NID points to its losses when denying Relief Fund request
The Nevada Irrigation District on Wednesday opted against approving $50,000 for the County Relief Fund, questioning whether it could legally donate the money.
The request — an ask for money that would assist local businesses — came from County Executive Officer Alison Lehman, Supervisor Heidi Hall, Board of Education Trustee Julie Baker and Cristine Kelly
“We currently have $288,000 to give,” said Kelly, who issues press releases for the Relief Fund. “Fifty thousand dollars could support another 10 businesses in our community, and we have feedback that this was a lifeline for many.”
Kelly said, in turn, the fund would recognize and promote NID on its respective social media channels.
NID Director Karen Hull, whose financial background comes from her experience as associate vice chancellor at UC Davis, expressed concern over the legality of the request.
“I believe donations from public institutions must be made to recipients with related missions,” Hull said.
Aside from the additional costs incurred by new COVID-19 operating protocol, NID is still paying for the decision the board made in spring 2020 to not collect late fees or turn off rate payers’ water during the pandemic, Hull explained.
NID’s Interim General Manager Greg Jones said the district didn’t collect around $160,000 last year from uncollected fees and charges, and stands to lose that much again in 2021.
Lehman identified NID’s rate payers and county business owners as one and the same.
“This was a thoughtful request,” Lehman explained, adding “we believe this falls under NID’s mission to steward district resources.“
Lehman said not one of the 180 applications for this round of county support came from the local agriculture industries, but they did come from restaurants.
“This certainly is about resilience and collaboration,” Kelly said. “Many restaurants here in Nevada County are farm to table. We need to support the people that are supporting the farmer.”
Rich Johansen, who joins Hull as a newcomer to the board in 2021, expressed concern that a significant portion of NID’s tentative investment in the community would end up outside county lines.
The Relief Fund has received over $900,000 in funding so far, and issued $734,000 of that to 25 safety net nonprofits and 79 small, local businesses, said Kelly.
Kelly said the fund received over 180 applications, totaling $700,000 in requests for the fourth iteration of county-backed support.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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