Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez
The Clovis City Council meeting took place on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 at 6 p.m. The meeting followed a three-week-long break for the council due to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic that has kept local hospitals busy and residents under Governor Newsom’s stay at home order.
Despite state orders for certain businesses to temporarily close or limit services, some Clovis businesses and restaurants remain open in defiance. During the previous council meeting held on Dec. 14, Mayor Drew Bessinger’s comments at a Trump rally drew criticism from several residents during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The meeting was made available via Webex and YouTube Live. The agenda states that face masks are required for those who attend in person due to COVID-19. All council members were in council chambers. Lynne Ashbeck was the only councilmember to wear a face mask throughout the meeting. The other councilmembers did not wear face masks while seated during the meeting.
Names of officials:
Drew Bessinger, Mayor
Jose Flores, Mayor Pro Tem
Lynne Ashbeck, Councilmember
Vong Mouanoutoua, Councilmember
Bob Whalen, Councilmember
No public comments were made during the opening of the meeting and no members of the public were in chambers throughout.
Approved an amendment to the Clovis Development Code as a semi-annual cleanup-motion passed unanimously with no discussion.
The Business Organization of Old Town Clovis (BOOT) first quarter report was received and filed, passed unanimously without discussion, except for the recusal of Jose Flores due to a conflict of interest since he has a financial interest in a property within the Old Town area.
Approved the annexation of a territory on the southeast corner of Sunnyside and Teague Avenues. No discussion.
Approved final tract map for development on Dakota and Leonard Avenues. No discussion.
Approved amendments to General Plan and Development Code to allow development of Research and Technology Park Zone. No discussion.
Approved amendments to general plan for consistency with Fresno County Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan. It was presented by City Planner Dave Merchan who recommended amendments within the Airport Influence Area that could potentially be affected by noise and safety of overhead flight issues. The amendment prohibits non-residential projects exceeding 300 persons per acre, outdoor stadiums and similar high density uses and objects that exceed 100 feet in height.
The council voted unanimously to amend the FY 2020-2021 Housing and Community Development Budget to reallocate $100,000 from the Dennis/Beverly Alley Reconstruction project to the Emergency Housing Payment Program. The program assists low-income Clovis residents who have suffered a COVID-19-related financial loss by providing a maximum of 3 months’ worth of rent or mortgage payments.
Funding for the program initially came from $1 million of federal CARES Act funding, which was also used to fund a senior meals program that served more than 20,000 meals, according to Andrew Haussler, Community and Economic Development Director. Haussler said demand for emergency housing assistance has increased since mid-December when the most recent lockdowns were put in place. “We have 38 applications waiting but more applications coming in every day,” he said. He anticipates new CARES Act funding for housing will be available for residents in the coming months, but it may come through the county or state instead. “We see this as a way to help our families that are in need through to the end of January and then to start connecting these families to the federal program that’s coming online,” he said. The average grant per family is $3,000, which goes directly to pay lenders or landlords and includes assistance negotiating settlement of rent or mortgage payments and access to financial counseling.
In the discussion that followed, Bob Whalen questioned what the city was doing to prevent fraud. While Bessinger told a story about his encounter with a local hairdresser who said this was the only program out of several she applied for that actually, “paid off.” He also said, “I got an illegal haircut about three weeks ago, not here in Clovis,” which was met with some nervous laughter by Ashbeck and other council members. He went on to say that the hairdresser told him he has six kids and has applied for CARES Act funding and has not even received acknowledgements for his applications.
To conclude the meeting, City Manager Luke Serpa provided an update on the COVID-19 public health crisis. He said he hasn’t received an update specific to the city in at least two weeks because the Fresno County Department of Public Health has been so busy. “We are in a surge and the biggest concern is (hospital) bed capacity and just the capacity of the healthcare system to treat people,” he said.
Serpa said vaccinations have been rolled out to health care professionals and will move into skilled nursing and assisted living facility workers and residents over the next couple weeks. He mentioned law enforcement may be moved up into the 1B tier and receive vaccinations following nursing facilities.
“One issue they are seeing is when they first offered it to direct exposure professionals in hospitals, fire, EMS, not everybody took the vaccine,” Serpa said. “So some of those people are now going back and saying they want to get that vaccine at the same time they are trying to get into the skilled nursing facilities.”
Final comments by council members included Whalen who acknowledged the role Bessinger, who is also Police Chief for the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, played in the arrest of Nathan Daniel Larsen for the abduction of a 12-year-old Fresno County girl.
Ashbeck commented that she had been talking to Haussler earlier about, “the idea of ghost kitchens.” She read an article in the Fresno Bee and wondered if they could somehow encourage restaurants to do so or attract new restaurants that just want to offer takeout or delivery. Haussler said that it’s something national brands, like Olive Garden, have already been doing, by preparing delivery food for their six brands all from the kitchen within the Olive Garden restaurant. Haussler said, “I’ve been keeping an eye on it relative to our development code and where that would fit into our community going forward because that could be a sizable employer for the city.” He added that the Clovis Culinary Center has already been marketing itself as a ghost kitchen in its off hours.
Council members wished each other a happy new year and the meeting adjourned around 6:55 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for January 11.
The council approved reallocating $100,000 for the Emergency Housing Payment Program, which is providing low-income residents impacted by COVID-19 an average of $3,000 in assistance. However, the program is expected to end in its current capacity as CARES Act funding is siphoned through a new program that will be administered at the county or state level.
Development within the Airport Influence Area will now be restricted to not include, non-residential projects exceeding 300 persons per acre, outdoor stadiums and similar high density uses and objects that exceed 100 feet in height.
Approved several amendments unanimously with no public discussion.
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