Documenter: Loren Friesen
I entered the meeting via a link on the Madera City Council’s website, which sent me to their stream site (hosted by Youtube). The meeting started promptly at 6 PM, with a roll call vote followed by an innovation from Pam Grewal of Madera Sikh Temple (who gave the invocation in Punjab). The roll call shows the following present in bold:
Mayor Santos Garcia
Council Member Cecelia Gallegos of District 1
Council Member Jose Rodriguez of District 2
Council Member Steve Montes of District 3
Council Member Anita Evans of District 4
Council member 5 is vacant
Mayor Pro Tem Artemio Villegas of District 6
The entirety of the meeting was virtual, with members streaming from their home office – desks, bookshelves, and the occasional Zoom green screen filled the backgrounds of most cameras. A red bar across the stream gave information for the public to participate by phone. The stream had some difficulties keeping up, and there was a noticeable lag at times between video and audio (I checked my internet connection, which was working fine, so I assume it was a technical issue on their end).
The overall tone of the meeting, set by Mayor Garcia, was very warm, welcoming, and appreciative. The Mayor made sure to read from the agenda what was the purpose or function of each section of the meeting. This may have been for the public’s sake, or for new councilmembers (it was often repeated throughout the meeting that there were newly elected council members, such as giving the history of an item during a presentation).
The meeting’s agenda is here
The goal of Madera City Council, in general, is to represent their constituents and provide efficient government services. Specifically to Madera, in 2005 the city “engaged in a community process to develop plan to guide the city to a preferred future. This plan is called the “Vison Madera 2025 Vision and Action plan”. At the heart of this plan is Madera’s self-recognition as a economically rowing and demographically changing city.
After councilwoman Gallegos pulled item D4, which will be discussed at the next meeting, the agenda passed 6-0.
The Mayor issued a proclamation recognizing Madera High softball coach Judy Shaubach for coaching her 1000th game.
The Mayor issued a proclamation recognizing United Way of Fresno and Madera Counties free tax preparation service.
The council approved the consent calendar 6-0.
After a presentation and discussion on the golf course owned by Madera City and managed by Jeff Christianson of Sierra Golf Management INC (SGM), the council approved 6-0 a two year contract with SGM to continue their working relationship with provisions that detailed certain updates and requirements SGM must adhere to.
After a presentation and discussion by Madera Police Chief Dino Lawson about Madera Grand Jury’s findings on the Madera Police Department, the council approved 6-0 staff’s response to the findings. The response was mostly acknowledging that the grand jury’s action recommendation has already been implemented or will be implemented.
After a presentation and discussion on Madera Grand Jury’s findings on the closure of Madera Airport’s crosswind runway, the council approved 6-0 staff’s response to the findings. The response included almost total disagreement on all of the findings, such as that the city failed to provide apt public notice for the airport’s closure and the insinuation that the city mishandled taxpayer dollars.
The council approved 6-0 to spend about $100,000 from the general fund to cover the difference in actual costs from expected costs for election management fees from November 2020’s general election.
The Madera Department of Public Health gave a presentation on Covid-19, noting that the rates are going in the right direction and that the state changed their standard for tier level (purple, red, etc.), making it easier to be in a lesser tier. She noted testing is above the state’s median. Vaccination allocation has doubled from Feb 15 – March 8, and more people who are eligible – incarcerated persons, public transit workers, the homeless. They will receive ongoing updates to guidance and encourage people to use their community feedback form.
There were no questions from the council.
Regarding the proclamation recognizing Coach Shaubach, the Mayor listed the coach’s accolades and her background and strong affiliation with the community of Madera. Shaubach thanks the council and emphasized that “my success is a reflection of great kids, great parents, and great assistant coaches.”
Regarding the proclamation recognizing United Way, Mayor Garcia outlined details of the service, such as it being free to those making under $57,000 per year and seniors, and that the organization has helped return $3 million to taxpayer hands “to help them make ends meet”. Ashley Reece, the program director, thanked the council and emphasized their commitment to Madera. The Mayor said he used to be a member of United Way and especially knows about the good work they do.
A workshop from Joseph Kalpakoff of Mid-valley Disposal highlighted:
Recycling services, such as mattresses, battery, and e-waste drop off programs
Truck investments, including a 3rd eye program that films the driver if any abnormal behavior occurs. This has decreased incidents by 85%.
A composting facility in Kerman that increased their capacity from 60,000 tons to 90,000 tons
Most notably, new regulation from the state of California, SB 1383, framed by Kalpakoff as an unfunded mandate by the state to rescue 20% of food waste. This can be done by networking businesses with food surplus to those in need of food. Kalpakoff noted that “we’re ready”, highlighting the upgrade in the Kerman facility (mentioned above)
Councilmember Gallegos had a question about illegal disposals, which the answer was cut out due to audio.
Councilmember Evans asked where to dispose of televisions. Kalpakoff said a 3rd party is picking up e-waste, and noted that “tons” were being picked up on the street.
Mayor Garcia said he was impressed with the work they did in front of his own house and they are doing a great job making Madera “a good city for us to live in and raise our families.”
Regarding item D-1
City Manager Arnoldo Rodriguez presented the background to the item. The existing agreement between SGM INC and the City of Madera will expire in April 2021, but because of Covid, a short term agreement of 24 months is in the best interest of both parties. Part of the new agreement includes the City being paid an extra 50 cents ($1.75 vs the previous $1.25) for every round of golf played, $40,000 spent by SGM on improvement to 11 bunkers, SGM pay about $15,000 to connect to a pressurized water line that uses surface water, not ground water, spend about $500,000 to replace 65 golf carts, and the City of Madera to receive 5% of building rental revenue in the first year and 10% of the same revenue in the second year.
