Feb. 6, 2023 — Visalia City Council

Documented by Jackie Schuster

Here’s what you need to know

  • At the Feb. 6 Visalia City Council meeting, councilmembers approved 12 items on the consent calendar, including replacing three police services dogs for $83,300 and appropriating $1.7 million for Phase VI of the Riverway Sports Park development.
  • Councilmembers also authorized staff to seek state and federal funding for water recharge basins, Goshen Trail enhancements, and safety barricades, but voted to remove a permanent location for an overnight emergency drop-in shelter from the list. Nelsen said he won’t support it because he doesn’t feel it addresses what’s actually needed, which is intervention. 
  • Members of the Visalia Environmental Alliance recognized Bill Huott as an environmental hero.

Follow-up questions

  • If funding is secured, which non-profit would get the funding to request a permanent emergency drop-in shelter location?
  • How long will it take for reports on current shelter populations to be completed?

Visalia City Council Members 

Liz Wynn, District One

Vice Mayor Brett Taylor, District Two

Mayor Brian Poochigan, District Three

Emmanuel Hernandez Soto, District Four 

Steve Nelsen, District Five

The Scene

The Visalia City Council meeting began at 7:01 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Councilmember Soto. A moment of silence followed for Louis Dorado, a City of Visalia Heavy Equipment Operator in the Streets Maintenance Division. All council members were present. 

Actions/Discussions/Public comment

  • Public comment
  • Kathy Falconer, Visalia resident and member of the Visalia Environmental Alliance wanted to recognize fellow Visalia resident, Bill Huott, as an environmental hero. In 1987 he bought a house on Willis Ave., where he felt the nearby areas were dirty. Fed up, he decided to begin cleaning areas near his home by covering graffiti, breaking down mattresses, and tracking other locations in town that need cleaning up. He records on a map in a journal. He also organizes cleanup groups on the city’s “Dump on Us” days 
  • Other community members commented that Huott is creative in his problem-solving and does great work in the neighborhood.
  • Huott thanked everyone for their comments and said he likes making people’s lives easier. He also thanked city staff, saying he couldn’t do any of his work without them.
  • Mayor Poochigan said congratulations on behalf of the city council, saying Bill is the perfect example of how people should take action if they see something in the community they want to fix. 
  • Irene Lampmen, a Visalia resident, said that since mid-December, she has not been able to get a Trap Neuter Release appointment with the animal services department. There are 12 cats on her property, and at a local veterinarian’s office, it costs $400-500 to neuter the cats. She is 80 years old but camps out some days and nights to keep male cats away from her colony of cats. She said that the main animal-focused nonprofits in town are drowning in cases, and veterinarians can barely handle surgeries. She suggested that there should be a new position opened for a veterinarian at animal services, and that more money needs to be put into animal services. 
  • A representative from the city engineering department requested to pull Item 2 from the agenda because she wants to bring to the council’s attention to an error within the report. The last sentence in the report was accidentally left in. 
  • Laura Duarte, who lives on South Edwards Court, said that she and her neighbors are having issues with ordinance violations in the nearby construction. She has sent multiple emails to the city’s code enforcement department saying that there is excessive lighting and noise occurring at the construction site, and that they can see the Dutch Bros menu from her home. 
  • Consent Calendar
    • Councilmember Nelsen pulled Item 12 for discussion 
    • Nelsen motioned to pass all other items on the calendar. Councilmember Taylor seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously. 
  • Item 2
    • Taylor motioned to pass the item with the understanding of the correction that was provided. Nelsen seconded the motion, which passed unanimously. 
  • Item 12
    • According to the meeting’s agenda, this item regarding authorizing city staff to “Authorize Staff to seek funding through area State and Federal Legislative Representatives for a variety of projects as listed in this report.”
    • The projects included are water recharge basins, Goshen Trail enhancements, safety barricades, and a location for an overnight emergency drop-in shelter. 
    • Nelsen had questions regarding number four in the report, which is about  receiving funding to be put into a request for a non-profit to request a permanent location for an emergency drop-in shelter. 
    • He said he wants to see a report on what the current warming center population is and how it fluctuates. He won’t support any more funding for a warming center until he sees a report with that information.
    • Wynn said she thinks the council needs to do something, but agreed with Nelsen that we might need more information like a report first.
    • Soto encouraged other members to volunteer at the warming center to get firsthand experience and ask questions there. 
    • Taylor said they have funded multiple shelters that they have not finished developing, and he wants to see how those shelters do first. 
    • Poochigan said he felt like it was rushed. He would like to see other locations looked at first and know who would be running the drop-in shelter, but he knows that we need some permanent shelter so the city can meet laws regarding shelters.
    • City Manager Leslie Caviglia said some of the money could come from federal funding, but it is also within the city’s budget, which is why it was included in the report. 
    • Nelsen said the solution the state has for homelessness is just to throw money at it. He added that he believes continually throwing money at a process that is “failure at best,” so he has a problem with it. If it’s a shelter that would intervene in and address problems unhoused people have, like a navigation center would, he may approve it, but he would not approve this. 
    • “To continually throw money at a problem, that is failure at best, I have a problem with,” Nelsen said. “I don’t have a problem going after homeless money if it’s a navigation center, if it’s transitional housing, if it’s a program that actually addresses the needs of the homeless person and that’s intervention, so that’s why I won’t support this.” 
    • Taylor motioned to authorize staff to pursue funding for three projects, but removed the location for an emergency drop-in shelter. Nelsen seconded, and Soto voted no. The motion passed 4-1. 
  • Jason Serpa, the Public Citizens Advisory Committee liaison, revisited the revised proposed 2023 Citizens Advisory Committee Annual Public Opinion Survey.
    • More demographic questions were added to follow typical survey practice. 
    • There was also an item added for disabled individuals or their caretakers to answer an open-ended question on what services would be most helpful for the city to provide. 
    • The first proposed additional question was if the city should permit retail cannabis stores.
    • Nelsen said he feels like this first question regarding retail cannabis stores has been asked over and over again in surveys since people haven’t received the answer they want, and he does not like that. People have answered no to this question before, so he thinks people are just continuing to ask the question again until they get a yes.
    • Soto supports adding the first proposed question. 
    • Poochigan is okay with the question on retail cannabis stores being added to the survey, but thinks there should be another question added that asks how people think that tax revenue should be spent. 
    • Soto motioned to approve the survey with all changes that were presented and adding potential questions 1 and 2a. Taylor seconded this motion, and Nelsen voted no. Motion passed 4-1.  

The meeting adjourned at 7:42 p.m. The next Visalia City Council meeting will be held on Feb. 21 at 7:00 p.m. 

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