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Brian Oneto
07/24/2014 12:53 PM

I have read both the letter in the Ledger Dispatch that Penny Stone wrote in response to Supervisor Novelli’s letter concerning the HHS Building, as well as the second letter that was submitted to the Ledger Dispatch by Lori Jagoda, and I offer the following thoughts:

Ms. Stone indicates in her letter she believes the HHS building is “directly linked to the loss of half of our staff and reduction in PH services.” Public Health pays approximately $250,000 in rent per year. If this rental amount went to zero, there would still not be nearly enough in the Public Health budget to bring back all 10.5 positions that Ms. Stone refers to.

Furthermore, in her letter to the Ledger, Ms. Stone also exonerates the previous HHS Director, despite the fact that the development of the HHS project was under her direction. Somehow, the previous HHS Director determined that the future needs study projection of 43,000 square feet was understated and that the building needed to be increased from the initial 43,000 s.f. cited in the needs analysis for the year 2023 to the 49,000 s.f. that ultimately was constructed (14 percent larger than needed or recommended). Nevertheless, Ms. Stone incorrectly states that “this building is far from grandiose” and that “it was built to 20-year growth specifications.” The extra 6000 s.f. and the 20-foot ceilings say otherwise.

Finally, I must simply ask how “Fiscal Officer Penny Stone,” who worked in the old HHS Building as the new HHS building was being developed, can state that she was “well informed of plans for the building,” yet did not object to those grandiose plans. To my knowledge, no objections to the plans or costs were ever made by anyone on staff at HHS.

In her second letter, Ms. Jagoda asks, “Is it the intended purpose for realignment funds?” when referring to the high rent paid at the HHS building. I ask simply — why are you asking this question now and why did you not ask it back in 2006? It has been eight years since the original lease was signed and the amounts

were roughly the same back then as they are now. To me, it appears Ms. Jagoda’s June 21 letter now

expressing concern over the HHS building lease is simply an effort to force the Board to funnel more money into Health Realignment. What departments that are funded by the General Fund will have to reduce services or lay off employees/workers so that Public Health can be better funded? The General Fund already pays $180,000 per year to subsidize the HHS Building rental costs, but Ms. Jagoda would have the General Fund pay more?

Like many counties, Amador County is facing financial hardship. There is not enough money to accomplish what we would all like to see done. Our roads need major investment. Our jail is overcrowded and aging, and we cannot afford a new jail. Certainly, Public Health has funding challenges, but so does every other department in this county.

The Conservator’s Office is down to two people and works hard to meet the mandated functions of that department. Our county employees have not had a significant raise in many years. Our CAO has not had a pay increase since he started, in 2010. The Board of Supervisors has not had a pay increase since 2008 and just voted to take a 6-percent pay cut.

Despite all of these deficiencies, the State of California continues to take funding away from counties and place yet more burden at the same time.

As Supervisor Novelli said in his previous letter, the problem truly lies with the reduction in funding from the State. The General Fund and the Road Fund have all felt this impact and had to significantly change their way of providing services accordingly. Public Health has also had to change, and those who have been affected by this change are obviously not happy about it.

Finally, I welcome any and all ideas to address this situation beyond the suggested “simply leave and stop paying,” as that option is not realistic and would likely invite costly litigation that we would surely lose.

Brian Oneto is District 5 Supervisor and Vice Chair of the Amador County Board of Supervisors.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
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