Documenter: Rachel Youdelman

Here’s what you need to know:

  • A resident of Parlier made a donation of two police surveillance cameras to the city.

  • Council agreed to the purchase of a new police communication tower.

  • Meeting in closed session regarding a liability claim brought by former police chief José Garza, Council voted unanimously to deny it.

The Scene 

Mayor Alma M. Beltran

Mayor Pro-Tem, District 2 Trinidad Pimental

Councilwoman, District 4 Diane Maldonado

Councilwoman, District 1 Sabrina Rodriguez

Councilwoman, District 3 Cathryn (“Kathy”) Solorio 

City Clerk Dorothy Garza

Treasurer Michelle Lopez

City Manager Sonia Hall

Assistant City Manager Bertha A. Augustine

City Engineer Javier Andrade

City Planner, Jeff O’Neal

Police Chief David Cerda

City Attorney Neal Costanzo 

Meeting was convened at 6:32PM. For virtual attendees, the audio connection was extremely poor, and at times inaudible or unintelligible. Video was equally poor, and it was difficult to see who was speaking. Occasionally, but not consistently, the camera was focused on the speaker’s podium. Additionally, voices off-camera were heard, but speakers did not identify themselves. Connection was good for the two presenters who connected from their own computers. Jeff O’Neal, City Planner, was online, as was Sophia Garcia from Redistricting Partners. About three others attended online but did not speak. Constant cross-talking, ambient noise, and unidentified off-camera voices contributed to the difficulty of comprehending some of the detail of what was happening throughout the meeting. 

Roll call was taken, all council members present.

Flag salute immediately followed roll call.

Invocation and agenda Additions/Deletions were scheduled but not raised.

Presentation New police chief David Cerda (appointed in June) presented a “Citizen Recognition Certificate” to a member of the Byram family of Parlier, recognizing their donation of the purchase of two police surveillance cameras for the city, at a total cost of $11,000. Cerda remarked that the cameras would provide “tremendous coverage” of criminal activities which have plagued the city. Berit Byram accepted the awards, one for her and one for her nephew Tyler. Byram tearfully told a story from her childhood of an officer who she said “saved our lives” and died in the line of duty (“I heard the shot”), and now she was pleased to “give back.” Discussion following the presentation of the certificate was unintelligible.

Next, an award was presented to Chief Cerda, who became the leader of the police department in June this year after a controversial firing of then-chief José Garza in the spring. Cerda was praised for “reducing crime, addressing shootings” and “bringing morale up” during a “rough time.” Cerda, a 23-year veteran of the Parlier police force declared the award “ truly an honor.”

At this point, it was decided that agenda item #10 would be tabled until the next meeting. 

Next a council member asked to make an impromptu presentation about a development project downtown, and a video of a strip-mall rendering was shown. Music from the video overpowered the speaker’s voice, and despite requests to silence the music, it played throughout the presentation, so it was impossible to understand what the speaker was advocating.

Agenda Items #1 (approve checks 31 July- 13 Aug 2021) and #2 (approve minutes, 5 Aug 2021 meeting) were approved unanimously, single vote.

Agenda Item #3 Approve use of Flores Field by California Youth Soccer Association and waiving of fees. Discussion: The Public Works Department can cut the grass, but users of the field will be asked to keep it tidy. Cross-talk made it difficult to hear other details of the discussion. Vote passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #4 Consider purchasing a police communication tower. Cost is covered in the Parlier police budget for FY 2021-22. “We need this tower,” noted a council member. Police Chief Cerda said the tower will improve connectivity and will allow officers to write and transmit reports on the spot while on the street, without loss of connection. The tower will be located at the police department. “You can’t get more secure than that,” Cerda noted. Passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #5 Presentation on redistricting process by consultant, Redistricting Partners, and public hearing to receive public input on redrawing district boundaries. Sophia Garcia from Redistricting Partners attended virtually and gave a clear and detailed presentation on principles and processes of redistricting and redrawing of electoral maps. Her audio and visual transmission was very clear. There were no questions from the public. A couple of questions from staff and/or council members were heard: Some constituents tell council members, “I thought you were in my district; how come I can’t vote for you?” suggesting that people can be generally confused about which electoral district they are in. An unidentified off-camera male voice noted that it would take some time to gather data and prepare for the next public hearing, so postponing the next public hearing for some time after the next council meeting would be advisable. No action needeed.

