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City talks fire departments

The Portola City Council held a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, Sept. 25, with a brief agenda looking toward the holiday season.

Council member Pat Morton opened by reporting that she had attended the recent Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric member meeting at the Grange Hall in Vinton, with interesting discussions around the Camp Fire and PG&E.

Morton also attended the recent Firewise meeting, the opening of the Old Town Portola Event Center, which she noted was “windy but a great event” and is beginning work with the annual Christmas Angel Tree project.

Council member Stan Peiler reported that he had attended a recent California Disaster Planning conference by the California Hospital Association, noting, “I work for the hospital, but disaster hits all of us.”

Peiler noted a few key takeaways, stating that communication is key, highlighting the importance of having a backup plan in the event of disaster.

Council member Bill Powers then reported on his recent activities, which included a meeting of the Plumas County Transportation Commission, where a major project from Cromberg to the Grizzly Creek bridge is in the works for 2022.

Powers also attended the Sierra Business Council CAMP and will be attending the Tri County Action Agency during the upcoming week.

Mayor Pro Tem Phil Oels commented on his attendance at the Firewise meeting, and said strongly, “We need people if the organization is going to survive. There are huge benefits to being a FireWise community.” Oels also urged anyone with interest in helping support the effort to reach out to him.

Mayor Tom Cooley reported on his attendance at the Old Town Portola Event Center grand opening, his participation in a webcast reviewing legislative activities in California cities, and attending a Beckwourth Fire Department meeting.

“I can announce that at the meeting, the members agreed to an MOU that will be discussed at this meeting as well,” Cooley said smiling.

Fire chief report and staff communications

Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District Chief Bob Frank then gave his report for the month of September to date, with 16 medical calls, two car accidents, no fires, two alarms and two smoke checks.

Frank also has met with Lauren Knox, the new city manager, and planned to attend a meeting Sept. 30 with the Senior Apartments.

“We also attended the concert at the new event center, and think it is a very nice facility and will be great moving forward for events downtown,” Frank noted. He went on to add that he had discussed getting the word out for the burn ban with Knox. “This year is going to be a learning experience,” Frank said.

City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett spoke briefly about her ongoing work with the Department of Water Resources  to work toward an answer to the reported rate increases expected to trickle down and affect Portola.

City Manager Knox reported that she had been meeting with staff members, and also noted the hire of a new city clerk, who is expected to start in about three weeks.

With that, council moved to unanimously approve the consent calendar and address the first agenda item, a cost-sharing request from Feather River Rail Society.

Pumpkin/Santa Train cost sharing request

The city received a request from the Feather River Rail Society, a 501c3 nonprofit, for financial assistance for their annual Pumpkin and Santa Train events.

Patty Clawson of Big Fish Creations and Greg Elems, president of FRRS, put forth the request to council, explaining that the city has participated in these events in the past few years, and noted the $400 contribution from the city in 2018 toward advertising costs.

This year, Clawson explained, the usual donation of pumpkins was not available, leading to financial needs amounting to a request for $2,202.40 from the city.

The rise in funds needed correlates to the need for pumpkins as well as half of the advertising costs in the Portola Reporter and Deals and Wheels, Elems explained to council.

Clawson then noted that both events provided a large amount of assistance for the Eastern Plumas Community Assistance Network (EPCAN), with a letter from Dink Rife, EPCAN chair and treasurer stating that EPCAN receives a great deal of non-perishable food from FRRS when the Pumpkin and Santa Trains roll through town.

With some discussion as to the cost of pumpkins and the jump from $400 to $2,202.40 in requested cost sharing, council ultimately decided to approve half of the advertising costs and delay the request for monies toward pumpkins until the next meeting.

Fire and emergency services

The fire ad-hoc committee, consisting of Mayor Tom Cooley and member Pat Morton, has met several times with representatives from six area agencies; Beckwourth Fire Department, C Road CSD, Sierra Valley Fire Department, Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District (EPRFPD), and Gold Mountain CSD.

Involved agencies have discussed various ways to improve fire and emergency services to the Eastern Plumas community, and discussions have mostly revolved around the idea of some type of consolidation.

The group eventually determined that any efforts toward consolidation or a type of joint powers agreement would need approval from the existing boards of each agency, so Attorney Steve Gross drafted a Memorandum of Understanding which is in the process of being presented to each board.

The purpose of the MOU is to obtain the formal commitment from each agency involved to establish and participate in a framework for cooperative and collaborative action to explore ways to strengthen and improve fire and emergency services throughout their service boundaries by reorganizing how those services are provided.

The MOU requires that each agency involved appoint an ad-hoc committee that will meet with each other as needed.

Daniel Smith, chairman of the Beckwourth Fire board, commented, “We support the MOU action. I want to also recognize Chief Frank at Eastern Plumas and Chief Bret Russell at Beckwourth Fire for creating a great working relationship — we are stronger together than we are apart.”

Rich McLaughlin, general manager of the Gold Mountain CSD also approved, stating “We fully support this concept. Things have been much better for us since we began working with Eastern Plumas, and it would be beneficial for everyone for all of us to work together.”

Debbie Thompson of C Road CSD also voiced her personal approval, noting that the MOU has yet to be presented to the rest of the board in mid-October.

Chief Frank added, “This will take a long time, and we need to take baby steps, but this is a good thing for Eastern Plumas County. We will be able to get there, I think, especially if we keep working together the way that we are.”

Sgt. Carson Wingfield of PCSO also spoke briefly, saying, “I agree. This is absolutely fantastic from a public safety standpoint. It creates a quicker response and will streamline the services that all of the agencies provide. If we can assist in any way, please let us know.”

With that, council moved to approve the MOU, Resolution 2410, as well as confirm the previous appointment of Cooley and Morton to the ad-hoc fire committee to work with all agencies involved.

Holiday meetings and bill position requests

Council moved on to briefly discuss the meeting schedule for the months of November and December.

The second meetings in both months have historically been cancelled due to conflicts with holiday schedules. This year, it was requested that the meetings Nov. 27 and Dec. 25 be cancelled, and council unanimously approved.

The final item of business was then addressed, requesting that the council authorize Knox, in consultation with Cooley, to act upon position requests from the League of California Cities and other organizations on behalf of the city.

Often, the city receives requests from entities like the League of California Cities to support their efforts in supporting or opposing bills from legislative sessions.

“These requests often come in without a significant amount of lead time that would allow the item to be on a city council agenda in the time that a signature for a position request would be needed,” said Knox.

“If a request should arise that the mayor and city manager believe would be controversial, it would still be taken to the full city council for discussion and action would not be taken until the council is able to discuss the item.”

With little discussion, council unanimously agreed to approve the authorization of the city manager, in consultation with Mayor Cooley to act upon position requests on behalf of the city and the meeting adjourned.

The Portola City Council regularly holds meetings on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. Community interest is encouraged and welcome. For more information, call 832-6803 or visit cityofportola.com.

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