Sierra Wave Media

Eastern Sierra News for June 25, 2024





Press release

In what is becoming a “holiday tradition” at the County of Inyo, department heads gave their annual year-in-review reports to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, highlighting both accomplishments and challenges from the past 12 months.

CAO Kevin Carunchio said the annual review serves as a great showcase of just how much the County does for the citizens and visitors of Inyo – much of it, he noted, above and beyond the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities assigned to the various departments.

Every year, these same department heads give a similar overview to the newly seated Grand Jury,” Carunchio told the Board. “That day and this day are my favorite because they are a reminder of the huge range of services we provide and how we strive to do more. No department is an island unto itself – we all interact and support each other. I am so grateful to be able to work with these folks.”

In all, 17 department heads or representatives gave year-end reports, highlighting the following tasks, achievements, and challenges:

Auditor-Controller Amy Shepherd

  • Made significant adjustments in payroll as the result of County-negotiated Memorandums of Understanding and changes in state and federal law, most notably the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

  • Met the June 2016 federal reporting deadline for the ACA, a huge, time-consuming undertaking that required intensive collaboration with Information Services and Personnel to ensure compliance with the three-inch-thick law.

  • Received an Award for Reporting Excellence from the State Controller’s Office, for submitting all required paperwork on time and correctly.

  • Issued 33,022 checks and 17,576 payroll electronic fund transfers; receipted, recorded, and audited 5,939 cash receipts; processed more than 3,000 journal entries; and continued to do the accounting and financial auditing for 18 special districts around the county.

Ag Commissioner/Director of Weights and Measures Nate Reade

  • Initiated a contract to study the impacts of agriculture on the overall economy, which will build on data from the annual crop and livestock report to provide information on multiplier effects, jobs created, contributions to tax bases, ways to increase the industry’s value, and other types of agriculture that may be feasible to this region.

  • Hosted the spring conference of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association, bringing in more than 50 ag commissioners and more than 100 other state and federal officials to Inyo County; many have been back to visit since and many more have indicated a desire to return.

  • Initiated and improved communications with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power regarding summertime Owens River pulse flows that result in large mosquito hatches, which could lead to LADWP notifying the Ag Department in advance of the pulse flows.

  • Received a grant in the Weed Management Division to keep the program going another five years beyond 2016.

Assistant Health and Human Services Director Marilyn Mann

  • Brought in the evidence-based parenting curriculum, Positive Parenting Program, to train multiple county and community members – as well as partner agencies like Wild Iris, IMACA, Owens Valley Career Development Center, Inyo County Superintendent of Schools, and Bishop Pediatrics – in teaching proven, positive, parenting skills.

  • Behavioral Health, with help from Information Services, transitioned to a new electronic health record to improve documentation of patient records and billing, putting the division one step closer to a paperless system; and again, with help from Information Services as well as Public Works, relocated the Wellness Center, which immediately resolved tenant issues experienced at the prior location.

  • With ombudsman Paulette Erwin at the helm, continued to advocate for and actively assist the residents of Southern Inyo Hospital Skilled Nursing Unit who were displaced by its 2015 closure and wanted to return when it reopened in 2016.

  • In coordination with the Probation Department, piggy-backed local juvenile transition reform efforts with those being implemented statewide under the Continuum of Care Reform, arranging many hours of training for HHS and Probation staff, foster families, and other community partners.

Assistant County Administrator Rick Benson (Libraries, Recycling & Waste, Motor Pool, Parks & Recreation, Museums)

  • Contracted with Overdrive to make thousands of ebook titles available to library patrons as part of the ongoing automation project.

  • Hosted a traditional Native American basket weaving seminar taught by third-generation Native Lucy Parker at the Eastern California Museum and began steps to move the Slim Princess engine from Dehy Park to the museum grounds.

  • Have almost completed a new well at Taboose Creek Campground; began construction on new restrooms at and obtained a 24-year lease for Diaz Lake campground; and contracted with Reserve America so that visitors can reserve campground spots online and pay in advance – a project that meant installing new signage at campgrounds and redrawing maps.

  • Began the process of finally converting to weight-based tipping fees at county landfills.

  • Sold 40 vehicles declared surplus by Motor Pool, collected $107,000, and cleaned out the “used car lot” at the Bishop Landfill, bringing in about $2,500 per vehicle – considerably more than the County has collected before – by utilizing an online auction service that attracts buyers from all over the country.

Water Director Dr. Bob Harrington

  • Developed, with LADWP staff, new vegetation monitoring protocols that will be brought before the Inyo-L.A. Standing Committee for final approval in February – during the fifth year of one of the worst, longest droughts in recent history.

  • Began work in response to the State Groundwater Management Act, moving to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in the Indian Wells and Owens valleys.

