Talking finance and hazard mitigation

The Portola City Council held a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, May 22, with a brisk agenda and light attendance.

The meeting opened with public comment, and first to speak was Kevin Walsh of the newly formed Portola Improvement Coalition (PIC).

Walsh spoke to council about the work PIC was endeavoring to undertake, explaining the efforts he and his wife, Allison Cairns, had already made in picking up garbage from public spaces through the city.

Walsh emphasized that PIC had been created with the goal of having fun while finding solutions and cleaning up the community.


Julie Ruiz of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) also spoke briefly, alerting the public of a new job opening in the Portola NSAQMD office.

“I’m hiring someone as an Air Pollution Control Specialist,” Ruiz said. The ideal candidate would be working in community outreach, as well as monitoring and fixing air quality monitoring equipment. For more information, contact Julie Ruiz at 832-0102.

Council members then gave their reports, with Councilmember Bill Powers noting his attendance at a Plumas County Transportation Commission meeting. Powers also shared that May is Mental Health Awareness month, and how he had recently taught a class in Placer County on youth mental health first aid.

He also spoke of his excitement for future educators to learn mental health first aid in relationship to a piece of legislation that has passed the Senate and is beyond appropriations, making it mandatory by 2022 to have a at least 10 percent of all public-school staff trained in mental health first aid.


Mayor Pro Tem Phil Oels spoke about his attendance at the Plumas County Transportation Commission as well, and his participation in Fire Safe in Quincy and a Fire Wise meeting in Portola.

“The third Thursday of each month is when we hold Fire Wise meetings in Portola,” Oels clarified, strongly encouraging local attendance and participation.

Council Member Pat Morton spoke of her assistance doing scholarship interviews at Portola Junior Senior High School (PJSHS) with students, and her attendance at the Fire Wise meeting last Thursday.

She also noted her ongoing participation in several meetings on the topic of hiring the new city manager, as well as her engagement with City Public Works Director Todd Roberts and organizers of the upcoming Lost and Found Gravel Grinder bike race in planning.

Mayor Tom Cooley briefly noted his attendance at the Plumas Regional Transportation Commission meeting, and with Councilmember Stan Peiler absent, Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District Chief Bob Frank reported department call volumes for the month of April.


Over the month, there were 14 medical calls, two structure fires (one structure, one trailer), two small burn pile fires, one toy car fire, and ongoing efforts to resolve one burn pile.

“We’re gearing up for the bike race and the automated external defibrillator (AED) program. The AEDs will be placed throughout Portola, and there will be 16 or so here in town,” Chief Frank stated.

Some units will go to areas such as Gold Mountain, Beckwourth and Sierra Valley as well. “We saw a need with the AEDs and took the initiative,” Frank said in closing.

Interim City Manager Leslie Chrysler gave a brief update on the progress CCO Kevin Sankey has been making in his work-related education, in addition to file organization and on the job training in animal control protocols.

Chrysler also reminded the room that due to the fact that she had come out of retirement to take the position of interim city manager for the city of Portola, and that every two weeks she is reminded via letter of how few hours she has left of the 960 hours allotted for her by PERS through the month of June.


Chrysler also acknowledged the stormy, wet weather, hoping that the rain would leave the area before the upcoming Gravel Grinder race. She also noted that it wasn’t too late to volunteer, and to stop by City Hall if interested.

Council approved the consent calendar and Resolution 2393, before moving on to the next order of business.

Youth Week and Amended Resolution 2391

Annually, the Portola City Council is asked by the local Elks chapter to recognize the youth of the local area by adopting a proclamation in Support of Youth week. Council voted to adopt the proclamation with a unanimous roll call vote.

Council then moved on to address the amended Resolution 2391 for road maintenance and rehabilitation act as an SB1-funded project.

The item had previously come before council on April 24 and returned to the agenda after some additional detail was requested by the State due to changed requirements. Details included adding verbiage such as “location” and “useful life” to the resolution.


After brief discussion, council voted unanimously to adopt the amended resolution to be submitted to the California Transportation Commission (CTC).

Local Hazard Mitigation Plan

Karen Downs, contract planner, spoke by phone with the room about the Local Hazard Mitigation Program, or LHMP.

“When the City Council updated its General Plan Safety Element to comply with State law, the purpose was to incorporate the LHMP and associated policies and mitigation strategies by reference, including any LHMP updates,” Downs explained.

“It was the intent that the Safety Element would incorporate the LHMP, which would then incorporate all elements of the State law.” The City’s LHMP is effective through June 23, and is updated every five years.

Section 322 of the federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA) focuses on mitigation planning on state and local levels, and the DMA identifies new requirements that allow Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to be used for planning activities, and increases the amount of HMGP funds available to states that have developed a comprehensive, enhanced mitigation plan in place prior to receiving post-disaster HMGP funds.


The previous LHMP was prepared Aug. 14, 2014, based on input and assistance from Plumas County and city residents, responsible officials, consultants, and Cal OES.

Downs pointed out that in preparing the updated LHMP, the primary change in Portola is that the California law requirements themselves have changed. A “What’s New” section, proposed to be included in the LHMP, reviews identified hazards to the City such as wild fire, flood and flood hazards.

The draft will come back to the agenda on June 12 for council approval.

Portola audit proposal

City Finance Officer (CFO) Susan Scarlett brought forward a proposal to renew the city contract with CliftonLarsenAllen, Certified Public Accountants and experts in government standards.

The work they have done and continue to do for the city includes completing the annual audit for the city, the single audit if needed, and preparation of financial statements, as well as preparation of pension liability and the GANN appropriations limit calculations.


The cost for all services rendered to the city the previous three years totaled $30,500 per year, and the current quote is $32,000 per year for each of the three years.

“This is highly specialized work, and I recommend continuing with their services,” Scarlett said. Council agreed and approved the motion without dissent.

North Lift Station upgrades and 2019/2020 Budget Workshop

Chrysler announced to the room that after multiple agendas continuing the emergency situation at the North Lift station, both pumps had arrived, been installed, and were fully functional.

With all happy to have the situation resolved, the ongoing emergency was terminated with all in favor.

Scarlett then concluded the meeting with the 2019/2020 budget workshop, reviewing changes that had been made to a few items at the last workshop at the request of council members.

One such update was the COLA for water rates and personnel. The initial adjustment made to the COLA on water rates was taken from 5 percent to 2.5 percent, but after further research, it was discovered that per the BLS, the current cost of living increase is at 3.3 percent, and the draft budget reflected those changes.


This would raise water rates, but with sewer rates maxed out under the current Prop. 218 agreement, rates cannot adjust to reflect any sort of increase.

Scarlett also pointed out a list of add-ons, which include $10,000 to the Sierra Buttes City Park Party, an upgrade to the SCADA system that monitors sewer equipment at $100,000, and Joy Way Vault funds at $70,000.

“There is roughly $2.3 million in the general fund, and I feel that we have got a pretty balanced budget,” Scarlett said. June 12 is the next public hearing, and the final budget adoption will be on June 26.”

Oels objected to continuing to accrue Enterprise funds, but Cooley reasoned that it was the course of wisdom to have a healthy amount set aside in the event of a future emergency. “I really feel that we are stewards and that we need to be able to provide for what could become urgent repairs,” Cooley said.


Cooley made a motion to raise the water COLA by 3.3 percent on the draft, and the sewer rates to the maximum amount, as well as reducing the solid waste fee by one dollar and the COLA for the employees, and the motion passed three to one.

With that, public session ended and the meeting adjourned.

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