The disrespect of not even being put on the board meeting agenda (to this point) is what speaks louder than anything at all. I would have rather been told ‘no’ to my face rather than what has been happening.”

City of Sonora Fire Chief Aimee New, who is overseeing the logistics of the new Tribal fire station, is hoping that a partnership with the county still happens, noting “Every single fire department has been excited being able to add a fully staffed engine to the response. We are all waiting for it to take place, because the more help we can get, the better off we will be, especially during fire season.”

Mathiesen is still open to a partnership happening with the county, as not having one would also impact how dispatch services are operated out of the facility. He adds that he is speaking about this issue to increase public awareness and to inform the community about what is taking place behind the scenes.

We reached out to CAO Tracie Riggs, who noted that she would check with county counsel on the status of the Tribe’s request to waive the fees. She confirmed it would take a board action, and said some fees the county collects are “pass through,” meaning that they are given to the state and cannot be waived. She says the county has been working through the details for some time to figure out the specifics. She adds, “To be clear, the County has never said we would not honor their request. However, we do need to take the time necessary to work through all the details.”

As for the upcoming construction of the new fire station, Mathiesen says grading and underground work is underway, and construction could begin within the next month. It will likely open around the time of the new resort and casino in the Spring of 2024.

  • Artist Rendering of Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Mi Wuk Indians Fire Station