What happened at end of NC council meeting?

As I’ve written before, the Nevada City Council meeting always is good theater, and Wednesday night was no exception.

Better yet, when you watch the show on NCTV, you can stay for the whole shebang — in your “jammies,” no less.

On Wednesday night, the Council saved some of the best for last — though few people knew.

Why? The audience and the media had all gone home by then.

After a drawn-out discussion about a community garden, the council unanimously approved a street repair project to a Sacramento-based firm, Teichert Construction — one of its biggest outlays of the year. Only $25K of the more than $400K went to a local outfit, Hansen Bros. of Grass Valley.

Despite all the concern about keeping local construction work local, largely fueled by Obama’s economic stimulus package, nobody asked why the money went to an out-of-town firm instead, as it did last year. In this case, the money came from a city taxpayer supported initiative, Measure S, passed in 2007.

For background, read “We need a home-grown stimulus package” here.

There’s always a good reasons for going to outsiders: lower cost and more expertise for some projects. But the issue was not discussed.

On the other hand, the council made a point of complaining about another contract with the county Sheriff’s Office for police dispatch —also at the end of the meeting. Rood Center workers spend $$$ in Nevada City restaurants for lunch and shopping daily — nothing to sneeze at nowadays. The deal was approved.

The bulk of the meeting was a vintage Nevada City discussion about a small community garden: in this case, growing food locally. This proved to be a bigger deal politically than whether you plunk down 400K for road repair locally.

Despite the best of intentions, not everyone in the community was behind the concept of creating a community garden on private land off Broad Street. Still, some council members seemed eager to go ahead anyway — despite a neighbor’s legitimate concerns.

A better venue is within a public park: Callahan Park or Pioneer Park, for example. I’d go for that. Just address the cost and liability issue. The garden party was tabled for further discussion.

Council member David McKay made a good suggestion: put the garden in Callanan Park to help discourage the ongoing problem of loitering and concerns about illegal drug use —right across the street from the DA’s office, no less.

It sounded like a “twofer” solution and more natural than piping in classical music to encourage more peace and harmony.

I highly recommend watching government meetings on NCTV, where you can “stay” until the bitter end — in your PJs. It’s extremely enlightening if you really care about your community’s future as our family does.

A Council member forwarded the bids on the road-repair work late Thursday morning and apologized for not discussing the process at the meeting, which was running late from the “garden” discussion:

The bids were:
Hansen Brothers $84.89/ton $492,362 total
Teichert Constr. $74.49/ton $432, 042 toal
Central Valley Constr. $82.92/ton $480,936 total

As I suggested, the low bid was accepted. But what if local businesses were given a 10 percent preference, or something, on bids. As reported, a plan like this is in the works at Sierra College for construction stemming from a voter-approved ballot measure.

The “trickle down” impact on “shopping locally” is important in this day and age. Also, it’s always good to see if the low bid turns out to be just that — after “change orders” are accounted for. Just a thought.

Hope ‘springs’ eternal in local real estate

Who said we’re in the worst recession in generations? As spring rolls into full gear, some homes in historic Nevada City are still going on the block for around $1 million.

I don’t know what zillow.com research shows, but here’s what the real estate handouts read:

“One of the most recognized properties in downtown Nevada City, dating to the Gold Rush era, is now offered for sale,” it reads. “Own a piece of historic Nevada City.”

This home, at 421 Nevada Street, has been for sale on-and-off for years, with a different realtor (Cheryl Rellstab) at the helm. The latest asking price: $1.2 million.

Though the home has curb appeal, we think it needs some interior work. We’ve walked through it. We’ve nicknamed it “Mt. Vernon.”

Not far away — near Pioneer Park — is another “true Nevada City home of history.”

This one, at 225 Park Avenue, is listed at $939,000. I noticed a lot of work going on during the winter, including a new lawn. The upgrades definitely add curb appeal.

I hope both homes sell for full asking price.

It will be a challenge, though: The buyers of *these* would-be buyers’ homes — typically in the Bay Area and Southern California— still will struggle to qualify for a jumbo loan down in the “flatlands.” So the would-be buyers up here, who depend on them, are stuck.

This is the “food chain” of California real estate. It always will be, too, until we can diversify our economy beyond wealthy retirees and tourists.

The sales of $1-million homes in Nevada City will be a barometer of what our higher-end real estate is really worth nowadays.

I guess you can’t fault our local real-estate agents for trying, though a part of me says it’s not prudent. I’ll give you an update after the summer-buying season ends.

‘Sustainability Center’ to open in downtown NC

apple_2ndry_bannerHere’s a small-town scooplet: Through federal stimulus funds, seed money has been granted to start a Sustainability Center in our hometown.

The Sustainability Center (under the A.P.P.L.E. umbrella) will be a “one-stop shop” for resources and sharing knowledge about local food production and opportunities to build “relationships that contribute to a sustainable and energy efficient lifestyle,” according to an email making the rounds this week.

“It was with Mali Dyck’s (the new Nevada City Farmers Market manager) wonderful business plan that it became apparent to the funders that our community has its ducks in a row and is worth investing in,” according to the note to members of the Community Congress, a group spearheaded by Vice Mayor Reinette Senum.

As I’ve written before, a “green” economy has legs in our community, whether you pooh-pooh it or not. I can already hear the objections to using federal stimulus funds for this venture. Whatever. We need to jump start our moribund local economy and get the “blood” flowing again.