Agenda Item #6 Adopt resolution to confirm annual levy, landscape maintenance and lighting for District 1; file resolution and engineer’s report. Javier Andrade, city engineer, gave a presentation, which was for the most part unintelligible because of poor audio transmission, cross-talk, and interfering ambient sounds. Several attendees were heard to say the area was poorly lit and that PG&E had already done what it could, and now it was up to the city. Public hearing was held. There were no public comments, and the public hearing was closed. Passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #7 Consider adoption of resolution No. 2021-45 for construction contract, Parlier Safe Routes, School Federal Project No. CML-5252(030), to Seal Rite Paving and Grading, for the construction of new lighted pedestrian crossings and updates to existing pedestrian crossings at various locations near school sites; total amount $175,072.50. Unintelligible discussion. It appeared that the mayor when calling for a vote was reading the wrong agenda item. But she clarified, and the vote was taken; passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #8 Proposal for slurry-seal and restripe of City Hall parking lot.

Staff recommended approval and contracting with Robert Sandoval Paving Construction. Mayor Beltran explained that surplus funds from another project made this one possible, and as the need is urgent, the surplus should be taken advantage of now. Some half-jesting remarks about “being sued for falling in a parking lot” were made. Passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #9 Public hearing to consider Prodigy Square Commercial Development, including a mitigated negative declaration, General Plan amendment, rezoning, zoning text amendment, and conditional-use permit for a convenience market, fast-food restaurant, gas station, car wash, and diesel fueling station; submitted by applicant Shogy Saleh. Presentation was made remotely with his own computer by city planner, Jeff O’Neal, so audio and video were very clear. The proposal entails development of three lots. O’Neal showed maps of the location and site plan; the area covers 3.6 acres. He mentioned that there must be a provision for mitigation of greenhouse-gas impact, in this case by purchasing CO2 reduction credits. Someone asked what the development would be called; Mr Saleh was present, and he said it has been called “Prodigy Square;” the rest of his comment was unintelligible. A question was asked concerning a nearby building in disrepair; O’Neal replied that it was not a part of this project. No one asked the city planner any other questions. Cross-talk and laughter made the purport of the ensuing discussion unintelligible. Public hearing opened by the Mayor. There was a question regarding the extent of sewer construction. It was mentioned that there was grant funding to construct infrastructure for utilities (water, sewer) for the entire area. Beltran then closed the public hearing. Passed unanimously.

Agenda Item #10 This item will continue to the 2 Sept regular meeting. Public hearing to consider the MG Starr, LLC commercial project, including a finding of exemption from CEQA, a General Plan amendment, and conditional use permit for convenience market, gas station, and car wash submitted by Randel Mathias.

Agenda Item #11 Public hearing to consider Vesting Tentative Map No. 6356, including a mitigated negative declaration, pre-zoning, and annexation request to Fresno LAFCo; submitted by Adobe West, Inc. City planner Jeff O’Neal again appeared remotely to give a brief presentation. The proposed project is a subdivision for a 60-acre single-family housing development in an unincorporated area of Fresno County. He showed maps and planning drawings and said that greenhouse-gas mitigation would be achieved by installing a number of electric-car charging stations. Some discussion followed about the nature of the project and how everyone has worked hard on it. It was remarked that “things haven’t been done the way they should have been done in the past. Now we’re making sure things are done right.” A mistake in the resolution number was pointed out by O’Neal, and it was amended. Public hearing was opened and closed. O’Neal and Andrade were praised for doing “a great job.” 

Closed session was announced, and the Zoom broadcast was paused; the meeting reconvened at 9:09PM. Reportable action was that Council voted “unanimously” (very pointedly emphasized) to deny the liability claim of José Garza against the city of Parlier. Garza was until early April this year the chief of police in Parlier and was dismissed at a council meeting over the objections of some of his officers and others. 

Examination of the meeting agenda and minutes from the 1 April regular meeting show that “Add employee dismissal to agenda” was added to the agenda after the meeting had opened on 1 April, without prior public notice, and that dismissal of former chief Garza was by unanimous roll-call vote.
The last item on the agenda was Council Communications/Comments (from manager, attorney, council), but the Zoom broadcast was abruptly disconnected at 9:10.

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