Documenter: Joeanna Lopez
Here’s what you need to know
The City Council of Mendota approved an agreement with the County of Fresno to administer and implement the CDBG Program. $575,222 to the General Fund for the Rojas-Pierce Park Expansion Project.
The City Council adopted Resolution 21-85, approving the proposal and Consultant Services Agreement from Provost & Pritchard for Environmental Planning Services for a new City Hall and Police Station and authorizing the City Manager to execute the documents. Overall, depending upon the level of review required, the cost for the Environmental Site Assessment would range from $20,300 to $40,800, according to page 39 of the agenda packet.
The City Council delays providing direction to staff regarding a strategy to expend American Rescue Plan Act funding until a meeting with a school is set up to discuss the possible donation of land from them.
The City Council delays announcing a transition to full in-person participation at the City’s public meetings.
The City Council denied Application No. 21-01, The Left Mendota Ⅱ, LLC Commercial Cannabis Project.
The Meeting (in full)
Mendota is a general law city governed by an at-large elected five-member City Council and operates under the council-manager form of local government, according to the City’s website.
The Mendota City Council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at 643 Quince Street, Mendota, CA 93640 and via Zoom.
The Zoom audio and video were connected through an iPad.
Mendota City Council Board Members
Rolando Castro, Mayor
Jesus Mendoza, Mayor Pro Tempore
Jose Alonso, Council member
Joseph R. Riofrio, Council member
Oscar Rosales, Council member
Zoom meeting attendees were allowed into the meeting at 6:02 p.m. At 6:05 p.m. city clerk Celeste Cabrera Garcia wrote in the chat that we were waiting on a quorum from the City Council and the meeting was called to order at 6:09 p.m. by Mayor Pro Tem Mendoza. Not present in person nor in participation remotely were Mayor Castro and council member Rosales.
The agenda was finalized with no adjustments made and the motion to approve the agenda was carried all in favor, 3 aye.
No comments or addresses to the council were made by the public.
The Minutes for Regular City Council Meeting on October 12, 2021 and the Notice of the Waiving of Reading for all Resolutions and/or ordinances were approved by all in favor, 3 aye.
Items 1, 2, 3 and 5 on the Consent Calendar were read in full and approved unanimously. Mayor Pro Tem Mendoza pulled Item 4 for separate consideration.
Approved checks dated October 13, 2021 through October 19, 2021 (warrant list check Nos. 50921 through 50996) Council approved a total of $641,345.16.
Mendota City Council adopted Resolution 21-83, cancelling the November 23rd and December 28th Regular City Council Meetings and authorized the City Manager to execute any necessary warrants.
Mendota City Council adopted Resolution 21-84, approving an Agreement with the County of Fresno to administer and implement the Community Development Block Grant Program and authorize the City Manager to execute the agreement and any matters relating thereto.
Proposed adoption of Resolution 21-85, authorizing the City Manager to approve and execute a proposal and consultant services agreement from Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group for the preparation of CEQA compliance documents related to the proposed new City Hall and Police Station.
Adopted Resolution 21-86, granting an access and use easement to the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation in connection with the Mowry Bridge Replacement Project.
“My question is,” said Mendoza, opening the discussion for Item 4, “was that a bid or is that something that they just do for us, Provost & Pritchard?”
“What’s before you is an Agreement for them to do work that’s outside of their retainer, which would be for them to conduct a CEQA Environmental Review Work for the project for the City Hall / Police Building project,” says city manager, Cristian Gonzalez.
“Since this is outside of their retainer is that something that we look for the best price possible, because I see the cost involved, is that standard cost or is there something else? Do we have other options? Is basically what I’m questioning and asking,” said Mendoza.
“Typically, we do use our City Engineer for that type of work but we do have flexibility if it’s the desire of the Council to go out and look for alternative quotes on that.”
“I’m always looking out to see what our best cost would be with this kind of work and just not saying ‘OK well they’ve been doing it and they’ve been charging us X amount.’ I mean, is that a standard price? Do we get, you know, anything, some sort of in-house discount so to speak or is there something else more competitive, you know? I’d like to know,” said Mendoza.
