City reviews Covid protocols, plans Christmas festivities

Lauren Westmoreland

Portola’s city council held a regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 10, during which they discussed a number of items including COVID protocols and Christmas celebrations.

Melissa Klundby of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District reported to council that the city is now in the wintertime curtailment period for burning of woodstoves, and that more information can be found at their website, www.myairdistrict.com.

City manager Lauren Knox reported to council that the Christmas in Old Town Celebration and Renegade Light Parade were in the planning stages.

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“It’s looking like there will be a Christmas Marketplace on Friday, Dec. 3 in old town Portola from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. with vendors, and hopefully a raffle for the kids,” Knox explained.

Knox also noted a request for a community meeting to talk about finalizing the new Portola Riverwalk disc golf course and hammer out the desired outcomes. “Great suggestions have come in, and this would be another good opportunity to hear from the community,” Knox said.

She also noted that contracted City Planner Karen Downs has been working on the city’s general plan update items, making sure the near final draft is ready to go.

“We hope to make enough progress to be able to hold another community development meeting soon,” Knox said.

Resolution No. 2489 Concerning COVID Remote Meetings

City Clerk Tara Kindall briefly reviewed the history of the item — a resolution to continue to reauthorize the remote teleconference meetings — pursuant to Brown Act provisions.

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“This is the same item as last time, and it must be assessed every 30 days,” Kindall said. “Someday I hope that we come to a juncture where we don’t need it anymore,” Powers said.

The resolution was passed by unanimous roll call vote.

Holiday Schedule

This year we have to have a Dec. 22 public meeting, however, the Wednesday, Nov. 24, is still able to be cancelled as has been traditionally done in years past if council wishes to do so,” Kindall said.

After some discussion, it was decided that the second meeting of November would be cancelled.

SB1383 Resolution No. 2490 – CalRecycle Organic Waste

According to calrecycle.ca.gov, as it pertains to CalRecycle, SB 1383 establishes targets the goal to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the level of the statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2020, and a 75 percent reduction by 2025.

The law grants CalRecycle the regulatory authority required to achieve the organic waste disposal reduction targets and also establishes an additional target of at least 20 percent of currently disposed edible food to be recovered for human consumption by 2025.

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“A rather extensive rule making process went into this SB1383,” Tom Valentino, solid waste consultant for the city of Portola said. “It is predominantly for food waste, which we’re already collecting in most of the city now. This is really a climate change bill, and one of the real high costs is that of curbside organic kitchen waste. There is nothing in a reasonable proximity to the city for permitted composting waste at this time.”

Valentino went on to explain that the resolution before council stated their qualifying criteria for certain exemptions on a variety of fronts, such as elevation, rural population, and the bear population in Eastern Plumas County. “This resolution states that we would like an exemption for a five-year period,” Valentino said.

“You should also be aware that there are other components that will be implemented in 2022, such as an education component, and items such as a recycled paper purchase requirement for the city.”

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When it comes to the edible food waste recovery program, Valentino acknowledged that there is a lot of wasted food in this country, saying, “The state thought it would be wise to goal at 20 percent of food that could be recovered and sent to food banks, but this is really more of a county than a city item.”

Powers noted that without the needed recycling plants in proximity the expense would likely be prohibitive.

Without any public comment, the council went on to approve Resolution 2490 unanimously by roll call vote.

Intermountain Disposal (IMD) Automated Side Loader Request

Lauren Knox introduced the next item, a request from Intermountain Disposal (IMD) as they make the switch to utilizing a new side loader on collection trucks.  

This means that roughly 22 percent of customers would be required to make the switch from their own personal cans to the standard IMD waste carts.

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“Essentially, we need to eliminate the ‘customer supplies cans’ verbiage in the city language,” Knox said. Powers asked if there were a variety of side loading trucks that could grab any can it wanted with pincers and asked if that would be another tier in price for IMD.

