More typical lately of government meetings elsewhere in the region, the Nevada County Quorum Court saw its share of tension at its May meeting last week as one Justice questioned county spending practices bringing equal measures of contention and confusion, and then proposed a new fee for logging trucks.

More typical lately of government meetings elsewhere in the region, the Nevada County Quorum Court saw its share of tension at its May meeting last week as one Justice questioned county spending practices bringing equal measures of contention and confusion, and then proposed a new fee for logging trucks.
At the epicenter of the storm, District 8 Justice George Smith, who as the newest Nevada County Quorum Court member, continues to bring reform-minded ideas to the table, urged the Quorum Court to adopt policies that ensure the court members have all possible information in regard to buying equipment and getting the best value for each dollar of tax money.
In an opening statement, Smith said, “We’ve made decisions recently and voted to spend tax monies without having all the pertinent information, and in several cases, we made decisions based on erroneous information.”
He continued, “The members of this court, and other elected officials of this county are better than that. It is our responsibility to make sure that we make decisions based on all available information.”
One of the basis for Smith’s proposal was his concerns that Nevada County recently purchased a used road grader for $122,000, and it was implied that the vendor made a substantial profit, which Smith questioned was excessive
The vendor in question was initially unidentified publicly by Smith, but a man named Donny McGuire, representing M&M Wrecker Service, stood up and spoke to the Justices, saying that his and his brother's business was the one to which Smith was referring.
McGuire said he was in business to make a profit and outlined all the repair work and services that his company had performed for Nevada County in the past, but he emphasized twice, “We are in business to make money.”
McGuire also claimed Smith misrepresented himself during an inquiry he made on the sale of the used grader.
In a statement after the meeting, Smith said “I told everyone I talked to – including two equipment companies, one in Camden and one in Magnolia, and the county clerk in Lincoln County – that I was a new member of the Nevada County Quorum Court and even added that I represented district 8.”
“In this case, they seem to think a good defense is attacking me rather than explain why they felt it necessary to raise the price by 27-percent for finding and transporting a single piece of equipment less than 50 miles,” he said.
The purchase of the grader was not the only subject of Smith’s concerns as he also spoke out about a Nevada County Sheriff’s Office truck that the Justices approved for $52,000.
Smith proposed an ordinance for a three-member committee to examine of all equipment purchases over the past three years, and examine any and all ways to reduce expenditures for equipment, including lease vs. purchase since some dealers in the state have special incentives for governmental entities.
“If we don’t have the money, we shouldn’t be spending it,” he said.
Smith then proposed limiting the amount the County Judge could spend without court approval to $7,000, but several other Justices, in particular Justice Bob Cummings, pushed back, saying the Quorum Court would always be calling special meetings.
Cummings claimed that County Judge Mark Glass was able to spend as much as $100,000 without the Justices’ approval. Cummings and Smith negotiated out a spending limit of $20,000, which the rest of the Quorum Court eventually approved.
Smith’s proposed logging truck fee brought to light concerns about logging trucks tearing up county roads. Smith said his proposed fee would bring in approximately $8,000 to $10,000 a year to be dedicated to repairs.
But the purpose of the fee, the logging trucks damaging the roads, veered off into uncharted territory, when it was suggested that the trucks could be criminally libel for the damages.
Eighth District Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen, who oversees both Hempstead and Nevada Counties, questioned how criminal liability was to be established, and she also disputed whether criminal or civil actions were appropriate.
At one point, she stood up during the meeting, clearly frustrated, and told the Justices, “And, who is supposed to assess the road damage? And, who can tell which logging truck did the most damage? There are a lot of issues involved in trying to prove who did what damage and how much damage was done. This is not something that you can just go off-the-cuff on.”
When it was suggested that someone take photos of the roads, McQueen said that having someone take pictures after the fact wouldn’t prove anything about which truck did the damage.
Cummings said that Hempstead County, of all places, actually has fines for $1,500 for loggers who tear up roads, but he didn’t disclose how Hempstead County determined who the loggers were, or whom in Hempstead County, was charged with enforcing the fine.
Cummings also said he didn’t believe Smith’s proposal of a fee was the solution, either.
“These loggers aren’t the only ones out there tearing up these roads,” he said.
Undeterred, Smith went ahead and moved to implement the permit fee, only to see it die for lack of a second.