Jeff Christianson, the owner of SGM INC, commented on how golf courses are also becoming multi-use species for track, soccer, and afterschool programs. He noted how golf participation exploded during the pandemic, even for women and minorities, and that the sustained growth will come for a decade and longer. “It’s park and recreation at its finest.”
Councilmember Rodriguez asked when the 11 bunkers will be completed. Christianson said he will do everything he can to complete them in 2021. Rodriguez noted his concern on lack of capital improvements but thanked Christianson for his work.
Councilmember Rodriguez asked about adding an ad hoc member since there is a vacancy, to which Councilmember Gallegos said she’d be interested in filling.
Regarding item D-2
Madera Police Department (MPD) Chief Lawson gave background on the Madera Grand Jury report titled “Unveiling Truths of Local Law Enforcement” and walked the council through the legal process of what the jury found, what the jury recommended, and what is the department’s response.
The jury found that:
the MPD works on multiple levels to build and strengthen positive relationship with the community members,
that 15 funded positions are currently unfilled
That MPD is not effectively handling individuals with mental health crisis
The jury recommended:
To continue to foster relationships and be open to suggestions, which the city says has already been implemented
To fill the vacant positions during 21/22 fiscal year, which the city plans to during budget planning
To immediately work with Madera County Board of Supervisors to provide adequate mental health services, which the city says has already been implemented Chief Lawson attended a meeting with the mental health department with that focus
Chief Lawson said overall it was a good review from the grand jury. The Mayor concurred and commended the good work. Lawson said he was disappointed (somewhat jestingly) not to receive questions from the council.
Regarding item D-3
City Manager Arnoldo Rodriguez gave the (self-ascribed) lengthy background and history of the item. The Madera County Grand Jury gave a report titled “Madera County and City of Madera Governments Public Servants or Self-Serving; Part III: Madera Municipal Airport Closure of Runway 8-26. He describes what the jury found and what is staff’s response to the findings.
The jury found that:
The city did not provide requested documentation.
The city did not provide adequate public notice for the runway’s closure.
The city spent taxpayer money to purchase additional acreage for the fire station.
The city repeatedly ignored private interest in the runway.
The staff’s response (respectively) is:
Partially disagree because they didn’t have adequate information to begin with, but want to demonstrate good faith by providing training to provide documentation.
Disagree – Rodriguez walked through several years worth of proof that the runway would be “abandoned if changed” according to meetings of planning commission, city council, and airport advisory commissions in 1992, plus additional meetings in 2015, 2016, and 2017, 2019, and 2020.
Disagrees that the tax money spending was inappropriate.
Disagrees because the city doesn’t have adequate information and that the huge interest in the hanger lease from private owners has been responded to.
The city claims all the jury’s recommendations have already been implemented, such as providing information as per the Brown Act, seeking funding opportunities, adhere to requests of public records, and entertain financial investment of private entities. The only stipulation was addressing the word “refrain” from the recommendation “to refrain from carelessly spending taxpayer money”.
The Mayor commended the presentation and response, noting how the airport is Madera’s “crown jewel”.
Regarding item D-5:
Alicia Gonzales, City Clerk, gave a background on the item. There was an invoice of $127,670.16 for election management fees related to the Nov. 3, 2020 presidential general election. She budgeted for about $20,000, so the amendment proposes to use the general fund to cover the additional $101,322.15 for the invoice.
Councilmember Rodriguez asked if the invoice itemized every cost, wanting to know where the big cost discrepancy came from. Gonzalez said part of it was a larger budget due to covid safety measures, but also she copied the budget amount from the previous election. She noted it was a novice error. Rodgriguez asked if she only budgeted for one seat election (regarding city council election), which Gonzalez clarified that she copied the budget from the last election, which had 3 seats.
Councilmember Gallegos, who initially had a question, said her question was answered.
The Mayor thanked Gonzalez, commending her for the good work she does especially with assisting him.
Regarding council member reports, each member encouraged each other to get vaccinated. In addition:
Council member Gallegos reported from a Madera County Transportation Commision (MCTC) meeting that the commission is asking when HW 99 is going to be finished. She is hearing that in June or July the completed highway will have three lanes on each side.
Council member Rodriguez, who is also on the commission, added that because of the additional funding for infrastructure it would be a good idea to contact MCTC to add any ready projects to that list.
Council member Montes requested the cannabis ad hoc to give the council an update soon.
Council member Evans thanked Councilmember Gallegos, Dan Fost, and the Department for Public Works for the tour of somewhere – the audio cut out until she finished speaking.
Council member Villegas mentioned something about a vaccine, but his audio was horrible.
The Mayor thanked Sally Blamford of Cesar Chavez Elementary for having him answer her class about why he ran for city council. He was amused that the first question posed to him was when he could get monkey bars back on the playground at their school. He thanked the federal government for helping people at this very difficult time, emphasizing programs and grants for helping folks with utilities and rent. He also thanked staff for their presence at this meeting.
The meeting ended at 8:11 PM
Major action items were items D-1 through D-5 (D-4 was pulled). This included extending a two year agreement with Sierra Golf Management INC, spending a little over $100,000 to fund an under-budgeted election management cost, and two responses to the findings and recommendation of the Madera Grand Jury (one was favorable, one was not). Other than a workshop on Madera’s garbage disposal and recycling (including an update on a California law starting next January), there were also two proclamations for two community members’ contributions to the community.