City discusses fire, potential future water curtailment for Portola

The Portola City Council met for a regularly scheduled meeting on the evening of Wednesday, August 25. In opening council member comments, Councilmember Phil Oels reported his attendance at a transportation meeting, a Firesafe meeting in Quincy, and had continued to work on clearing trees and brush down near the Portola Riverwalk at the future disc golf course.

Councilmember Tom Cooley noted that he had been busy with the fire reorganization study group, and that at this time, wildfire activity is “delaying their process.” Cooley also noted attendance at an ad-hoc fire department meeting, which Mayor Pro Tem Pat Morton had also attended.

Mayor Bill Powers reported that he had been engaged in researching several issues, such as the need for a local day care, as well as staying busy with Firewise activities. “I’ve been cutting down every small pine tree I can find,” Powers said. He also spoke about the ongoing Dixie Fire. “That monster that is the Dixie Fire is above and beyond normal…the one tool used most effectively by most wildland firefighters is fire,” Powers said.

“When a fire this size has five to six different heads and there are multiple wind direction changes, a lack of manpower, and dry fuels- all they can do is try their hardest, which they are doing.” Powers added that he had also found out that there is a team of UC Davis veterinarians housed locally at Plumas Pines, here to take care of animals found alive in the aftermath of the blaze as it passes through Plumas County.

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Beckwourth Fire report
A brief update was given from Beckwourth Fire Department, with the department staying very busy with local calls in addition to engines attached to the Dixie Fire. Units from Beckwourth Fire have been on assignment on the fires throughout the area this summer, since the beginning of the Sugar Fire.

Air quality district update
Melissa Klundby of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) reported that there is now a brand-new blog on www.myairdistrict.com  for the Greater Portola community. “We also have started a Facebook page, which has a link to a short survey that we would love to have people fill out!” Klundby said. There are also free chimney sweep vouchers still available to those in the Greater Portola area with an EPA certified wood stove. More information can also be obtained by calling 832-0102.

City manager report
City Manager Lauren Knox then gave her report, stating that she has been in conversation with NSAQMD regarding the potential purchase of a chipper. “Basically, a chipper would be used to take woody green waste material, like limbs and branches and turn them into chips,” Knox explained. “In past years, this type of material could have been burned, however, burning impacts air quality, and also, we all know fire is a massive concern and danger and are trying to reduce that risk on all fronts.”

Knox also touched on conversations ongoing with Grizzly Lake Community Services District, or GLCSD, regarding a water planning project that they received a State Revolving Loan for. “Essentially, they are asking us to review an intertie to our water system as a potential. In order to review the potentials, we are asking for a reimbursement agreement to be in place, so that we are not expending city rate payer funds on a GLCSD project,” Knox explained.

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On the topic of water, Knox noted that there have been more communications from the State level regarding the growing likelihood of water curtailment for Portola. “Be aware that at any point they may require mandatory curtailment for all three of our springs,” Knox said. “We are keeping our finger on that pulse.”

When it comes to fire evacuees, the city has not yet been inundated to a large degree in the parks and ballfields designated for evacuees. “The new website for the City of Portola is up and running!” Knox commented. “Also, the pool is remaining open until Labor Day, partly so we can make up some of the swim class signups that couldn’t be held due to air quality.” The council went on to approve the consent calendar by roll call vote before moving on to the two orders of business on the agenda.

Fire Service Assessment
In an annual resolution originally initiated in 1984, the resolution made its way once more to city council as Resolution No. 2481, authorizing Plumas County to place the fire service assessment on the tax roll.

City Clerk Tara Kindall said, “Annually, the City of Portola is requested to enroll the City direct charges, or Special Assessments on the county 2021/22 property tax bills. In the case of the City of Portola, this tax is for the fire tax assessment, for fire services.” Leah Turner wrote an email to the city to be read during public comment, asking questions of the item such as what the assessment entails.

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Local Ashlee Sims also requested further information on what the tax would be used for, and Kindall reiterated the history of the tax for property owners, with a clarification made that the tax is used for specific purposes of maintaining the fire house and related facilities.

In order to request the county to assess the fire tax on the tax bill, the Portola City Council must adopt a resolution of request, which would warrant the legality of said charges and defends and indemnifies the county from any legal challenges. With a roll call vote, all members passed the resolution.

Intermountain Disposal Franchise Agreement Amendment
“This amendment is at the request of Tom Valentino, our Solid Waste Consultant, which is limited in scope to Section 5.3 of the agreement,” Knox explained. The amendment will allow the usage of August, rather than September, Consumer Price Index (CPI) data to calculate the annual rate increase associated with IMD rate increases, often reviewed and discussed prior to the start of the new year.

“The amendment is being requested, as we often run up against time constraints when calculating the figures to provide proper proposition 218 noticing,” Knox added. “As discussed in the past, there are other changes to the franchise agreement and the solid waste ordinance that need to be made, however, they are still under review. The rate increase discussion and calculations will begin soon, so it is a time sensitive matter.” With no public comment, the amendment was approved by unanimous roll call vote and the meeting adjourned.

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