Sacramento County addresses water district’s ‘flood of public safety dangers’ found by grand jury

Robert J Hansen

Introduced ban on flavored tobacco and seeking funds for housing project

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The Sacramento County Administration Building(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

Sacramento, Calif. - by Robert J Hansen

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors (BOS) addressed a grand jury’s ruling on the public safety risks created by the Del Paso Manor Water District (DPMWD), approved $3.8 million in funding for homeless encampment cleanup, approved a ban on flavored tobacco products, and approved amending ordinances related to housing zoning at the first meeting of 2022.

The BOS received a report from a Sacramento grand jury that found the DPMWD is “flooded with public safety dangers” due to poor management by its board of directors.

According to the report, the grand jury found that the DPMWD’s Board of Directors has been reckless and irresponsible in its administration of the District’s responsibilities to residents and ratepayers. 

The DPMWD is overseen by a five-member Board of  Directors elected at large by the registered voters who reside within the District. 

However, currently, all board members have either been appointed by the Sacramento County Board of  Supervisors or assumed their position without a ballot election according to the report.

More than half of the elected Board of Directors resigned without notice in September 2021, reneging on their commitments to responsibly and transparently administer the current and projected public safety and water delivery needs of the District according to the grand jury’s report.

The District’s elected officials had repeatedly failed to hold themselves accountable and have abdicated their primary mission to “provide safe drinking water under California and federal regulations and to maintain a reliable water supply for water consumption and fire protection.

The grand jury also found that DPMWD’s agendas for the public meetings have provided inadequate and vague descriptions of the items to be discussed or acted upon at its general and special meetings. 

Supervisor Rich Desmond, District 3, said he is part of a team that will meet regularly with water district board members to make sure a plan is created to address the recommendations of the grand jury.

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Sacramento County District 3 Supervisor Rich Desmond commenting on a grand jury report at the January 11, 2022 meeting.(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

“One of the purposes … is to meet regularly with the board at the district and make sure they are mapping out a plan that will correct some of the deficiencies that were found by the grand jury,” Desmond said.

One of the grand jury’s recommendations are that the DPMWD should publish and distribute district-wide a report,  to meet its public transparency obligations, disclosing the extent of the District’s immediate and long term water quality, delivery, and fire flow infrastructure improvement needs, and the resulting cost impact to water district ratepayers.

This work should begin immediately and be completed within six months, the report said.

The Board authorized the Department of Health Services (DHS) and the County to co-apply for and, if awarded, accept NPLH funding.

The County authorized participation in the No Place Like Home Program for the on Broadway Project (NPLH) and to accept more than $7 million in state funding.

The State’s NPLH program, approved by California voters in 2018, provides $2 billion in bond funding statewide for the development of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for people who are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of becoming chronically homeless, and who are living with a serious mental illness and require mental health services.

“I think as we all can appreciate and have witnessed ourselves in recent weeks and months the nature of homelessness in every corner of the County,” Serna said.

The proposed project will create 37 NPLH units in the 140-unit construction project along with 63 on-grade parking spaces. This will be the first affordable housing project in the Sacramento region.

On Broadway, Apartments is a permanent supportive and workforce housing development proposed on a 1.25-acre property at 1901 Broadway in the Greater Broadway District.

“I would feel like I would have been remiss if I didn’t point out some of the geographical connections between where this is being proposed and where we’re seeing some of the worst consequences of the plight of homelessness,” Serna said.

The County of Sacramento will be responsible for the provision of mental health support services and the coordination of other supportive services needed by the 37 NPLH residents at On Broadway for a minimum of 20 years, as required by the program.

This comes after the Board last month awarded a contract for roughly $3.8 million for homeless refuse and sanitation station cleanup to take place from January 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023.

The County has deployed sanitation stations at approximately  30 homeless encampments throughout the unincorporated County according to the contract with Forensiclean. 

The sanitation stations typically consist of portable toilets, a handwashing station, and trash cans. 

Forensiclean shall perform sanitation station clean-up services five days per week.   

Sanitation stations are to be cleaned daily and dispose of trash and debris within  30  feet of the sanitation stations,  dispose of all collected solid waste and regulated materials.

Forensiclean is to provide a minimum of a two-person work crew a minimum of eight hours per day, five days per week. 

This is in coordination and partnership with Sacramento Steps Forward, Next move/Goodwill Services, the Sacramento Police Department, and the Impact team to name a few according to County documents.

The Board also introduced an ordinance that would require a tobacco retailer license to sell tobacco products in the County and it would be a violation of said license for a retailer to sell or offer for sale any flavored tobacco product.

Carol McGruder and Phillip Gardiner, co-chairs of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), wrote a letter to the Board supporting the flavored tobacco ban.

“The AATCLC strongly encourages the Sacramento Board of Supervisors to prohibit the sale of menthol and all flavored tobacco products,” the letter said. “No exemptions. We are glad to see that the Board is considering this issue. Frankly, this couldn’t come at a better time.”

The ordinance is expected to be adopted at the January 25 meeting.

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Sacramento County District 5 Supervisor Don Notolli addresses the Board after being elected Chair on January 11, 2022.(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

Finally, the Board elected a new Chair and Vice-Chair at Tuesday’s meeting. This year’s Chair is Supervisor Nottoli, and Supervisor Desmond elected Vice-Chair. 

Nottoli, who has been District 5 Supervisor since 1994, will serve as Chair in his final year as a Supervisor as he is not seeking re-election this year.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as the 2022 Chairperson of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors,” Nottoli said in a press statement. “Looking forward, the year ahead will likely see a variety of important matters come before the Board and I am confident we’ll work diligently and conscientiously to address these issues in serving the people of Sacramento County.”

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA
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