Share coffee, issues with supervisor

By: Cheri March
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Once a month, Colfax area residents can get live local news with their morning cup o’ Joe.
Since April, Placer County District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery has been hosting informal meetings at 9 a.m. on the second Wednesday in Evangeline’s Café.
Montgomery hosts a similar sit-down in Foresthill’s Veterans’ Memorial Hall on the fourth Monday of the month.
“We just sit down with a cup of coffee and we hash over local issues and sometimes larger issues,” Montgomery said. “It’s very free-flowing.”
Montgomery said most meetings draw approximately 10 locals – though this month’s gathering fell a bit short, attracting about half that.
At the Sept. 9 meeting, issues ran the gamut from concern over the Colfax Farmers’ Market to an update on the 49 Fire to a casual presentation on the upcoming Railroad Days.
Montgomery began by addressing complaints the Colfax Cemetery District has been meeting without posting notices.
“I don’t know if it’s true or not,” she said, but advised attendees that she would contact the Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe.
The tribe is involved in a dispute over ownership of the half-acre Colfax Indian Cemetery, which is currently under jurisdiction of the Colfax Cemetery District.
Next up, Montgomery touched on another somewhat controversial topic – the Colfax Farmers’ Market.
“A number of people have expressed concern about the farmers’ market. Apparently, business is off pretty dramatically,” Montgomery said. “The Board of Supervisors had a presentation by the Foothill Farmers’ Market Association and it turns out they may have to close the Colfax market, which is a real pity.”
The market was moved from its former location on Main Street to the parking lot behind the Freight Depot last year. Council members have expressed reluctance to move the market back, as doing so would require closing the street each Wednesday from May through October.
Placer County has no say in the council’s decision, Montgomery said.
“It’s a trade-off and it’s up to the City Council to determine the value of that trade-off,” she said.
Participant Don Adams, a resident and Weimar-Applegate-Colfax Municipal Advisory Council (WAC/MAC) member, suggested that local business could also be a factor.
“I used to come up to the farmers’ market and have dinner at X-Mex. I don’t think I’ve been to the market since X-Mex closed,” he said.
Montgomery also updated the group on last month’s 49 Fire in North Auburn, which falls within her district.
Placer County is seeking state assistance help cover the gap in clean-up costs. Most insurance companies pay a maximum of $8,000 towards debris removal, which typically costs $15,000 total, Montgomery said.
One option is to seek help from the California Integrated Waste Management Board, which was recently dissolved by the state budget. CIWMB, a part of the California Environmental Protection Agency, helped expedite recovery from the 2007 Angora Fire near Lake Tahoe by modifying a contract with a solid waste contractor to cover the debris cleanup.
The fire occurred in July and by September of the same year, the first new foundation was being poured.
“They still have a contract. They still have money. Let’s utilize that source,” Montgomery said. “…I know there are contractors who can do this right locally, but my argument is that we could get it done much more quickly this way. The money (for local contractors) is in rebuilding, not cleanup.”
Montgomery’s meetings are not just a forum for county issues. They also provide a platform for the community.
At this month’s meeting spoke about the upcoming WAC-MAC meeting, while Nancy Hagman, events coordinator for the Historical Society, provided an update on the Railroad Days festival scheduled Sept. 26-27. Activities planned include free rides on a motorized rail inspection car, model train displays s at the Sierra Vista Center, and gold panning and living history displays next to the Heritage Museum.
Adams believes the coffee chats have been successful because they reach residents otherwise too intimidated to attend a City Council or Board of Supervisors meeting.
“At (formal) meetings, you have to be there from the beginning of the meeting and you only get three minutes, which is in accordance with the Brown Act,” Adams said. “But I think the informal atmosphere (of the coffee meetings) makes it a little easier for people. They can just drop in.”

Coffee with Supervisor Montgomery

What: An informal gathering
When: 9 a.m. on Oct. 14
Where: Evangeline’s Café, 5 Depot St. in downtown Colfax.