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The Portola City Council discussed finances, a new city manager and excessive negative public comments during its Nov. 14 special meeting.
City finance officer, Susan Scarlett, presented a summary of city finances through Oct. 31.
“We’re pretty much where we expected to be,” she said. “The city, in my mind, is very healthy.”
Scarlett walked the council through the state of the general fund, the special revenue fund and the enterprise funds.
She also refuted claims that the city is near bankruptcy. Scarlett said if the council continues to balance the budget as it has been, Portola would continue to thrive financially without any threat of bankruptcy.
During this agenda item, a public commenter asked if the city attorney’s pay was coming out of the enterprise funds, which are also the water and sewer funds. Scarlett said that 75 percent of his time comes out of the general fund.
City attorney Steve Gross then addressed a negative letter to the editor that was published in Feather Publishing newspapers. The letter writer claimed Gross made $1,250 per hour.
“I do get paid by the hour … $200 an hour. Of the other cities that were compared (in the letter), that puts me right in the middle of the pack,” he said.
He also explained his fee includes unlimited legal advice. He said any member of the city staff or council can call him with questions. Mayor John Larrieu praised Gross for his work with the city.
“As a member of the council for many years it takes an awful lot of pressure off to be able to call with any questions,” he said. “I’m very pleased and I think the city should be pleased (with Gross).”
Larrieu also praised Scarlett, who has also received negative feedback from members of the public.
“We’re lucky to have someone of this caliber helping us here,” he said. “She’s very conservative and she makes the rest of us conservative, which I think is a good thing. I wish the people of the city could see that we are very fortunate to have her.”
The whole City Council then gave Scarlett a standing ovation.
City manager job
The council spent a large portion of the meeting strategizing the best way to find a new city manager.
At a special meeting Nov. 4, the council decided the job description and brochure written for the hiring of the previous city manager would stay the same. They also decided the salary would stay the same, but this idea was met with some discussion.
Former City Manager Jim Murphy was a frequent voice during the public comment portion of the meeting.
He said the $75,000 to $95,000 yearly salary the city was offering the new city manager was not competitive enough.
Council Member Michelle Gault agreed with him, saying she noticed many applicants from last year’s job opening would have taken a pay cut to do the job.
Murphy also said potential applicants look at the public resources to test out the tone of the town. However, he said with all of the letters to the editor and negative comments on Plumasnews.com there is a bad image of the city in the public eye.
“There is so much negativity out in the newspapers. We’re really just hurting ourselves,” Gault said in agreement.
The council discussed ways to advertise the job, and to find a search service that could help recruit a new manager. Last year the city spent $10,000 on a recruiter.
“I’d be willing to help at no cost,” said Murphy. “I love this city. I’d be willing to walk you through the process.”
The council accepted Murphy’s offer to help, and Larrieu appointed Gault and Mayor Pro Tem Phil Oels to re-examine the brochure and discuss advertising options within the next week.
Larrieu also recommended that any comments or suggestions the community might have concerning the brochure be submitted to Gault and Oels before Nov. 26.
Gault’s and Oels’ recommendations will be addressed at the special meeting already scheduled for Dec. 4. The council said it will begin advertising the position when the description and brochure are finalized.
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