For more from Tuolumne County Supervisor Teri Murrison, visit her blog here
Gary Sipperley is an action hero. He’s a Peace Corp volunteer, talented writer, friend, and uber citizen. What he accomplished last Tuesday from Ethiopia was a big win for him and Tuolumne County.
Gary was the editor of the Sierra Mountain Times (SMT) in Twain Harte when I ran for supervisor in 2005/06. When he asked questions, I saw wheels turning. Fast ones. He was not adversarial, but neither did he try to make friends or influence. He told the truth.
He’s become a favorite constituent.
He eventually left the SMT and awhile back joined the Peace Corp in Ethiopia, working to prevent HIV there. Like other Peace Corp volunteers, he exchanged a comfortable home here for primitive housing and work of great significance. Although his work predominantly benefits the Ethiopian people now, last Tuesday he scored for us big-time.
About two years ago, he contacted me to ask if there was a way to get his road plowed when it snows. His home is on a non-county-maintained, very steep road that is treacherous in winter. We tried the usual channels and discovered there is a way, but the cost and obstacles to achieving it were insurmountable.
Gary wouldn’t give up. He emailed, made personal visits, spoke before the Board, and emailed some more. He even emailed from Ethiopia. Tuesday, he prevailed.
Anyone who lives on a non-county maintained road in Tuolumne County knows how frustrating it is to drive unplowed roads in the winter. When our Board passed an ordinance allowing property owners to approve a parcel tax to bring their road up to county standards, maintain, and plow it in perpetuity, staff discovered that the advance work was prohibitively expensive. Since those costs can only be recouped when 2/3 of the impacted property owners vote to assess themselves and they might not choose to do so (the advance work alone including engineering is around $10,000), Gary couldn’t get past first base.
He politely and respectfully continued his campaign anyway.
The first time the Board considered his request, it didn’t look good. But we asked staff to make it work. And you know what? They did. Public Works Director Peter Rei, his staff, and Counsel Carlyn Drivdahl found a way. Here’s how it will work:
The county will establish a trust fund to be used to cover the costs of determining parcel assessments to inform the property owners. Folks like Gary and his neighbors will deposit $1,500 in advance and gather signatures from 75% of the property owners on their road so the engineering can start and a measure to consider an assessment can be placed on a ballot. Based on the subsequent high likelihood of success, the county will go ahead. When it’s approved the advance will be added to and the trust fund repaid via their annual assessment.
Gary made it happen – he scored his goal.
Good job, Citizen Sipperley. You’re a veritable action hero!
So now the question is, what will Gary take on next? He’s got another year or more in the Peace Corp, but before he left there were still improvements in Twain Harte he wanted to see happen. A bocce ball court, for one.
Gary may be in Ethiopia, but hey, it could happen.
If Citizen Sipperley can do what he did on Tuesday, a bocce ball court should be a cake-walk for him.