Library District cited for lack of elections
Most juries decide between innocence and guilt. The 17 people who served on Del Norte’s latest Grand Jury weren’t charged with such black and white verdicts.
Instead, the panel of area residents handed down a 31-page report detailing what local government agencies do and how well they’re doing it. It’s the final product of a year-long process, composed of on-site interviews, discussions and, eventually, consensus. The aim is to provide a by-the-public-, for-the-public-type snapshot of your tax dollars at work.
Every year, the grand jury reviews correctional facilities, also reporting on a rotating cast of other public entities. Investigations are sometimes done in response to specific, non-criminal complaints or allegations. More often, the report is a periodic review offering commendations instead of reproach.
This year the jury gave kudos to most of the entities it looked at, citing budget constraints, aging
facilities and/or understaffing as the most frequent problems plaguing local services.
The full report is available online at http://www.co.del-norte.ca.us/, but here are some of the highlights:
Two full-time employees and 62 volunteers run Del Norte’s two libraries and cash-strapped literacy program. The grand jury found it “easy to commend” the Library District’s “effort to attract such a dedicated group.”
Still, this special district got the most ink and the fewest kudos overall, coming under scrutiny for governance problems, specifically the way it conducts public meetings and fills seats on the library’s Board of Trustees. None of these elected county-wide positions has actually made it onto a ballot since 1990.
The report recommends that the board and the library manager study up on how to run a meeting pursuant to state law; learn the proper rules for filling vacancies to a public board; and use a collection agency to reap revenues from outstanding library fines, some $13,700 last year alone.
Fred Enderts Municipal pool got a glowing review, as did the Harbor District and the Crescent City Housing Authority.
The Tax Assessor’s Office is “doing an outstanding job,” working with computer software that dates back to the 1970s, the report states.
The District Attorney’s Office should draft a manual for tracking evidence and could use a new case management system.
The Victim Witness Program is staffed by three “greatly overworked” employees working to help victims of domestic violence, child abuse and other crimes move on with their lives. The program provides a long list of support services, involving everything from court advocates to medical expenses; counseling or getting a crime scene cleaned up. The office fielded 200 cases last year and provided counseling for 73 children.
Attention to detention
Alder Camp was in “top notch shape;” Bar-O-Boys Ranch should replace the barracks and bathroom when funding allows; while Juvenile Hall needs new or revamped appliances, particularly the fridge, which currently doesn’t keep things Health Code cold, the report states.
The county jail received commendable marks as it faces serious budget woes. A visit to Pelican Bay State Prison didn’t yield any recommendations from the jury, which noted that in the event of a major disaster the minimum security portion of the prison would be emptied of inmates, to house local residents. The prison’s food supply would last two weeks, the report states.
Technology is a strong suit for Crescent Elk Middle School, which has four computer labs on campus. Meanwhile, four to five cell phones a week are confiscated from students who use them during class time, the principal told jurors.
Del Norte High receives the lowest amount of funding per student of all district schools; while the present teacher to student ratio there is 38:1, the report found.
What of it?
Public agencies have 90 days to respond to any formal recommendations issued in the report. Comments regarding the report may be written and addressed to the Del Norte County Grand Jury, 450 H Street, Box 1, Crescent City, CA 95531.