“The assumption would be that our firm should be able to get us the best price because they’re familiar with everything that we do here including our infrastructure, but, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t beat them with a better price I just, based on my experience I don’t think that’s likely but its, someone can look into.”
Mayor Pro Tem Mendoza asks the Council if he has their backing or if they’re fine with Provost & Pritchard.
Council member Riofrio recounts something from the past when somebody interjects, “The other thing I see here is the current engineer has already quoted you and that’s public information? If I come in, another business and I see the price, you know I’m going to underbid them, you know, and try to get the job you know? So I think for the future, maybe, but I think I would go with your Local, you trust their work and so forth, that’s just my opinion.”
Mendoza expresses his belief in “looking outside the box” and maintaining fair practice with this work and not making assumptions when perhaps “another company can do it $10,000 less.”
Provost & Pritchard will prepare a series of technical memoranda that will be used in support of either an exemption from CEQA under CEQA Guidelines Section 15332 (In-Fill Development Projects) or an IS/MND. The proposal also includes a scope and fee for indirect source review (ISR), a separate process required by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, staff report page 39.
All in favor for the motion to carry, 3 aye.
Council discussion on the City’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funding.
Finance director Banda says this is a continuation from last month’s discussion.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) or also known as, COVID-19 Stimulus Package allocated the City of Mendota $2,753,676 in funding.
Half of the allocation ($1,376,838) has been received and of that the City has expended $439,972.49 for premium pay to employees who worked during the start of the pandemic, leaving the City with a balance of $936,865.51 to expend.
City Staff is recommending that the Council approve funding the additional $271,000 needed for the Rojas-Pierce Park with an additional 35% added “just for inflation,” to total $366,836.08 in additional requested funding for the Expansion Project (in addition to $575,222 from Item 3 on the Consent Calendar).
Mendoza adds that he is aware of the Council’s strong desire for a water well and asks the city manager, “What does it take to start the water well project?”
Gonzalez says he, the city engineer and the new public utility director have shared some words over this and they believe the best use of the money “is to put a new well, not on BB ranch but to put it on hopefully some donated land from the school or purchased land but something more south of our existing facility…”
The first phase would be design, “if the council wants to earmark some funds to do that, I think it would be a wise expenditure,” added Gonzalez.
They came up with a figure of 2.6 million dollars for something like that, exceeding the projected total of 1.5 million listed on the agenda.
The second half of the allocation is set to release in May 2022. The City of Mendota will have $2,313,703.51 to expend in ARPA funding.
“The school has made a comment that they are willing to help … whether that just be donation of land or some type of participation, I envision us also being able to apply for a grant for something like this…” said Gonzalez.
It is not clear whether it is the junior high or the high school.
Mendoza asks Gonzalez what the figure is for “dedicating some monies now in the design and exploration of the project.”
Gonzalez begins, “3 to 500 thousand–” before going into some specifics about water quality and how those factors would make a difference.
Mendoza asks for the council’s feedback before going any further. Alonso says he wants to invest in wells. Riofrio also makes comments.
After more discussion, Gonzalez says, “perhaps a recommendation would be to earmark 250,000 out of these funds just to do this investigation … we know it’s going to be north of a million dollars for something like this.”
Mendoza says “he’s good” holding off until they receive a commitment from the school and suggests setting up a joint meeting and not allocating any money towards anything at the moment.
No comment from the public on the ARPA funding.
Mendoza motioned to receive feedback from the school before moving forward with the water well project, all in favor, 3 aye.
Council discussion and consideration of Resolution No. 21-87, approving the formation of a Recreation Commission and City Council ad hoc subcommittee to discuss potential improvements to Mendota Pool Park.
Mayor Pro Tem Mendoza, also Chairman of the Recreation Committee says the pool park is a landmark of Mendota and expresses the need to rehabilitate the park.
