Feb. 13, 2023 — Clovis City Council
Documented by Rachel Youdelman
Here’s what you need to know
- The council approved a contract with a vendor to provide online utility billing services, which will replace 1980s-era software. It will take about one year to implement, after which Clovis residents will be able to pay their water, sewer, and refuse bills online.
- The council agreed to create a City of Clovis Historic Preservation Committee. Council members will nominate committee members by Feb. 21, and the committee’s first meeting will take place at a time to be determined.
- The council authorized the city manager to execute an agreement with Fortune-Ratliff General Contractors to rebuild Fire Station No. 2. The cost will be over $7.5 million.
- Would basing council representation on districts help? Would a district representative, rather than an at-large member, be more knowledgeable about and committed to a particular area of the city?
Lynne Ashbeck, Mayor
Vong Mouanoutoua, Mayor Pro Tem
Drew Bessinger, Councilmember
Matt Basgall, Councilmember
Diane Pearce, Councilmember
John Holt, City Manager
Andy Haussler, Assistant City Manager
Scott Cross, City Attorney
Karey Cha, City Clerk
The Clovis City Council met on Feb. 13, 2023. Mayor Ashbeck opened the meeting at 6:00 p.m. and as usual said she was “glad you are here” and thanked all participating, in person or online. Mayor Pro Tem Mouanoutoua led the flag salute. Clerk Cha called the roll; all were present.
The agenda was relatively short, but the meeting lasted over two hours, as councilmembers discussed a couple of the agenda items in detail. Each agenda item noted that “Councilmembers should consider recusal if a campaign contribution exceeding $250 has been received from the project proponent (developer, applicant, agent, and/or participants) since Jan. 1, 2023 (Government Code 84308).”
At this meeting, there were no comments from members of the public regarding items not on the agenda. Members of the public may attend meetings in person at the Council Chamber, 1033 Fifth Street, Clovis, CA 93612, or online via Webex. Videos of past meetings and agendas are available here.
Public Comments regarding items not on the agenda: there were none.
Agenda Items #1-2, Consent Calendar These are routine administrative items which are grouped together and approved with one vote. There were only two items on the day’s agenda (approval of minutes from the Feb. 6 meeting and receipt of the Business Organization of Old Town— known as “BOOT”—Second Quarter Report, Oct-Dec 202), which passed 5-0.
Agenda Item #3 The council voted 3-2 to approve the selection of SpryPoint Services, Inc., to provide online billing for city utilities. Jeff Blanks, Deputy Finance Director, made the presentation. Currently Clovis residents cannot pay water or other city bills online, which this software will enable. The process will take about 12 months to put into use, said Blanks, and its implementation will cost almost $600,000 with a $170,000 annual maintenance cost.
A detailed discussion followed, and councilmembers’ concerns focused on data security, Canadian ownership of SpryPoint’s parent company, and a reference to “EU” (European Union) standards for data protection. In section 3.1.1 of the SpryPoint contract, it is noted that SpryPoint “will comply with” legislation based on EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). Ashbeck and Mouanoutoua both expressed concerns about the “EU” reference and wondered if the GDPR was applicable in the U.S. They asked if the company is Canadian and if the rules applied the same way they do in the U.S. Blanks said yes.
Bessinger also expressed fears regarding the reference to compliance with EU standards. He asked if it was “the gold standard?” Blanks said yes, as he understood it. But he did not mention the prevailing California law, which the contract says will govern terms “exclusively.” The full contract is posted here; click on “agenda packet” for the Feb. 13 meeting.
When Ashbeck opened discussion, she looked at Mouanoutoua, because she “knew” he’d have a question. Mouanoutoua repeated the phrase “in regards to” multiple times and asked about how SpryPoint was chosen over other companies, details about data storage, annual maintenance cost increases, and the like.
Ashbeck elaborated: based on her experience in the healthcare field, which is her area of expertise, she would have been more comfortable with more information on data safety. She wanted to know if the software can be used for billing functions other than utilities, such as dog licenses. Blanks said that there were other software platforms for other kinds of billing, to which Ashbeck replied that in the healthcare field, multiple software programs for the same patient presented some risk. Blanks said that no one platform in a municipal billing setting can do all the billing across many contexts. Ashbeck concluded that healthcare was the opposite.
Mouanoutoua asked more about EU directives and wondered why they weren’t American, even though the contract clearly states in section 11.3 that “this agreement shall be governed exclusively by the internal laws of the State of California.”
No one mentioned the stringent California Consumer Privacy Act, modeled on the GDPR. Though Attorney Scott Cross did clearly say that “the contract says California law applies,” the fears of Ashbeck and Bessinger, who voted “no,” were not assuaged. Despite the clarity of the contract, of which she demonstrated no acknowledgement, Ashbeck said she was “nervous” about the EU mention. Blanks was from the finance department, and there were no representatives from the IT department to comment further.
Assistant City Manager Haussler said that the IT department focuses on security, and Blanks repeated that “in the global space,” security requirements were “stringent.” Blanks said he was “confident and comfortable” with the proposed agreement but that if council wanted a meeting with SpryPoint, it could be arranged. Mouanoutoua said that things would “get legal later,” but his point was unclear.
Bessinger asked if everyone was satisfied with the “EU vs. California law thing,” but Basgall seemed to understand that “Scott [attorney Cross] says California law applies.” Then he said that California law was “stricter” to which Ashbeck replied “really?” to laughter.
Ashbeck asked about staff impact. Blanks said that after training, the workload would decrease.
City Manager Holt said that they were in the process of hiring an IT person to implement phase 1 of the process. The goal was to phase out the current software, which dates from the 1980s.
In the end, Ashbeck and Bessinger voted “no,” but the item passed with three votes.
