Documenter: Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
Two items in the consent agenda were pulled for discussion—one concerned amending easements with the Alta Irrigation District to allow for larger yards for homes in a new development.
Mayor Fast wanted to confirm that walking trails would also eventually be a part of this development plan; Community Development Director Rob Terry confirmed that they would be.
The second agenda item which generated discussion was about using $26,959 from the general fund to pay for a veterans’ banner program, a fireworks show, and a city Christmas tree.
Only one city district (F) voted to approve increased landscape assessment fees for publicly owned landscaping spaces.
The regular City Council meeting at 7:00PM was preceded by a special meeting which began at 6:00PM. The special meeting was a continuation of the FY 2021-2022 budget meeting. Discussion in this special meeting, for which no actions were scheduled, focused on two subjects: budget needs for community services and the fire department. Between the special meeting and the regular meeting, there was an adjournment and a 10-minute break, during which the Zoom connection was offline. Re-connecting was problematic for virtual attendees.
The meeting began at 7:10 p.m. with an invocation, led by Pastor Horacio Aleman, Jr., who promised brevity, or “no sermon,” to which Mayor Fast jocularly replied, “I’ve got a 3-minute buzzer,” to laughter. The invocation was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, then the roll call; all Council members were present:
Matthew Tuttle, Council Member, District 1
Robert Beck, Mayor Pro-Tempore, District 3
Ray Soleno, Council Member, District 4
Anita Betancourt, Council Member, District 5
Mayor Fast, Mayor, District 2
There was no public comment regarding any item not on the agenda, but notably, during the call for any public comments, Mayor Fast clarified that the Council’s policy is not to give impromptu answers to such comments. Also present were other members of the city staff: City Manager Nicole Zieba, who answered Council members’ questions in detail throughout the meeting; Community Development Director Rob Terry, who presented information about the agenda item calling for modification of easements in a new housing development; City Attorney Scott Gross (who also serves as city attorney for Clovis and Fowler); and City Engineer Marilu Morales, who gave a staff report.
The consent agenda was passed unanimously, excepting the two items pulled for discussion, which were also passed unanimously after discussion (see agenda here: https://reedley.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/CC-2021-05-25.pdf ). Notably, the Council agreed to amend easements with the Alta Irrigation District to allow for larger yards for homes in a new development.
They also agreed to pay $26,959 from the general fund to pay for a veterans’ banner program, a fireworks show, and a city Christmas tree, after City Manager Zieba carefully explained that each cost in this agenda item is a one-time expense.
Regarding the agenda item concerning increased assessments for landscaping in seven city zones, City Engineer Morales reported that the current rates for landscape maintenance are assessed at the same rates as those of 31 years ago, now insufficient to cover increased labor costs. For zones where the increase passed by vote, landscaping maintenance would improve; for those where it did not pass, the city would do minimal landscaping, such as pulling out weeds and tidying, but not planting anything new. 448 ballots were sent to residents of the seven zones in question, to vote on an increase; the votes were to be tabulated while the Council was in closed session at tonight’s meeting.
City Manager Zieba said that her goal was to hold a public hearing to see if the assessment will pass in each district. Of the 448 ballots, 132 were returned. Only one district (F) voted to approve the increase. Mayor Fast made several mentions soliciting public comment about this matter, but there were none; she then closed public comments and the Council went into closed session on other matters, during which time the Zoom connection stayed on and several consultants were seen tabulating the votes in public view, a point City Manager Zieba emphasized.
Council members, returning from closed session, were surprised at the results, as Zone F is located near a waste-water treatment center, and none of the more centrally located zones voted “yes.” Mayor Fast was heard to exclaim, “Jiminy crickets!” in reaction. Zieba remarked that if there are complaints about the changes in landscaping, and she expects that there will be, the City should remind people that their neighbors voted “no” because they didn’t want the improvement.
All Council members and Attorney Gross met privately in City Manager Zieba’s office. There were two issues being considered: (1) In anticipation of a potential lawsuit, the Council voted to approve payment of a claim of property damage brought by Pope Properties; and (2) regarding a labor conference with the Reedley Public Safety Employees Association, the Council took no action.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:28PM.
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