The Portola City Council held a regular meeting Dec. 13 that mainly focused on the deficiencies of the Portola Volunteer Fire Department.
Since the Oct. 11 city council meeting, the PVFD ad-hoc committee — Mayor Pat Morton and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley — began work to address concerns raised about PVFD, which were brought to the city by NorCal-EMS, the District Commander of the CHP and the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office.
During the course of its investigations, the committee acted to temporarily suspend the department from responding to medical calls. The city then entered into a short-term agreement with Beckwourth Fire District and the Graeagle Fire Protection District for medical response within city limits. The committee then ultimately recommended that the city contract with Eastern Plumas Fire Protection District for these services, due to cost and proximity.
Over the course of the investigation of alleged deficiencies in PVFD regarding medical calls, city staff and the ad-hoc committee determined that the department also has significant deficiencies in record keeping and training, which could expose the city to liability.
With PVFD in need of restructuring, the ad-hoc committee ultimately decided to put PVFD on administrative stand-down for 60 days, meaning that PVFD will not answer fire or medical calls. In the interim, the ad-hoc committee has been meeting with EPRFD to discuss entering into a 60-day memorandum of understanding, for both medical and fire response services within Portola city limits.
The ad-hoc committee and staff have also been meeting with PVFD Chief Kurt Duff and newly assigned Assistant Chief Mike Ferrell, to begin the process of restructuring the department.
The goals of the ad-hoc committee include establishing policies and procedures for PVFD, inventory lists, cleanup and rehabilitation of the fire halls, restructured training protocols and processes for ensuring that members are adequately trained and certified for the calls to which they respond, as well as the preparation of necessary incident reports.
Meeting attendees spoke of their support for ensuring that the members of PVFD are properly trained and certified, and noted that there are “many talented people in PVFD, and now, we just need to get the department back to where it was.”
Many commented on the apparent lack of leadership within the department, and others projected a positive outlook, stating that PVFD is determined to rise above the current situation and make Portola proud. Others made clear the gratitude they have for the efforts being made to rectify matters within PVFD, looking forward to a better department in days to come.
Councilmember Phil Oels reported on the meetings he attended recently, covering topics such as local transportation, direction for Big Fish Creations and a hike into the Portola 192 project area to evaluate potential fuel reduction possibilities.
Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley then reviewed his latest activities pertaining to the City, with work on the ad-hoc fire committee, partnership with Oels in looking into FireSafe work and fuel reductions, in addition to utilizing mapping tools via Google earth on the Portola 192 project property. Cooley also mentioned recent attendance at LAFCO meetings, as well as his participation during the recent Portola Tree Lighting and Christmas Parade.
Councilmember Debbie Reynolds noted her participation in the recent city Christmas festivities, along with the rest of the Council members.
Councilmember Bill Powers noted his participation in recent transportation meetings, LAFCo, and mentioned the ongoing bus transport services provided in Plumas County for those wishing to reach Reno, with ridership up and a $10 round trip charge for a ticket.
Mayor Pat Morton then explained that she had been engaged in many, many meetings of the ad-hoc fire committee, focusing on the PVFD.
Morton also attended LAFCo meetings, in addition to joining in with festivities during the parade, and stated that her current project involved preparing for the Eastern Plumas Angel Tree program.
City Manager Robert Meacher gave his report, stating that he had “been quite busy,” and that after many planning sessions, the Portola water and sewer upgrade project was becoming a reality, with the project meeting all criteria for full state funding.
A teleconferenced presentation from John Hodgson of The Hodgson Company spoke about the proposed “Portola Gateway” multi-family apartment project, part of the ongoing efforts to kick start the Portola 192 Project at the west end of the city, along Hwy. A-15.
“The proposal is to build a 72 unit, multi family apartment complex with a variety of one-, two- and three-bedroom units,” Hodgson noted. “This project is in preliminary design and will be presented to the city council at a later date for design review approval.” The estimated cost of construction would be $17 million, according to Hodgson.
Hodgson spoke of the potential for positive economic impact resulting from the project, known as the “economic multiplier” effect.
Hodgson then moved on to explain that at this point, “We are all very excited!” Hodgson noted that the next step in the community would be to garner civic support and involvement.
Members of council spoke briefly, with comments reflecting the councils’ pleasure at the potential for forward movement on the project, and offer to provide assistance in any way possible.
Other council business
The council moved to the next item on the agenda, the renewal of the contract that the City holds with Manhard Consulting. The only changes made in the contract are an increase in the hourly rate, from $90 to $100 per hour. Standard consulting rates for services with Manhard Consulting are at $130 per hour.
Services provided to the city are by Karen Downs, the previous city planner in Portola, and staff consults with Downs an average of five hours per month on a variety of planning related issues. After brief discussion, council moved to renew the contract unanimously.
The council then addressed the update to the city’s housing element, which, according to Downs, needs to be updated per state law. The housing element is one of seven state mandated elements of the general plan, and includes goals, policies and programs addressing existing and future housing conditions and needs in Portola.
The proposed housing element update does not include any land use, programmatic or strategic direction changes. It only changes the housing element by updating tables and text with current demographic information and updates the implementation status, according to Downs.
Meacher noted that the update would have no bearing on the Schomack group, and that the update would be pushed specifically to the Portola 192 project. Downs noted that the biggest issue at this time would be to engage the community on the topic, with Cooley asking how that might occur.
Downs suggested such strategies as targeted mailers, and stated that now is a good time to start getting public participation and interest. Meacher interjected that the state really wants the support of the community as well.
“The housing element ensures that the city has sites available for all income levels,” Downs explained. “We’re not required to meet any growth patterns. We just need to be able to have sites available if needed, not necessarily built yet.”
Council provided direction to begin targeted outreach, with future meetings on the subject yet to come.
The council concluded the meeting with an introduction and waiver of the second reading of Ordinance 347, amending chapter 15 of the Portola Municipal Code to adopt the 2016 California building standards and remove references to outdated code sections. With a role call vote, council approved the waiver, and brought the meeting to a close.
For more information, contact City Hall at 832-6803 or visit cityofportola.com.