The Portola City Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, June 12, with an agenda that prepared for the year ahead and announced the successful first steps in hiring candidate Lauren Knox as the incoming Portola city manager.
Public comment opened with Richard Johnson, who described his ongoing involvement in community-oriented activities and spoke of strong concerns about his street.
Johnson explained that he had been attempting to reach out to the city regarding the yearly flooding and destruction of Ponderosa Road, where he owns properties, and stated that his interactions with Public Works Director Todd Roberts had been less than satisfying. “The street is destroyed, and someone has blocked the end of the drainage ditch with rocks, which causes the standing water,” he stated.
Johnson closed with his strong feeling that the city needed to take more responsibility in the matter, and was hopeful for resolution.
Kevin Walsh of the Portola Improvement Coalition (PIC) addressed the council, stating how PIC had been picking up garbage in public spaces and continuing to focus on the improvement of the city, and was looking into a future cleanup date in conjunction with The Hub Community Fitness Center.
Walsh also explained that the mystery of the garbage found repeatedly in the area below the Sierra Motel had been solved. “Initially we thought the trash was due to residents of the park nearby, but it turns out that a bear is said to live in the culvert and takes bags from the dumpster behind Sierra Gas. He goes under the highway and tears open the bags and the garbage flushes down the culvert to the green area,” Walsh explained. The issue is being dealt with, according to Walsh.
Walsh also commented that he felt the recent Gravel Grinder bike race was a great success. “Those campers left the place immaculate,” Walsh smiled. “The track built by Todd’s crew near the river walk was excellent and we saw campers using it during their stay.”
Local Larry Douglas also made public comment, speaking of his hope to contribute to the revitalization of business in the area, with his continued goal of serving the community in mind.
Pat Morton reported that she had attended several ad-hoc meetings, as well as volunteered during the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder.
Councilmember Stan Peiler followed that up with his own commentary on the event, saying, “The Gravel Grinder was a great event. It was very awesome to see our town flooded with so many people.” Peiler also noted his work to stay involved with Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District.
Councilmember Bill Powers first noted that 2,000 pounds of fish had been planted, with some at the West End Park portion of the river, and the rest planted near the A23 bridge. “There’s a whole bunch of trout in the river,” he said. Powers also commented on a meeting with Caltrans in Susanville, where the meeting mainly focused on response and actions by Caltrans during the fires in Paradise and Redding.
Powers also volunteered during the race event, saying that the event was fantastic, before moving on to note that he attended the recent FireSafe council, which had low attendance.
“We also have access to a burn box, which is a large burning facility that can be trucked into town from Quincy,” Powers said. The burn box would incinerate green waste, and Powers said that further exploration in cost would be done.
Powers also chaired the Juvenile Justice Commission, touring two facilities. Juveniles under court order are housed at the facilities, and Powers added that the JCC is also more or less stewards of foster youth, and there would be future work on foster programs. Powers closed with his attendance at the recent LAFCo meeting before excusing himself to speak at another event.
Mayor Tom Cooley spoke of his recent meeting with Interim City Manager Leslie Chrysler and the Portola Improvement Coalition, stating that they are busy establishing a working relationship and exploring areas of mutual benefit.
Cooley noted his attendance at the city manager search meeting, and spoke of he and his wife’s attendance at the Gravel Grinder as volunteers. He also extended his thanks to Eastern Plumas Healthcare for their contribution by volunteering to run the pancake breakfast in the Portola City Park.
Cooley then moved on to comment on a recent meeting he attended with Eastern Plumas Healthcare CEO Todd Plimpton at North Lake Tahoe put on by Liberty Utilities. The meeting reviewed and discussed their emergency operations program, which focused heavily on the de-energization of power lines.
The public utilities commission in California has authorized and is promoting rather actively the de-energization of the lines when weather conditions of a very specific nature occur.
Liberty Utilities network is spread through a large area, and Portola is at the very north end of their service in California.
