Report: County must focus on better services |

Report: County must focus on better services

Picture a patient named Joe. For his entire life, Joe has only visited specialized doctors – cardiologists, ophthalmologists and dermatologists. Joe knows the status of his heart, his eyes and his skin.

But Joe has never had a comprehensive physical that would evaluate how well his heart, eyes and skin – not to mention all his other organs – work together.

Like Joe, western Nevada County’s governments are usually evaluated as parts, but never as an intact whole.

Now, however, the results of the county’s first comprehensive physical are in.

A Sacramento-based consultant has compiled a report examining a slew of services – including planning, transportation, and law enforcement – provided by Nevada County, Nevada City, Grass Valley, the Nevada County Transportation Commission and Caltrans.

“Given the fact that nobody ever has as much money as they would like, they do a tremendous job. But there are some areas for improvement,” said SR Jones, executive director of the Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCo.

The report was created to comply with a 2000 state law requiring each county to evaluate its operations every five years.

Jones supervised the examination, which was administered by a Sacramento consultant.

A shortage of sheriff’s officers is a “critical factor,” the report found. With only .9 deputies per 1,000 Nevada County residents, the county is well below the West Coast average of 1.8 per 1,000.

But the shortage will be significantly improved if the county receives its requested money from the state, Nevada County Supervisor Sue Horne said. With a full budget, the Sheriff’s Department plans to hire two additional narcotics task force officers and fill several deputy positions that have been vacant, Horne said.

The study also affirmed what every western county driver knows: Traffic can be a problem, particularly on East Main Street and Sutton Way.

But even with more money for traffic planning, the report stated, the current system of intra-county communication – meetings and mailings administered by the Nevada County Transportation Commission – isn’t working.

Recommendations for improvement were few, though, with the report only suggesting that the commission’s work should be “augment(ed) with additional efforts.”

In addition to transportation, the county and the cities need better communication in the areas of public works and animal control, the report stated. b

In particular, the consultant suggests consolidating the county’s animal control services and coordinating storm-water services by drainage areas instead of political boundaries.

Storm water is a mixture of water, dirt, litter, and oil and other chemicals that enters street drains and eventually flows into Wolf or Deer creeks.

Grass Valley is the only entity that has a current storm-water plan. Horne said the county currently addresses storm water when a new development is proposed.

“Certainly we need to look at collaboration,” Horne said. But she said she is “very hesitant” to introduce additional restrictions.

The report was highly critical of Nevada City’s storm-water system, which it said was basically nonexistent, except for a small area in downtown.

Nevada City Mayor Conley Weaver disagreed. Weaver said the system was “antiquated” but a combined waste water and storm-water system is in place to treat runoff before it enters Deer Creek.

Currently, two animal control services operate within the county: Nevada County and Grass Valley, which provides animal control services for itself and Nevada City.

Grass Valley City Administrator Gene Haroldsen said Grass Valley provided animal control services for the county until about 1992, when the county constructed its own shelter.

Horne said she plans to investigate the feasibility of combining the services.

To view the consultant’s complete report, visit on the Web.

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