Council member Rosales is nominated by Alonso and Mendoza to be a part of the committee even though he is not present. Alonso reluctantly volunteers himself.
Mendoza calls for a 3 minute recess.
Council member Riofrio commends Alonso for stepping in but says that he knows Mayor Castro and council member Rosales are passionate about the project citing their long held insights about it.
Motion to nominate Mayor Castro and council member Rosales with Alonso serving as an alternate in favor by all, 3 aye.
Council discussion and consideration of Resolution 21-88, transitioning City Council meetings to in-person participation and ending virtual attendance service offerings.
City attorney Hunter Castro summarizes the decision made by the council at the last meeting, “opting not to declare on a rolling basis an emergency that would prohibit in person participation from meetings and take advantage of some of AB 361’s exemptions… the Council directed our office to come back with an item that would transition the City away from using Zoom as a service in addition to in-person participation…”
Castro added, “The City is always allowed to go above and beyond and offer additional services like Zoom…”
Alonso stands by his desire to end Zoom and return to in-person participation. Alonso believes business should be done “in-person if they really want to.”
Riofrio concurs, adding everyone is “pretty healthy” and “I hear that by the springtime we’ll be back to normal,” addressing the city attorney, “If we can, Hunter, if we can do that you know, let’s do it.”
Meeting attendee Joseph Amador, opens public comment, “I think it’s a disservice for the people that cannot make it to the meeting, right, I see Mr. Mark Benjamin online, right, Al, I live in Fresno, too, foggy day schedules is coming… it’s a disservice to the public not having Zoom, that’s my opinion. Thank you, sir.”
Mendoza thanks him for his opinion, “it has been heard and valued,” continuing, “I just want to ask, what are the costs of having these Zoom virtual meetings?”
City clerk reports that the City pays a $299.80 annual contract that is good through April 10, 2022, adding that there is an option for interpretation services at an additional $40 every month.
The council considers that if they end Zoom participation it would be ending something the City has already paid for when Gonzalez adds, “We use Zoom for other meetings not just for City Council meetings.”
Meeting attendee Albert Escobedo makes a public comment, “I think we got to get rid of this Zoom. If we paid for it let’s keep it but first we got to go back to in-person… it’s a lot better.”
Zoom meeting attendee Sabrina Noah of Cresco Labs introduces herself and asks for consideration from the council, “to maintain the Zoom platform not intended to act as a consequence or a burden on the council but to allow those of us who don’t have the privilege of residing in the immediate area to participate in your Council Meetings, it’s been an incredibly valuable tool, I have met with your city attorney and city manager and staff on multitude of occasions throughout the pandemic and I appreciate the benefits it offers, further, I would humbly ask for consideration for those of us who due to health conditions could not be eligible for the vaccine as well as those of us who are experiencing other illnesses. The ability to participate as a member of the public is an incredibly valuable tool, I humbly am not asking to replace or supplant the desire to go back in-person, just for it to be continued as an option. I appreciate the comment from the council member, ‘that those who want to do business in Mendota should come to Mendota.’ I myself have traveled there many times and appreciate the opportunity to do so but in some instances in compliance with my employers wishes I am unable to travel due to pandemic restrictions. I do not want to limit my participation in this City, I very much value our relationship but the ability to have this in addition to the in-person options continues to make the City an attractive city and municipality for those of us who are still trying to seek and expand our business,” Noah closes by thanking the council for allowing the opportunity to address them.
Mendoza thanks Noah for the comment and concludes that “we just don’t have all the variables yet,” adding that everyone that spoke made a point and that there is a lot to digest.
Motion to table the matter until the next meeting with more information carried by all in favor, 3 aye.
Council discussion and consideration of Ordinance No. 21-16, amending Chapter 17.99 of Title 17 of the Mendota Municipal Code’s provisions regarding approved uses in the Commercial Cannabis Overlay District.
City planner O’neal reports that the amendment adds definitions and permitted uses.
The City Council introduced and waived the first reading of Ordinance 21-16 at a regular meeting on October 12, 2021.
