Hoopa Tribe Talks Settlement
Leaky Roofs Trigger Questions About Property Management
By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune
The Hoopa Valley Tribal Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, March 15 at 5:30 pm.
After a long executive session that culminated with a council directive for the Human Services Department to pay a Hoopa couple’s utility bill, Vice Chairman, Byron Nelson briefed a larger-than-usual audience on the tribe’s pending settlement with the U.S.
“At this point, we’re still waiting for them to provide acceptance to the document,” Nelson said.
Nelson was referring to a letter of acceptance the tribe sent nearly two weeks ago. Although the letter was sent, there hasn’t been a response. An email conversation between a federal official and the tribe’s counsel, Tom Schlosser, was read aloud by council member, Joseph LeMeuix.
The federal official was apologetic for the delay in responding and said the settlement was still under review by the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior.
Council member, Hayley Hutt said, “We don’t have a complete legal review in yet, which would be necessary to make any decisions. We’re looking at possibly receiving the money in early June and absolute best case scenario would be percaps at the end of June. That’s best case scenario.”
Hoopa Tribal member, Vi Campbell was in the audience and said, “When do we, the tribal members, get a chance to have our voices heard?”
Council member, Augie Montgomery said, “I held off on the general meeting, because I want all the facts available and the final agreement with the feds in hand. I would like to hear what the people have to say after the agreement is officially accepted.”
Nelson moved the meeting into continuing business.
Jacqueline Martins and Alphonso Colegrove were appointed to the Gaming Commission; Bonny Roberts was appointed to the Housing Board; Dorene McKnight and Lincoln Jackson were appointed to the Enrollment committee; Gary Risling, Rod Mendes, Cody Yarborough, Forrest Blake and Wendell White Jr. were appointed to the Volunteer Fire Board; and Dania Colegrove, Allie Hostler, Kevin Orcutt and Julie Robertson were appointed to the Klamath Restoration of River and Rights Committee.
Next up, organizers of the annual Women’s Wellness Gathering sought a donation of $1,000 to support their gathering; however the council tabled the request pending identification of available funds.
The council made a motion to approve two bids for a roof and electrical repair at the Joe’s Deli/Humboldt Furnishings building. The repairs will total about $5,350. Winning bidders were The Electrician Inc. and McMurray and Son, both licensed and bonded repair companies. Elizabeth Turner, the tribe’s insurance director took the lead on the project.
A familiar discussion ensued with council members discussing where the money would be found to make the repairs. Hutt said the money could be pulled from the revenue the lease generates. Several in the room replied by saying the building doesn’t generate rental income, that an arrangement was made with the business owners to make repairs for use of the building.
Turner said that despite any prior arrangement, the building is still the tribe’s liability.
“As long as the tribe is leasing the building out for occupancy, it’s our responsibility,” she said.
The council asked Turner to explain the history. She said the building had a new roof installed several years prior, a project led by the tribe’s plant management department. When the roof began to leak, no record of the roof job could be located so a patch job by a local, independent contractor was authorized by the chairman. When the patch began to leak this winter, Turner became involved and contacted several contractors for estimates. McMurray and Sons said they had done the original roof job and had it not been patched by someone else, they would have fixed it under a 10-year warranty.
Next up, the tribe’s forestry department asked permission to have a $3,775 repair done to one of their work trucks. The truck needs new fuel injectors.
The tribe’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Jerry Davis asked to consolidate old timber sale bank accounts and transfer the remaining excess funds to a newly established bank account within the tribe’s general fund. On the agenda, the motion reads that the new account would be marked discretionary, however when the final motion was made, it was decided the money—totally about $123,000—would be placed consolidated into one account that is off limits pending a council approved budget for the funds.
“I’d like to consolidate the accounts, but not into something labeled ‘discretionary,’” Jackson said.
LeMeuix echoed similar comments, “I won’t support it being used as a slush fund,” he said. “Will this money slip into, to quote the former chairman, the ‘black hole’?”
Hutt was careful when making the motion to be sure the money would not be available for discretionary use.
The council approved a $3,600 surveillance system purchase for the TANF Program facility; accepted a grant $103,000 grant from the administration for Children and Families; another grant from the Department of Health and HumanServices for $303,000; approved travel for two TANF employees to go to Washington D.C. ; and payment for an annual software upgrade in the amount of $6,000.
Added to the agenda was a discussion with Tsewenaldin Inn Manager, Mary Jane Aubrey about roof repairs needed on the motel. A motion resulted approving the manager’s preference of bidders for the repairs and allowing the motel to seek a loan from the EDA department to cover the cost less what will be paid by the tribe’s insurance. The job will cost about $24,400.
Also added to the agenda was a discussion with Tribal Roads employee, Warren Tamerius about senior roads. The council made motions months ago to direct the Roads department to repair various seniors’ roads, however many of the repairs have not taken place.
“We have paying customers who are financing their own driveways who are still on a waiting list,” Tamerius said. “We cannot do grading in the wet season. It can make the problem worse.”
The council asked for a comprehensive list of seniors and their road repair needs so they can anticipate such repairs ahead of time in order to identify funding to pay for the service.