I have received a lot of feedback and questions from constituents regarding my recent vote to approve the MOU for Fire & Emergency Services that was negotiated between the Olivehurst Public Utility District (OPUD) and the Enterprise Rancheria, who is constructing the Fire Mountain Casino on Forty Mile Rd. It’s a complicated issue but I’d like to provide some facts as well as my opinion and my reasons for voting the way that I did.
First, let’s start off with some facts, to hopefully clear up assumptions that many people have:
- The 40 acres where Fire Mountain Casino will be located is physically within the Wheatland Fire Authority (WFA) district boundaries, however the property itself is sovereign land, not part of the WFA, and as such does not pay taxes to WFA.
- Without tax revenue, it would be unfair to expect WFA to provide fire and emergency response to the property, which is why there is a provision in the MOU between Yuba County and the tribe which states: “The Tribe agrees that prior to the opening to the public of any facility located on the Property, it will enter into a binding agreement with the Plumas-Brophy Fire District [now part of WFA] or another fire protection district located within the County of Yuba, or will make other private arrangements in lieu of an agreement with an existing fire protection district…“. The County MOU requires that the the agreement “shall be subject to the approval of the County” and that “The County’s approval shall not be unreasonably withheld“.
- Distance from various fire stations in south Yuba County to the casino property:
- OPUD Fire Station in Olivehurst (staffed): 4.1 miles
- Linda Fire Station in Plumas Lake (staffed): 4.9 miles
- WFA Fire Station in Wheatland (staffed): 7.9 miles
- WFA Fire Station on Dairy Rd (unstaffed): 5.8 miles
- Linda Fire Station in Arboga (unstaffed): 6.3 miles
- OPUD has the only ladder truck in south Yuba County
- My supervisor district includes WFA and Linda Fire, which will also be impacted, and is in consolidation discussions with OPUD.
- It was clearly the intention of the MOU between the County and the tribe that the tribe could negotiate an agreement for service with the provider of their choosing and they have every right to do that under the law, although there is disagreement about the right of another public fire district to enter WFA’s territory to provide that service.
- The tribe negotiated with both WFA and OPUD and selected OPUD as their provider of choice. As a business with the freedom to choose their service provider, the tribe went with the provider who offered the best deal. The MOU negotiated with OPUD doesn’t provide equipment or facilities, it just covers the cost of calls actually made to the casino property.
- You can read the MOU between the tribe and the County as well as the MOU between OPUD and the tribe here
My thoughts & why I voted to approve the MOU
- No matter which District the Fire Service MOU is with, all three Districts (Linda, OPUD, WFA) will likely have increased calls related to people traveling to/from the casino. All three will likely be involved in mutual-aid calls.
- I STRONGLY believe that the best arrangement for casino patrons and for Yuba County residents is one where all three fire districts share in the responsibility of serving the casino and all three share in the associated revenue. I clearly indicated that at the meeting prior to our vote.
- Prior to my vote, I spoke to OPUD board members to see if they were willing to come to the table and work on a deal that shared responsibility and revenue with Linda and WFA. The answer was yes. I told them I strongly believe all three districts should be sharing in the responsibility and the benefits of providing this service.
- Prior to my vote, I spoke to the tribe to see if they were willing to allow the agreement to be shared among the three fire districts. Not only was their answer yes, but it was what they actually preferred. I told them I strongly believe all three districts should be sharing in the responsibility and the benefits of providing this service.
- Prior to my vote, I spoke to several WFA board members to hear their concerns, share my opinion, and encourage WFA to sit down with OPUD and Linda to work out an agreement where they could all benefit. I told them I strongly believe all three districts should be sharing in the responsibility and the benefits of providing this service.
- The MOU negotiated between OPUD & the tribe met the requirements set forth in the County MOU and there was no justification to reject or delay it.
- I am a strong supporter of the project due to it’s economic benefits to Yuba County and approval from the County was necessary to continue with construction.
- Prior to my vote, the County reached out to Linda Fire, OPUD, and WFA and offered to sit down and help facilitate negotiations regarding a shared agreement. Everyone agreed to meet and the meeting was scheduled for the Thursday after our Tuesday vote. The meeting occurred as scheduled and was followed by a WFA board meeting that evening. Additional discussions were set to occur pending direction from the WFA board.
- I was unable to attend the WFA meeting due to a prior commitment but it’s my understanding that the board was encouraged to fight the MOU I’ve attempted to communicate with a WFA board member about what occurred at the meeting but have been unable to connect with them.
- I’m surprised that WFA chose to file a lawsuit against OPUD before trying to sit down at the table and see if an agreement can be reached. I believe that WFA is impacted by this project and it’s only fair they receive some of the benefit. However, I believe that will only occur if they are at the table, and willing to share equally.
- I have no doubt that if legal challenges between OPUD and WFA cause a delay in the project, the tribe will simply negotiate with a private fire service, and all three fire districts in south Yuba County will be left without compensation.
- I urge residents of the WFA to encourage your elected board members to come to the table and negotiate with the other two fire districts to SHARE in the benefits of the project.
It’s my job as a County supervisor to vote for what I believe is best for ALL of Yuba County, taking into special consideration the impacts and desires of my constituents in the 4th District. I know that some residents of the Wheatland area believe this was a vote against them, and that I should fight to make sure the agreement goes to WFA. I encourage those of your who feel that way to look at the bigger picture and realize that I’m considering what is best for ALL of Yuba County and ALL of District 4. My district has several fire departments, all impacted by this project. My desire, and what I’m fighting for, is to have Linda Fire, OPUD, and WFA share in the responsibility, and the benefits of this project, which is so important to Yuba County.
If you would like to listen to the discussion that occurred at the Board of Supervisor meeting prior to our approval of the MOU, you can find the audio at this link. Click the very last item on the agenda to skip to 1:19:40 where the discussion for the item begins.