As the process of creating an Environmental Impact Report for Trinity County’s commercial cannabis licensing program grinds forward under the California Environmental Quality Act, additional public workshops have been scheduled in Weaverville and Hayfork, adding to the cost.

The Trinity County Board of Supervisors last week voted 3-2 to amend the county’s contract with its consultant on the project, Ascent Environmental Inc. of Sacramento, increasing the cost by $34,132 to a total maximum of $243,647.

Ascent was hired by the county last August to prepare the EIR. The term of the contract was Sept. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2019, for a total cost of $209,515. It was to include three public hearings on the project including one to receive public comments on the draft EIR, one before the Trinity County Planning Commission and an adoption hearing before the Trinity County Board of Supervisors.

The additional cost approved by a majority of the board last week is to pay for five additional public meetings that were held in June and three more to come including one today (Sept. 11) scheduled as a special joint session of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission at 2 p.m. in Weaverville at the Trinity County Library.

Ascent consultants will also be attending a Planning Commission meeting later this month in Hayfork and another Board of Supervisors’ workshop in October to hear additional public comments on the draft EIR.

Sup. Bobbi Chadwick pulled the contract amendment from the board’s consent agenda for routine items during last week’s board meeting, questioning the cost and calling it a “ridiculously high price tag. I want the education and outreach, but that’s a lot. I haven’t even seen any advertising. Our rooms are free and hotels don’t cost that much, but this is more than $10,000 per workshop.”

Planning Director Kim Hunter said comments have been received on the draft EIR and a number of issues have been brought up.

“We realize additional outreach is necessary to get additional comments from the public. Having the consultant present at the workshops to hear the comments we feel is very important. Yes, the price is high. It adds up, but we feel it’s important to do it right,” she said.

Trinity County Environmental Compliance Specialist David Colbeck said the added cost includes not only the three upcoming workshops, but also the five held in June, plus the production of 100 hard copies of the draft EIR that includes more than 500 pages. He said hard copies are needed to provide access to those who may not have online access available.

He added that the cost is a maximum he hopes not to have to spend, but “there’s a lot of misinformation out there about what an EIR can do and what it can’t.”

From the audience, John Brower of Junction City urged the board to consider another amendment extending the contract term for possibly another year.

“We all know there are problems with the document. We’ve just wasted another two months and now additional outreach meetings. The public comment period is closed. This definitely pushes the entire project out on the calendar past Dec. 31. It’s really important that we get this right and keep the momentum. We need this sooner rather than later,” he said.

Colbeck said the additional meetings go above and beyond the normal process “to make it as useful as it can be. The public comment period is usually 45 days, but we are still accepting comments and it’s our discretion if we include them in our analysis or not. These meetings are to speak to any issues that may be raised in a public format.”

A motion to approve the contract amendment carried with Sups. Chadwick and Keith Groves opposed.

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