Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

The Scene

The Clovis City Council meeting took place on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 at 6 p.m. The state recently lifted the COVID-19 stay-at-home order on Jan. 25, allowing for outdoor dining and personal care services. Fresno County has begun to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to residents 75 and older, though supplies have been limited and no public vaccination sites have opened in Clovis yet.

The seats of Ashbeck and Mouanoutoua are up for reelection on March 2. One of the council candidates, Herman Nagra, was arrested Jan. 28 after Mouanoutoua contacted the police to report stolen election signs, and they were found in his backyard.  Following the election, the council will also elect a new mayor and mayor pro tem from among themselves.

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. Ashbeck was the only council member to wear a face mask throughout the meeting. The other council members did not wear face masks while seated during the meeting.

Names of officials:

Drew Bessinger, Mayor (also Chief of Police, Fresno Yosemite International Airport)

Jose Flores, Mayor Pro Tem (also Chief of Police, State Center Community College District Police Department)

Lynne Ashbeck, Council Member (also Senior Vice President Community Engagement and Population Wellness, Valley Children’s Healthcare)

Vong Mouanoutoua, Council Member (also External Relations and Project Development Director, Community Medical Foundation)

Bob Whalen, Council Member (also Fresno County Deputy District Attorney)

The meeting opened with Mouanoutoua asking Rick Snow, president of the Exchange Club of Clovis to lead the council in the flag salute. Bessinger then asked that a presentation be added to the agenda to honor the Clovis Exchange Club. Ashbeck read a proclamation to honor the club and congratulate Snow on his retirement after 30 years, then club members took a photo with the council. Mouanoutoua also spoke about the club, which he said was the first service club he joined when he moved to Clovis. “I appreciate what I learned through the service,” he said. “That regardless of where you are at in life, and even when you are blessed with so much, you all gave up your time and money to give back to Clovis.” 

From there, the meeting was opened for public comments. A man the council recognized and referred to as Mr. Pierce was in chambers and commented on traffic issues created by a Dutch Bros drive-thru coffee shop that opened in November near Fowler & Herndon. No additional comments were made, but a letter from a, “Mr. Quintero,” was acknowledged as being received. 

Bessinger then commented on the stolen campaign sign incident that occured the week prior. He said that the city has a procedure for the proper placement and removal of campaign signs and that the candidates receive the rules from the city clerk in their candidate packets. He went on to explain that signs that are placed in violation can be removed from the owner of the property or can be reported to the city clerk and the city clerk will contact the candidate and ask them to either get permission or remove the sign. Signs that are placed on public property can be removed by the city and stored and returned to the candidate. “It’s one thing to assume the owner’s role of removing illegally placed signs, if indeed they didn’t have permission and there was a violation,” Bessinger said. “But it’s a whole other thing to retain the property of others.” 

He went on to say that the signs should have been returned to the candidate or turned over to the city. Bessinger continued saying, “there were irresponsible assertions made that our police department both mishandled this incident and that there was an unethical intent on behalf of the city and its police department. I’m concerned that there was a deflection of personal responsibility for a bad decision. Our citizens have a very high expectation of their elected officials and those who wish to serve them…last week’s incidents were an anomaly and they are not foreshadowing of a change in how we will conduct our affairs in the future.”

Actions

  • Approve procedures to resolve a tie vote in a City of Clovis general municipal election. Approved unanimously, no discussion. 

  • Approve the reallocation of proposition 1B transit modernization, improvement and service enhancement account (PTMISEA) Bond program funds. Approved unanimously, no discussion. 

  • Amend 2020-2021 transit budget to add $156,230.00 in capital expenditures and approve receipt of grant fund revenue in the same amount, waive the city’s usual purchasing procedure and authorize the purchase of security cameras from Surveillance Systems Incorporated utilizing competitive bid pricing. Flores abstained from voting due to his financial interest in adjacent property. Approved unanimously, no discussion. 

  • Approve amending the official list of designated special speed zones. Approved unanimously, no discussion. 

  • Approve annexation of miscellaneous properties to the landscape maintenance district. Approved unanimously, no discussion. 

  • Approve the authorization of an application to the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) for City Payment Program Funds. Approved unanimously, no discussion. 

  • Approve amendments to the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Community Development Block Grant Annual Action Plan presented by Andrew Haussler, Community and Economic Development Director. Reinstate $140,000 in funding for Dennis/Beverly Alley program funds and $60,000 for ADA Improvements program. Approved unanimously, with little discussion.  

  • Approve naming of the new transit facility as, “The William H ‘Harry’ Armstrong Transit Center,” after the longtime Clovis City council member who died in 2018. His son’s, Tom and Jim Armstrong, were in council chambers to acknowledge the award. “Over his nearly 50 years with the City of Clovis, Clovis was his way of life, he embraced Clovis with everything that he had,” said Tom Armstrong of his late father. 

    • General Services Director Shonna Halterman also briefed the council on the decision to officially name the city’s new senior center, “Clovis Senior Activity Center, A Smittcamp Family Legacy.” The Smittcamp Family Foundation awarded $1 million toward the senior center, which was announced at the Dec. 14, 2020 city council meeting. 

    • Following the presentation, Mouanoutoua expressed a desire to ensure the names continue in perpetuity and asked how that could be ensured. “How do we make it so that one day in the future, in 5010 whatever, someone doesn’t come back and say, I found this about Mr. Armstrong, I found this about Mr. Smittcamp and the name goes down,” he said. “Because we’re honoring the goodness of the people, but if you want to find fault you’ll find fault in all of us.” The city’s legal counsel said that would be a consideration for the council in the future if they ever desired to make changes. Flores agreed with Mouanoutoua, saying, “I know other cities are canceling great heroes of our nation.” Ashbeck added to the conversation, saying, “I just pray the world gets some sanity back, and we won’t be having this conversation, but that might be a bridge too far.” To close the conversation, Bessinger said they should discuss this issue in the future and the possibility of requiring a supermajority vote (unanimous decision) for changing building names. 

