Help Us With Decaying Roads, ‘Drug Dens’ and Abandoned Vehicles, SoHum Asks County Officials in Overflow Meeting

Budget roadshow

Seeking input from SoHum residents, County officials brought their Budget Roadshow to the Benbow Inn Thursday evening. [All photos by Kym Kemp]

By 6 p.m. yesterday, the overflow audience at the southern version of the Humboldt County Budget Roadshow meeting at the historic Benbow Inn just south of Garberville clogged the doorway and stood along the walls.

Budget roadshow

A long, large strip of paper was covered with suggestions synthesized from those issues that got the most attention.


By the end of the event, a long swath of paper covered with suggestions spread across the front wall of the room. Fix the county roads, clean up “drug dens,” tow away abandoned cars, and put the county building code online were among the suggestions. Other suggestions included using Measure S money, which is mainly collected from the rural parts of the county, to improve unincorporated areas, encourage canna-tourism, and fix critical infrastructure such as the Garberville Vet’s Hall.

Budget roadshow

Just before the meeting started, nearly every seat was taken. 

This was the second in a series of meetings officials were holding throughout the County. Local government had invited residents to a fast-paced budget meeting designed to quickly find out what county services were working and what ones needed improvement.

 Choose two of the department heads to speak to about your concerns, residents were told.

Residents could choose two department heads to meet with as part of a small group. There, face to face with decision-makers, they could urge their concerns be addressed.

Budget roadshow

An assistant to Sheriff Billy Honsal prepares to write down residents’ concerns on a table strewn with candy for those who had missed dinner.

The issues that got the most support would be brought back to a final group meeting to get a look at a “short and spicy” summary of what was deemed important. Then, the final results of the meetings would help County Supervisors decide where to allocate money in the next budget.

Budget roadshow

County Administrative Officer Amy S. Nilsen looking at the suggestions gathered during her group.

Two of Southern Humboldt’s organizations met beforehand and worked together to get their message amplified at the meeting. Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce and Southern Humboldt Business and Visitors Bureau met ahead of time and decided what issues needed the most attention. Then a few members of the organizations visited the various groups making sure to focus attention on abandoned vehicle abatement and getting money for critical infrastructure repair such as roads.

Jennie, Michelle Bushnell, Laura Lasseter

Members of the Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Humboldt Business and Visitors Bureau met afterward to discuss how to go forward from the meeting while Lt. Ken Swithenbank listened.

Getting rid of abandoned vehicles was one of the most consistently brought up concerns among meeting-goers. Sheriff Billy Honsal acknowledged the County had a problem in this area.

A woman spoke to Sheriff Honsal about her concerns in one of his breakout sessions.

He told the gathered crowd at the end of the meeting that the County program had failed, not from lack of money but from lack of manpower. He said plans were in the works to fix the issue.

The Sheriff’s Department was praised for stepping up coverage in Southern Humboldt by many of those who spoke. But, the department was also urged to provide even more coverage and have officers located in the area 24/7. In addition, those at the meeting requested more enforcement on what one resident called “drug dens”–motels being used as a base for dealing hard drugs.

John Ford from the Planning Department reported that people in his group urged putting the building code online and encouraging affordable housing.

The head of Public Works, Tom Mattson, reported that fixing and reopening the Garberville Vet’s Building which was recently closed because of mold issues was a priority, also having public restrooms was another important issues and, of course, vehicle abatement and road issues were of concern.

Other concerns were having more funds available for economic development in the Southern Humboldt area–specifically to develop canna-tourism–and money to address human trafficking.

District Attorney Maggie Fleming looking down at her notes during the meeting.




  • Taurus Ballzhoff

    Talk is inexpensive, so the Board of Supervisors can well afford to invest in conversation. Usually, Humboldt County just says why they “can’t do anything”, rather than engaging in a discussion about the things they will later say they “can’t do anything” about…

    I certainly hope the county will clean out the motel based drug-supermarkets of Garberville, tear down the Veteran’s building and replace it with the first new structure in Garberville since Chataqua was finished, pave all the roads in SoHum right out to the coast, and all the rest of the good suggestions presented here.

    I know that some progress is being made, so let’s have some follow through!

    Thanks to all who took the time to educate the county officials.

  • This morning several of the abandoned cars were towed out of G’ville. A great success for all of us who were at the meeting last night, and for everyone who called in.

