Santa Paula: Volunteers, Rebates and Cat Herding

By Sheryl Hamlin

The February 1, 2016 council meeting of Santa Paula demonstrated how city councils must focus on broad, financial issues as well as the human side of government.

Volunteers for Code Enforcement

Fire Chief Araiza introduced a citizens group formed for Beautification of the City, which will assist the Building and Safety Department in identifying properties with code compliance issues. Another idea of Rhonda McKaig, who formed Citizens for a Safer Santa Paula, the beautification effort will include a team of volunteer citizens who will photograph code issues, document and start the administrative part of code enforcement. The Chief gave, as an example, garage sales where people are selling commercial goods in their front yards on a regular basis. The municipal code allows only a certain number of garage sales per year.

Per the municipal code: § 123.02 LIMITATION ON GARAGE AND YARD SALES

(A)   No more than two garage sales shall be conducted in any calendar year on any premises by the same residents, or by any person with the permission of, or under the direction or control of, such residents. No single sale shall be conducted for longer than two consecutive weekends, or 72 hours, whichever is the shorter period. Sales may be conducted during daylight hours only

Training for volunteers will be done by Building and Safety. The volunteers will help inform and are not allowed to enter the property.

Waste Water Revenue Rebates

Terry Maas of FirstSouthwest presented proposed customer rebates from the recently purchased Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF). Forecast to produce a net positive cash flow of $3,196,246 for the fiscal year 2016, the Ad Hoc Utility Committee (Mayor Hernandez and Council Member Tovias members) has been studying ways to provide rate relief to the 6,600 WWTF accounts. United States securities laws require a certain cushion of cash flow relative to the required bond payment and principal recovery, which is stated when the bonds are sold. In the Santa Paula Water Utility bonds, the factor is 1.2, so any amount above this can be utilized by the utility enterprise, but not outside of the utility enterprise. Using a “conservative” number of 1.5 (which means that the cash flow covers the needs plus 50% more), there is still room for rebates, Note that prior to issuing rebates, the utility enterprise will also be accruing funds for chloride removal into a Capital Improvement Fund (CIF). The newly created Rate Rebate Fund (RRF) will accrue excess funds after debt service, maintenance and capital are paid or accrued. Once a quarter, the 6600 accounts will receive an amount equal to three months of excess cash flow. The first rebate will be in April 2016. It was noted that there may be additional savings once the new plant operator is chosen via an RFP (Request for Proposal) process, which is underway by the Public Works department and required as part of the acquisition.

Cat Herding Comes to Santa Paula

The recently reviewed Spay and Neuter Ordinance returned to the council for consideration. Two citizens spoke in Public Comments. Jean Marie Webster from SPARC said that Thousand Oaks and Ventura have cat licenses. Richard Rudman commented on the recent editorial by Vice Mayor Crosswhite and Council Member Gherardi on this issue where they questioned the wisdom of cat licensing in a city with limited staff and financial resources. Mr. Rudman said “Our city should not be involved in cat herding”. During the discussion, Council Member Gherardi said that the ordinance takes effect 30 days after approval, but the city is not ready with paperwork for citizens who come to register a cat. She also questioned the magnitude of the problem of unregistered animals and noted that the dog registration form does not ask for microchipping proof. Mayor Hernandez said the goal of the ordinance was not revenue, but to reduce the unwanted pet population and thus the burden on the shelter. Council member Procter suggested they move forward without the cats. Vice Mayor Crosswhite asked about cat microchipping. Attorney Cotti noted that micro-chipping should be a one-time occurrence. Council Member Tovias recalled the situation where a Santa Paula resident had a yard full of dogs on his property illegally and hoped this ordinance would address such problems. Mayor Hernandez moved to return the ordinance without cat licensing, but retaining cat spay/neuter requirement. The vote was 4-1 with Vice Mayor Crosswhite opposed.

 

The council also heard two presentations: 1) the proposed Oil Museum Non Profit and 2) changes in fee structure for Development Impact Fees and General Plan Recovery Fees.

Oil Museum Non Profit

Recall that in November, the council presented an award of appreciation to Jeanne Orcutt who had managed the oil museum to a high degree of sustainability. At the February 1, 2016 meeting, Ms. Orcutt returned to explain the new California Oil Museum Foundation 501 c(3), which consists of a nine member board, mostly from the petroleum industry, who will focus on fundraising. Unocal leased the historic building to Santa Paula in the 1990’s with funding augmented from the former Santa Paula Redevelopment Agency (RDA). With the dissolution of the RDA, the city provides in-kind services to the museum. The goal of the new foundation will be revenue generation. Ms. Orcutt recommended the item be agendized for a future meeting.

Santa Paula Oil Museum

Santa Paula Oil Museum

Developer Impact Fees and General Plan Maintenance Fees

Developers must pay fees when they build in a city to offset the project’s “fair share” of public improvements such as roadways, infrastructure, parks, police, fire and libraries. These fees are called Developer Impact Fees (DIF). The fee structure is required to be updated every five years. The last update occurred in 2011. The consultant, Mr. Serrafino, presented an analysis of the future needs and the calculations to recover the needs for both infill projects (within existing city boundaries) and expansion areas not serviced by infrastructure (Adams Canyon, Fagan Canyon and East Area I). For example, he reported that between Fagan Canyon, Adams Canyon and East Area I, there will be $6.2 million in water infrastructure costs and $14.3 million in waste water infrastructure costs. The total needed between infill and expansion is $135 million (assuming 2500 homes).

The other fee paid to the city is the General Plan Maintenance Fee recovery, which is aimed for a full cost recovery. These monies are saved and accrued for expenses related to modifying an existing General Plan or producing a new General Plan. These fees were reduced per a new formula based on valuation rather than square feet. Council Member Gherardi asked if it is wise to reduce fees, to which Planning Director Minsk said she “was comfortable” with the projection even though they were “woefully deficient” five years ago in their calculations.

Both of these items will eventually be sent to a Public Hearing.

Marijuana Takes a Twisted Turn

Recall that the city is required to create an ordinance regulating medical marijuana. The city council considered medical marijuana here and the Planning Commission here. According to the Planning Director, Jana Minsk, the governor may eliminate the March 1, 2016 deadline. If the governor does eliminate the deadline, then the ordinance will not take effect; if it does, the council has its “Urgency Ordinance” ready to go. City Attorney Cotti noted, in response to Vice Mayor Crosswhite’s question, that these ordinances may be repealed in the future, based on the governor’s actions.

Reminders and Events

Al Guilin and a team from the Rotary reminded the public of the July 4, 2016 Fireworks display for which $15,000 is needed. Half of this amount is due as a down payment soon. Please send donations to the Rotary noted for “Fireworks” at Santa Paula Rotary PO Box 809, Santa Paula, CA 93060.

February 5, 2016 is a dance/fundraiser for San Sebastian School to be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $25 (single) and $45 (couple).

February 14, 2016 is an event “One Million People” to raise awareness against gender based violence to be held from 2-5 pm at the Casa de Mexicana.

February 24 at noon at the Casa de Mexicana is the annual State of the City luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $50.00. RSVP now.

To view the agenda and staff reports (now combined), click here. To watch the video, click here. The meeting lasted about 2 hours adjourning at 8:27 pm.

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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