A local committee calling for the creation of the state of Jefferson had asked Del Norte County supervisors to vote on the issue Tuesday, but were told the Board would do its own research before supporting or opposing the effort.
In his final act as chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, Mike Sullivan said he invited Yreka airline pilot Mark Baird to participate in a February workshop that would allow elected officials to question him on how creating a new state would work.
Baird is one of the founders of the most recent movement to form a new state out of several Northern California counties and possibly some from Southern Oregon.
Supervisor David Finigan, the Board's new chairman, called for a "sound fiscal analysis" on how much it would cost to create a new state and whether Del Norte County can afford it. He asked county staff members and Jefferson State advocates to help conduct that analysis.
"It's easy to say 'we'll take Pelican Bay (State Prison) and pay those people.' Well it's not that easy," Finigan said. "We need to get some real structure to the discussion so we can be the first county that has a real intelligent discussion as to what we're doing and why and how we're going to pay for it."
Siskiyou and Modoc counties voted last fall in favor of the push to create a state of Jefferson. Tehama County supervisors last month decided to place an advisory referendum on the June 2014 ballot asking voters to decide whether the county should support a split from California.
Members of Del Norte's administrative staff and possibly the auditor-controller will be involved in determining the financial costs and benefits to forming a new state, County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina said. That may involve outreach to Siskiyou, Modoc and Tehama counties to look into any financial research they might have done, as well as looking at Del Norte County's own tax base to research what the county's responsibilities would be if the Jefferson State effort succeeds.
"There are a lot of different state functions in Del Norte County," Sarina said. "Ultimately, looking at a 10-county group ... how do you provide state services throughout that area?"
Baird came before the Board at its Oct. 8 meeting and spoke during the public comment period before appearing at a meeting of the Del Norte Tea Party Patriots later that night.
According to Sarina, Tehama County officials estimated it would cost about $30,000 to do a fiscal analysis.
A date for the February workshop has yet to be decided, he said.
Meanwhile, local Jefferson State advocates have been collecting signatures urging the Del Norte supervisors to pass a declaration supporting the new state. They had asked to have the matter on Tuesday's agenda, Sullivan said. He said he has received three phone calls supporting the effort and five opposing it since Jan. 6, as well as signatures from 140 constituents in Supervisor District 3 supporting the proposal.
The Del Norte County Jefferson Declaration Committee received 137 signatures from constituents in District 4, which is represented by Gerry Hemmingsen, and more than 200 for Sullivan's district, said Aaron Funk, coordinator for the Del Norte County Jefferson Declaration Committee.
Chuck Tweed, another Jefferson State advocate in Del Norte, said he has collected nearly 3,000 signatures, 1,500 of which have already been validated.
"We're looking forward to turning these over to you when we get all of our signatures valid," he told supervisors.
District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure spoke out against a survey the Big Rock Community Services District in Hiouchi sent to its customers with their November water bills, which assumed they supported the Jefferson state initiative if a negative opinion wasn't submitted. Big Rock's main operational function is providing public water.
Big Rock CSD customers who opposed Jefferson state were asked to return a formal complaint and sign their name, McClure said. She asked Hemmingsen to bring the survey to the attention of the Local Agency Formation Commission, saying that a handful of people contacted her afraid there would be reprisal if they went on the record opposing Jefferson state.
"They chose not to respond and by choosing not to respond their non-response was counted as an affirmative in support," she said, adding that LAFCO may want to get the California Fair Political Practices Commission involved. "It's a water district that's asking for a political activity that's outside of their purview, and it's really upsetting to the constituent that brought this to me."
Funk said the Del Norte Jefferson State Declaration Committee disagreed with how Big Rock CSD conducted its survey.
"We had nothing to do with that whatsoever," Funk said. "We are not on that committee. We are not associated with that committee and we didn't know about it until after it happened."
The U.S. Constitution provides for the formation of new states, but land can't be taken from existing states without consent of its own government and Congress.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com.