Supervisors to hear ban on juvenile hall residential fees
By Daniel Borsuk
Contra Costa County has closed a $99,810,000 lease revenue bond transaction as a result of an innovative agreement with Wells Fargo Bank. The transaction closed on Friday, March 3.
Some $9.7 million will fund capital improvement projects within the county’s health services department, including its hospital and clinic system. The remaining $90.1 million will be used to refinance existing county bond debt at historically low interest rates. Ultimately, the county and Wells Fargo negotiated a 10-year term at an interest rate of 2.33%. This will save taxpayers more than $9.1 million in today’s dollars.
“The county’s ‘AAA’ bond rating through Standard and Poor’s has allowed us to take full advantage of the low interest rate environment and maximize cost savings for our taxpayers,” board chair Federal Glover said. “Ultimately, this means more tax dollars are available to provide services to our residents.”
“Through the strong leadership of the board of supervisors and assistance of our employees, the county has been able to emerge from the Great Recession on a sound financial footing,” County Administrator David Twa said. “The willingness of Wells Fargo to purchase close to $100 million of our bonds at such a favorable interest rate is evidence of that.”
Contra Costa County is rated “AAA” by Standard and Poor’s and “Aa2” by Moody’s Investor Service. Both credit rating agencies have attributed their high ratings for Contra Costa County to very strong financial management, with policies and practices well-embedded in county operations. They have also pointed to a strong local economy with a large, diverse tax base.”
Morgan Territory Road Repair Resolution
The County Public Works Department received its marching orders from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, when they passed a resolution calling for the “expeditious” repair and reopening of storm-damaged Morgan Territory Road.
The board voted 4-0 in adopting the resolution introduced by Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood. Supervisor Candace Anderson of Danville was absent.
County Public Works Directors Julia Bueren told the Contra Costa Herald preliminary repair costs for Morgan Territory Road that was destroyed by rain-soaked landslides during late January’s torrential rainstorms, could cost $2 million to $2.6 million in state emergency funds.
“Even that is a preliminary estimate,” Bueren said. “This is a large and complex slide.”
The February torrential rainstorms damaged the road when the hillside slid onto the thoroughfare, causing mounds of dirt 100 high and 300 feet wide.
The massive landslides also caused the disruption of water and PG&E service to residents living in the area.
Bueren said the county is studying three alternate routes for up to 1,000 residents living in the area of the damaged roadway. “This is of the highest priority,” she added.
Supervisor Burgis said Morgan Territory Road is subject to additional destruction.
“There is a hillside that is still moving,” she said.
Board Vice Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill noted Morgan Territory Road residents are still living under difficult conditions.
“The Contra Costa Water District couldn’t get water there for seven days so they began to provide bottled water,” she said.
Glover credited the various county departments, including the Sheriff’s Department, Public Works, Contra Costa Fire, and San Ramon Fire that worked together during the Morgan Territory Road disaster.
“The county was doing what it does best, acting as a team,” he added. Also at the meeting, the Supervisors recognized Ruben Aguilar and Michael Stevens for their 56 years of combines service with the Public Works Department. Aguilar has 36 years with the department and Stevens has 20 years of service. Both men responded to the initial closure of Morgan Territory Road when it was damaged in the storm in late January.
Ban Proposed on Juvenile Hall Residential Fees
A Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors committee voted on Monday to recommend to the full board that a permanent moratorium be imposed on charging residential fees for incarcerated juveniles.
Citing financial hardships on parents of youths held as wards of the county at either the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility in Oakley and Juvenile Hall in Martinez, the Public Safety Committee directed the Probation Department and County Administrator to bring before the full board by May a resolution to stop the practice of charging fees to juvenile residents.
The Probation Department first began assessing the fee in 2003 at a rate of $17.03 per day per minor until 2010 when the state permitted counties to increase the fee to $30 a day. The state passed legislation so counties could assess fees in order to recover costs for the actual cost of care of a minor in detention at a juvenile hall facility.
But the increasing fees made it difficult for the county to recoup costs from parents or guardians of juveniles held in county facilities. The Probation Department has $16.9 million in accounts receivable outstanding through June 30, 2016, David Twa, County Administrator noted in a report presented to the committee. He attributed $8.55 million to Juvenile Fees and $8.34 million to Public Defender fees.
If the full board adopts the committee’s recommendation to make the moratorium permanent, the county will join Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Kern counties that do not assess juvenile hall fees.
“These fees cause great economic burden on families of juveniles incarcerated in our facilities,” Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said.
“At some time we had to put an end to collecting these fees,” said Glover, the committee chairman.
Information in Twa’s report revealed flaws in the way the county assessed the juvenile hall fees. There are cases where an undisclosed number of families are due refunds because of being overcharged as far back as 2011.
“Families were improperly assessed and billed,” said Rebecca Brown, president of the nonprofit organization Further The Work. Brown said the financial impact of these juvenile hall housing fees charged leave have a big financial impact on the families of youths incarcerated in county juvenile hall facilities.
“Earlier efforts to remedy these financial problems were impossible to accomplish,” she said.