Supes to discuss ERC contract, forest service |

Supes to discuss ERC contract, forest service

The Nevada County board of supervisors is expected to approve the renewal of the contract between the county and the Economic Resource Council despite the recent tumult in the area’s economic development nonprofit at its regular meeting today.

Instead of recommending a one-year approval of the $125,000 annual contract, staff recommended the board approve a two-year contract to run until June 20, 2015, the staff report stated.

Staff recommended the approval of the $250,000 contract “despite suffering a number of setbacks resulting in ERC having four executive directors over the last two years,” the report stated.

Robert Trent assumed the helm of the nonprofit after Jon Blinder resigned in September amid felony charges levied against Blinder by the California Attorney General’s Office.

Blinder maintained he was innocent of defrauding investors in connection with the Gold Country Lenders hard money lending operation led by Phil Lester, and charges were dropped against the real estate agent in March.

Lester and his sister, Susan Laferte, are still on the hook for allegedly bilking investors of more than $6 million.

Blinder replaced former ERC leader Ron Moser in January 2012.

Motels, hotels and other overnight accommodation operations in unincorporated areas pay what is called a Transient Occupancy Tax, which is directed into a county-managed fund.

Historically, the funds were distributed to multiple agencies, including the local chambers of commerce. But last year, the board decided to award the entire sum to the ERC and allow the nonprofit to subcontract.

The ERC was tasked with meeting measurable benchmarks aimed at tracking how the organization was using public dollars to enhance tourism to western Nevada County.

Tourism is deemed such an important component in improving the local economic picture because it essentially imports cash from other jurisdictions, Trent said.

While the staff report acknowledged the turbulence at the leadership position at the ERC, it stated the nonprofit board “represents the core business, education, health care and government leaders in the county.”

The board has taken more of an involved approach to promoting economic development than any other board in history, the report stated.

Western Nevada County has witnessed “tremendous activity in the tourism area” and, the county’s promotional website, has seen an increase in visitation.

However, the report acknowledged the “past changes in leadership at the helm were unforeseen (and) disrupted progress and created some inconsistency in the work flow.”

Forest service

While stopping short of attempting to assert jurisdictional authority over the United States Forest Service, as some counties have opted to do, the board did send a letter to top-ranking forest service officials requesting reduction of forest fuels that can exacerbate the spread of wildland fire.

In a letter addressed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tom Vilsack, Chairman Hank Weston wrote, “The Nevada County Board of Supervisors urgently requests your support in prioritizing fuels reduction as the primary method of addressing fire prevention and maintaining the health of our national forests.”

The board of supervisors has hosted various speakers and officials concerned with the problems perceived to be mounting on publicly managed lands in western Nevada County.

Many residents have expressed fear that a wildland fire sparked in the national forest could spread to the urban interface.

The board of supervisors will convene the regular meeting at 9 a.m. today at the Eric Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or 530-477-4239.

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