By Lauren Westmoreland
Portola residents can look forward to disc golf and summer concerts thanks to decisions made by the Portola City Council on April 14.
The evening meeting began with remarks from resident Leah Turner during public comment opportunity.
Turner spoke as a Portola resident rather than as a member of Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District (EPRFPD) and said, “In 2020 the city was in negotiations for the fire contract for their services with Eastern Plumas fire department. During the negotiations, the fire department asked for an increase in money for services.”
Turner said that during that time, Portola’s ad-hoc fire committee sent out inquiries to the Beckwourth Fire department regarding what services — such as fire and medical — could be provided to the city. Turner said that she met with the ad-hoc committee and voiced her concerns that changing to Beckwourth could negatively impact patient care and response times.
“I was assured that the council would ensure that the quality and care would not suffer,” Turner stated. “I asked at that time what the reasoning was to change departments when Eastern Plumas was giving good service to the city, and I was told that the negotiations had been difficult and that the city wanted better response times, more training, and better professionalism.”
Turner added that during one council meeting, she had raised concerns regarding Beckwourth Fire department’s response time to medical calls, in addition to concerns over which medical calls Beckwourth would respond to.
Turner stated that on Feb. 1, day one of Beckwourth Fire’s contract with city, there was a medical call on the main street of Portola.
“The ambulance was on scene within two minutes, yet as I listened to the call on the scanner, no one from the Portola division arrived for eight minutes after the page,” Turner said.
Since that time, Turner has found in her own tracking that most medical calls have a response time of eight to 10 minutes. She also noted the lengthy wait times for recent medical lift-assist requests in recent weeks and expounded further her frustration with the situation.
“The citizens and ambulance crews deserve better. My question is, where are all of the Portola division members, and why aren’t they responding to medical calls, especially in the night and on weekends?” Turner asked.
Turner asked the council to closely reconsider the services that they had engaged, with the hopes that citizens can feel more confident in coverage moving forward.
Council member Stan Peiler reported that he attended a recent brown bag meeting and was working to address two public complaints about excessive RVs and cars in the city.
Council member Phil Oels reported that he had attended a Transportation Committee meeting with Mayor Bill Powers and mailed out a grant application, in addition to a successful meeting regarding disc golf.
Council member Tom Cooley attended several meetings of the fire study group, in addition to several other committee meetings.
Mayor Pro Tem Pat Morton attended a disc golf meeting, and Mayor Bill Powers attended a meeting of the Division of Juvenile Justice, Delinquent Division, and noted that three youths had been placed outside of the county in recent weeks.
Powers noted that Butte County is not currently taking youths and that Plumas will be instead utilizing Tehama County.
Powers also reported that in coordination with Oels’ efforts, he had been working with Plumas Fire Safe Council, Intermountain Disposal, the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, or NSAQMD, and others to address ongoing hazardous fuels reduction and green waste removal and to create safe evacuation routes for Portola.
Powers touched on his involvement with Plumas County LAFCo and the Transportation Commission, and shared news of the SR-70 project and the potential of a new bus for the area. He said the recent Lost Sierra Chamber of Commerce reorganization meeting had gone well and it increased his optimism for a renewed energy in promoting the businesses in the area.
Beckwourth Fire Department representative Gay Miller reported that Chief Bret Russell had officially become certified as an arson investigator. “That’s huge,” Miller said. “He has an arson event planned in the future.”
Melissa Klundby of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) reported that a mailer advertising the green waste program had been sent out with the city bill, and all vouchers had been distributed. Anyone interested in more information about green waste disposal should contact either Intermountain Disposal or the NSAQMD.
City Manager Lauren Knox reported that the city concluded its brown bag meetings for city general plan elements and that the next steps would be working on changes to the draft before it goes back before the Community Development Commission for review and hopefully make a recommendation to the council.
It was reported that the baseball fields had been prepared for Little League and other uses, in addition to fuel reduction in the area, and Knox encouraged all to view the work to see how the city could create more defensible space.
“Public works will be working on the pool relatively soon,” Knox announced. She also noted that high on the list of next priorities were pothole and street repair, including painting the crosswalks.
Knox said that she and City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett attended a webinar with the U.S. Department of Treasury and CalCities about implementation of the American Rescue plan. “In this particular plan, the city is estimated to be allocated around $350,000, but the details on how these funds will be allocated are still unclear,” Knox said.
Knox attended a SKOR board meeting, and the city assisted at a vaccine clinic March 31. She also noted her continued weekly interactions with NSAQMD, along with recent talks with a Fire Safe council representative.
Council members approved all items on the consent calendar and opened public comment for the 2021/2022 budget preparation. With no public input, Scarlett commented that there would be another opportunity for the community to participate in budget preparation discussions at a workshop scheduled on Wednesday, May 1,9 at 3 p.m.
Disc golf decisions
Knox provided brief background information, stating that during the Jan. 27 city council meeting, council members discussed a proposal by Tim Rhode regarding a disc golf course near the Riverwalk.
Council created a disc golf ad hoc committee to help guide the conversation, made up of Mayor Pro Tem Pat Morton and Councilmember Phil Oels.