Cooley said, “Should they decide to deem a de-energization necessary, Liberty explained that re-energizing these lines is not like a winter outage where a tree fell on the line. In this case, there is no benefit of knowing if anything had gone wrong, so the line must be physically inspected in a time-consuming process that could lead to days rather than hours of power outage.”
Cooley encourages all to plan ahead with the potential for multiple days without electricity in mind and make adjustments to items such as how much fuel to keep on hand for a generator for the extended timeframe. “We are a very small part of their system,” Cooley said. “Frankly, the tiny part is not going to get the first effort to restore power.”
Cooley also said that there is ongoing effort to investigate backup electricity options for area cell phone towers, especially with emergency response relying heavily on cellular communications these days. Unfortunately, there appears to be no great consistency between cell phone providers in the types of backup for towers, according to Cooley, so the investigation continues.
Cooley spoke of the closed session Special Meeting held on June 5, a “get acquainted meeting” with the chief of Beckwourth Fire Department, as well as attending LAFCo and adopting a budget which will pay off Plumas LAFCo’s unfunded CalPERS liability.
According to Cooley, this means that the city will be paying more this year, with the expectation that the amount will be less in the following year. Cooley closed in noting his attendance at the recent Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District board meeting, and the agenda moved to staff communications.
City Clerk Melissa Klundby spoke of copy expenses related to agenda materials, explaining that she was proposing a fee of $40 annually for hard copies of all printed materials, with the option to sign up for a free digital copy via email in order to conserve paper and office supplies.
Chief Bob Frank of EPRFPD gave his report, with 21 medical calls in May, zero fires, and area firefighters gearing up for fire season with recent field training.
Frank noted the purchase of a Wildland Type 3 engine, which is the same model used by the Forest Service so it will be able to be used to reach backcountry areas. “It will be a good asset to the area,” Frank said.
Frank also commented on the department’s presence at the Gravel Grinder, stating that there had been five side-by-sides working the course, and there was only one broken wrist, a few stitches and some road rash during the race.
“The Lost and Found is a great thing, and went off without a hitch,” Frank said. “I’ve only had good reports from area businesses.”
Cooley thanked Frank, and extended thanks from the council to the department volunteers for their contribution toward the success of the event.
Interim City Manager Leslie Chrysler then went on to give her report, agreeing that the event went well. “Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is like a well-oiled machine,” Chrysler said, smiling. Chrysler also extended her thanks to all city staff that were a part of the weekend. Chrysler noted that for those looking to do more in the park, the Lost Sierra Chamber of Commerce had just notified the city of the finalization of the summer concert lineup starting July 12.
Chrysler then noted that the city had received a total of over $10,000 camping revenue, and that a field trip would be arranged to visit the Downieville Downhill race, also put on by the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, on Aug. 2 in Downieville, in order to get inspiration for future Lost and Found Gravel Grinder bike races.
Chrysler closed with mention of her participation at the June 5 meeting, which offered employment to city manager candidate Lauren Knox. The next phase will involve background checks and the like, so Chrysler anticipates retaining her position as interim city manager through August.
After approving the consent calendar, talks moved on to the Portola 192 project. The city received a request from John Hodgson for a transfer of the Development Agreement (DA) for the Portola 192 project, to Orin Bennet of Bennett West Roseville, LLC. With the consent of the city, the development would release the current developer, Portola 192, LLC, from the liabilities and obligations of the DA.
Both Hodgson and Bennett were present, and Hodgson expressed his absolute confidence in Bennett’s ability to handle the responsibilities of the project. Hodgson explained that the transfer to Bennett’s newly formed LLC would essentially buy out the former third member of the Portola 192 LLC and bring more flexibility to the project with no debt.
“I’ll still be coming before you as a representative,” Hodgson said. Council discussed the option of a conditional approval, with Cooley noting that the city needs to be assured that whoever steps into the shoes of the developer will do so with full competence.
