Portola’s city council held a regular meeting June 28, with a full agenda and a vacancy to fill after the recent passing of Mayor John Larrieu.
Mayor Pro Tem Pat Morton oversaw the meeting, beginning with a long moment of silence in the memory of Larrieu.
Beginning with public comments, local Larry Douglas opined that the citizens of Portola were losing faith, stating, “The failed fire tax was a vote of no confidence for the city, not the Portola Volunteer Fire Department.”
This was followed up by staff communications, with councilmember Phil Oels speaking about his activities with the Firewise Community program and how easily Portola could become such a community. Councilmember Bill Powers spoke to the need for 21st Century employment skills and how that need is being addressed at Sierra College.
Morton commented upon the fact that there have been several finance and administration meetings as of late, and that those that wish to attend the services for Larrieu may attend the Holy Family Catholic Church on July 8, at 10 a.m., with a reception to be held at Portola High School after services.
City Manager Robert Meacher wryly stated that locals may have noticed the “hole on Gulling Street” where construction is currently ongoing.
According to City Public Works Director Todd Roberts, “The construction is taking place where the water main had so many holes from improper backfilling that it could no longer be sealed with repair clamps, and this has led to needed replacement of that section of pipe.”
Roberts is in the process of resolving the situation, focusing on replacing the old, rusted metal pipe with new plastic by Friday, June 30.
The council then went on to adopt the consent calendar and continue on to the topic of the vacant council seat.
City council vacancy
According to the staff report released with the agenda, “Staff is tremendously saddened by the passing of Mayor John Larrieu, and the ensuing vacancy on the City Council. Mayor Larrieu was a valuable member of the city of Portola community as a teacher, mentor and faithful public servant for over 20 years.”
The vacancy yet again forces the city to choose to either hold a special election, with an estimated cost of approximately $8,000, or fill the vacancy by appointment, where city staff may advertise for letters of interest from members of the community that may want to serve the public in this role.
The vacant seat would mean a two-year term for the councilmember appointed. After minimal discussion, the council elected to fill the vacancy by appointment, asking interested community members to send letters of interest in to be considered. The deadline for the letters will be Wednesday, July 26.
The council went on to select a mayor and mayor pro tem, with the council moving to elect Pat Morton as mayor, with councilmember Tom Cooley stepping into the role of mayor pro tem.
Portola Volunteer Fire Department
Amanda Duff, treasurer and lieutenant in the Portola Volunteer Fire Department updated the council on the actions taken in the past two months at PVFD.
“Since November of 2016, PVFD has been on over 200 medical and fire calls,” Duff stated. “We’ve had four firefighters recently pass their EMT courses, seven firefighters certified as Emergency Medical Responders through NorCal EMS, six firefighters completed and graduated from the Quincy fire academy, as well as initiating an aggressive training schedule for firefighters, engineers and officers.”
Duff went on to explain that Kurt Duff, acting fire chief and paramedic, has certified the department as ALS, or Advanced Life Support, which will allow PVFD first responders to assist on-site with basic medical aid instead of having to wait for EMTs to arrive.
PVFD is also endeavoring to become certified to assist with transport of patients when local ambulances are unavailable, as well as working through the process of acquiring licensing for Chief Duff to teach all needed medical classes such as CPR, EMR, and PALS.
As of July 1, PVFD will also be implementing background checks, drug screenings and an initial interview prior to starting the four-week training and voting process, with random drug screens to occur on a needed basis.
City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett spoke about the 2017/18 operating budget, with only a few small changes at the outset from her initial proposed budget.
The budget increased the allotment to PVFD for turnouts, to a total of $7,500 and added a $1,500 contingency for potential services needed on the vehicle that the Community Service Officer uses. There was also an addition of $200 a month personnel costs to go to PVFD administration, which is a position that had been left vacant for some time and is now filled by Amanda Duff.
The total proposed expenditures for the upcoming budget amount to $2,775,716.17, with revenue at $3,184,717.26. According to Scarlett, she doesn’t anticipate much deviation from the proposed budget; however, a few items such as the pending FEMA reimbursement for storm damage to the city are not yet clearly noted.
