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City of Portola to continue remote meetings and bring back abandoned vehicle abatement program

On the evening of Wednesday, August 24 the City of Portola City Council met for a regularly scheduled meeting. After the pledge of allegiance and with all present, the meeting moved into public comment.

Public comment

Resident Josh Hart spoke on behalf of Feather River Action! on the topic of public records requests, and that they were a requirement to the public. “If a member of the public wishes to know how their money is being spent, or the specific policies that impact their lives, they can submit a request for any records held by a local agency,” Hart said.

Hart went on to express that the group regularly requested records from a variety of agencies, with “only the City of Portola raising any issue.”

Hart stated that “he felt Kennedy was against himself” and Feather River Action. “What is an acceptable number of records requests?” Hart asked. “If we are submitting many requests of Portola, it is simply because Portola is the first incorporated city along the Feather River, and whatever happens here affects not only Portola and Plumas County but the residents of Oroville and all those statewide who depend on the Feather River for irrigation of crops and drinking. We have a right to know how our tax dollars are impacting regional and statewide water quality.”

Resident Ashlee Sims then commented, asking why public records requests were “being ignored currently.” Sims stated that “intimidation and bullying tactics would not work with her” and that “records requests were a right of the public.”

Sims also accused another area resident, Antoinette Quesenberry, of attending meetings specifically to attack Sims and others in meetings as a “friend to Jon Kennedy.”

Local Antoinette Quesenberry then commented that it was not a crime to be someone’s neighbor or friend, and that she was a long-time resident that was recognizing “abuse of the system.”

A woman named Crystal Baltzell commented that she was the secretary for the Portola Swim Team and thanked council and the city for allowing the use of the pool for the “over 22 participants for this year alone, which has been a great resource for the community.”

Council reports

Councilmember Phil Oels reported that he had attended multiple meetings, including a meeting of Firewise, a Transportation Commission meeting, and had been able to attend the Portola Summer Concert in the park.

Councilmember Bill Powers also attended the Transportation Commission meeting. “I want to give thanks again to Tom Cooley, this time for filling in for me while I was home with Covid,” Powers said. “I was really pleased with the people that came to enjoy the music in the park. This coming Friday is our Fiesta Night, with pinatas, food, kids’ games, and more.”

Councilmember Stan Peiler had no meetings to report, but wanted to share that he had noticed two elderly couples walking and picking up trash in the ball field areas in Portola. “I would like to start recognizing people that are doing this kind of stuff,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley reported that he had attended a Plumas County Firesafe meeting in Quincy, the Portola Firewise committee meeting, and the recent Beckwourth Fire Department (BFD) meeting. The LESSG fire study group also held a meeting, covering final reviews, Cooley explained. “That will be presented to the council very soon,” Cooley said.

Mayor Pat Morton also attended LESSG and music in the park, commending the last two bands to play the series this summer.

Staff communications

Scarlett stated that she was committed to getting audits handled by a deadline of September 12. “I apologize for not recently being able to respond to records requests; I have no intention of ignoring anybody, but I do not see myself having time to respond until after September 12, I am sorry,” Scarlett said.

It was also noted that there had not been any public records requests received anonymously as of yet.

Sims made public comment to respond to the statement about the public records requests, stating that a lack of staff was not an acceptable excuse. “Just because Miss Susan doesn’t have the time, doesn’t mean that is legal according to the public records act, and I would appreciate if you would please stop with the excuses,” Sims said.

NSAQMD report

Mikki Brown, Targeted Airshed Grant Specialist

At Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, reported that all city residents with EPA certified wood stoves were encouraged to contact the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) for a free chimney sweep voucher. “If you are a city resident with an EPA compliant device, you may qualify for a free electric heat pump installation,” said Brown.

There will also be a Burn Wise event Saturday, September 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Veteran’s Hall in Portola.

Resolution 2523- remote Covid meetings

Council discussed the continuance of remote meetings, with a public comment from local Josh Hart first. “As I said last month, you are right to be safe and healthy, for sure you have a right to do that. As soon as it is possible and practical to bring the public back in chambers, I think it would be a very good idea to do that. You need to make sure that people can hear what members of the council are saying as well,” Hart said.

