Commercial cannabis grows to be banned in Portola

The two-and-a-half-hour Portola City Council meeting Aug. 23 proved to be unusually long and focused primarily on the city’s marketing goals with Big Fish Creations as well as on the city’s current plans for a regulatory marijuana ordinance.

Before these two big policy items were discussed though, Mayor Pat Morton opened the meeting up for public comment on any issue that did not directly relate to an agenda item.

City marijuana ordinance

Meacher began the discussion on the marijuana ordinance by saying “as you read, as you talk to your constituents, you need to report back to us. Marijuana will be a topic at every meeting going forward for at least three more meetings.”

The discussion at last week’s meeting in particular focused on whether or not the city will allow for commercial cultivation of marijuana within the city limits.

Councilmember Phil Oels was the first to suggest that commercial growth should be banned throughout the entire city, but Meacher pointed out that that might exclude the county from receiving regulatory funds to deal with commercial growth.

The council then began a discussion on whether or not they could exclude commercial growth in plots of land that are below an acre in area, but in the end the council advised the staff to begin drafting an order that banned all commercial grows citywide.

Many council members, including the mayor, said that a ban on all commercial grows could be used as a last resort if the council is unable to agree on a commercial policy in time.

The council then briefly debated whether their ordinance should differ from the county in regard to personal grows, but every council member seemed to agree that they should stick to what the county decides, to avoid confusing local police who have to regulate the city and the county.

In the end, the council advised staff to begin working on an ordinance that banned all commercial grows and mirrored the county ordinance regarding individual grows.

“Sweetwood”

Patty Clawson of Big Fish Creations began the public comment portion by announcing a special event that Big Fish Creation helped orchestrate in association with the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.

Clawson explained that the event would be a rededication of a Western Pacific military blood procurement car used to collect blood for soldiers during the Korean War and is scheduled to take place at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the railroad museum in Portola.

The event will begin with a ceremonial 21-gun salute.

Julia Pagan, a former Red Cross nurse who worked in the car during the Korean War, will also attend the event, as will a relative of Charles Sweetwood — the man whose name was posthumously assigned to the car in honor of his military service.

Fire safety

Longtime local Dave Rudolph began passing out a defensible space checklist, which gave advice to homeowners on how to protect their property from forest fires.

Among other recommendations, the checklist suggested that homeowners trim branches to at least 10 feet from the chimney and advised people to mow their grass to less than four inches in height.

The checklist also asked the public for advice and recommended that people call Portola City Hall at 832-6801 for more information.

City Council seat heat

Former Portola City Council candidate BJ Pearson began addressing the council in what quickly became a heated address about his former run as a council candidate.

BJ Pearson, left, lambastes the council members regarding their handling of the recent vacant city council seat. From left, on the dais: council member Phil Oels, Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley, Mayor Pat Morton, council member Bill Powers and council member Debra Reynolds Photos by David Nickerson

Pearson said that he did not want to sit before council members and criticize them for selecting council candidate Debra Reynolds over himself, but he then proceeded to read an op-ed, which alleged that Reynolds was a puppet chosen by the council to hide their own incompetence.

Pearson’s tone was noticeably aggressive throughout his five-minute remarks, and at times his voice was shaky.

Pearson also claimed multiple times that he will attend future city council meetings and personally critique each sitting member of the council.

He ended his remarks by stating, “I’m coming back and believe me you will not like what I say.”

He then left the room before any agenda items were discussed.

Another member of the public then echoed some of what Pearson stated, claiming that there needs to be a council shakeup because key issues like road repairs are not being addressed.

City communications

Morton thanked both Pearson and the other member of the public for their comments and moved on to the next agenda item, the city communications report.

City Manager Robert Meacher explained that there will be a Firewise booth set up at Railroad Days to support the community volunteer project.

Council member Bill Powers then reported on his trip to Sacramento to attend a student mental health committee meeting, adding that he thought Portola was well ahead of the rest of the state in dealing with student mental health issues.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley then read a letter that was sent to the Portola Volunteer Fire Department.

The letter thanked Chief Duff and Portola Fire for assistance with the Minerva Fire and said that the fire crew Duff commands reflects his leadership and the high moral standing of Portola.

Meacher then delved a bit deeper into Railroad Days planning, and explained that a Care Flight flyover has been scheduled to kick off this year’s Railroad Days festivities, and the city pool is expected to be open free of charge.

Waste disposal

The council then moved on to the primary orders of business of this particular meeting, starting with Tom Valentino’s revised and amended franchise agreement regarding city refuse disposal.

Valentino began by explaining that the current refuse agreement expires Nov. 1 after 15 years.

Among other changes, the new agreement will replace the hand carried recycle carts with 64-gallon wheeled carts to make recycling easier for city residents.

The free cleanup days, which allow participants one day of refuse disposal free of charge, will now be limited to the second Saturday in May rather than being offered anytime during the year.

A small invoice fee increase of 10 cents per customer is also included in the revised agreement, as is a 45-cent increase in curbside recycling services.

Valentino also explained that a new green waste collection service will be established that residents can elect to participate in at an additional cost of $8.03 per month.

Valentino stated, “We are generally pleased on how these agreements have gone,” and the council voted unanimously to approve the current agreement.

The council then directed the city staff to begin fulfilling their obligations in Prop 218 to inform property owners of the fee increases, to hold a public hearing on the topic, and to give property owners the chance to protest the increases in writing.

FEMA relief

The council then moved on to Meacher’s brief report on FEMA’s relief funding for city road damages caused by winter storms in 2017.

Meacher said that up to 40 percent of the cost of the repair would be reimbursed by FEMA, but he expressed doubt that the repairs will be completed by next winter.

Agreement with Big Fish Creations

Cooley expressed the committee’s desire to work with Big Fish Creations to advertise Portola in a way that allows the committee to evaluate the results of the campaign concretely.

One potential objective that Cooley said the city could impose would be that the contract had to bring in “x [number of] sports tournaments during the next 12 months.”

If Big Fish failed to deliver on that objective, Cooley said that the city could then reevaluate their

Mike and Patty Clawson of Big Fish Creations listen to councilmembers as they express their hopes and concerns regarding the city’s advertising campaign.

willingness to continue contracting with them.

Cooley asked Patty Clawson of Big Fish to show everyone present some of the advertising videos she has produced for the city.

She and her husband Mike Clawson proceeded to show two different advertisements: One that focused on the eco bike fair and another that focused on the Concert in the Park series held at the Portola City Park.

Though several members of the council seemed to approve of the videos, Powers expressed some concern about the advertisement that focused on the eco bike fair.

He said that he did not think the bike fair was related to Portola itself, and he added that he would rather have Big Fish Creations create links to local events rather than advertise them directly.

Patty Clawson said that she thinks it is vital to advertise local events because it gets people involved in the community.

“A link doesn’t do it,” Patty Clawson said.

Clawson further recommended that a strategy meeting be held between the city and Big Fish to further delve into this and other topics.