It is easy to get caught up in the negativity that often plagues election periods. While there are many concerns that need to be addressed in our county, I also see reason for hope.
My efforts to gather more information have led to meetings with community leaders, county department heads, and the like. While these conversations included focus on challenges that need to be overcome, we also touched on examples of actions and outcomes that give me reason for hope. Here are some examples.
Fiscal Responsibility & Ingenuity – during a recent tour of our new jail, Sheriff Saxon highlighted examples of fiscal responsibility and ingenuity on the part of Pete Braga. Pete was brought in to oversee this complex and expensive project on behalf of the Sheriff’s department. The budget for the project included close to $1 million for our new dispatch system. Pete worked closely with all parties involved to find a solution that met all our needs for less than $300,000. He also came up with an ingenious way to enhance security in the facility that complemented the building’s aesthetics and supported ventilation requirements. Way to go, Pete!
Innovation, Collaboration & Momentum – during my meeting with Kelly Sheen (District Manager – Trinity County RCD), I observed signs of innovation, strong collaboration, and impressive momentum. We were the first in the nation when we established the Weaverville Community Forest – an innovative partnership that helps us have a local influence on federal lands in the Weaver Basin. We can always achieve more when we work together effectively so, I was impressed to learn of strong collaboration between various organizations focused on our County’s natural resources. Kelly also described steady and impressive growth in grant funding (from thousands of dollars to millions) that has made it possible for the RCD to add a fourth crew to support our forest health and resource conservation goals.
Financial Health – while discussing financial matters with our CAO and Suzie Hawkins, I was provided with several examples of significant improvements in our County’s financial health. For example, we have now reached the 100% funding level for our required annual contribution for other post-employment benefits. With the recent refinancing of our 2005 COPS we also were able to decrease our interest rate, remove the restriction that did not allow us to establish a reserve, decrease our annual payment by approximately $95,000, payoff this debt one year earlier and disencumber the courthouse. And our debt to PUD for the Hospital is estimated to be paid off by the end of next fiscal year. These are all important signs of improving financial health for Trinity County.
As we focus on challenges and opportunities, let’s also recognize successes that give us reason for hope.