Staff recommends that the City Council waives the second reading of and adopts Ordinance 21-16.
Council member Riofrio asks if this amendment allows for deliveries.
The Ordinance would remove the ban on delivery services and add it back as an allowed use.
No public comment.
Motion to waive the second reading of and adopt Ordinance 21-16 carries 3 aye.
Council discussion and consideration of the following items in the matter of Application No. 21-01, the Left Mendota Ⅱ Commercial Cannabis Project (APN 013-280-29): Resolution No. 21-81, adopting a mitigated negative declaration pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act; Resolution No. 21-82, ruling on the applicant’s appeal of the Mendota Planning Commission’s denial of a conditional use permit; and introduction and waiver of the first reading of Ordinance No. 21-17, approving and entering into a development agreement by and between the City of Mendota and Left Mendota Ⅱ, LLC.
Members of the Council and the Mayor in a past meeting raised concerns related most specifically towards the water use that was proposed by the facility.
“The main issue as we viewed it from a public utilities perspective,” reports O’neal, “is not necessarily the amount of water but the time of day during which it would be used.”
The city’s engineer determined that if the primary time of usage for this facility is off-peak then there would not be a problem with the amount of water or the water pressure throughout the City.
The applicant has agreed to implement one or both of a couple of mitigation measures that include: watering during off-peak times or as the second tier of mitigation, the installation of a tank that could be filled at night and then irrigation can occur at any time without drawing pressure or volume from the rest of the water system.
Mayor Pro Tem answers with new concerns from the public that were not prepared for the odor from the harvest.
Alonso claims that you can smell the odor from outside the city.
Riofrio also makes comments, “I think we need to stop, put a stop sign for now… before we go ahead and proceed forward and we have odor that’s twice more significant than we have now…”
Mendoza says, “we’re not saying we want to end it or say this is it, we’re saying let’s perhaps sit back and see what happens, you know I kind of feel the same way, I kind of just want to see, I think I need to sit down and maybe staff members, staff city manager, maybe attorneys, and see exactly who’s coming in and exactly what they’re going to do to offset these concerns. I think that’s fair. I think it’s fair to go ahead and sit down and give us some feedback on community concerns before we continue to move forward,” opening it up to the public.
O’neal asks if he can quickly address the odor concern and speaks about the 3 odor mitigation conditions that the project requires.
A member from the public addresses the council. The speaker says they were one of the first employees of the Biomass and recalls the bunch of complaints the Biomass used to receive and says “it smelled way worse than that cannabis.”
Mayor pro tem addressed Chris Lefkovitz online, asking if there’s anything he’d like to add.
Lefkovitz expresses their commitment to mitigating the odor.
Mendoza asks Lefkovitz if there is a drop dead date deadline to get an approval to which Lefkovitz answers that they are on their 6th extension currently and that the seller has indicated they are unwilling to grant further extensions and adds, “we would need approval at this hearing and the following in order to perform on the project.”
Mendoza asks Hunter about options if they need more time such as a special meeting.
O’neal clarifies what adopting the CEQA document means and expressly answers the question Mendoza has, “Yes at the city council’s next meeting you still have the ability to not do the second reading and adopt the ordinance which in effect nullifies the project.”
Immediately after O’neal finishes explaining this Mendoza asks to break for recess.
Mendoza returns and begins by thanking O’neal “for that,” and asks if anybody else would like to address the council on the public hearing. Nobody speaks.
Mendoza says he wants to hear from the City Manager.
Gonzalez says he wishes he could give his best opinion but says he is not the one that has to answer to the residents and adds for the benefit to the applicant, “the clearer we could be to them… if the sense is that that’s not the direction we want to go, the sooner we make that clear, you know, saves everyone time.”
Gonzalez added his hope that the council make a commitment one way or the other and be clear about that to the applicant and to the city staff citing the immense time spent behind the scenes trying to come up with remedies.
