In response to yet another move by Sacramento, indicating the state capitol has little or no regard for how business is done in rural counties such as Mono, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a letter of opposition to Assembly Bill 720, proposed legislation that would, in effect, prohibit the Board from utilizing alternative procedures for executing highway contracts.
Originally introduced in the state legislature on Feb. 17 (and currently now in committee), AB 720 seeks to mandate more “uniform construction cost accounting provisions and procedures for local public agencies to follow when engaged in public works projects.”
Not only the Board, but also staff railed against being painted into the same corner as other larger, more metropolitan counties.
“It could have far-reaching impacts to Mono County, not the least of which would be the ability to preserve flexibility when it comes to road projects,” County Administrative Officer Dave Wilbrecht advised the Board. Those impacts could mean more incurred staff time to put bid packages together as well as meet added state requirements. “The additional time, funding and resources to implement Mono County’s road maintenance program would result in giving up important tools which enable the county to minimize project costs.”
Existing law authorizes public projects of $30,000 or less to be performed by the employees of the public agency by force account, negotiated contract or purchase order. AB720 would increase that authorization to $45,000, meaning staff would have to take on smaller projects they would normally be able to subcontract.
Unchanged in the bill is a provision allowing for public projects up to $125,000 to be put out for contract on an informal basis, meaning they could be enacted without formal Board approval. And any projects that will run in excess of $125,000 still have to be put out to contract through formal bidding procedures, and subsequent Board approval.
Wilbrecht added that in the case of natural disasters and other locally specific public works issues, “the ability for the Board and staff to improvise when handling those types of situations can save time and money.”
Chair Hap Hazard and indeed the rest of the Board agreed with Wilbrecht, who pointed out that the County has seen the like of AB720’s contents before. The bill is very similar to AB 1409 (introduced in 2009). That bill met with formidable opposition from CSAC, the California State Association of Counties, which vehemently opposed it, and has stated the same disdain for AB 720. “I can also report that RCRC (the Regional Council of Rural Counties) is objecting to the legislation, a version of which has been knocking around in one form or another for several legislative sessions,” Hazard added.
Supes cross streams
Streaming video may be all the rage in other sorts of applications and platforms (such as YouTube, Hulu, GoToMeeting, etc.), but apparently the general public hasn’t warmed up to it for watching government meetings.
Editor’s note: Nothing short of free beer will get anyone to watch a government meeting. Perhaps Town and County governments should subsidize viewing events at Mammoth Brewing.
On Tuesday, the Board heard a report from County Information Technology Specialist Clay Neely, who had been exploring, per the Board’s direction, the possibility of streaming Board meetings over the Internet.
Neely, who surveyed more than a dozen other governmental agencies around the state, found that viewership figures don’t justify the expenses, minimal though they may be. Neely’s findings revealed that in some cases, viewership maxed out at about 3% of the population base, but in most cases it topped out at about 1%, and typically in the fractions of a percent.
Streaming service provider Granicus, which also provides online video in real time and stored for later replay purposes for the Town of Mammoth Lakes, was Neely’s choice in terms of best value. Still, at a first year cost of $25,450.50, and a successive year-to-year maintenance cost of $20,058.00, Neely’s recommendation was to pass on it, given the abysmally low return for the money. The Board agreed, opting to revisit the issue at another time if and when it makes more fiscal sense.