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City of Portola to return to in-person council meetings with hybrid meeting model

City communications

Councilmember Pat Morton attended the Beckwourth Fire Department meeting last week.  Mayor Pro Tem Bill Powers reported that he continues to work with others to improve the fire facilities at Nervino Airport. Mayor Tom Cooley reported attending a meeting of Beckwourth Fire District as well as a meeting of LAFCo.

Air quality report

Mikki Brown of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) noted that the district has confirmed the return of the annual woodstove event. This year the event will be held on Saturday, April 22 at the Veteran’s Hall in Portola.

The air quality report was followed by a closed session, during which time city representatives Councilmember Leah Turner and Mayor Tom Cooley held a conference with Interim City Manager Jon Kennedy. There was no reportable action on that closed session.

Resolution 2541: COVID remote meetings

Council reviewed Resolution No. 2541 which re-ratified the proclamation of a state of emergency and re-authorized remote teleconference meetings of the legislative bodies of the City of Portola.

“This is probably the last time that we will be doing this,” Interim City Manager Jon Kennedy said. “This will make this meeting compliant with the covid restrictions.”

The resolution was adopted unanimously by roll call vote.

Future meetings and the Brown Act

Council moved directly on to the topic of future meetings, and whether they should be held in person, remotely, or a combination of the two.

It was noted that the state of California has been conducting remote meetings under AB361, which had amended the Brown Act to allow remote telephonic participation without identifying each remote location for each councilmember and the like. AB361 is in effect to the end of 2023, but the end of the covid emergency in California is stated as February 28, 2023.

There was then some discussion on the various allowances under the Brown Act moving forward.

Kennedy commented that he loved civic engagement, and that he felt it would be possible to hold a hybrid meeting of sorts moving forward, which would allow for the public to have that option for attendance after the ending of the emergency declaration. It was noted that a hybrid type meeting would be able to be used indefinitely under the law, in terms of attendees being able to view remotely. The only stipulation made was that participation via Zoom would not be guaranteed. Public comment then opened and local

Mikki Brown commented that she was excited as a resident to get back to in-person meetings. Resident Lindsey Shaw said she loved the idea of having in-person and remote for greater accessibility, convenience and flexibility for attendees. Local Ashlee Sims agreed with Ms. Shaw’s comment, urging a hybrid approach to future meetings.

Mayor Pro Tem Powers stated that his personal opinion was also to go with a hybrid meeting model moving forward, and Councilmember Morton agreed.

Councilmember Turner and Mayor Cooley also agreed, and council unanimously approved the start of the new hybrid meeting model in March.

Public hearing for Resolution 2543

Council then held a public hearing for Resolution 2543, which is the resolution for the formation of the new fire district involving the City of Portola, Beckwourth Fire Protection District, Gold Mountain Community Services District and Sierra Valley Fire Protection District.

A legal notice was published Thursday, January 19. It was noted that there were hiccups with a few other agencies in the process, leading the city to republish the legal notice the week prior to this meeting. “It will be official after Sierra Valley and Beckwourth Fire have their meeting with public hearings again,” Kennedy explained.

The hearing opened to public comment and resident Ashlee Sims spoke about her thoughts on the new district. “How much will this new district actually be responsible for?” Sims asked. “I am also concerned in how this project actually benefits the public?”

Chris Spencer also commented, stating that she was newly appointed to the Plumas County Planning Commissioner as a representative to district one.

“My background is 40 years of health care,” Spencer said. “The benefit to the local community is that the needs exceed the depth of our skillset and resources. The fire district leadership have committed to recognizing their shortcomings and are looking for individuals with those skillsets.” Over 70 percent of the calls are medical calls, Spencer added.

The councilmembers then briefly discussed the resolution. Morton made a motion to adopt the resolution and it passed unanimously by roll call vote.

Budget goals for 2023 and 2024

Kennedy noted that this was the time for any out of the ordinary budget requests to be brought up so that staff could do some research.

“We are still working on making the city and the services we provide better,” Kennedy said. “We are going to be addressing retirements in the next couple of years as well as the continued use of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.”

City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett noted that staff would be focusing on the operating budget. Scarlett also noted that the upcoming council budget workshop would be held Wednesday, May 17, with a public hearing in Wednesday, June 14 and budget adoption on Wednesday, June 28.

Councilmember Turner then commented that she would like to look into the costs of putting in a dog park in the city.

Music in the park

Council then heard from Mayor Pro Tem Bill Powers on the topic of the upcoming summer Concerts in the Park in the city, which are usually held each summer as a series.

“We have I hope five bands in an agreement to participate, Powers explained. “That includes four bands that were here last year and one new band,” Powers said.

Powers thanked Portola Deputy Clerk Jason Shaw and CFO Susan Scarlett for their help in the planning process.

Lindsey Shaw said she was excited for music in the park.

Council then agreed to fund the summer 2023 concerts with a spending limit of $9,000 unanimously by roll call vote.

Employment agreement for Interim City Manager

Council first established the length of the contract between the city and Interim City Manager Jon Kennedy, with a suggestion of a period of two years, which would run until February 23, 2025.

One man said that he would urge the city to extend Kennedy’s contract as interim city manager for the recommended two years.

Sims commented that she thought the city should post a public job opening for the position, and that the city needed a permanent city manager rather than extending the contract with the interim city manager.

Powers thanked the ad hoc committee for their diligence in the agreement, adding, “This really serves us in the best possible way right now.”

Morton made a motion to approve the agreement and council approved unanimously by roll call vote.

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