  • Obtained several grants, including the Owens River Water Trail Grant, a grant to pay for drinking water for Tecopa via vending machine (a huge collaborative effort with Environmental Health, Public Works, and the Southern Inyo Fire Protection District), a grant to improve conveyance on the Owens River in areas choked by tules, and a grant looking at the feasibility of recycling water from the Big Pine wastewater treatment plant.

  • Worked with the State Department of Water Resources and other parties on the groundwater table issue plaguing West Bishop this past summer – work that resulted in DWR developing a report that that will soon be released to the public.

Environmental Health Director Marvin Moskowitz

  • Helped Public Works and the Water Department restore drinking water to Tecopa.

  • Set up a procedure for testing and closing, if necessary, Millpond and Diaz Lake in the event of blue-green algae blooms, which can pose health risks to humans and pets, and which the Department identified at those water bodies this past summer and responded to accordingly.

  • Resolved staffing issues in a cost-effective manner by hiring a hazmat expert and contracting her services out to Mono County part of the week, and recruiting for a part-time lab technician to better serve the public.

  • With Lahontan Water Quality Control Board, began developing a Local Area Management Plan in the hopes of limiting the impacts of a more stringent policy adopted by that state that requires counties to now require operation and maintenance permits for all septic tanks being constructed, and monitor and inspect those tanks as well.

Assessor David Stottlemyre

  • Brought traditionally contracted appraisals of Coso Geothermal and five local mines in-house, immediately saving the County $130,000 a year in consulting costs and then finding a $7 million valuation error in Inyo’s favor on a U.S. Borax appraisal.

  • Lowered the assessed value on all mobilehomes and mobilehome parks in the County, creating tax savings for mobilehome owners.

  • Began converting inactive files into digital format to free up office space and archive important tax information.

  • Completed three “jumbo” appraisals involving Vons, Cottonwood Plaza, and Briggs Mine.

Farm Advisor Dustin Blakey

  • Brought on a full-time, University of California-paid nutrition educator to visit schools and teach children about good nutrition.

  • Added two new 4-H Clubs – one in Independence and one combining Deep Springs and Fish Lake Valley – for a total of seven clubs, 273 members, 58 adult volunteers, and 64 projects taken.

  • Graduated 10 residents from the 2016 Master Food Preservers Program, one of whom judged at the Orange County Fair and has been invited to judge at the 2017 State Fair, and offered free food preservation classes in Tribal communities from Lone Pine to Coleville with support from Toiyabe Indian Health Project.

  • Offered several public educational workshops, covering topics like drone technology, property mapping using Google Earth Pro, and pruning.

Sheriff Bill Lutze (Sheriff’s Department, Inyo County Jail, Search and Rescue Team, Veterans Service Office)

  • Began the process of obtaining a narcotic K-9 and train a dedicated handler; patrolled 6,438 miles and 790 hours countywide under the OHV program; began automating the process for paying and receiving a Concealed Carry Permit, the interest in which continues to increase; responded to 12,636 calls compared to 11,402 in 2015; and started Phase I of the radio replacement project.

  • Added a basic education (math and reading) class at the jail to better prepare inmates taking the GED test; allowed Wild Iris to start a support group for women, with plans to begin one for men in the new year; and started the “Thinking for Good” program, a preparedness class for those not quite ready to take the Moral Recognition Therapy Training Class.

  • Responded to 92 Search and Rescue calls, 59 overdue calls, seven recoveries, and four multi-agency call-outs, compared to 68 SAR calls, 55 overdue calls, four recoveries, and two multi-agency call-outs in 2015.

  • Hired a new Veterans Service Officer.

  • Saw five employees retire, from a lieutenant to administrative assistant, who had a combined 100 years of service to the Department.

District Attorney Tom Hardy

  • Went live with the integrated case management system in August, putting his Department one step closer to being paperless and being able to easily access reports from the Sheriff’s Department and Bishop PD.

  • Cleared a significant number, if not most, of the backlog of cases in the D.A.’s Office.

  • Cleared most felony cases within a four- to six-month timeframe.

  • Continued to work with the Community Corrections Partnership and implement policies in the D.A.’s Office to ensure rehabilitative services and opportunities can be fully utilized by inmates.

Assistant Planning Director Cathreen Richards

  • Completed the years’ long process to develop a Tribal Consultation Policy.

  • Hosted the North Sierra Highway Specific Plan Charrette, which included a bus tour and well attended public meeting on the Bishop Reservation.

  • Completed background reports for Tecopa, Shoshone, and Charleston View as part of the Southeast County Specific Plans, for which well attended public meetings were also held.

  • Completed the Owens Valley Energy Study, which was prepared with public input and had the full participation of all Tribes in the valley.

  • Completed the analyses of the Inyo National Forest’s Forest Plan Revision and Environmental Impact Statement, which again came together as the result of much public input.

Public Works Director Clint Quilter

  • Entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Bishop for building inspection services, a partnership that will see the City paying the County $60,000 a year for contracting staff and moving their base from South Street to City Hall.

  • Improved billing procedures in the Department.