The disc golf ad hoc committee met on four occasions to review and discuss potential obstacles and questions relating to the proposal.
Several topics were discussed including the level of baskets and tee pads, area flooding, snow and ice impacts on disc golf equipment, potential interference with camping for future Lost and Found Gravel Grinder events, usage of the Riverwalk, the possibility of an 18-hole course without the acquisition of additional property, and more.
“As discussed at the Jan. 27 meeting, based on the cost summary the potential costs to the city would be around $13,000 to $15,000 for baskets, tee pads, and signage,” Knox noted. “Mr. Rhode, who is currently running the Portola Disc Golf Club, is interested in contributing to the services of Houck Design. Additionally, Houck Design is willing to discount their standard cost of service to make this happen, if desired by council.”
City staff would construct the tee pads and baskets, and provide the initial clearing and ongoing maintenance of the fairways.
The request would also finance staff time to ensure adequate accounting is in place for donations received, and potential staff time to review special event permits, among other staff resource expenses.
“If approved, the next steps would be for Tim Rhode and disc golf club to work with Houck Design on designing the course, and then would come back before council for final approval before construction,” Knox explained. She then turned the discussion over to Tim Rhode, who thanked all for taking time to look at the project.
“I think we can all agree that clean, outdoor recreation is something that is great in a number of ways for us,” Rhode said. “First of all, it’s going to bring new people to the city, it’s a wonderful thing for the citizens to get out and play- it’ll be wonderful to look up at this three, five years from now as the popularity of the sport nationally and the use of this course grow.”
Rhode went on to express that the course would be “just one more feather in our cap” and that he was looking forward to working with the city moving forward if approved.
In an overview of what is envisioned if the course moved forward, Rhode gave a timeline, saying, “Here we are in April, and if approved, I’m getting with John Houck to bring him to town for a preliminary design. We would likely come back before council in June with an update, hoping to have the final design by July.”
The plan would be for Houck to visit the area a few more times in the interim, with potential installation in August. “I have a grand vision of a grand opening and a tournament in late September of this year,” Rhode added. “I’m hoping that we will also have up to 20 local sponsors, but this year is getting things in place and raising awareness to players around the state.”
Peiler expressed excitement for the project and asked about potential winter flood zone location mitigation and security measures to deal with issues such as vandalism. Rhode noted that other clubs are surprised at how much people have respected courts across California and Nevada thus far and added that winter weather would essentially put the course into a hibernation mode.
“We’ll see how it goes through the first winter,” Rhode said. Knox added that the topic had been addressed and that all equipment could be pulled out of the ground if needed. “In terms of vandalization, we do unfortunately have some concerns, but it is something that we should think about,” Knox said.
The concept of honor-system donations was touched on, and Rhode emphasized that he wanted this to be the first of many things to create “a cool vibe” for the city.
The council voted unanimously to approve the project.
Mayor Bill Powers provided an update on summer events including the annual summer Concerts in the Park series. “I’m thinking this year we could do this without a bar or food and keeping it socially distanced,” Powers said. “We tend to be in family groups already in terms of social distancing.”
Powers noted that there was money reserved in the budget for entertainment, and that he would like the Lost Sierra Chamber of Commerce to be involved but the city could do it alone own if necessary.
Council members discussed the options available for bands and DJs to play during the summer concert series, and Oels noted that they should do as much as possible with the guidance of Plumas County Public Health. “I think we can make this happen,” Powers said enthusiastically. A unanimous roll call vote determined that the city would move forward in plans for the summer.
Community Development Block Grant funding updates
Knox discussed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law March 27, 2020. This act has provided federal funds to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Relief (CDBG-CV) Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).
Knox explained, “The City of Portola has an allocation of $285,985 that has not yet been requested. CDBG is often difficult for the city and many other jurisdictions to acquire and administer due to the amount of staff resources that this program typically requires.”
The CDBG-CV 2 and 3 funds can only be used for assistance to businesses and microenterprises impacted by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and shutdown, public services related to COVID-19 support, facility and infrastructure improvements related to COVID-19 impacts, and the acquisition and rehabilitation of real property, including housing, to be used in response to COVID-19 impacts.
The city approached a consulting firm for guidance and learned that a more singular project may still be feasible with the resources available. The consultant provided ideas of other options that have fit into this funding category, including items such as supporting fire departments with additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to aid in response; fire station building upgrades for adequate air flow; assisting other service providers who have been impacted by COVID restrictions, including daycares that have had to reduce their class size, or need additional room for spacing requirements and the like.
It was acknowledged that city staff would experience undue pressure from time constraints in order to pursue the grant funding, and council unanimously voted to direct staff to draft a letter to the Department of Housing and Community Development to express thanks for the offer and an explanation of the limitations of the timeframe for the city at this time.
At that, the meeting was adjourned.
The City Council welcomes all to its meetings which are regularly held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. Community interest and participation is encouraged and welcome.
The City of Portola City Council meetings are accessible to the public via live streaming at https://zoom.us/j/3583067836 or by phone at 1.669.900.6833; Meeting ID: 358 306 7836.