Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

Three outgoing supervisors split their votes Tuesday on a narrowly approved $299,960 contract intended to complete the update to Calaveras County's General Plan land use document, with cross words defining their debate.

Retiring Supervisor Steve Wilensky sided with supervisors Darren Spellman and Merita Callaway, who were not up for re-election last week, in favor of an agreement for consultant services of Raney Planning and Management of Sacramento. Supervisors Gary Tofanelli and Tom Tryon, both ousted by challengers at the ballot box, preferred to have the trio of newcomers decide after they are seated in January.

Wilensky, who will be replaced by his endorsed candidate, Chris Wright, of Rail Road Flat, saw that as an unnecessary and unwise delay.

"I'm not going to take a powder or punt this … I'm going to finish out my term and take responsibility for something that developed on my watch," he said.

Tofanelli took offense to Wilensky's characterization and shot back with some pointed barbs.

"I'm not taking a powder and ducking my responsibility … as I've seen you do in the past," he said.

He also seemed to acquiesce to a three-vote majority opposite his standpoint by virtue of Wright's victory.

"You may know your puppet of a candidate, where he stands ..." Tofanelli said to Wilensky, being drowned out by a smattering of howls.

Tryon challenged the board's newcomers in regards to whether they can find a way to fund both the General Plan and additional sheriff's deputies, identified as key campaign issues.

He said he would place the General Plan ahead of added resources for Sheriff Gary Kuntz's department. He also characterized a series of town halls countywide led by Kuntz as "a fear-mongering campaign that we're going to be raped, pillaged, plundered and maimed" without replenishing the department's ranks.

The county spent $909,236 to have another Sacramento firm, MintierHarnish, spend about five years on renewing the plan, which is considered outdated and susceptible to legal challenge, with little to show for it. Planning Director Rebecca Willis, who came on a little more than two years ago, put the brakes on the stalled work of the prior consultant last year and has worked with staff on "salvaging as much as we can … to make use of what's been done," she said.

Willis held off on hiring two planners and carried about $144,000 budgeted to go to MintierHarnish, which remained unspent last year, into this year's department budget, she said, with hopes of having money available to hit the general plan effort hard.

She said Raney has performed well on contracts she has worked on with them dating back to 2005 when she worked as community development director in the newly incorporated city of Oakley.

Spellman and Callaway agreed that waiting two months to be joined by new colleagues will only stall the already lengthy process.

"(Tryon) made a cogent argument (for postponement) but (board turnover) isn't going to change anything," Callaway said. "We need to move forward on the General Plan."

George Fry, a frequent local office seeker and a county planner at the time the first General Plan was developed, told the board the public had been "misled" by arguments two weeks earlier. The board cited a major reason to pay Public Works Director Tom Garcia $19,000 more on an annual basis is his work on the General Plan's traffic circulation element, Fry said, but more than $65,000 in the Raney contract is outlined for that portion of the plan.

Willis replied that a consultant in addition to Garcia would have been needed no matter what.

"Our traffic issues are pretty severe and we need our public works director involved ... " she said.

"I don't know whether congratulations or condolences are in line for Raney," Fry quipped.