Aaron West, The Triplicate

Hemmingsen running unopposed for second time

There hasn't been a contested race for the District 4 Del Norte County Board of Supervisors seat in seven years, and supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen, who's running for his third term in the position, sees that as a good sign.

"Just the fact that I'm running unopposed again leads me to believe that I'm going in the right direction," he said. Hemmingsen also ran unopposed for the District 4 supervisor seat in 2011.

Hemmingsen, who started his tenure as a supervisor in 2007, said that he wasn't ever planning on holding the seat for this long when he started, but a few loose ends have kept him around.

"There are some projects that I've been involved with since I've become a supervisor that haven't been resolved yet," Hemmingsen said. "Since I've had a hand in them I'd like to see them through."

There's the proposed 14,800 square-foot terminal at the airport that's waiting on runway safety improvements to be completed. In April the Board approved loaning the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority $1.8 million to help pay for the improvements, which is primarily funded through a Federal Aviation Administration grant. The safety improvements must be completed by Dec. 31, 2015, to meet FAA requirements; then the board can get started on the terminal.

The safety improvements, which Hemmingsen said he's hoping the Board can start working on this year, mostly involve drainage issues in the wetland area surrounding the runway. However, in order to get work started on those, land will have to be acquired and permits obtained from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coastal Commission. It's a time-consuming give-and-take process that requires negotiating with both agencies, he said.

Then there's the 199/197 Safe STAA Access Project, which would straighten and widen several tight spots, including replacing an old bridge over the Middle Fork Smith. That project, which was going to be started this summer until a lawsuit filed by environmental groups halted construction, won't see new developments until Nov. 19, when there is a court hearing concerning the injunction.

Hemmingsen said that between now and the hearing he would like the Board to continue promoting the project and keep the issue alive so that Caltrans stays interested and doesn't remove funding.

"They've already had to cancel the contractor - that's going to cost millions. We're already in the hole," he said.

As far as compromising with the environmental groups that filed the injunction, Hemmingsen said that the Board is willing to discuss mitigation, but giving up on the project is out of the question.

"We're going to continually look to what avenues we can take to get this lawsuit resolved, but if they're just trying to stop the project, then there's not much to do," he said.

Also, Hemmingsen said he wants to stay on because of Sutter Coast Hospital's regionalization plan, which he said is "certainly of concern. andhellip; I want to figure out the ins and outs of what's going on there and how we can maximize our options as far as getting the highest quality health care that can be provided here," Hemmingsen said.

However, at this point those ins and outs are vague.

"Right now I don't have much of a comment on that issue," Hemmingsen said. "I'm working on it. I'm trying to reach a goal that we're all trying to work toward, and I do have some ideas. I think it needs to get resolved as quickly as possible."

Hemmingsen said that being able to have a say in projects like these, as well as in regard to personal passions like safety and public access issues, is what caused him to run for the supervisor seat back in 2007 when he faced off against then-incumbent Sarah Sampels.

"I've tried to help move the county in the right direction," he said. "And I think we've made some progress, but certainly not as much as I would like to. We're always continually trying to make progress."

Reach Aaron West at awest@triplicate.com.