Council ultimately decided to approve a conditional transfer of the development agreement on the condition that the current Portola 192 LLC provides the city with a fully executed copy of the purchase of sale agreement and the assignment and adjustment agreement within 30 days of June 12. Upon receipt of those documents, staff will receive direction to provide written approval of the transfer.
Asphalt bid award
In regard to the ongoing efforts to improve area roads, Portola opened bidding for asphalt May 22. City Engineer Dan Bastian recommends that the city approve the single submitted bid to Mike Hauso Engineering for $4,800 for 24 tons of hot mix asphalt. The bid includes materials, trucking and labor cost. After brief discussion, council approved the bid and moved to the next item of business.
Local hazard mitigation plan
Following up on past discussion, contract planner Karen Downs of Manhard Consulting joined the room via conference call to review the Local Hazard Mitigation draft update in preparation for submission.
The draft must be submitted to CalOES for review by June 23 and will then be sent on to FEMA for review, Downs said. Downs noted that she had met with different hazard mitigation teams, and the teams helped to focus on the specific climate change impacts on the North Sierra region that Portola is in.
Severe weather, wildfire and flooding were all identified as hazards in Portola, and are reviewed in the LHMP with mitigation measures. There are resiliency and adaptation strategies based on what the city can accomplish in the next five years, as well as in day-to-day activity, Downs pointed out. Council unanimously directed staff to submit the plan to CalOES for review.
Conflict of interest waiver
Both Councilmember Stan Peiler and City Attorney Steve Gross recused themselves from chambers as council discussed a conflict of interest waiver.
The waiver would allow for Gross to continue providing representation for both the city and Eastern Plumas Healthcare in the upcoming discussions revolving around Hospital Road and the potential for future joint maintenance between both parties.
In addition to Gross representing the city and serving as city attorney, the law offices of Porter Simon serve as general counsel for EPHC. After reviewing the noted potential conflict of interest and some discussion, council approved the waiver unanimously.
Public hearing, 2019/2020 budget
City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett presented the 2019-2020 budget to the public, stating that the goal is to have an operating budget by the end of June.
Scarlett noted changes and adjustments made to the budget, which included cash balance updates May 31. Scarlett said that the landfill closure loan was still on the budget, but getting paid down rapidly.
She noted that she had moved the council approved add-ons into the budget, which included the $10,000 spent on the Sierra Butte’s City Park Party, $6,000 for Concerts in the Park, $2,826 in ordinance updates and codification, and $40,000 for the General Plan update.
After further budgetary discussion, and with no public comment on the budget as proposed, the public hearing was closed, and Scarlett stated that she would be bringing forward multiple resolutions at the next meeting as the process moved forward.
Administrative permit fee schedule
The council discussed a proposed fee schedule for administrative permits put forward by Chrysler, and Chrysler explained that recently she noted that administrative permits required are not currently associated with any fees.
“Staff time goes into the preparation of administrative permits,” Chrysler said. “The city has not established fees for any of the administrative permits required by the municipal code.”
A spreadsheet listed items requiring permitting, as well as proposed fees associated with each item. On the list are short-term rentals, RV as a temporary residence, weekend fund raising events, and increasing the height of a fence or wall. Each of those items has a $40 fee associated with it in the proposal, and other items such as open-air vending or vending facility are suggested at $140.
Morton noted that she would like to revisit the code to create an exemption of required fees for those who are living in an RV as a temporary residence in a care providing role, adding that she was aware that there were quite a few of those situations.
Council also discussed the question of whether there should be an exemption for a student with a 4-H animal and agreed that it was something to consider, but hadn’t come before the council in recent memory. A motion was made to adopt the fee schedule and amend the code relating to RVs in a future discussion, passing unanimously.
The City Council welcomes all to regularly held meetings on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at 6 p.m. Interest and participation is encouraged and welcomed. For more information, call 832-6803 or visit cityofportola.com.