Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, June 25 @ 4:01 p.m. / Economy, Local Government

Two Weeks After Killing the Tri-Agency, Del Norte Supervisors Ask If County Should Have A Role In Economic Development

Del Norte County seal


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Two weeks after he and his colleagues pulled the plug on the Tri-Agency, District 5 Supervisor Dean Wilson is questioning whether the county should have a role in economic development.

Wilson, chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, asked his colleagues modifying the timeline outlined in their strategic plan to have the economic development conversation this year.

He also called on staff to create a report focusing on the feasibility of placing economic development services under the county’s umbrella.

Despite agreeing to the report and presentation to explore the county’s options, at least two were skeptical. District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey pointed to the Board’s staff report on Tuesday, which was drafted by Wilson and states that the county isn’t obligated to provide economic development services.

The county, Starkey said, would further economic development better by repairing its roads and providing safer streets.

“When I look on Facebook and I see a visitor here who says her bike was stolen off the back porch of her vacation rental, [that] is the type of reputation we’re having,” Starkey said. “A gentleman came here a few months ago and said shots were fired in his neighborhood and it took over an hour for the sheriff to respond. Now, I’m not faulting the sheriff’s department, but when I look at economic development and I look at what we can do for now, we’re not in a position to focus on anything other than cleaning up our own house.”

Starkey’s colleague, District 4 representative Joey Borges said he agreed with her. However, Borges seconded a motion District 1 Supervisor Darrin Short made to direct staff to create a feasibility report focusing on economic development.

Wilson campaigned on the creation of a strategic plan when he sought the District 5 seat in 2022. Adopted in April, the plan includes a goal to support countywide economic development, though the feasibility report was originally scheduled to be implemented in 2026-27.

However, with the dissolution of the Tri-Agency, Wilson said he and his colleagues may want to modify that timeline.

In his Board report, Wilson also suggested forming an ad-hoc committee to work with staff on creating that economic development feasibility report.

If Del Norte County’s report determines that it could provide economic development services, that role could come in the process of a standalone department or within a branch or division of an existing department, Wilson stated in his report.

Wilson did mention a lack of staffing as being a hurdle to an existing county department taking on economic development tasks.

“Ultimately, any position that would be established should be rooted in the BOS’s vision for what level of economic development services will be provided,” Wilson writes. “For example, the position could act as a liaison/coordinator for regional economic development activity and would BOS’s primary point of contact with partners located in Del Norte County.”

Those partners could include local businesses, tribes, Crescent City and Del Norte Unified School District. They could also include the Crescent City-Del Norte Chamber of Commerce, the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority and local land managers, including Redwood State and National Parks, Wilson writes.

Members of the Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority Board, which consisted of representation from Crescent City, the Crescent City Harbor District and Del Norte County, had discussed inviting local tribal officials to join the joint powers authority.

However, unable to agree on whether the JPA should have a role in conversations surrounding offshore wind energy, the Board of Supervisors and Harbor District voted to terminate the Tri-Agency on June 11.

The Crescent City Council also approved a mutual termination of the Tri-Agency at its June 18 meeting. The attorneys for each governing body are working on the termination documents necessary to finalize the JPA’s dissolution, according to Wilson’s staff report.

One of the issues each member agency has to address is how to divvy up expenses related to a lawsuit Del Norte County resident Linda Sutter levied against the Tri-Agency. That case is still open, and on Tuesday, Sutter told supervisors that a trial date has been set for Nov. 18.

“You guys need to light yourselves on fire and get that agreement of dissolution placed together and submitted to the Secretary of State and State Controller’s Office because I’m going to move forward with the lawsuit,” she said.

Despite the impasse the three governing bodies were at with regard to offshore wind power, Wilson said they all agreed that “organized and directed community development” was necessary. However, he said, government doesn’t start business.

“What we can do is we can create and development infrastructure and environment through better law enforcement and roads so that businesses can be encouraged to come here and build here and conduct business here,” he said.

County Administrative Officer Neal Lopez said he would bring back an economic development feasibility report and the possibility of forming an ad-hoc committee back to the Board of Supervisors.

District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard was absent.


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