Money, meth and speeding in Soda Springs |

Money, meth and speeding in Soda Springs

Springtime is the season for cities and counties to develop a budget to carry into the next fiscal year. Nevada County’s budget is nearly $150 million, on the light side for medium-sized counties.

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors has discretion over 25 percent of the budget, or roughly $35 million. The rest is dictated by state and, in some cases, federal laws and mandates. Supervisor Nate Beason and myself serve on the budget subcommittee, a form of budget immersion that has given an entirely new meaning to the term “time commitment.”

The county is in good fiscal health in spite of the contribution of a sizable chunk of your tax dollars to the state required by proposition 1A. The Town of Truckee will also kick down some dough for the transgressions of the Legislature.

Proposition 1A contains a two-year deal whereby local government participate in partial bailing out the state for the financial dilemma it has put itself in. After that, local government is “protected” from state raids, although the state can “borrow” but must pay back the loan.

I recently asked California Sen. Dave Cox for his assessment of this measure. Does it afford protection? The senator’s response, reflective of witnessed behavior in the Capitol was, “never underestimate the Legislature’s ability to take your money.”

Our senator, a former county supervisor, has committed to fighting such efforts.

Nevada County trimmed operations last year by streamlining departments and not replacing employees that retired. Nonetheless, the county budget for this year ” as a result of last year’s conservative approach and escalating property values ” is sound.

Department heads and community partners present their operating budgets and pleas for unmet needs that translate to “more money.” While the county budget is very limited, conservative and balanced, some needs will be considered. Themes begin to develop, and that’s what I’d like to share with you next.

Like most of you, I hear about “meth” on the evening news. Living in Truckee can create a sense of security that allows us to falsely believe that this is a problem down the hill ” not here. Bad assumption. It is here yet perhaps not to the level as elsewhere. Not yet. More important is the drain it is already placing on county services.

Nevada County health and human service departments, child protective services, judges, public defenders, district attorneys, probation, and the county Sheriff have expressed budget strains related to meth.

Let’s examine a simple example of the impact on just the county jail. The Wayne Brown facility was built in 1989, the design of which was based on incarceration statistics of the day thus housing about 110 male inmates with consideration for female inmates of about 10 percent. Today the jail is not only at capacity, housing near 200 inmates, but 40 percent of the population is women. Both capacity and the rise in traditional female inmate population have been directly attributed to meth. The jail will require the construction of an additional pod much sooner than anticipated to adequately house not only more inmates, but more women. Your tax dollars at work.

Meth is going to be, in my judgment, a colossal social problem. It is cheap, easy to manufacture, highly addictive and destroys brain and body beyond repair. Unlike other drugs, meth damage can be extensive enough to ensure reliance upon government support for the remainder of one’s life. Don’t let the children get lost in the shuffle.

According to law enforcement officials, typical users are in their early 20s, lack employable skills and have two children. The meth drain on your local tax dollar is already affecting Nevada County’s budget. The costs ten or 20 years into the future will be astronomical for cities, counties and the state. I don’t know what the immediate answer is, but it should be an elevated discussion for each taxpayer.

Business owners in Soda Springs contacted me in January regarding excessive speed problems. Namely, the SUV exodus from Sugar Bowl doing 55 mph in a posted 25 mph zone each day.

California Highway Patrol has not been enforcing the limit because the courts have been unable to support the posted limit lacking a county engineering study for winter conditions.

Nevada County conducted the winter analysis and has made a recommendation to the board. The “safe” speed was determined by state standard to be 38 mph. The recommendation is for a 35 mph speed limit. That may be the unintended consequence but the good news is that the court can support issued tickets.

Ted Owens, former Truckee Town Council member and mayor, is the District V supervisor for eastern Nevada County. He can be reached at

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