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Public comment, finance, the loop and more at Portola council meeting

By Lauren Westmoreland

Portola Mayor Pat Morton called the Wednesday, June 22 meeting of the city council to order promptly at 6 p.m. via Zoom with all councilmembers present.

After the pledge of allegiance, public comment opened with resident Josh Hart speaking to the room about Interim City Manager Jon Kennedy, alleging poor treatment despite “giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

“Mr. Kennedy, you are not an elected official,” Hart said. Hart went on to list occasions during which Kennedy had allegedly caused offense. “If Mr. Kennedy is not willing to respond to records requests, he should resign or be removed by the council,” Hart said in part. Later in the meeting, Kennedy reported that the city was complying with the law as it pertains to records requests.

City communications

Councilmember Phil Oels reported that he had attended a Firesafe meeting in Quincy.

Councilmember Bill Powers reported that he had attended an airport commission meeting and attended a meeting of LAFCo with Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley. “There were reconfigurations of the cemetery districts on the docket, ongoing work with fire departments across the county, starting with our own and moving to the north,” Powers noted.

Councilmember Stan Peiler had no community meetings but did report a “great response” from the community on the ongoing community clean-up project.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Cooley reported attending the Plumas County Fire Safe Council. “We are working with associated grants administrators on a fuel reduction grant,” Cooley said.  Cooley also attended the grand opening of the Portola Riverwalk disc golf course. In addition, Cooley also touched on the LAFCo Commission meeting, with one major action taken at the meeting being approval of the 2022/23 budget. “$49,464 is the city’s share of the budget, which is one half of the budget according to the formula,” Cooley added.

Mayor Pat Morton reported that she had attended a Beckwourth Fire Department meeting, the disc golf tournament and grand opening, as well as a LAFCo meeting. “The opening was very nice, everyone seemed to be having a good time,” she said.

City manager report

Interim City Manager Jon Kennedy reported that most of the information relevant to him would be covered in the agenda, but added that the city was complying with the law in every way in regard to public records requests, spending thousands of tax-payer dollars handling public records requests.

Resolution No. 2517 concerning COVID remote meetings

Council briefly reviewed Resolution No. 2517 which would re-ratifiy the proclamation of a state of emergency and re-authorize remote teleconference meetings of the legislative bodies of the City of Portola once more.

Local Josh Hart commented that ‘the fact that the city of Portola has chosen to meet remotely through the worst of the pandemic’ has made sense, especially during the peak of the crisis. “I was a supporter of that,” Hart said. “Now things are different, people are not wearing masks…Plumas County and other local government have given the option to attend in person or remotely, which I think is a good model for the city moving forward. The public needs access to these meetings.”

Hart continued that as the public “continues to be barred from the meetings” that it was starting to feel like “a pretext to keep the public out.”

“Many that are low income in the community may have physical attendance as their only option… Certainly, precautions can and should be taken, such as wearing masks and having better ventilation… but to continue to bar the public from these meetings – I think people are feeling like it may be the council doesn’t want to deal with the criticism levied at some of these meetings, and Zoom is a convenient way to mute the public,” Hart added.

Hart then asked council to reconsider opening meetings to the public.

A “Mr. Piat” raised their hand on Zoom, which proved to be a woman, who commented that the meetings moving forward should be a hybrid. “Stop hiding,” the anonymous woman said. “The Board of Supervisors does a mix of both, why can’t you?”

Kennedy noted that in terms of covid transmission, many in his own family had covid at the moment, with Morton adding that it was going up through the community as well, and that there were many employees out with it at the high school recently.

“I know council would love to open up meetings again, but we want to be safe,” Kennedy noted.

“I know it’s very frustrating to only be Zooming. We had to rearrange the graduation at Portola High School because the secretary of the school and many in the school that were going to give presentations were all out with covid,” Powers said. “We’re just not ready.”

“We are not here to deter the community from coming to see us,” Peiler said. “The safety of the community is first and foremost.”

“It would be irresponsible to gather a whole bunch of people, and I don’t see where we have a choice,” Oels added.

At that, all members of the council voted to unanimously re-ratify the proclamation and continue meetings on Zoom for the time being.

Adoption of North Loop project and bid authorization

Portola City Engineer Dan Bastian came before council for authorization to bid on the North Loop project.

“We’re at a point now to being close enough to see some construction,” Bastian explained. “We have to award the project by September 16 of this year to maintain the funding, and then we have five years after they approve the allocation to construct. My fear is as time keeps progressing on, is that it may result in non-competitive bidding in mid-summer. Most contractors are busy. In our case, we are dealing with a fixed budget.”

