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City stays on budget track for year

The Portola City Council held its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, Nov. 13, with a light agenda focusing on looking at the fast-approaching new year.

The meeting opened with public comment, and Mayor Tom Cooley read a letter on behalf of local Daniel T. Harvey.

The letter was on the topic of the Portola outdoor burn ban, and went on to state that “forest fires were not caused by residents burning their pine needles,” and that if a burn pile did get out of control, the fire department would be “on it instantly.” The letter went on to state that burning only takes place during a short time seasonally.

The letter then stated that the council could overturn the burn ban if it so wished, and that the letter hoped to elicit input from local residents, asking the community to reach out to City Hall with their thoughts and comments.

Another local man spoke briefly, stating that he lived next door to the house that burned on Samantha Drive, and said removing the ban would be ridiculous.

City communications

The meeting moved on to city communications, with Councilmember Pat Morton reporting that she attended a planning meeting for the upcoming Christmas in Old Town celebration. “Things are coming along,” Morton said.

Morton added that discussion had begun on the potential to change the Christmas parade route to include the Skilled Nursing Facility residents at Eastern Plumas Health Care as was done for the Portola Junior/Senior High School homecoming parade.

Councilmember Bill Powers reported that he attended an open house at the Portola Resource Center to discuss plans for behavioral health to potentially treat Tier Three patients and create open-access days for walk-in patients at the center to be seen by a clinician.

Powers also noted that he attended a Cal-LAFCo Conference as a commissioner and praised the conference for the good takeaways gleaned from the experience.

With no report from Mayor Pro Tem Phil Oels, and in the absence of Councilmember Stan Peiler, Mayor Tom Cooley closed council communications with his brief report.

Cooley recently attended a Gold Mountain Community Service District meeting, with that district board approving the MOU to explore the possibilities of more integration or consolidation of the various local volunteer fire departments.

The Gold Mountain CSD also appointed its ad-hoc committee at that same meeting, which brings the number of local entities now engaged in the exploratory MOU to five.

City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett gave a brief report that she was continuing to work on the finances for the end of the year, and that she had completed the streets report for the year as well.

Fire chief report

Chief Bob Frank of Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District gave a run-down of the calls the department responded to during September and October.

In September, the department responded to 37 calls, with 34 being medical, one vehicle accident, one fire alarm and one smoke alarm.

During October, the department handled 21 calls, with 17 of those being medical calls. One of the other four calls was a structure fire on Samantha Drive on Oct. 23, where there were three lost vehicles in addition to the home and one dog fatality.

Frank reiterated the fact that burn piles can and do start fires, saying, “Embers blow, roofs burn.”

Another of the calls was an illegal dumping of hot ashes at a home, a vegetation fire, and a possible propane leak at the railroad yard, which turned out to be liquid oxygen.

Frank also noted that the department held a safe Halloween event at the Northside station, with over 1,500 pieces of candy handed out, as well as promoting the upcoming annual bike giveaway at C. Roy Carmichael Elementary School, which has been an annual tradition since the 1940s.

City manager’s report

City Manager Lauren Knox gave a warm welcome and introduction to new Deputy City Clerk Tara Kindall, before reporting that she had also attended the most recent Christmas in Old Town planning meeting and encouraged the community to come out and join in on the light parade fun.

“Light up yourselves, your pets, your vehicles, and come join the parade!” Knox invited.

Knox also noted that there would be a Fall BurnWise Workshop held Saturday, Nov. 23, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Portola Veterans Hall, put on by the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District, and invited the community to attend.

“The department will be present to put on a real-life flue fire demonstration at the workshop,” Chief Frank noted.

This was followed by the approval of the consent calendar by roll call vote, and council moved on to the next order of business.

Sanitary Sewer Master Plan overflow policy

City Public Works Director Todd Roberts stood to address the need for the city to approve the updated plan for Portola’s Sewer System Management Plan, or SSMP, saying, “This is something that we are required to adopt by the State of California.”

The original SSMP was approved by the City Council in 2007, and the update would ensure that the city remains in compliance with current state requirements.

The purpose of an SSMP is to prevent Sanitary Sewer Overflows, or SSOs, as well as providing a plan and schedule for measures to be implemented in order to avoid the SSOs.

“This regulates how we respond to overflows and manage our sewer system,” Roberts explained. “It all has to do with sewer — from lift stations to manholes to sewer lines and ponds.”

Roberts explained how the city sewer system works and noted that there has been an issue with water infiltrating into sewer lines and affecting the sewer ponds and storage.

After some further discussion, council gave unanimous approval to adopt the updated SSMP.

Non-motorized boat launch grant update

In 2018, city staff and council began pursuing grant funding with the Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) to develop a non-motorized boat launch facility at the West End Park.

After review by the DBW of the launch plan, its engineers came up with an enhanced plan for the council’s consideration.

The revised plan excludes a pre-cast vault bathroom, but includes a paved asphalt entrance, a single-lane concrete block boat launch ramp, a gravel parking area and roadway, paved ADA parking, and a project credit sign.

The city would then be responsible for administration, owner’s representation, project management, a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and other related studies, and more.

The scope of the project steers away from the original proposal made by the city by replacing the proposed temporary floating dock with a permanent structure.

The permanent structure would potentially cost an estimated $67,000 just for the CEQA review, according to contract planner Karen Downs. The total estimated cost of the project at this time would be around $481,000.

Council agreed that there was no need for such a permanent structure on the river and directed staff to look into alternatives. Roberts added that he would be investigating a potential donation of floating temporary docks from the Nevada Irrigation District.

SB2 planning grant

The next item up for discussion was the adoption of Resolution 2414, which would authorize the application for and receipt of $160,000, which the city is eligible for under a variety of requirements.

The SB2 program provides grants through a noncompetitive, over-the-counter process to eligible local governments to prepare, adopt and implement plans and process improvements that streamline housing approvals and accelerate housing production.

The expedited processing portion of the project would be a significant opportunity for the city to streamline processes, with the potential for a Geographic Information System (GIS) for the public to gather development information and greatly reduce staff time.

Currently, the city utilizes Microsoft Excel to track building permits and planning/entitlement applications. An automated permitting system would allow various users to track permits through completion.

It is also expected that the GIS software would reduce processing time by approximately 50 percent. Currently it takes approximately six to 18 months from the time initial questions are discussed with city staff to application review.

With some discussion, council went on to unanimously adopt Resolution 2414 by roll call vote.

Financial update and budget amendments

Scarlett briefly touched on the ongoing work to wrap up the 2018-19 fiscal year, with a few amendments noted.

Scarlett spoke of the $400,000 amendment due to the complete pay down of CalPERS unfunded liability, as well as noting extra expenditures in street lighting. “There were some unexpected revenues, and the COPS funding was higher this year,” Scarlett noted.

Scarlett also touched on funds received from FEMA — a total of $50,872 — and added that there was $14,400 left of that fund after work completed thus far. With little further discussion, the meeting adjourned.

The Portola City Council welcomes all to attend and participate in meetings regularly held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. For more information, call 832-6803 or visit cityofportola.com.

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