Pro Tem Mendoza asks for a motion from the Council and receives silence. Mendoza begins to announce, “it dies,” when Gonzalez says he believes “it would be more appropriate if the council voted not to adopt the mitigated negative declaration.”
There is confusion on the wording of the appeal and what to motion for.
Motion not to adopt Resolution 21-81 carries, 3 aye.
Motion to deny the appeal of the Planning Commission’s denial of 21-82 carries, 3 aye.
Mayor Pro Tem asks for another recess.
Council discussion and consideration of Ordinance 21-18, approving amendments to Development Agreement No. 2018-01 in the matter of Application No. 20-24, the Left Mendota Ⅰ, LLC Commercial Cannabis Project (APNs 013-280-15 & 22S).
Initially, neither of the council members have questions nor does anyone from the public.
Council member Riofrio asks to know more about the amended development agreement.
After some explanation that the amendment allows additional specific license types to be Leftbank’s tenants, Riofrio motions in favor, carries 3 aye.
Department Reports and Informational Items
Animal Control, Code Enforcement, and Police Department
Police Chief “very happy to report now fully staffed,” code enforcement had 215+ calls for service, of those, 76 citations were issued with a record 41 documented warnings, 18 vehicles were towed in the month of September and calls for service were up 68% since August.
20 calls for service regarding animal complaints. 2 dogs that were at large were apprehended and later turned over to Fresno Humane.
Chief says, “Animal Control and dogs at large are truly not the problem of the police department…” and says to educate the community to be responsible pet owners. He has started a campaign in the department to educate people through social media.
Meeting set up with Fresno Humane to network to work together as partners to combat the stray dog problem.
141 criminal reports taken, 92 citations issued by the Mendota Police Department, warns that grand theft tends to be on the rise this time of year and encourages people to keep “things out of view” in cars in the event of smash and grabs.
Council member Alonso is thanked at the end of the Chief’s report for spending a day on a ride-along and witnessing the inner workings of an officer; mentions Alonso’s challenge of the other council members to do the same and offers to take any of the council members whenever they’d like and mentions Alonso will be riding along for the swing shift on Friday.
Makes the council aware that Sheriff Mims and the County are moving forward with body worn cameras, “an expensive endeavor,” and prepares the Council for a presentation soon for the outfits and throws in that tasers will be mentioned as well being that the Department’s are over 10 years old, adding that life spans are about 5 years.
City Attorney Update
The City Attorney’s office “has been kept pretty busy by Chief Smith,” John Kinsey says he thinks they are making progress with no specific updates regarding big projects and offers to take questions.
Question on the Lolita property results in laughs as it seems this is a recurring question.
Riofrio makes a comment that seems to be new information and Kinsey says, “please pass any information you have… please give me anything that you can…
Movie night equipment was tested by Celeste and the council laughs as it is explained that the screen that was purchased is much larger than was anticipated (25 feet diagonally)
Felipa Gonzalez and Adeline Lozano are mentioned as prominent members of the community that have recently passed.
Mayor and Council Reports and Informational Items
Riofrio asks about shutting down the airport to possibly lease the land as an industrial park. Pro Tem shuts the question down by saying it can be brought up on another agenda to get formal plans going.
Riofrio also asks whether the State of California has a mandate on the City regarding vaccines. Somebody motions no and Riofrio says, “OK, I don’t even want to talk about…” becoming inaudible by laughter and shuffling.
Mayor Pro Tem Mendoza says, “It’s a can of worms right now… we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Alonso shares the dates for trunk or treats in the city and once again expresses his many thanks to the chief and police department for the ride along.
Mendoza says he knows they’re getting close to Christmas and tells the Council that he really wants some ornaments and decorations.
It is reported that Plan B for the decorations is being worked on as well as a few Christmas trees.
Mendoza is happy with the updates, reminds everyone “we all work together as one ‘cause we are a team,” and gives thanks for the opportunity and everyone’s patience.
Motion for adjournment is called by Mayor Pro Tem, all in favor, 3 aye. Meeting is ended at 8:59 p.m.
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