“When in Rome, do like the Romans,” as my wife and I have said throughout our married life and various moves and world travels — this one being the latest “adventure.”

“Sustainable lifestyle”-centric city fathers/mothers: Just don’t make me tear up my lawn in the front yard. Please. I promise to water it sparingly and have just aerated it myself to help conserve water this summer.

I also promise to use more energy efficient holiday lights and already have installed them inside, long before the “green” movement. I used to cover PG&E for years at The Chronicle, so I know all about “demand-side” management.

As for the Nevada City Farmer’s Market, we’re already regulars. Phew! And we have a sailboat, not a stinky motor boat.

(Logo from A.P.P.L.E. or the Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy)

My son’s birthday wish

Our son turns seven years old today; his party was last weekend. So I asked him about his birthday meal: He asked if I could drop off a “Happy Meal” from McDonald’s at his school for lunch, along with the cupcakes we made (an initial for each child).

Then he wants to go to the Northridge Restaurant in Nevada City for dinner. (I was hoping for New Moon).

Fine, fine. In fairness, he never eats a McDonald’s hamburger or pizza — therein is the issue, I guess. Wait until he gets old enough to read Playboy. Then the decision will be much tougher.

Video of Idaho-Maryland mine truck route

I noticed the Web site NC Mine Talk has an interesting YouTube video of the proposed truck route if the Idaho-Maryland Mine reopens.

It is a good use of the Web to illustrate the impact of the proposed mine on our towns. The video is here. The site also shows a map — all based on documents filed with the city of Grass Valley.

Though the site’s operators are skeptical whether the mine should reopen, the video is a more-or-less straightforward presentation of the truck route. (I detected a wee bit of editorializing in parts of the narrative, but surely no more than comes from the other side.)

I’d like to hear the mine’s narrative of the route too — offering its impressions of the challenges.

Besides the mine and city of Grass Valley, any news outlet or blogger also could provide the same information — and should.

It would be a sweet database to showcase the online component of journalism.

In another twist, NC Mine Talk is going to “reverse publish” some of its content into print and distribute it — something newspapers vow to do more often.

As most of you know, the Idaho-Maryland Mine distributed its own color advertising handout in The Union newspaper earlier, explaining the project from its perspective.

As long as the discussion on both sides remains fact-based and not personalized, the community will benefit from the two-way dialogue.

Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

Growing discontent on idle Walgreens

I wrote on Monday about the concern surrounding a “surity” or performance bond on the stalled Walgreens in Burger Basin, an under-covered issue.

It is a bubbling cauldron of discontent, to be sure.

Here are some comments, from a guy named who writes a blog about surity bonds — you can do that, thanks to self publishing — as well as former Grass Valley councilman Steve Enos. I hope the city can get the project back on track and addresses the mounting concerns:

•suretybondguy says:
I agree surety bonds should always be required when it’s the taxpayers’ money.

•Steve says:
The City approved a poorly designed Walgreens project after 100s of members of this community took the time to attend the review/approval meetings to say… “We want a better project; we want a project that is as nice as the other ones Walgreens has built in other towns.”

The City refused to listen and as the record shows Council memebr Dan Miller even called those citizens taking the time to attend the hearings “a bunch of whiners.” Such a show of disrespect for those making the effort to attend the public meetings and voice their concerns.

The Chicago developer said he would use local builders on the project, which he didn’t.

Now it turns out the City failed to get a performance bond from this out of state developer to make sure the required road improvements were built. A number of folks in the community begged the City to require a bond BEFORE the City issued the building permits.

The City, led by the Mayor, let them start construction without getting the performance bond first. There still is no bond. . . Too bad the Mayor and other council members refused to listen to the citizens that raised concerns during the review/approval process.

Now the big-time developer wants to get bailed out by the City to build the road improvements and start the stalled project back up. Will the City once again scew over the citizens and help this out-of-state developer?

Local Web sites embrace Twitter to grow

twitter-bird-wallpaperA growing number of Web sites are launching Twitter feeds to build a social network around their *business*, not just for idle chit chat, including around here.

One example: I noticed that Goldcountryonthecheap.com, which I wrote about in March, has a Twitter feed that now has 127 followers as of Wednesday morning. Goldcountryonthecheap informs readers of area freebies and discounts, as well as calendar items. (You can see the feed in the lower left-hand corner of the Web site).

One Tweet, for example, directs people to a speech by Mary Roach, a longtime Reader’s Digest columnist, who’s speaking at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley on Thursday.

The event also is a centerpiece in Wednesday’s print edition of The Union. It has been covered in other media as well but not via Twitter, as goldcountry has done.

Another goldcountry Tweet directs people to a 2-for-1 breakfast special at Denny’s— a free “Grand Slamwich” with a “Grand Slam” breakfast. (Got some Alka-Seltzer — or breakfast compainion?)

This is an example of how businesses are embracing Twitter, a hot technology among 30-somethings and older — a good business demographic.

Surprisingly, Twitters tend to be older, as Mark Cuban writes in his Blog Maverick. “It could be the first new social media platform to start old and get younger,” he notes.

A growing number of businesses see the potential.

“Think for a moment about the way we use Twitter, and the way that facility could change online interactions,” writes new media marketer Chris Brogan in his blog.

He lists some of the Twitters we should want, including ones centered around business:

•Health care help
•Product purchasing help
•Prenatal care, postnatal care

The challenge will be creating the right customization and filters, but as you can see with goldcountryonthecheap.com it’s working now.