Documenter: Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
A representative from Mid-Valley Disposal gave a presentation on the new rules regarding organic-waste disposal, pursuant to SB1383, effective Jan 2022.
Enhanced Economic Incentive Zone (EEIZ) expiration date was extended.
A bridge-repair related disruption in water supply is expected to occur on Monday, July 5, beginning at midnight; the city engineer will contact the bigger water users to apprise them of the delay.
Some form of water-conservation measures is imminent, pending further discussion.
Mendota City Council Members
Rolando Castro, Mayor
Jesus Mendoza, Mayor Pro Tempore
Jose Alonso, Council Member
Joseph R. Riofrio, Council Member
Oscar Rosales, Council Member
Cristian Gonzales, City Manager
John Kinsey, City Attorney
Celeste Cabrera-Garcia, City Clerk
Michael Osborn, City Engineer
Nancy Diaz, Finance Officer
The transmission via Zoom was scheduled for 6:00PM. When attendees signed on at 6:00PM, they received a message on their screens which said “the host has another meeting in progress.” It was unclear if the regular meeting would proceed, and there was no answer to a phone call placed to the office shortly after 6:00PM. However, the Zoom broadcast began at 6:16PM. No explanation was offered for the tardy start. Six people attended remotely, and aside from the Council members, there appeared to be a few people in chambers. However, because of the static, single-camera placement, the only people visible were four Council members, yet the camera quality was so poor, it was nearly impossible to see which one was speaking. A young female staff person could be seen once or twice walking across the floor. This meeting appeared to be the first in the chambers since Covid restrictions were lifted. The young staffer mentioned wore a mask, but the four members of Council visible on camera did not. The meeting should have been called to order by Mayor Castro, followed by roll call, flag salute, and invocation, but these steps may have taken place before the camera was switched on. As a result, it was impossible to know if all five Council members were present. The sound quality of the transmission was extremely poor, and it was very difficult to follow the conversations, as they were muffled or unintelligible for much of the time. If someone addressed the Council, they were not only not visible, but when they spoke the sound was muffled, so if they identified themselves, it was difficult to confirm. Further, ambient noise, such as doors slamming, caused additional interference.
Presentation by Joseph Kalpakoff of Mid-Valley Disposal. Kalpakoff presented slides about implications of SB1383, which aims to reduce the volume of organic waste, in part by recovering food that is edible. (Note: Mr Kalpakoff was off-camera and was only on audio, and the audio quality was very bad.) Each jurisdiction must provide for collection and recycling of organic waste, establish an edible-food recovery program, procure recyclable and recovered organic products (such as paper), and monitor compliance and enforcement. Compost can be produced and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.
Mr. Kalpakoff did not appear to be pleased with the new law, which was passed in 2016 but has “evolved” into a food-waste bill. He warned that it would “change the landscape of every city in California, and it’s not going to be a good thing for us.” He said it may be good for San Francisco or Los Angeles, but it’s “not good for the Central Valley.” He called it a climate bill that “turned into a solid waste bill” but did not acknowledge that these two areas are related in important ways. He complained that all responsibility for carrying out the terms of the law “fall on cities.” He did concede that the food recovery aspect of the bill was productive. He disputed the suggestion that a large volume of food is being thrown out in regular trash bins, because, he said, he has not observed it in his work as a trash collector. He lamented that nevertheless “we fall under the regulations.” The bill takes effect in January 2022, was passed in “the midst of Covid” in Sept 2020, and it is “unfunded.” He catalogued all of the reasons why he felt the bill’s requirements were unfair and oppressive. He said that “they” want a 75% reduction in organics disposal and a 20% increase in [unintelligible] by 2025. Jurisdictions must be responsible for collection, which is in place, as are the 3 types of trash bins with households. Businesses will also be required to have “green waste” bins—he saw a need for community outreach in this area. He continued in a resentful tone: “Instead of us telling them what works, they are telling us how to do it.” He talked about cameras on or in trash-collection trucks and said trash collectors are required to document improperly placed trash. Council members made comments and asked questions, but the sound was so muffled as to be impossible to understand. He said that “we have to find” where the edible food otherwise destined for the trash is, store it, then find people in Mendota who are food-insecure and deliver it to them. He then warned that a “cop” would write you a “$500 ticket” if you’ve got more than 10% food waste in your trucks. He did speak with a more enthusiastic tone when he discussed the composting facilities; he mentioned a $3 million-dollar grant from the state to build the facility. Again, council members’ comments and responses were unintelligible. He promised to send summaries of procedures to the Council so the city could prepare. Some cross-talk and mostly unintelligible discussion followed, and some comments about the Central Valley being different from Los Angeles and San Francisco were made, as were comparisons of costs of electric and gas-powered garbage trucks. One Council member was heard to say that “we need to educate” the residents, and Mr Kalpakoff offered that he would help “phase it in.” Another asked about discarding food waste at home, and Kalpakoff said that it should be added to the green waste. But what about summer heat, someone asked, to groans. It was not pointed out that summer heat affects the discarded food whether it is in the green-waste bin or the regular trash bin. Toward the end of the presentation, Kalpakoff said that he wanted to do what was “best for Mendota” but he has to do what “they” are mandating. Council remarks were muffled or unintelligible.
The Mayor called for public comments. Unintelligible cross-talk. There were no public comments.
Approval of Minutes 8 June meeting. Passed unanimously.
