City council renders decisions on Halloween, liens, fees, appeal hearings and more

By Debra Moore

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The Portola City Council considered a full agenda Oct. 14 — ranging from a Halloween event and the holiday meeting calendar to liens for bad debt and a hazard mitigation plan. City Manager Lauren Knox weighed in on some of the topics during an interview the morning after the meeting.

Halloween drive-thru approved at fire station

The city council unanimously approved a request from the Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District to host a drive-thru Halloween event at the Northside Fire Station. Fire district personnel said that proper protections for coronavirus would be in place to ensure the safety of visitors and of fire personnel.

Knox said that though this is a fire district event, the city owns the fire station located at 420 North Gulling St., so the district wanted authorization to hold the event. Trick-or-treaters will be welcome from 6 – 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.

Meeting schedule

Looking ahead, the council’s first meeting in November would fall on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11. It was decided that the meeting would be moved to Thursday, Nov. 12.

Historically, the second meetings in November and December have been cancelled due to conflicts with holiday schedules. The council voted to hold regular meetings on Thursday, Nov.12, and Wednesday, Dec. 9, while the meetings of Nov. 25 and Dec. 23 would be cancelled.

New startup fee for disposal company

Intermountain Disposal, the company that serves Portola, asked the city for permission to charge a new service startup fee (there isn’t one now), although a reinstatement fee does exist. The current reinstatement fee is $7.06, and Intermountain Disposal is asking for the same amount be used for the new startup service fee.

The increase is subject to the Proposition 218 process, which means customers could derail the new fee if 50 percent object. The city’s infrastructure committee recommended that the Council approve the fee, which it did.

Hazard mitigation plan

Plumas County is in the process of adopting a hazard mitigation plan and the city adopted its own plan Wednesday evening. The purpose of the plan is to help protect residents from the effects of wildland fires, floods and other natural disasters. A hard copy of the plan is available for review at City Hall and on the City’s website.

Liens

The city adopted a new policy that allows a lien to be placed on a property for unpaid utility bills. “It’s opened up a door,” Knox said of the ability for the city to receive payment, even if that doesn’t happen until a property is sold.

The city had already taken a step to ensure that bills were paid, by requiring that they be in the name of the property owner rather than the tenant. Even so the city had challenges collecting what was due. At this time, there is a total of $34,280.82 in bad debt that needs to be written off, which is broken down in the following manner: water fund $17,686.52; sewer fund $15,662.58; and solid waste $931.72

Appeal procedures

The city council also adopted procedures for hearing an appeal in advance of an appeal hearing scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. The hearing will be conducted via zoom and is regarding the decision to approve the installation of a 5G tower within the city near the hospital.

The city is currently operating without a planning commission and Knox issued the decision on the tower acting in its place. Three appeals have been filed and those will be heard by the city council; however, two of the five council members have recused themselves.

Knox explained that Councilman Phil Oels lives within 1,000 feet of the proposed tower site, and according to the Fair Political Practices Commission, can’t make a decision on the tower if he can’t prove that it won’t impact his property values. And Stan Peiler recused himself because he is an employee of Eastern Plumas Health Care, and that entity has also been involved with tower discussions.

That leaves the three remaining council members: Tom Cooley, Bill Powers and Pat Morton to conduct the hearing and render a decision.

Following are the steps approved by the city council for the appeal hearing:

  1. Staff Presentation: City staff will make a presentation summarizing the application, public hearings, decision of the Hearing Officer and the three appeals.
  2. Presentation of Appeal: Each Appellant will be given 10 minutes to present its appeal. The order of the Appellants will be the order in which their appeal was received by the City. Each Appellant may have as many speakers as it likes; however, the total time for the presentation shall not exceed 10 minutes.*
  3. Questions and Answers: Questions by Council members to each Appellant after its presentation and answers to questions asked.
  4. Applicant Presentation: The Applicant will be given 15 minutes to make a presentation.
  5. Questions and Answers: Questions by Council members to the Applicant and answers to questions asked.
  6. Appellant Rebuttal. Each Appellant will be given 5 minutes to present a rebuttal argument in the order in which their appeal was received by the City.
  7. Questions and Answers: Questions by the Council members to the Appellants after each rebuttal and answers to questions asked.
  8. Applicant Rebuttal: The Applicant will be given 10 minutes to present a rebuttal argument.
  9. Questions and Answers: Questions by the Council members to the Applicant and answers to questions asked.
  10. Public Comment: Each member of the public who has not spoken as an Appellant or Applicant will be given 5 minutes to provide comment.
  11. Deliberation and Decision: The Council will deliberate and make a decision.

* Neither the Appellants, Applicant nor members of the public may grant or receive unused speaking time from any other Appellant, Applicant or members of the public at any time during the appeal hearing.

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