The project is from West Street to a little past Beckwith to include two twelve-foot lanes, two five-foot bike lanes, curb, gutter and sidewalk on each side, ADA curb ramps at each intersection, and a small amount of infrastructure. “This will have a similar appearance to what we’ve done on the two A15 projects,” Bastian added.

Morton asked if there would be street parking, and Bastian said that there would not be.

Powers asked why that would be, and Bastian answered that the primary reason was trying to get the project to fit within the existing right of way and that they were adding curb, gutter and sidewalk that would take up some width.

“I assume a couple residences might have been hoping that there would be on-street parking. For the most part, during survey there were hardly any vehicles parked along the road. I made the project work with the budget we have,” Bastian added.

Josh Hart commented that the “this kind of sprawling development is really recommended against by experts, especially during the current climate crisis.” “We need to focus on non-motorized transportation and transit,” Hart said.

Another comment came from the same anonymous woman who had commented earlier, who asked if there had been a public hearing on all of this. “Why do you keep saying yes when the community says no? This seems like a very foolish thing to do – why don’t you fix the damn potholes in the city rather than do something we don’t need?” she said loudly.

Another community member stated that she felt the project had value. “We could absolutely use sidewalk improvements,” she said. “Personally, I think it would be helpful and safer for the children.”

It was reiterated that the funds could absolutely not be allocated to fill in potholes rather than the many elements of the project. “You cannot use the funds for anything other than what the project study report said it was for,” Bastian added.

Council went on to approve the item unanimously.

Ordinance No. 361 to comply with SB 1383 reduction of disposal of organic waste

As discussed at the last meeting of city hall, the recommendation was to adopt the ordinance to comply with SB 1383. “The city has received a collection hold for the time being but will still be required to provide outreach,” Kennedy explained. It was noted that the city will be working with City Waste Consultant Tom Valentino on that portion of the city compliance moving forward. With no public comment or discussion, the item was unanimously approved.

GANN appropriations limit, investment policy, facility fees and budget adoption

City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett reported on each item individually in this portion of the agenda.

“As you know we started the budget process back in January, and the only change I have from our last meeting was the information on the small difference on LAFCo funding,” Scarlett said. This was due to a payroll expense.

First was the GANN appropriations limit for fiscal year 2022/23.

According to Scarlett, the 2022/23 Gann limit is a state requirement, established in 1979. “It places a limit on the amount of tax money that we can legally spend, adjusted for inflation and population every year. This gets audited by our audit firm. The GANN resolution dollar amount for this year is $2,491,021.16, and I believe last year the GANN limit was $850,000,” Scarlett said.

Council moved to adopt Resolution 2511 unanimously without comment from council or public.

Resolution 2512 was the annual statement of investment policy, an annual requirement that needed to be approved by city council. This year, the policy was described as a very conservative investment policy by Scarlett. This resolution was also approved unanimously by roll call vote.

Resolution No. 2513 was a resolution of the City Council of the City of Portola to make certain findings for unexpended water and sewer facility fees and traffic impact fees. This is done every five years.

“Those funds are set aside for future use,” Scarlett said. “I believe in the next five years we will be looking at redoing master plans and potentially appropriate projects.”

With the adoption of this resolution, council moved on to resolution No. 2514. This is a resolution adopting the monthly rate for the Solid Waste Administration (SWA) fee. “We can reduce the solid waste administration fee again this year by a dollar,” Scarlett said. “If things stay stable in that field, I hope that we can continue to do that.” Council unanimously approved by roll call vote.

Resolution No. 2515, a resolution adopting the monthly rate for the landfill closure/post closure fee was then discussed.

“Once again, we can do a dollar decrease a month, taking us down to $7.38 a month,” Scarlett said.

After public comment, the resolution was approved unanimously by roll call vote.

Lastly, Resolution No. 2516 was discussed. This resolution of the City Council of the City of Portola would approve the adoption of the Operating Budget for the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year. “This is before you so we can have an operating budget in place before July 1,” Scarlett said. All council members unanimously approved the budget by roll call vote.

November 8, 2022 General Municipal Election

It was explained that there were steps to be taken for the upcoming election for two council member seats and the elected city clerk seat.

The resolution would call the election for two four-year terms and a full four-year term for the city clerk and city treasurer.

Prior to each municipal election the city is required to adopt resolutions calling for a general municipal election and requesting consolidation of the general municipal election with Plumas County.

Resolution No. 2518 and Resolution No. 2519 were prepared in order to allow for the election of three city council seats.

The nomination period for the elected positions opens on July 18, 2022 and closes on August 12, 2022.

The resolution was approved unanimously before the meeting was adjourned.

For more information on any items discussed, visit www.cityofportola.com or reach City Hall by phone at 832-6801.

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