“The FEMA inspectors have stated that they will be in Portola on June 6 to initiate the process of assessment,” Meacher pointed out.
Some smaller items on the budget include funding for the summer Concerts in the Park, as well as a roller for Public Works and an estimated $5,500 in City Park improvements. The council voted to approve the 2017/18 operating budget.
Scarlett also spoke about the need to write off utility bad debt. The city of Portola has pulled delinquent balances four years or older, with water fund bad debt at $21,922.68, sewer debt at $13,907.50, and solid waste bad debt at $9,981.65. After the council conferred, they came to the decision to write off the bad debt.
Morton then went on to systematically discuss and adopt resolutions 2321, 2322, 2323 and 2324 with the council.
The first resolution is for the appropriations limit, which is calculated each year from information provided by the Department of Finance. After receiving a yes vote, the second resolution, 2322, adopted the 1.9 percent increase in water and sewer rates. The 1.9 percent COLA, or cost of living assessment, tracks inflation and attempts to keep rates level with current cost of living.
The Council went on to discuss and adopt resolution 2323, which consisted of the 2017/18 budget, as well as resolution 2324, which will act to make findings regarding the water and sewer facility fees and the traffic impact fee.
Big Fish, Community Connections and FireWise
Big Fish Creations, the marketing agency utilized by the city of Portola, was on the agenda for contract renewal. Cooley stated, “The finance and administration committee has recently had two meetings with Mike and Patty Clawson of Big Fish Creations, and from my point of view, it was a very productive, forthright, fruitful and frank discussion of services.
“I give my full support to renewing the contract with Big Fish, and in addition, an ad-hoc project-based committee will be formed to meet with Big Fish and provide feedback and direction. We really need the community to understand the work that you do, and the services rendered.”
Morton added that the ad-hoc committee would assist with resolving conflict of payment versus expectations, keeping everyone on the same page as far as measuring the effectiveness of services rendered by Big Fish.
With an amendment to the contract stating that all work would need official approval from Meacher, the contract was renewed for another fiscal year.
The city council also spoke about renewing the annual city donation to Community Connections at an amount of $100, which would renew the annual sponsor status of the city. This was quickly approved, and the topic turned to Oels, who spoke about becoming a Firewise Community.
The Firewise ad-hoc committee, consisting of Powers and Oels, met with Susan McCourt, Mike Callaghan, city staff and via telephone with Cathy Prudhomme, Firewise USA Program Manager, on June 13 to determine the process for Portola to become a Firewise Community.
After reviewing the 2012 Community Wildfire Protection Plan prepared by Resource Concepts, Inc., staff and the committee determined that the document is still relevant and that adoption of the document would be required as the first step towards becoming a Firewise Community.
“The plan is cohesive, but will need a few minor updates,” Oels stated. Meacher stated that ultimately, this endeavor must be community driven. Oels followed this statement by encouraging community members to start logging time spent in activities conducive to fire safety, such as weed-eating, raking, cleaning gutters or even taking loads of debris to the dump.
“We need $4,000 in labor recorded to be a part of this program, and as a community, it can be done with in-kind labor. This doesn’t have to be financial; each hour logged goes towards the $4,000 amount needed to meet Firewise requirements,” said Meacher.
The council voted to adopt the plan and will continue to work toward becoming a Firewise Community.
The final item on the agenda addressed the vacancies on current committees and Morton filled the vacancies in short order.
The final committee list is as follows: Finance and Administration is Tom Cooley and Morton; Infrastructure is Cooley and Powers; Community Development consists of Morton and Oels; Emergency Services Policy Committee is comprised of Meacher and Morton; the LAFCo committee consists of Powers, Cooley and Morton as an alternate.
Transportation is handled by Oels, Powers and Scarlett; DEAL will be handled by Powers; Airport Land Use Commission and Integrated Waste Management Committee is comprised of Meacher and Todd Roberts; and the SCORE committee is comprised of Meacher and Scarlett as an alternate.
The city council welcomes the community to regularly held meetings on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. For those with questions on agenda items or for any other information, contact City Hall at 832-6803.