FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 5, 2021
Smith River, CA
CITIZEN NOTICE – Smith River Fire Protection District Negotiations Update
The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation (“Nation”) was alarmed this morning to see the Smith River Fire Protection District’s (“District”) Facebook announcement (“Announcement”) which included a number of inaccurate statements and has needlessly alarmed the citizens of Smith River.
The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation has been in a cooperative agreement with the District for nearly twenty years, and has increased the amount provided to the District to reflect the increased valuations of Tribal Lands.
May 2020, the Nation received a request to pay annually $150,000, an amount over twenty (20) times previous year’s payments, in addition to several other expenses to be borne by the Nation. Included in these additional expenses was the requirement that in the third year of the agreement the Nation was to provide the District $250,000 to be used solely for the conversion of its recently purchased building (the former Ray’s Food Place in Smith River) into its new headquarters. This massive increase has
triggered a lengthy negotiation between the Nation and the District, which is ongoing.
In a meeting with the District, the Nation attempted to ascertain how the District had arrived at the proposed increase in costs. The District was proposing to create a new methodology for calculating fire protection costs. The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation would be the only organization subject to this new methodology. This is patently unfair. The District’s response was that other “taxpayers” are protected by law, and that they cannot change the methodology used for them. The Nation and many of its Tribal Members are citizens of Del Norte County and pay taxes. If the District finds it needs to change the methodology under which its fees are generated, the Nation suggests doing as others have done and taking the proposal to voters of the District.
The Nation’s most recent counter-proposal included an annual payment of $11,101, which is an amount equitable to the taxes the District would receive from the Nation were the Nation’s properties subject to taxation by Del Norte County. Additionally, to make the District whole, the Nation proposed a back payment of $18,750 to the District for services from July 1, 2019 to December 31, 2020. The Nation hopes to continue to refine this number in relation to the valuation of its landholdings, and to provide a
fair and equitable payment to the Smith River Fire Protection District.
While the Nation wishes to continue good faith negotiations, and to pay its equitable share for fire protection services, the entire cost of fire services for Smith River cannot be built on the backs of the citizens of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.
The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation continues to explore all legal and governmental avenues available to it, to ensure the safety of its Tribal Citizens and visitors.
Additional inquiries can be addressed to Troy Ralstin, Executive Director, at 707-487-9255 or email@example.com.