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Placer hires $199,000-a-year interim director to shut down redevelopment agency

Feb. 1 target date to dissolve redevelopment agency, move to button up programs
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The clock is ticking on Placer County’s redevelopment agency. A major player in North Auburn and Tahoe to help finance infrastructure and beautification improvements to battle blight, the 15-year-old Placer County Redevelopment Agency will officially call it quits Feb. 1. In preparation for that day, the Placer County Board of Supervisors made several moves recommended by the County Executive Office on Tuesday to wind the agency’s work down over the next year after Feb. 1. Included in the list of actions approved on a 4-0 vote was a decision to establish a new redevelopment department and appoint current redevelopment deputy director Rae James to a $126,880 temporary post as director. The contract for the $61-an-hour position is for one year and includes what are described as full management benefits of $72,328 that would bring total compensation to $199,208. Supervisor Jim Holmes praised the appointment, saying he’s honored James will be the director of redevelopment’s successor agency. The appointment comes a month after the retirement of James Lobue, who served as deputy director for redevelopment for two years. His yearly salary during his final year was less than the new contract, totaling $117,400 in wages and $130,492 in total earnings, which include retirement payouts and accrued leave. In an e-mail message sent Tuesday, County CEO Tom Miller said that the two jobs – LoBue’s and James’ – are different. “Rae James is being recommended for limited one-year contract which can be terminated at any time through the year,” Miller said. “Her position will be to oversee the wind-down efforts necessary to end redevelopment agency projects and to administer those who will be retained.” LoBue’s position was as a permanent, full-time manager directly responsible for implementing existing and future redevelopment agency projects, Miller said. James’ annual salary is also more than the amount the county posted in December in a notice asking for applicants to replace the retiring LoBue. The pay range for the new program manager job was between $97,323 and $118,310. The county removed the job post earlier this month and Miller said they would not fill the position. Miller stated that he cannot predict what plans James will have in a year or what Placer County’s needs will be. Miller himself has announced his own retirement, which will take place early this year. He added that James will have more responsibilities as a departmental director, while LoBue was a deputy – not a department or agency director. “The deputy director position was a long-term permanent position with all rights due a permanent position,” Miller said. “Rae’s position is at max, one-year, with the authority to cancel at short notice with no employee rights.” James will have to pick up far more of her pension plan costs that the deputy position, Miller said. Without general-fund dollars to support redevelopment agency projects, the county’s plan now is to shut down operations and dissolve redevelopment functions. The move follows a state Supreme Court decision to uphold state government’s decision last summer to put the agencies – which collect property tax revenue in competition with other government collections – out of business. Holmes was the lone board member to comment on the appointment at Tuesday’s meeting before the vote. County Counsel Anthony La Bouff said the work preceding Tuesday’s vote was intensive with dozens “if not hundreds” of issues being resolved or still to be worked out. La Bouff likened the process leading to the dissolution of redevelopment agencies to crashing them against a wall to salvage them for spare parts. “This is an extraordinarily complex series of items,” La Bouff said. “What we’ve been asked to do has not been easy.”