After reading the article on the county's exploration of developing the Lake Berryessa resort area, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or weep.

As stated, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, after 10 years and probably a lot of money, is very happy to have someone else step in. If that organization, with 5,400 employees and a  $1.17 billion budget can't make it work, I'm confused as to why Napa County thinks it can.

There was some vague mention of the need to develop more infrastructure, mainly a sewer plant, water system, and other things. I'm guessing the other things would include roads, a few bridges, buildings, electrical service, gas transmissions lines, just the normal stuff. Easily done. The county might check with the city of St. Helena and ask how their sewer system project is going.

In their wisdom, the supervisors asked Ragatz Realty to answer a question. What would work in Lake Berryessa? They paid them $70,000 for the answer. Astonishingly enough, Ragatz recommended water-related activities, such as boating and fishing, some swimming. Traditionally that is what Americans do when they're around water, so I wasn't that impressed with their answer.

They did throw in the idea of an indoor water park. Now that's a brilliant idea. Why not throw in a 80,000-square -foot, four-story building, that has to be heated and air-conditioned, and uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that has to be chemically treated? That is thinking outside the box, if you can call it thinking.

And, of course we will need more hotels. Hotels are good, hotels are wonderful. The proof is that there are almost a dozen of them in the permit pipeline. They provide a place for tourists to stay. They provide lots of low-pay, hard-work jobs to people who can't afford to live here, and will never be able to afford to live here. Hotels in Lake Berryessa would just add an hour or so to a daily commute, so where's the harm?

Finally, the board decided to ask another question. Who would run the resorts? The consultant agreed to give them that answer for only $65,000 more. It would seem they might have asked both questions at the same time, and maybe gotten a discount, but it seems the board likes a la carte consulting fees.

Being in the resort realty business, I'm sure Ragatz has a Rolodex on their desk. They flip through it, make a few phone calls, and bingo! -- $65,000 please. Who else might have the same information that they would have given the county for free? Maybe the Bureau of Reclamation, who has worked with vendors all over the country for decades? Too easy, and besides, it's really fun to spend someone else's money.

If there is no one who works for the county who is qualified to do this kind of preliminary investigation, how do they expect that they will have the ability to oversee such a massive project. It's a mystery to me. There are other projects in the county that could have benefited from this money, like maybe some road repair?

Charles Hall


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