The Lassen County Board of Supervisors and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 6356, in Herlong finally worked out a way for the county to deed the building to the VFW in a way that satisfied both parties.
District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson said he fully supported the transfer of the property as long as it was legal. District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle shared that sentiment, as did the rest of the board.
The discussion in the boardroom Tuesday, Feb. 21 hinged on the words “public use.”
According to Lassen County Counsel Rick Crabtree, the transfer of the property to the VFW had to include “public use restrictions” because the property was being transferred at below market value in a deal that has nothing to do with economic development.
According to Crabtree, that was the opinion of three separate attorneys who opined on the issue at the county’s request.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander John Everett and WFW member Felix Flores complained when the property was given to the county as part the Base Closure and Realignment Commission more than a decade ago, it was to be “an immediate pass through” from the county to the veterans.
According to the VFW members, their group has the same standing as other agencies such as the Native American and governmental groups who obtained property without delay or encumbrance.
Still, the board expressed its concern about the gift of public funds issue brought up by county counsel.
Chapman wondered if county counsel’s opinion is correct, why would the veterans group want to take title to the property and create a situation where 20 or 30 years from now someone could challenge the transaction in court.
A frustrated Dahle asked Crabtree how could the board give the property to the VFW in a way that couldn’t lead to a court challenge.
Crabtree said the county’s only alternative was to ensure the transfer of the property was for public purposes.
The VFW officers complained the building couldn’t be a community hall because such public use would violate the VFW’s charter.
They said they frequently let other groups use the building for meetings and other events, but it cannot be a community hall like the Veterans Memorial Hall in Susanville, a building that is owned and operated by Lassen County.
Flores also had a lot of questions about the county’s use of grant funds in Herlong and why the county charged the VFW for a survey that should have been paid for by grant funds.
Flores said the county should repay that money to the VFW with interest.
Dahle acknowledged there were “a lot of wrongs” in the way the matter has been handled, but he was looking for a solution.
Finally, Chapman came up with a solution that satisfied both county counsel and the VFW. The property would be transferred for public use as defined by the VFW charter.
District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick asked for the matter of the survey fee to be placed on a future agenda.
The board and the VFW could have had this conversation years ago and resolved this matter in a more timely fashion.
Everyone could learn a valuable lesson from this confrontation — a little bit of discussion and communication can go a long, long way.
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