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Tensions Appear To Be Lessening Between Calaveras And ATCAA

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Sonora, CA — The Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA) has sent a letter to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors in response to concerns raised about the services it provides to the county.

We reported previously that the Calaveras Board voted 5-0 on September 12 to request that ATCAA transfer all of the programs it provides over the to Calaveras Mariposa Community Action Agency, after criticizing the partnership, and a lack of requested information about the services.

ATCAA oversees the county’s utility bill assistance and energy conservation programs

ATCAA later put out a media release on October 16, arguing that the request (to transfer over the CMCAA) is being denied, and noted that the Calaveras Board was acting based on “uninformed reasons” and “inaccurate information.”

The ATCAA Board of Directors later held a special meeting this past Friday to finalize a letter to be sent to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors. The letter explains the legalities and reasoning for the denial and offers ways to collaborate, including adding a member of the Calaveras low-income population to the ATCAA board, and some other additional incentives. The letter also apologizes for the media release that was sent out by the agency on October 16, stating that it was “premature” and “may have generated “confusion” and “community complaints.”

Friday’s special ATCAA meeting was attended by both Calaveras Supervisor Benjamin Stopper and Calaveras CEO Teresa Hitchcock.

Stopper reported about it at Tuesday’s Calaveras Board meeting, stating, “I think there has been some good conversation, and I think we have an opportunity right now to maybe work better together with our partners from both counties (Tuolumne and Amador). There is some potential for more information and education on what the services are, and how we can get to a point where we are comfortable with access for our constituents, and the best services provided to our constituents.”

CEO Hitchcock added, “I was very impressed with their (ATCAA) board. I would like to thank and commend them for listening to our concerns and then addressing those concerns about how services are provided in Calaveras by ATCAA. Overall, it was a very positive meeting and their board of directors seems very dedicated to ensuring that Calaveras residents are able to access the services that they are able to through ATCAA.”

ATCAA’s board includes private, low-income, and government representatives. From the City of Sonora, the member is Andy Merrill, and from the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, it is Jaron Brandon and David Goldemberg.

More information about the services ATCAA provides can be found here. 

You can read ATCAA’s full board-approved letter, below:

Supervisor Tofanelli

Calaveras Board of Supervisors

891 Mountain Ranch Road

San Andreas, CA 95249

This letter is in response to your 9/12/2023 letter to the ATCAA Board of Directors requesting that ATCAA work collaboratively to facilitate the transfer of the Calaveras portion of the LIHEAP, Wx and LIHWAP programs to Calaveras Mariposa Community Action Agency (CMCAA). For clarity, Wx is a part of the LIHEAP program.

As we have informed Supervisors Stopper and Folendorf at a 9/18/2023 meeting in the Calaveras Supervisor’s Boardroom, ATCAA has no legal authority to support your request. ATCAA has queried The California State Department of Community Services and Development (CSD), the administrator of programs you are requesting, and were informed that we have no authority to support such a request. Further, the Service Area (Amador, Calaveras, and Tuolumne) that we are contracted to support since 1982 cannot be broken up. CSD informed us that if ATCAA chooses to no longer service Calaveras, then CSD will look for qualified providers to support the entire Service Area of which would include Tuolumne and Amador counties. After over 40 years of successfully providing services, ATCAA cannot give up the entire LIHEAP Service Area without compromising our service to Amador and Tuolumne County res idents. We suggest it is best to take your request directly to CSD to fully understand the contractual obligation and expectations of these programs.

What is possible and has been proposed by our Executive Director, Joseph Bors at a presentation made to the CMCAA Board on 7/26/2023 and discussed at the 9/18/2023 meeting referenced earlier in this correspondence is to provide Calaveras or CMCAA staff with an opportunity to learn and support the Calaveras portion of the LIHEAP and associated CSD programs. ATCAA is willing to consider subcontracting to Calaveras an Intake/Outreach worker to reach out, identify and process Calaveras resident applications into these programs.

We can also discuss methods of Outreach and best practices we have learned and can share with your staff, to reach eligible members of your community. While ATCAA is willing to collaborate with CMCAA and/or Calaveras staff on a variety of ways to serve Calaveras residents, spending out every program budget and serving vulnerable households is a requirement that must be met.

In response to your concern that ATCAA has no Calaveras County local elected officials on its Board of Directors, ATCAA would welcome a Calaveras resident who represents the Low-income population who would become a voting member of our Board.This option supports our tripartite structure and would not require a change to our ATCAA By-laws.

On 7/26/2023, our Executive Director, his staff and Board Chair presented potential collaborations on non-energy programs to the CMCAA Board of Directors. To date, we have not received any feedback regarding those proposed collaborations. ATCAA has offered to hand over responsibility of our Medical Alert System program in Calaveras. As stated in ATCAA’s presentation to CMCAA and intended presentation to the Calaveras BOS on 8/22/23, ATCAA currently provides the Medical Alert System to 16 households in Calaveras. Also, we oversee the education and outreach in California’s rural counties which includes Calaveras about California’s Income Tax Credits for low-income households. Our VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program processed 120 tax returns at no cost for income eligible Calaveras residents in 2023. ATCAA offered to provide CM CAA or Calaveras staff with contact information, training, and support for Calaveras to develop their own Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program rather than ATCAA providing this service. In addition to these two non-energy programs,

ATCAA is on contract with the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD) to provide well water quality testing and install water conservation measures at homes in the Tuolumne-Stanislaus watershed, which includes the southern portion of Calaveras County. We occasionally receive State grants to provide water conservation services in the Upper Mokelumne watershed which includes portions of northern Calaveras County.

ATCAA is continually working to meet the needs of all our rural foothill residents in this evolving digitized world including accessibility, non-English language options and simplifying application processes for services, while also working within the constraints of state and federal requirements. We have increased our presence at Calaveras HHS and are striving to get back to pre-pandemic levels of our participation at outreach events and opportunities throughout the foothill region including Calaveras. ATCAA has so far supported several public events in Calaveras this year, again reestablishing our presence postpandemic as in the past. A revised Calaveras specific flyer to communicate the services we have available in Calaveras County is

in circulation. On 9/19/23 our Executive Director provided Calaveras BOS members, their staff and CMCAA with options to research the demographics of households served. On 9/29/23, a 9- year history of ATCAA’s annual performance in Calaveras was provided and on 10/09, at the request of Calaveras officials, 100% of available Calaveras LIHEAP data was provided for Calaveras analysis. The ATCAA Board recognizes these efforts as examples of working collaboratively. We request that your Board, staff and CMCAA members demonstrate these working attributes in kind.

We also wish to acknowledge our regret in the creation of this response that led to a premature press release of draft materials on Monday, 10/16/23, rather than the ratified intent of our Board planned for a special meeting on 10/20/2023 to revise and formally approve. We see that this has been shared and published through several media agencies, including MyMotherlode.com, The Calaveras Enterprise, the Union Democrat, and more, creating confusion and likely community complaints. For that, we sincerely apologize and appreciate your patience in giving us time to work through how this happened. Please accept this letter as our response to your Board’s letter to the ATCAA Board.

In summary, the ATCAA Board and staff believe we have done a professional, fair, and faithful job in our programs within Calaveras County. ATCAA is sensitive to your Board’s concerns about ATCAA performing on contracts in Calaveras County. ATCAA requests that the Calaveras County BOS provide a written letter agreeing to ATCAA’s continued service to Calaveras residents on the following programs:

-Lifeline Medical Alert

-Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

-Well Water Quality Testing

-Proposition-1 Water Conservation services

Sincerely,

Frank Axe, ATCAA Board Chair

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