  • Completed the following projects, some of which included deferred maintenance: South Bishop Resurfacing, Ed Powers Road Bicycle Lanes, Wellness Center Remodel, Lower Trona Wildrose Rehabilitation, Bishop Fiberized Microseal, SCADA System, Whitney Portal Road Rehab, Interior Painting of Courthouse, Big Pine Town Hall, Independence Legion Hall, Phase II Jail HVAC, Tecopa HVAC, ADA Transition Plan, Statham Hall Heaters, Lone Pine Sheriff’s Substation Parking Lot Repaving, Bishop Airport Lighting and Signage, Bishop Airport Crack Seal, Striping and Security Fencing, Lone Pine/Death Valley Airport Automated Weather Observing System, and Independence Crack Seal and Striping – for a total of $27.8 million ($15 million for Whitney Portal Project alone).

  • Expended $855,000 with 65 local contractors and vendors.

Chief Probation Officer Jeff Thomson

  • Provided community service by participating in, sponsoring, and/or supporting the following endeavors: the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Brown’s Town in Bishop, Sober Grad Night, Back to School Shop with a Cop, Tri-County Fair, Christmas Shop with a Cop, Thanksgiving and Christmas meal delivery to Death Valley, Christmas stocking delivery to Lone Pine senior citizens, and grants for Jill Kinmont Boothe School and Healthy Communities of Southern Inyo County.

  • Oversaw the completion of 120-plus hours of community service by adult probationers.

  • Continued to take pride in their work, representing the Department at job fairs and expos, completing all required annual training, passing the Judicial Council review with flying colors, and earning praise for well-written and thought-out reports.

  • Continued to work on progress inside and outside the Department, via the ongoing successes of Drug Court, training with HHS as part of the Juvenile Services Realignment, utilizing staff services in a more effective, efficient manner, implementing the weekend commit program at Juvenile Hall, and offering an early intervention program.

Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters Kammi Foote

  • With help from dozens of volunteers and fellow County employees, administered one of the most unusual and emotional election cycles in recent history with no major issues at an 82 percent turnout.

  • Embarked on new endeavors for registering voters: registering new citizens moments after they were sworn in at the first-ever Citizenship Ceremony at Manzanar; deputizing Chuck Levin, who set up a registration table at the Bishop Twin Theatre until midnight on the last day of the deadline to register to vote in both the June and November elections; and participating in a Wilderness Civic Effort to bring awareness of important dates and deadlines to hikers and climbers who are often away from traditional residences for months at a time in the wilderness of Inyo County.

  • Teamed up with election officials from around the country to produce the Civic Engagement Toolkit for Local Election Officials that was published in June 2016 ( and that, as of today, election officials from all 50 states have accessed.

  • Sponsored AB 1734 Obernolte to solve a problem that was created when BLM updated its mining forms in 2013 (

Senior Deputy County Administrator Brian Shults – Information Services

  • Processed more than 1,500 work requests Countywide, some of which took days to accomplish, and processed more than 160,000 pieces of mail – an average of 600-plus a day.

  • Established two new conference rooms, participated in office moves or expansions for the HHS Progress House, Grove Street offices, May Street offices, One-Stop Office, and Bishop Senior Center, and undertook a long-overdue reorganization of the computer room.

  • Continued work on the project to live-stream Board meetings over the Internet with the goal of going live in January, in conjunction with the effort to automate meeting agendas internally and for the public.

  • Moved the County website to a new hosting company and trained staff in the use of a new accounting system software.

County Counsel Marshall Rudolph

  • With the help of Assistant County Counsel John Vallejo, former Deputy County Counsel David Nam, and Legal Secretary Debbie Gonzalez, assisted other County departments and agencies in bringing various issues, projects, and disputes to fruition and resolution, including: LADWP lease policies, specific LADWP leases, disputes of various sorts, Adventure Trails legislation, the Tribal Consultation Policy, a Courthouse lease with the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Indian Wells Valley Joint Powers Authority, a Memorandum of Understanding for court school, ballot measures related to commercial cannabis, and numerous contracts and ongoing labor negotiations.

County Administrative Office Kevin Carunchio

  • Brought County Counsel Rudolph and ACC John Vallejo on board, benefitting from their invaluable legal expertise, particularly when Rudolph was able to resolve the Courthouse lease issue after an eight-year stalemate with the state.

  • Provided critical support to Southern Inyo Hospital in its efforts to stay open for residents and visitors.

  • Celebrated the County’s 150th anniversary with various celebrations and countywide support.

  • Undertook a daunting Juvenile Services Redesign that put Inyo County ahead of the curve in terms of shifting toward the state’s Continuum of Care model.

  • Invested money in County airports and initiated the creation of an airport working group between Inyo and the Town of Mammoth to tackle the regional air service issue.

  • Became one of the first counties in California to tackle the commercial cannabis issue head on.

  • Worked on critical issues involving the LADWP, most recently regarding lease policies in the Owens Valley.