Items #1-6. Mayor pulls item #6. Items #1-5 passed unanimously. Item #6 was a resolution to extend the expiration date for builders on commercial property of certain types of businesses who want to take advantage of Enhanced Economic Incentive Zone (EEIZ) opportunities (eg, waiving of permit fees, etc—cost savings can be in the $100K range). The idea is to incentivize people to build on the many empty lots within the city. Mayor called for public comment; none. Passed unanimously.
Item #1: Discussion of water conservation. Neither speaker appeared on screen nor identified himself, but the agenda item showed the name of City Manager Gonzalez. He said that Governor Newsom had declared a drought emergency in 41 counties. No specific conservation measures were called for by the governor, so Gonzalez felt it prudent to bring the matter before the Council to ask if any specific measures should be taken in Mendota. He said that there are 3 stages of water conservation:
Ask households to voluntarily limit water usage.
Place specific limitations on water use—eg, no ornamental fountains unless water is recycled.
Prohibit certain uses of water, no ornamental fountains of any kind, no “bouncy houses” with water slides, etc. Impose penalties for violations.
He recommended a “stage 2” approach but was open to discussing. A Council member asked where the monetary fines came from; Gonzalez replied the amounts per violation are all in the Municipal Code, which was written in the mid-1990s, so the fines seem rather low. He emphasized that the Council should begin public outreach about conservation. Mayor Castro began to talk about water waste; much of the sound was muffled, but it appeared that he was talking about schools wasting water with “bouncy house” water slides. He said that water from these sources was running in the street and going to waste, while local farmers were “hurting” because of inadequate water supply, a fact he found deplorable, given that “we feed the world” with local agriculture which depends on having enough water to produce crops, and he again raised the issue of water slides. Gonzalez noted that if Council wanted to prohibit water slides, a “stage 3” approach would be necessary. Castro said he would like to discuss further and invite the operators of the “bouncy houses” to join the discussion, as operating them is their livelihood. He suggested there could be limitations imposed rather than an outright ban. Castro called for public comment (“Go ahead and unmute yourself”) but there was none. The City Manager noted that he has the authority to invoke any of the stages he mentioned, but he wanted to give the Council a chance to weigh in. The item was tabled for later discussion.
Department Reports and Informational Items
1. Animal Control, Code Enforcement, and Police Department: Monthly report. Presumably, a police officer presented this information, but he was neither visible nor identified by anybody. He reported that the Animal Control had received 250 calls and issued 30 citations. A Council member asked if police issued citations for trash disposed of in empty lots. Some of the ensuing talk was too muffled to understand. Animal control: 16 calls for service, 3 dogs impounded and 2 taken to Fresno Humane; no dogs euthanized. The Police Dept issued 81 citations, doubled from April; one attempted homicide. 3 arrests. There were 2 residential burglaries, no commercial burglaries; 6 petty thefts, 14 vandalisms. Some discussion ensued, but it was unintelligible.
2. City Attorney Update: John Kinsey joined via remote; audio and video very clear. He reported that a former colleague, Nicholas Cardella, would be re-joining his firm as of 1 August. (Both attorneys have expertise in environmental law.) A Council member asked if Kinsey would report on another matter (unintelligible), but he replied that he would discuss it in closed session.
3. City Manager: Gonzalez reported that there will be a fireworks show this Saturday 26 June, 6-10PM at Lake Mendota Park. He announced that the city’s Assistant Finance Director will be retiring on July 1. He also noted that as per new OSHA guidelines: non-vaccinated employees must wear masks, and employers must provide the masks, and so on. Vandalism in park restrooms has been an ongoing problem. A Council member asked if the local baseball field would be watered down before a game? Michael Osborn, City Engineer, attending remotely, replied that he believed there was a hose bib on the field but that he would check with Public Works staff and follow up. The same Council member mentioned that the bleachers should also be hosed down regularly.
Mayor and Council Reports and Informational Items
1. Council Members. Riofrio: He noted that he was looking forward to the fireworks show on the 26th. Some comments on the danger of fireworks at home ensued, but much of the dialogue was unintelligible. A 2nd Council member reported that he too was looking forward to the fireworks show.
2. Mayor: Raised the issue of noise permits. Much of what he said was unintelligible.
Closed Session (About 7:26PM) Kinsey gave a general outline of what was to be discussed: Conference with legal counsel about anticipated litigation and conference with labor negotiators. The city clerk announced that virtual attendees would be placed in the Zoom “waiting room” and re-admitted when the Council returned from closed session.
Business (continued) The regular meeting resumed at about 8:34PM. Item #2 in the Business agenda was approval & adoption of the FY 2021-22 operations budget. Someone remarked that this was the 3rd attempt to approve the budget. Nancy Diaz, Finance Officer, appeared to be participating in this discussion. Much of the discussion was unintelligible, but some of it seemed to concern the hiring of police officers and accounting for their salaries and equipment. Laughter, cross-talk, footsteps made it very difficult to follow what was being said. No public comment. Passed unanimously. Item #3: Proposal to increase compensation of Council members. Kinsey said that the issue is tabled for the next meeting.
Michael Osborn made a last-minute comment about a planned disruption in water supply associated with a bridge repair. The disruption is expected to occur on Monday 5 July beginning at midnight. He will contact “big water users” before that to apprise them of the situation.
Meeting was adjourned at 8:54PM.