      • The vehicle that has been sitting on Briceland-Thorn Road, vandalized and tagged, just town-side of China Creek Road is FINALLY gone!!!!
        Maybe squeaky wheels DO get heard.

        • That is so good to know!

        • working class local

          That vehicle was set on fire, causing a response from Briceland Fire Department; then the burned out shell was towed the next day.
          I really hope that doesn’t give any fool ideas about torching other dead cars, as has happened in other parts of SoHum.
          There are some more trashed dead vehicles near the Wolf Ranch on the Ettersburg Rd. that really need to
          be towed, too.

    • Maybe they can tow the ones in the cove off toth , willow Glenn and cove pt east . The one on willow glen has been there for over a year

  • “Money to address human trafficking” is talking about the [edit: Bulgarians]. Nothing is ever done about the [edit]. Deal with em and problem solved.

  • Back in the sixties, Garberville, Redway, Benbow, and then French’s used to be such a wonderful area that was full of fun for families. A healthy hardworking community that was clean, secure and none of these issues existed. Watching it change throughout the years was hard to see but if you disagreed with the transformation, you were told you were so out of touch with the new wave of culture, you were shut down as just being old school and out of fashion. I’m not surprised this is the outcome. It was inevitable.

    • …and back in the day public meetings weren’t necessary for our problems because our Supervisor and County agencies already understood what they were and they were out taking care of them.

      We didn’t need to ask for ‘community input’, ‘collaboration and networking’, or being told about ‘evidence-based practices’ for getting it done. It was obvious what was needed to be done and our folks, the Supervisor and agencies, simply went and did it.

      I mean, fixing the roads, cleaning up the abandoned cars, and getting rid of the drug dens and scoundrels? This wouldn’t have called for a community meeting back in the day. It would have been a call for action, because even back then we knew that talk was cheap in comparison.

    • Veteran's Friend

      You are ignoring the actual reason for the change; the destructive logging practices of the boom years and the end of trees. And fish.

  • If you fix the roads there might be less abandoned vehicles because their wheels might not fall off then.

  • I bet it was that young know it all hippie looking girl that brought up the human trafficking. Sorry honey we don’t even have money to fix the roads

    • It was a lovely older woman who is beloved in the community and considered to be in touch with the community and its needs.

    • Nothing Sweet about it

      “sorry honey, we don’t even have money to fix the roads?”
      So Dick, What would the roads have to do with sex slavery?
      And Dick, Should slavery only get attention if the roads are fixed?
      Furthermore Dick, is all crime response secondary to roads, or just the crime that happens to women?

      • thats a pretty irrational response to someone pointing out that the county is broke and cant even take care of basic infrastructure…. but I guess you had to blurt out your daily quota of accusing complete strangers of sexism for whatever reason

  • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

    Armored bulldozers is the only way towards a better community.

    They are needed, useful, and wanted for a mass clean up.

    I for one would much rather see every patrol car taken off the road and replaced with an armored bulldozer giving law enforcement a wonderful tool against The Marijuana Caliphate or Green ISIS.

  • You could give one to every cop and county worker in the area and they still wouldnt drop the blade to fix a pothole on their commute

    • groba dude osnt trustafarian

      Or we could fill the grow-dozer’s beds with “hot-patch” every morning and issue shovels and boots. Organize the “pot-hole army”…

  • With all that legal weed tax money one would expect the roads and infrastructure to impeccable. Where’s it going?

  • Is outlawing the penny and abolishing daylight saving time in Humboldt on that list??

  • Sass Master Flex

    This meeting was full of fluff and not much else. I appreciate the county staff for coming out. Having a budget meeting without a detailed breakdown of the budget is just silly.

    • Community member

      I attended this meeting and I really appreciated supervisor Fennel hosting this “budget roadshow“ and getting the staff from up north to come all the way down to Southern Humboldt to take our community’s input.
      There is no budget yet, the whole point of the meeting was to take community members input on what and where we want our tax dollars to be spent on.
      It’s not till AFTER these community meetings happen throughout the county that the budget gets broken down and set.

  • What exactly do people want to do about the lone pine and Johnston motel do they really think that the motels are to blame for the problems they bitch about not that there invalid but you really think that’s going to address the real issue and sadly to say but it’s only going to get worse now the money is gone out of sight out of mind isn’t really going to work until you address the problem at its core ..Just sayin

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