State of the County: Supervisor Parlin discusses emergencies, biomass plans

Eric Jaramishian
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The topic of county emergencies took the lion’s share of El Dorado County Board of Supervisors Chair Lori Parlin’s State of the County address May 18 at Cameron Park Country Club.

Parlin identified four recent crises the county experienced and continues to deal with — the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the declaration of a countywide homeless crisis allowing the county to take action on a temporary emergency shelter, the “Snowmageddon” storm that caused thousands to live for days without power in December 2021 and the ongoing impacts of the Caldor Fire.

“All of these emergencies cause a strain on our county resources, yet we come together as a community and support one another and persevere,” Parlin said.

El Dorado County Board of Supervisors Chair Lori Parlin delivers the State of the County address to members of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, May 18, at Cameron Park Country Club.
Mountain Democrat/Eric Jaramishian

Parlin commended county staff for assisting those impacted by the local emergencies while still performing their regular duties.

“We have the hardest working staff I have ever seen in our county,” Parlin said.

The county is suffering from staff shortages and vacancies just like the rest of the nation, Parlin stated during her speech. To help counter that Parlin announced the county is looking to increase wages to prevent people from looking for work elsewhere.

“We’ve almost accomplished that goal, which we’ve been working on for several years, and we recently decided we need to get going faster on that. We are almost there,” Parlin said.

Parlin reiterated some of the county’s actions taken to address wildfire threats, including the creation of a wildfire resiliency working group, the Wildfire Resiliency Office, which has already applied for a $10 million grant to help residents with home hardening and defensible space.

The group was formed in March by the Board of Supervisors’..

“There is hope that this effort will soon make insurance companies find our county a desirable place to write policies again,” Parlin explained.

Parlin talked about the Caldor Fire devastation Grizzly Flat residents had to experience, many of them uninsured.

The chair encouraged everyone in the room to share a video created by the county to appeal to President Joe Biden to overturn the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to deny Caldor Fire victims individual assistance, which is meant to greatly help victims of a major crisis.

“He is the only person that can overturn that decision,” Parlin explained to the crowd.

Gearing the speech to forest management, Parlin said the county recently hired a consultant to help guide the county in its biomass effort.

Parlin announced a potential new project at Golden Sierra High School in Garden Valley, where biomass operations would take place on site.

“It’s got all the right pieces coming together for a project that should be well received by the community and environmentalists,” Parlin said. “Honestly, it’s not a huge project. It’s the right size for the school district.”

The biomass site would provide energy to the high school. Parlin said she expects there to be an official announcement by summertime. She added that the county is looking into potential sites for a bigger project, which could take up to 10 years to get going.

“We all know that forest management hasn’t been done too well,” Parlin said. “The pendulum has swung the other way. Government at all levels has realized we need to improve our forest management and a piece of that puzzle is having somewhere for the biomass to go. If you don’t have anywhere for it to go, what do you do with all of this stuff?”

Parlin told the audience about her supervisory boundary line getting larger during the county’s redistricting process due to increased growth on the West Slope, also noting that El Dorado Hills’ population increase and the Tahoe Basin’s population decrease created lopsided statistics on where most of the population resides.

One suggestion that stemmed from community concerns was creating seven supervisorial districts so folks from Pollock Pines to the Tahoe Basin can feel better represented.

Parlin shared a joke from District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel, whose district oversees the Tahoe Basin, that Novasel’s district is so big she requires a helicopter.

The board chair recommended the public get involved with the county Charter Review Committee to get engaged with the supervisorial redistricting process.

Referencing the April 25 county budget meeting, Parlin explained to the crowd they may see a ballot measure in November 2022 to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax countywide.

Parlin justified the increase, citing tourism impacts to county roads that extra funds collected from tourists would mitigate.

“It will be up to the voters to decide on the TOT increase, so keep an eye on that,” Parlin said. “We are trying to get more money for road maintenance.”

The Board of Supervisors will also have a budget hearing June 7, which Parlin told the audience to get involved in. She said budget information will be provided a week before the hearing.

Parlin mentioned the start of the new Mosquito Bridge project, which she said was 30 years in the making. The $93 million project will be fully funded through the federal Highway Bridge Program and is the biggest project in county history.

Parlin also announced the county’s approval of a new design for the Mt. Murphy Road Bridge, a project also fully funded by the Highway Bridge Program, to be completed by 2024.

“I hope that Mt. Murphy Bridge stays up long enough for that because it is really getting rickety and scary out there,” Parlin said.

Parlin opened her speech by sharing her story of moving out of slow-paced El Dorado County in her 20s to a faster one in the Sacramento area before starting a family and returning.

“Your perspective and experiences shape who you are and how you see things,” Parlin said before offering her perspective — everyone needs different places to live in different times of their lives.

Parlin emphasized the importance of the character of the county and she said it is the will of the people to maintain its identity.

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