NORTH COAST RAILROAD AUTHORITY (NCRA)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS REGULAR MEETING

 Wednesday, September 17th, 2003   10:00 AM

 

 SONOMA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS CHAMBERS

575 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, CA 

 

MINUTES

 

A.                 CALL TO ORDER

Chair John Woolley called the meeting to order at 10:03am

 

B.                 ROLL CALL

The roll was called and the following members were present; Burton, Campbell, Hemphill, Ripple, Sears, Simonson, Chair Woolley. Members absent; none. Also present were Executive Director Mitch Stogner, General Counsel Chris Neary, and Office Manager Dina Polkinghorne.

 

C.                 CONSENT CALENDAR

1.              Approval of Minutes - 06/18/2003 Regular Board Meeting

2.              Approval of Minutes – 08/01/2003 Property Committee Meeting

3.              Acceptance of Financial Reports – Summary Statements for Fiscal Year 02-03       

4.              Approval of Lease – Mendocino Forest Products Company, LLC

5.              Approval of Minutes – 08-01-2003 Special Board Meeting

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Hemphill, 2nd by Director Sears, and carried (7-0), the Consent Calendar was approved with the addition of item C.5, Approval of Minutes – 08-01-2003 Special Board Meeting with Item C.2 and C.3 removed for discussion. 

 

C.2        ACTION: Upon motion by Director Campbell, 2nd by Director Simonson, and carried (3-0) the following corrections to the Property Committee Meeting minutes of 08/01/2003 were made

 

Item E.1 - the word “requested” be changed to “suggested”.

Item E.3 - the motion should read   “existing billboard fees”. 

Item E.4 – staff was directed to advise the Mendocino County Water Agency that a formal proposal be brought before the committee to consider.

 

C.3        ACTION: Upon motion by Director Campbell, 2nd by Director Simonson, and carried (7-0), the board moved to receive and file the financial reports.

 

D.                AGENDA APPROVAL

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Ripple, 2nd by Director Hemphill, and carried (7-0), the agenda was accepted as presented.

 

E.         PUBLIC COMMENT

           

Mike Pechner – Mr. Pechner welcomed Mitch Stogner and stated that the NCRA consider purchasing the California Western out of bankruptcy in light of the legislation that created the NCRA. The economic loss of the Cal Western far outweighs the money spent to purchase the Cal Western in terms of tourism is Mendocino County. He requested that the board form a committee to look into the idea.

 

James Quinn – Congratulated the board on the inspired choice of Mitch Stogner for Executive Director. Mr. Quinn also commented on his frustration with Caltrans in regards to its disbursement of a $60 million grant awarded to the NCRA. He further stated that he believes Caltrans shows contempt for the idea that the NWP is vital to the North Coast economy. He urged the NCRA to approach Congressman Mike Thompson to work towards securing T-21 monies for the North end of the line. He then made the following suggestions to the new Executive Director;

1.        Meet with local grass roots groups

2.        Cultivate relationships with the press to keep NCRA issues in the press

3.        Do not tolerate delays from Caltrans in regards to disbursement of public funds.

On behalf of Hannah Burkhart, Mr. Quinn asked the NCRA to add the Skunk Train/CWR to the NCRA’s areas of concern.

 

David Chandler, legal counsel for the trustee of the California Western – Mr. Chandler introduced Michael Meyer, the Chapter 11 trustee for the California Western. He then stated that the Skunk Train is not “dead or dying” but just closed for the season and that ridership increased during the Summer season with the help of the City of Fort Bragg who extended financing as well as the Savings Bank of Mendocino County. He further stated that they are seeking buyers and that there are a number of interested parties. In regards to the NCRA getting involved with the California Western, Mr. Chandler stated that under the bankruptcy code the interest of the public must be served, and that it is best served with continuation of excursion service as opposed to freight.

               

Lionel Campbell – Presented the board with two pages of signatures from people wanting the NCRA to purchase the California Western. He also stated that the California Western is vital to the NCRA as there are common interests between both railroads.

 

F.         OES/FEMA ALTERNATE PROJECT UPDATE & CTC PRESENTATION

           

            Mr. Stogner provided the board with a chronological update on the FEMA Alternate Project as follows;

           

1.             Jim Barnes (OES) and Ted Siebert (FEMA) should complete their review of the Damage Survey Reports (DSR’s) by the end of this week.  Michael Sabbaghian’s (OES) preliminary estimate is that approximately $500,000 will be deducted from the final grant amount to cover “hazard mitigation.”  Sabbaghian believes OES will be recommending a total grant amount of approximately $7.1 million. (The $7.1 figure includes the 10% reduction applied to “alternate FEMA projects”).

 

2.             According to Sabbaghian and Charles Rabamad (OES), Sandro Amaglio (FEMA) should have prepared a programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA) based on a June 3, 2003 letter from Doug Christy to Nancy Ward, Division Director, Response and Recovery Division, Region IX (FEMA) outlining a scope of work for FEMA’s Alternate Project.

 

3.             Following completion of the programmatic EA, FEMA may obligate funds to OES so the NCRA and its Project Manager can develop a detailed scope of work.  After reviewing the detailed scope of work, FEMA can clear the project environmentally through categorical exemptions, based on the acquisition of equipment, maintenance activities, and other work proposed within specific segments from Lombard to Willits. OES can then obligate funds accordingly.

 

Mr. Stogner then stated that Michael Sabbaghian was supposed to update this information to the board, but it was determined that he was held up in traffic. Chair Woolley stated that if he arrived at some point during the meeting he would be given the opportunity to speak at that time.