Resident Crystal Baltzell then spoke, stating that she would like to be able to attend meetings in person once again as well. “It would be nice to have more options to be a part of the city I live in and my children are in,” she said.

Sims stated that she felt hybrid meetings would be the best option moving forward. “The public does want to come and participate in person,” she said.

Council went on to approve the reauthorization of remote meeting unanimously by roll call vote.

Groundwater monitoring services

At the August 10 meeting, following a review of proposals, the Portola City Council directed staff to prepare an agreement with McGinley & Associates for groundwater monitoring services at Portola Landfill.

The agreement is for a term of five years, commencing the third quarter of 2022 and extending through the second quarter of 2027. The total cost of the agreement over the term is an estimated $169,985.60.

With city council approval of the agreement, McGinley & Associates will commence activities to obtain groundwater samples at and nearby Portola Landfill during the third quarter of 2022, in accordance with requirements contained in the landfill’s Waste Discharge Requirements Order.

The agreement was approved unanimously by roll call vote.

North Loop bid phase one

The next item for discussion was the North Loop project, which would start with redoing the intersection at West Street and Joy Way.

City Engineer Dan Bastian gave a brief overview of the history of the item, noting that five bids on the North Loop project were received at the opening on August 8, 2022. Bid amounts ranged from $2,209,000 (Q&D Construction LLC) to $3,547,784.70 (S.T. Rhoades Construction) The Engineer’s Estimate was $2,990,401 (with contingencies).

“I made a recommendation to award the contract for $2,209,000 to Q&D Construction LLC,” Bastian said. “The contractors will be able to go to construction in 2023, with an expectation to be finished by October 2023.”

 This contractor is appropriately licensed with a Classification A, and its license is current and active, according to Bastian. “The city has not had previous contracts with this contractor, but they are a large and reputable firm and are more than capable of doing the project. Plumas County Public Works has interacted with Q&D Construction LLC on a project in the recent past with no complaint,” Bastian added.

The “Timely Use of Funds” for the CON component requires that this project be awarded no later than September 16, 2022. The City has until March of 2025 to complete the project before CON reimbursements would become ineligible.

After some further discussion, the recommendation was approved unanimously by roll call vote.

Abandoned vehicle abatement program (AVAP)

In 1990, the California State Legislature enacted legislation allowing for the creation of county- based vehicle service authorities, pursuant to the provisions of Section 22710 VC. In 2007, the Service Authority was formed and imposed a one-dollar annual vehicle registration fees on vehicles registered to an owner with an address in the County of Plumas.

Vehicle registration fees are collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles and allocated to the Service Authority by the State Controller’s Office pursuant to Section 9250.7 VC. Fees are then allocated to two participating entities on the basis of percentage of vehicles abated in relation to the total vehicles abated by the county as a whole. The current participating entities are the County of Plumas and the City of Portola. “Both entities have to participate in the program, and the city and county were suspended in the past for not using funds fast enough,” City Finance Officer Scarlett explained. The current program expired on September 30, 2017. Since the inception of the program the city has received $82,501.74 which has allowed staff to abate 253 vehicles.

New legislation allows the local service authorities to extend the programs every 10 years with the approval of the county and a majority of the cities comprising a majority of the population of the incorporated areas.

“The county has already approved their resolution, and this is our opportunity to do the same, so we can request that we get back in the program,” Scarlett explained.

The resolution was then unanimously approved by roll call vote.

Fire service assessment

Scarlett explained that annually, the City of Portola is requested to enroll the City Direct Charges (Special Assessments) on the county property tax bills. In the case of the City of Portola, this tax is for the Fire Tax assessment. “To request the county to assess the Fire Tax on the tax bill the city council must adopt a resolution of request that warrants the legality of said charges and defends and indemnifies the county from any challenge to the legality thereof,” Scarlett noted.

The tax assessment list and certification for review have been completed and submitted to the county. “Once this resolution is adopted it will also be forwarded to the county,” Scarlett said.

The resolution was approved unanimously by roll call vote and the meeting was adjourned.

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