Tom Valentino said that typically the strength of the material is better in the supplied cans, but that IMD would need to fully explain in greater detail in the future.

Council directed staff to eliminate the denoted verbiage, and one public comment revealed a concern that “IMD shouldn’t be authorized to be charged a cent more before the new can changes have been implemented.”

“There is also an additional charge for the can drop off, I don’t trust what they’re asking,” one resident, who declined to give her name, said. “Until they actually do it, I think it’s putting the cart before the horse.”

Knox acknowledged the concerns and noted that IMD will be waiving the delivery fee for the trash cans for those that need to switch from personal cans to the ones provided by the company.

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A motion was made to direct staff to clear up the language further with IMD and approved by roll call vote.

Code Enforcement Presentation

Code Enforcement Officer for the City of Portola, Irma Gowin, then gave a presentation to council on the many ways that code compliance officers work to ensure the safety of the community and the residents that dwell in it.

Gowin read her mission statement, saying, “Code Enforcement is committed to promote and enhance the image of the City of Portola, improve the quality of life, protect and preserve the integrity of public health, safety and welfare by providing the respect, the care, and the understanding of the community and city directives through the enforcement of zoning, building, and/or housing codes.”

Gowin then utilized a slideshow to touch on a variety of different scenarios in which code enforcement has been needed and had even saved lives in the state, such as homes with illegal conversions and unlawful habitation of structures such as sheds.

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She also shared situations where code enforcement has resolved issues with abandoned properties, graffiti, illegal land use, and more.

After further discussion, council thanked Gowin for her time and work.

Mayor Bill Powers noted, “In my history here in Portola, I have seen my own examples of these things going on, on a smaller scale- it’s just as important to us, and we can have a big effect. I know we all appreciate everything that you have done since you have been here.”

One resident asked about the recent letting go of the previous code compliance officer, or CCO, also noting that the sense of community was particularly heartwarming. “I would like to see a report on how you couldn’t afford a dedicated city employee,” the resident said.  “There is a value in having CCO that lives in and really know their communities,” the resident added.

Powers noted that part of it was addressed in the presentation, with the levels of training and certification with the current and former code compliance officers vastly different. ‘There’s a big difference in the types of certifications,” Powers said.

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Knox added that the community service officer position was restructured to focus on housing issues etc. rather than parking violations and patrol.

“The contract is based on a variety of factors that bring those costs up,” Knox said.

It was then further clarified that there is a difference between a community service officer and code enforcement officer.

“A CSO, or community service officer, is a much lower paid rate position, and generally a CSO is promoted to a code enforcement officer after further certifications and training,” Gowin said.

Ashlee Sims had quite a few questions for Gowin, including how much she makes an hour. “I refuse to release that personal information,” Gowin said.

City Attorney Steve Gross interjected that Gowin was not required to provide that information. “Mr. Gross, please, do not tell me what I can and cannot ask,” Sims said.

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She also asked if the CCO had signed a sworn oath when working for the city, and Gowin said no.

“What have you actually done within the city?” Sims asked, referring to the slide show. “None of those pictures were of the city.”

Gowin noted that she would be happy to provide documents with that information to Sims via email. Sims affirmed the plan and also asked if Gowin was receiving payment for holding the presentation that evening. “No, this education is important,” Gowin noted.

Sims continued in her line of questions to Gowin before Powers interjected that Sims wasn’t giving time for anyone to respond to her many questions.

Gowin then adjourned herself from the meeting with the repetition of the offer of a personal meeting in the near future with Sims.

COVID Update

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Council closed the meeting with a review of the emergency proclamation ratified by council on March 20, 2020 as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After brief discussion, it was decided that things would remain at the “status quo” with the continuation of the emergency proclamation, with the change of the discontinuation of emergency pay for city employees by unanimous roll call vote.

The City Council welcomes all to its meetings which are regularly held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. Community interest and participation is encouraged and welcome.