 

Kaye Strickland – Expressed her concern that if the project is not on time, the NCRA runs the risk of missing the construction season due to winter weather.

 

 

 

G.                CONDUCT OF BUSINESS

1.         Adopt Protocol For Inadvertent Archeological Discovery

 

Mr. Stogner submitted for the Boards adoption the “Protocol for Inadvertent Archaeological Discovery.” This protocol provides management and field personnel with standard operating procedures for handling inadvertent archaeological discoveries such as Native American burial sites. This protocol is necessary for NCRA to be in compliance with various state and federal environmental and historic preservation laws, policies, and regulations. Although this protocol has been prepared in conjunction with the forthcoming Waste Cleanup and Disposal Project that is being initiated pursuant to the Environmental Consent Decree, Mr. Stogner recommended that it be utilized for all NCRA projects where ground disturbance may occur.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Simonson, 2nd by Director Ripple, and carried (7-0), the board approved the adoption of a Protocol for Inadvertent Archeological Discovery.

           

2.                  Consideration of Executive Committee Responsibilities and Duties

 

Chair Woolley went over the concept of establishing an Executive Committee. Director Hemphill stated that he is not opposed to the idea but it would create challenges in terms of posting notices, staff time, etc. Director Sears stated that he is opposed to the idea and that an ad-hoc Executive Committee could be established to handle emergency situations. Chair Woolley stated that he supports the concept.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Hemphill, 2nd by Director Ripple, and carried (7-0), the board resolved to table the matter until a standing Executive Committee is needed.

 

3.                   Approval of Budgetary Transfer 

 

Eric Roeser of the Sonoma County Auditor’s Office stated that there is a need for a budgetary transfer approval to merge the property and administrative indexes into one “Agency” index. He further stated that separate cost centers would be maintained and that there would be no commingling of funds.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Sears, 2nd by Director Ripple, and carried (7-0), the board approved the Budgetary Transfer request.

 

4.                   Consideration of Request from the City of Arcata Regarding Rail Banking of the Arcata and Mad River Railroad

Mr. Stogner read a letter from the City of Arcata requesting the NCRA to pursue railbanking the Arcata and Mad River Railroad.

 

John Darling (NWPY) Mr. Darling stated that a bulk of the Annie and Mary prospects are remote. He further stated that he is opposed to railbanking because the opportunity to service Simpson Timber would be removed. 

Director Sears stated that Railbanking would preserve the right-of-way instead of it deeding it back to the property owners. Director Hemphill stated that it is appropriate to explore, but does not recommend approving it at this time.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Sears, 2nd by Director Hemphill, and carried (7-0), the board directed staff to send a letter to the City of Arcata indicating general support of the Rails with Trails project and requesting more specific information in regards to the exact locations within the railbanking proposal.

 

H.                CLOSED SESSION – The Board convened for closed session at 12:02 pm

1.         Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

        Pursuant to Government Code Section 54596.9 (two cases)

               

2.         Public Employment:

Title: On-Call Engineer

 

I.                   ANNOUNCEMENT OUT OF CLOSED SESSION – The board reconvened at 1:08 pm

 

1.)    The board gave direction to counsel in regards to potential litigation.

 

2.)    The board unanimously gave the Executive Director the authority to hire a part time employee   for extra help/engineering services, with a limit on the compensation set at $20,000 per year. 

 

 

J.         COMMITTEE REPORTS

1.         Finance Committee Report - None 

2.         Property Committee Report - None 

3.         Passenger Committee Report

Director Hemphill stated that the Orient Express has reneged on their offer to purchase passenger cars from the NCRA and legal counsel is looking into legal options. He also stated that the cars stored in Willits have been secured.

 

4.                   NWPRA Ad Hoc Committee Report - None

5.                   Operator Ad Hoc Committee

Director Ripple reported that the committee met with the operator.

 

K.        STAFF REPORTS

                       

Executive Director Mitch Stogner

1.        Update on Reassignment Letter from Willdan & HNTB Regarding Prime Consultant

Role    

 

Mr. Stogner introduced Bob Stromsted from HNTB and Mort August from Willdan and invited them up to the podium to go over the status of the reassignment.

 

Bob Stromsted – Mr. Stromsted stated that HNTB legal counsel has put together an amendment to the contract, which will soon be forwarded to Willdan for approval. Once the two parties agree to the amendment, they will then present it to the NCRA.

 

Chair Woolley stated that he hoped the document would be made available soon.  He then requested that it be made available for the next NCRA board meeting in October. Mr. August stated that he was confident it would be before the board in October. 

 

L.         MATTERS FROM BOARD MEMBERS

 

            Director Sears commented that the District 1 Caltrans staff has been very supportive of the NCRA.

                Director Campbell stated that he wouldn’t be available for the meeting in October.

                Director Burton stated that he is happy to be back on the board.

 

Stephanie Coleman – Caltrans.   Ms. Coleman thanked Director Sears for his supportive statements and reiterated that Caltrans District 1 staff is very happy to be working with the Railroad.

 

M.       ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEXT MEETING

 Regular Board Meeting – October 15, 2003 – 10:00 am

 Eureka Inn, Simpson Room, 518 7th Street, Eureka CA

Eureka, Humboldt County, CA 

 

K         Staff Report – FEMA Alternate Project Update

1.)    Mr. Sabbaghian of OES arrived and was given the opportunity to address the board. He reiterated the timeframe that Mr. Stogner provided earlier. 

 

N.        ADJOURNMENT - 1:40 pm