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Lost and Found Gravel Grinder

The Portola City Council held its regularly scheduled meeting April 10, with a full agenda and updates on the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder bike race coming to Portola.

The evening opened with public comment by local Robbin Anderson, a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Anderson gave a brief background on the CCL, explaining that it is a U.S. bipartisan group comprised of 120,000 citizens concerned with global warming, and with a specific mission to instill the political will needed to spur on the passage of a “carbon fee and dividend” policy.

The fee, Anderson explained, would force a shift toward mass clean energy development. “Since the last time I was here, there has been a development,” Anderson said. “In January of this year, Congress put a bill in the House called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. It has bipartisan support and would contribute towards a decreased demand for fossil fuels.”

Anderson concluded with a request to council for their support in taking a stance on climate change and pushing for clean solutions.

This was followed by public comment from Larry Douglas, who shared his hope that a new city manager would be found soon, as well as concerns about the local economy, stating that he felt the community needs responsible stewards.

City council members then gave their reports, with Pat Morton reporting her attendance at the recent wood stove workshop and fair, hosted by the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District at the Portola Veterans’ Memorial Hall on April 6.

Morton also noted attending the recent LAFCo meeting, with a hot topic being the cemetery districts in Plumas County. Morton added that a vote had passed in which members chose to forego their stipend again this year, and that money will go toward paying the PERS unfunded liability down.

Council member Bill Powers attended the recent presentation given by Robbin Anderson of the CCL in Quincy, stating that very interesting information was given on the topic of clean energy and climate change. “We will likely bring something forward in the future,” Powers said.

He also noted attending the Criminal Justice Commission, with student mental health, specifically wards of the court, the topic.

Council member Stan Peiler said that one of his campaign pledges was working with high school seniors not on a college trajectory. “I want these kids to be going somewhere at graduation,” Peiler said. He also noted his ongoing efforts at equipment solution innovation and affirmed his regular contact with Chief Bob Frank of Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District.

With Mayor Pro Tem Phil Oels absent, council communications moved on to Mayor Tom Cooley, who also attended the wood stove workshop and fair, stating that it was “very well attended — organizers said it was the highest attendance at one of these events yet.”

“We have a long way to go,” Cooley said of the Greater Portola Wood Stove Change Out Program. “We need 300 more stove change outs in less than two years, and to get the PM2.5 count down. Non-conforming stoves need to be replaced with the EPA certified stoves, and I encourage all to go after one of these free stoves. We are the third community in the entire country to be in this type of program, so get the word out.”

Cooley also attended the LAFCo meeting, and remarked upon the transparent operating structure of the Portola Cemetery.

Interim City Manager Leslie Chrysler gave a brief report, stating that she had participated in the wood stove change out herself, and that it was a completely free, easy process. She also mentioned that Intermountain Disposal would be having free green waste days for Portola residents on Saturdays in May.

Chrysler said 19 building permits had been issued thus far, and also noted the upcoming Full-Scale Active Shooter Exercise on April 25 at Portola Junior/Senior High School.

Chrysler discussed a recent meeting between Mayor Cooley, EPHC CEO Todd Plimpton and herself, with Plimpton bringing forward many ideas to create a stronger partnership with the city.

State Revolving Fund  project applications

Jack Webster of Chico State presented updates to council on behalf of the Technical Assistance Group (TAG) working with the city on SRF project applications geared toward city infrastructure.

Webster gave some background on the project for the benefit of new council members and noted how TAG had identified potential issues with the drinking water system. The team began the project with state approval in an effort to apply for the SRF.

“When we started the project, the former city manager and the TAG team identified potential breakage in the drinking water system,” Webster explained. “We also looked at issues with the drinking water, such as source water curtailment during the drought and raised arsenic levels in ground water wells.”

TAG saw a way to coordinate two projects at once as the need for improvement became clear in the city’s wastewater infrastructure.

“Both systems rely on each other, and there is an opportunity to save money by doing the trenching and paving simultaneously as water and sewer pipes are often in the same trenches,” Webster said.

“This hasn’t been done before,” Webster said. “The two groups that fund these projects don’t really communicate, so it’s a process.” The feasibility study was duly submitted, and feedback indicated a need for TAG to take out reference to the source water issues. The team did so, resubmitting the analysis, and is currently awaiting more feedback.

In the interim, the team is working to craft a complete clean water package ready for a separate application submission in the future. “It’s a slower process than I anticipated it would be, everyone is in the same boat waiting, but we’re optimistic.”

Housing and Safety elements

Karen Downs of Manhard Consulting presented the draft sixth cycle housing element, with a goal of getting it to the Department of Housing and Community Development for the 60-day review period.

Council unanimously directed staff to submit the draft for review and moved on to the next item, the safety element draft document. The document had been approved the night before by the Board of Forestry with no changes, with Downs noting that the state had moved incredibly quickly on the matter. With a roll call vote, the draft was unanimously approved.

Lost and Found Gravel Grinder

Teal Stetson Lee presented updates on plans leading up to extremely popular racing event, with exciting news on participant numbers.

“Thus far, we have sold 1,370 race tickets, and we have a 1,500-sellout plan. This is not including the estimated 1,000-2,000 spectators that attend, as this is a very family friendly event,” Lee said.

There are an estimated 400 campers within Portola city limits, and camping revenues are at approximately $3,800 with over eight weeks until the event June 1.

Lee went on to explain the proposed budget for the Lost and Found After Party in the Park, stating that in 2018, the city and Lost and Found Gravel Grinder event split the after-party expenses 50-50. This year, coordinators request an 80/20 split, with the city contributing 80 percent for a total of $10,884.

Cost increases come from items such as dumpsters and Porta-potties needed to accommodate the larger number of expected attendees and campers.

Council discussed the need for public education on the upcoming event, including local merchants and restaurants, to prepare for the large influx of visitors. Lee also noted that locals interested in having a booth in the park could do so at no cost.

Chrysler then noted that EPHC had volunteered to host and operate the Sunday morning pancake breakfast in the park, and also stressed the need for volunteers for the upcoming event.

“There are so many ways to volunteer,” Lee said. “People can contact city hall to get a link for an online list of tasks and time slots, but the more local engagement in this event, the better.”

The proposed budget amendment, not to exceed $14,000, was unanimously approved by roll call vote.

Ordinance 353; 2019/20 budget

  On Feb. 13, staff reported to council that they had reviewed the city of Susanville’s weed abatement process, and found it successful, with a high compliance rate reported.

A draft ordinance mirroring Susanville’s was created and brought before council March 27, and after completing requested changes to verbiage and the addition of a fourth way to provide notice to property owners that their properties must be cleared within 10 days of the notice.

Council moved to approve Ordinance 353 and waive the second reading before moving onto a second opportunity for the public to give public comment on the 2019/20 city budget. With no public input or comment, council then addressed the city manager hiring process.

City manager hiring process

Portola has entered into the first review period of applications for the position of city manager with 15 applicants as of April 1.

Due to the time-consuming nature of the interview process, staff requested that council create an ad-hoc committee to assist with developing the process and timeline for filling the position, recommending and development of interview questions, and making recommendations to the entire council.

The ad-hoc committee was duly appointed, with Mayor Tom Cooley and Council Member Pat Morton serving.

Finally, council moved to adopt a motion to continue the emergency action on North Lift Station upgrades before retiring to closed session.

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

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