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With a New Year ahead, the Portola City Council looks forward to growth in the community. From left, Council member Phil Oels, Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley, Mayor Pat Morton, Councilmember Bill Powers, and Councilmember Debra Reynolds. Photos by Lauren Westmoreland

City council looks to Portola’s future with optimism

A Proclamation of Appreciation is made to the Beckwourth Fire Protection District, with hugs all around. From left, George Bundy and Denisce Downs of BFPD, and Mayor Pat Morton.

All council members attended the Portola City Council meeting Jan. 10, prepared to choose leaders for 2018.

Typically, the council votes to appoint the mayor and mayor pro-tem to serve one-year terms beginning in December of each year.

Due to Mayor John Larrieu’s passing in office, Mayor Pat Morton assumed her position during the 2017 council year. Staff recommended that the “normal” rotation schedule be maintained, meaning that Mayor Morton and Pro Tem Mayor Tom Cooley should remain in their positions for the 2018 council year.

After brief discussion, and a joke from Council member Phil Oels that “Mayor Morton had not been Mayor long enough yet,” Council member Bill Powers made a motion to retain the “normal” rotation schedule, with all in favor.


Council members gave their regular reports, with Oels noting an ad-hoc meeting with Big Fish Creations, ensuring that “everyone was on the same page.”

Cooley announced his attendance at several finance and administration meetings, and one ad-hoc fire department committee meeting.

Council member Bill Powers said, “I am really just struck by three irreplaceable members of the community that have passed in 2017 — Ray Donnenwirth, our local historian; John Larrieu, our previous Mayor; and Ken Roller, our defacto “Railroad Artist;” and they will be sorely missed for years to come.”

Morton attended “many, many meetings” with the ad-hoc fire department committee and said, “I think that we are making progress, and getting problems solved with the fire department.”

State of the city

City Manager Robert Meacher presented a “State of the City Report.”

“What’s good for the city is good for the region, and what’s good for the region is good for the city,” Meacher said. “In 2017, the city made considerable gains with relationship building, securing resources vital to the operation of the city, and driving economic development goals to the betterment of our community.

“Portola is positioned to benefit from regional challenges. Areas such as Reno and Truckee are struggling with hyper-speed growth, lack of infrastructure, housing, and most importantly, quality of life.”

Meacher noted some of the milestones reached in the past year, “In 2014, nine CDBG sewer infrastructure projects were funded statewide, with the city of Portola coming in 10th for direct assistance and construction. In 2017, we repurposed the application and are running it through Prop. 1. After starting work on the CDBG sewer lines, we were able to add water lines so the whole system could be rehabilitated. This process is well underway, and may include other water and/or sewer upgrades.”

Mayor Morton signs the Proclamation of Appreciation for the Beckwourth Fire Protection District with the assistance of City Manager Robert Meacher.

Meacher also noted that in 2017, the city expanded its reach with the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder race bringing camping, food and entertainment into the city, as well as introducing the developers of the Portola 192 Project to the Cap & Trade Grant funding process, which has changed the direction of the project.

Meacher reviewed the mural committees’ formation in Old Town, stating that the goal is to make Commercial Street a place to drive to, not drive through.

He also commented on Portola’s contributions toward the efforts of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship in expanding recreational activities from within the city to Beckwourth Peak, and announced a new potential venture.

“We have sparked the interest of world renowned championship disc golf course designer John Houck of Houck Design, to possibly create three championship courses within city limits,” Meacher enthused. “Frisbee disc golf is one of the fastest growing outdoor sporting venues in the developed world, and it is also the least expensive to design and build. We are working with Houck Design on potential courses that would draw national attention to Portola.”

Meacher also covered outreach and public relations efforts in conjunction with Big Fish Creations toward re-branding the city with “Discover Portola.”

Meacher discussed strengthening the relationship between the city and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, with the city endorsing the vision of the Feather River Rail Society to positively impact the local economy.

Other highlights of 2017: The successful implementation of the multi-million dollar wood-stove change-out program, the working relationship with the Alliance for Workforce Development, and the fact that city council and staff remain dedicated to the success and reorganization of the Portola Fire Department. Meacher announced, “We expect delivery of a fully grant-paid new wildland fire truck in the spring of this year!”

Meacher concluded, “I firmly believe and remain optimistic that Portola is on the rise, and that the foundation we built in previous years and continued into 2017 will prosper on into 2018 and beyond. The opportunities that we have before us will further our economic development goals and help us build strong relationships.

“With respect to this direction, I would like to thank a very hard working staff and council members for their collective vision in moving the city forward. May we continue to strive towards great heights and accomplishments for years to come.”

Proclamation, Portola 192, and Ord. 347

The City Council gave a proclamation of appreciation to the Beckwourth Fire Protection District for all that the department has done in service to the area, no matter the day or time. George Bundy and Denisce Downs accepted the proclamation on behalf of the department.

Council then moved on to discuss Resolution 2337, in relation to the Portola 192 Project — also known as the Portola Gateway project — a proposed 72-unit apartment complex near A-15.

The city is working with the Hodgkin’s Group, staff, consultants and the state to finalize the joint application to the Department of Housing and Community Development under the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program.

The application will support the housing project as well as numerous transportation related improvements throughout Portola and the region, including expansion of the local transit system, construction of over six to eight blocks of walkways, and approximately 2 miles of bike route signage throughout the city. Funds would also be available to expand city infrastructure, including water and sewer improvements.

The grant would be paid completely by the state, with the developer receiving tax credits and other incentives. After some discussion, and notation that this step of the project would be similar to “an engagement, not the marriage,” a roll call vote approved the resolution.

Council members then discussed Ordinance 347, which amends Chapter 15 of the Portola Municipal Code, in order to adopt the 2016 California building standards code and remove references to outdated code sections.

Changes made include such items as commercial kitchens, fire protection of floors, smoke alarm placement, electric vehicle charging and building energy efficiency. The Energy Code and Green Building Standards have been amended by the state to be more demanding, and will increase the cost to construct buildings that are compliant with the minimum code requirements.

After a roll call vote, council adopted the ordinance, moving to the final order of business — committee organization.

With regard to the committees that deal with such items as finance and administration, infrastructure and more, staff recommended that the committees remain consistent to maintain continuity on current issues and projects. The one change suggested would be the addition of City Clerk Melissa Klundby to the SCORE committee as an alternate, in place of Finance Officer Susan Scarlett.

Council agreed that maintaining continuity was indeed a matter of importance, and all voted in favor of the motion to adopt the committees with no changes aside from the SCORE committee. With that, the meeting closed.

For more information, contact City Hall at 832-6803 or visit cityofportola.com. City council meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at 6 p.m. and local interest and participation is welcomed.

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