  • Receive and file 2020 Clovis Trail Count Report. Colleen Vidinoff, a city engineer, presented the sixth annual trail user count, which totaled over 3 million users in 2020. The trails had 1.8 million users in 2019 and she attributed the increase largely to the community being at home due to the pandemic. To get these counts, the city borrows automated equipment from the Fresno Council of Governments, as well from two permanent bike and pedestrian trail counters at Clovis and Nees Avenues and Clovis and Sierra Avenues. She said the city will use this data for grant opportunities and to guide further planning and maintenance. “Our trails were highly valued during quarantine and we’re very grateful for them,” Vidinoff said. Ashbeck brought up the extension of Measure C, and said that the funds received from it could be used on trails, maintenance and possibly trail expansion in the future. Whalen mentioned the possibility of developing trails through existing neighborhoods from Letterman Park, along Highway 168 and west to Willow Avenue. Bessinger said he agreed and that there are four to five existing neighborhoods that would benefit from trail extensions. 

  • Approve a letter of support for AB 262 to amend the penal code to improve the record clearing process for victims of human trafficking. The bill was sponsored by Assembly member Jim Patterson. Passed unanimously with little discussion. 

  • Adopt emergency order 2021-01, to waive certain city transit rider eligibility requirements to allow seniors 65 years and older to take the Clovis Round Up busses to their COVID-19 vaccination appointments. City Manager Luke Serpa said this will waive requirements for a doctor’s order certifying they suffer from a disability and allow anyone 65 years old or older who lives within the Clovis Transit Service Area to utilize Clovis Roundup Service for transportation to and from COVID vaccination sites. Passed unanimously with little discussion. 

In closing, Serpa gave an update on COVID-19 cases in the state and local area. He noted that numbers of cases, deaths and hospitalizations were all showing a downward trend. The current statistics show 58 adjusted new cases per 100,000 people, down from 75.2 two weeks ago, a 15.3% positivity rate, and a 17.9% health equity quartile rate. “We are still well above the thresholds to get out of the purple tier,” he said. He said that vaccine supply continues to be a limiting factor and that this week the county was going to recieve 8,000, but that it was likely no new general population vaccinations would be given until Feb. 15. 

Serpa went on to say, “We’ve been getting some calls accusing us of why the county is spiking and why things are closed down. He then shared a graph comparing infection rates since the pandemic began, which showed Clovis around 6% of infections reported by Clovis addresses, lower than the state average and county average and surrounding communities. “Our relaxing or lack of enforcing the orders isn’t causing the problem,” he said. But Serpa noted that there were some factors like the ability to work from home, rather than packing sheds where they can’t socially distance, in addition to internet access, access to healthcare and many other factors. 
Flores agreed, saying, “We’re the lowest city in this county of all incorporated cities.” Whalen also commented, saying he was unsure whether they’d made the right decision in not enforcing orders for businesses to close, “You never know when you make a move like that and you are subjecting yourself to criticism and that can’t be taken lightly. We’re not talking about money here, we’re talking about lives. I’m glad to have data to back up the decision that we made. There’s a lot of factors that go into why these numbers are so low. I’m glad you put that together because I’ve been nervous about it for a while.” 

Switching gears, Serpa said they are preparing the five-year financial forecast and that things, “revenue wise are better than we anticipated.” He added that they never had to lay off any city employees, but they did freeze hiring new positions, but has now given the police chief the green light to fill three positions by July 1. 

Serpa also commented on the closing of Sears, one of the largest anchor stores at the Sierra Vista Mall. Director of Community and Economic Development Andrew Haussler said, “From an economic development perspective, I see it as an opportunity.” Ashbeck also said, “I do think the impact of a store like Sears is really significant.” Bessinger added that he wanted to learn more about how other communities are converting retail spaces into high density housing. 

Whalen shared a photo of a new brewery in Clovis, Machinehead Brewing Co. where he said he went to the night before. He said, “Crow & Wolf Brewing Company,” is another new brewery that will be open in Clovis soon along one of the trails, adding to the House of Pendragon Brewing Co. and Tactical Ops Brewing that are already open along the trail. “This is really an opportunity to help market these breweries in the City of Clovis,” he said. “It’s a fun little experience to go into some of these local breweries.” Haussler said they are currently working on a guide to market the city’s, “Ale Trail.” 

In closing, Flores questioned if/when herd immunity would be factored into the state’s COVID plan. Bessinger commented on discussions he had at the California Air Resources Board meeting about all agricultural burns being banned and the need for 6,000 acres of orchards that need to be burned. Bessinger said he wrote a letter to the governor supporting allowing agricultural burns and sent a, “My job depends on ag,” sticker to him. To which, Ashbeck asked him, “Which job?” 

The meeting adjourned at 8:12 p.m. 

Summary

  • Clovis will provide transportation to and from COVID vaccination sites and suspend certain transit eligibility requirements to allow anyone 65 years old or older who live within the area to utilize Clovis Round Up Service for transportation to and from COVID vaccination appointments. 

  • Names of the new senior center and transit center were announced as, “Clovis Senior Activity Center, A Smittcamp Family Legacy,” and, “The William H ‘Harry’ Armstrong Transit Center.” Council members also expressed their wishes that these be named in perpetuity and not changed in the future. 

  • The city’s trails saw 3 million pedestrian users in 2020, greatly increased from 1.8 million in 2019. 

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