Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. (Click arrows for additional photos.)
Sheriff Mike Boudreaux with the department’s new Cessna 206. TCSO personnel with the department’s new drones.

Sheriff Boudreaux addresses Town Meeting

John Elliott


When Mike Boudreaux was elected Tulare County Sheriff in 2014 he promised to make regular visits to the monthly Town Hall meetings in Three Rivers. Last Monday’s meeting (October 2) at the Three Rivers Memorial Building was one of those appearances, and Sheriff Boudreaux was the first speaker on a busy agenda.
Boudreaux spoke on several department firsts that he described as accomplishments of a progressive Tulare County department. He said Tulare County is the first department in the state to require all deputies on patrol to wear body cameras. 
“We want the public to know that we are transparent,” Boudreaux said. “Tulare County is also the first department in the western U.S. to use drones in law enforcement.”
Sheriff Boudreaux said the intention of using drones is not to encroach on privacy or to spy on citizens but rather to find clandestine pot growing sites, locate missing persons, and aid the SWAT detail in locating robbery suspects and other fugitives. There are currently eight drones in use by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office. 
Boudreaux also reported that after the tragic 2016 TCSO plane crash that killed the pilot and a deputy, the department used the insurance money and other funding to purchase two new aircraft — a Cessna 182 (four-seater) and a Cessna 206 (six-seater). 
The Cessna 182 will resume routine law enforcement activities. The Cessna 206 will be used for the interstate transport of inmates at a huge savings to taxpayers, Boudreaux said. Among other department firsts, the sheriff also said Tulare County is the first department to require body cameras be worn by prison guards.
On the proposed legislation to make California a sanctuary state, Boudreaux said he is opposed to the pending bill. However, the department is aware of many illegal immigrants who have been here for two generations or more. 
“We won’t use county resources to enforce current federal immigration policy,” he said.
Boudreaux added that when illegal immigrants are arrested and jailed for violent crimes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be notified and the arrestee will be deported. An audience member reminded the sheriff that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty; Sheriff
Boudreaux did not make a distinction.
On the issue of marijuana, Boudreaux said the department is still removing large-scale grows and seeing trafficking-related crimes. As far as California law that makes it legal to smoke pot and grow six plants indoors, Boudreaux said it is too early to tell  the impacts.
“On impaired drivers and other pot-related issues, we need more data,” Boudreaux said.                         
Supervisor Crocker followed the Sheriff’s presentation with a brief update on county business as it relates to Three Rivers. He said progress is being made on getting public restrooms at the Three Rivers Historical Museum site. There is hope that the project will be completed during 2018.
Ambulance update— Crocker also discussed recent inquiries into ambulance response times in Three Rivers and the county’s rural areas. A spokesperson for one of the ambulance providers said that the County’s contract is complex and there have been some recent times when the nearest ambulance to Three Rivers was stationed at the Red Barn parking area at highways 198 and 65. 
Trent Coleman, a resident of the Trailer Isle area of Sequoia RV Ranch on North Fork Drive, said he recently experienced a health emergency and called for an ambulance. He said the ambulance took more than 30 minutes to arrive.
Coleman also related the experience of a 36-year-old woman who lived in Trailer Isle and recently suffered a seizure and died at the scene. A lengthy response time, according to Coleman, was a factor in the death of the patient.   
According to Crocker, under the terms of the county contract response times must be under 20 minutes or the providers could face financial penalties. David Wood, moderator for the Village Foundation-sponsored Town Hall meeting, interceded because of a time limit and it was decided that at the next meeting, the ambulance discussion could be continued as part of the agenda.
Fire update— Charlie Norman, Tulare County Fire Chief,  said countywide calls were up three percent in 2017 and it had been a busy summer. A number of county firefighters are currently finishing mop-up and restoration activities on the fully contained 36,556-acre Pier Fire near Springville.
Michael Theune, fire information officer for Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks, introduced Rebecca Patterson, an assistant assigned to his office for a second year. The local national parks recently completed the interagency Sequoia Creek Fire, a prescribed burn in Kings
Canyon, and is now planning for the next burn near Lost Grove in Sequoia to be ignited in a couple of weeks.
Vacation rentals— A panel of county planners was also in attendance to hear more input on what if any regulations should be adopted relative to vacations rentals. There are more than 100 short-term rental listings in Three Rivers currently advertised on the Airbnb website.
County staff is considering a proposal to have Airbnb collect the transient occupancy tax and then forward payments to the county tax collector. Supervisor Crocker said the county is looking at whether an ordinance and a permitting process should be adopted for Three Rivers exclusively or if a county-wide action by the Board of Supervisors might be more appropriate.
The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 6.