Agenda Item #4 The council voted unanimously to authorize the city manager to execute a contract with Fortune Ratliff General Contractors in the amount of $7,566,340 to rebuild Fire Station No. 2. A presentation was made by Thad Avery, a supervising civil engineer, and a colleague.
When he slipped and said “$7,000” instead of $7 million,” there was a burst of laughter from the council.
The fire station is located on the west side of Minnewawa, north of Santa Ana. It was built in 1978 and has recently had structural issues, such as truss failure. A consultant was hired in 2020 to assess the building, and in October of 2020 it was recommended that the building be replaced. A fire training building was constructed to house the Station 2 crew while the new station is being built; that training building will be ready for occupancy at the end of this month.
There was one additional bid at a higher cost, so the decision was made to select Fortune-Ratliff, whose bid was a little less than the engineer’s estimate.
Discussion ensued. Bessinger asked when demolition would begin? Mid-March was the reply. When was the estimated completion date? In approximately 14 months.
Pearce asked what would happen to the temporary building—it would be used as a training center. She also wanted to know if any structural issues with the current building could have been prevented with routine maintenance and prevented a complete rebuilding. The reply was that there was a program in place to regularly assess all city buildings and forecast capital improvements.
Ashbeck said that as with the 1980s software Jeff Blanks mentioned, Clovis prudently used up its assets thoroughly before considering replacement. In the past, however, she has said that the city waits too long before considering critically needed upgrades or improvements.
Basgall asked about the safety implications of alley access to the current building site. It was clarified that the main entrance is on Minnewawa with a secondary entrance on the alley.
Mouanoutoua wanted to know if there were really only two bidders on the project, or were there “many.” Only two submitted bids by the deadline, was the reply. Then Mouanoutoua wanted to see the slides again showing the architectural rendering of the new fire station. Why wasn’t the building “tall” he asked. It was explained that the building only appears to have a low height in the rendering but that it is actually spacious and has appropriately high ceilings and roof height. Ashbeck quickly added that the rendering did make it look like a “neighborhood house.”
Agenda Item #5 Police Chief Curt Fleming gave a presentation and update on the police department. No vote was required.
Fleming began by introducing himself: he has 24 years of experience in law enforcement, 17 of which have been in Clovis, with 3.5 years as chief.
He showed org charts and said that of 180 total staff positions in the department, there are currently seven vacancies. He showed slides and charts explaining the budget (87% of the general fund is spent on public safety), patrol (numbers of calls listed), divisions (evidence, dispatch, records, investigations, youth services, animal services). Other slides described mission, goals, challenges, facilities, dispatch backup center, and an outmoded animal receiving center dating from the 1950s. He discussed “Miss Winkles,” the 10-year-old animal shelter and adoption center and said the facility still has 2,500 square feet of unfinished interior space.
Discussing hiring and growth, Fleming said that he needed 12 additional officers to achieve a 1-to-1,000 officer-to-resident ratio. Despite having only recently processed results of a citizens’ advisory group on police staffing and having been successful in passing an increase in the transient occupancy tax (TOT) with the intent of using revenue to hire more officers, no mention was made of any of this by anyone, with the exception perhaps of Mouanoutoua, who asked if it was “still urgent” to increase the officer-to-resident ratio, and a passing reference by Fleming to having discussed “a year ago” the dropping of several pro-active programs, such as bicycle patrols.
A long discussion followed. Councilmember Basgall, a former Clovis police chief, and Bessinger, a retired Clovis police captain, both had points to make. Basgall asked Fleming what one specific thing would he do now, if he could. Fleming replied that he would like to establish a traffic unit of nine to 10 officers. Bessinger said that the city should apply for traffic-safety grants. “People act like fools in their cars,” he said. He remarked that as a young police officer, he thought that there was a connection between traffic stops and prevention of other, serious crimes but that now he understands that “slowing folks down” creates safety.
Ashbeck remarked that people often tell her that they “see” multiple Clovis traffic officers on motorcycles, pointing out that image or reputation was different from reality.
Bessinger then told a detailed anecdote about someone named “Gilbert” who came from a “prison family,” with whom Bessinger often spoke while on patrol, and about whom Bessinger and colleagues often spoke, comparing notes. Some years later, he bumped into Gilbert at an Old Town coffee shop. “Do you remember me?” Gilbert asked, then informed Bessinger that he was now a minister and president of a local rotary club. Bessinger said that programs of the police department, such as the Police Probation Team (PPT), of which Gilbert was a beneficiary, were a good investment.
Basgall said that the PPT program’s non-recidivism rate was 85% in the past. He added that he wanted to see a full-time city grant-writer to generate funding for police and other staff as well. When was the last time the police department received a federal grant, he asked. Fleming replied that it was 2007. Ashbeck commented that “we don’t have enough crime” to warrant federal funding.
Basgall asked how many pro-active programs Fleming has eliminated because of funding scarcity, despite the fact that this subject was a major part of Fleming’s presentation to the Citizens’ Advisory Committee only last year, and of which Basgall was a member, as was Pearce. The reply was “a ton,” and without specifying, Fleming only mentioned that he had covered the subject a year ago.
Mouanoutoua said to Fleming that he “hoped you uphold your value statement,” then he talked about police working with local churches. Pearce then said that Bessinger’s “Gilbert” anecdote was a “perfect example” of what Mouanoutoua “alluded to” when he commented about churches and chaplains working with the police. She agreed with Basgall about what she called “the grant industry” and with what Mouanoutoua “alluded to” about maintaining quality and standards. Pearce then suggested that funding for the Miss Winkles shelter could be generated from “private” sources, because animal lovers have “deep pockets.” Ashbeck remarked that the initial funding for Miss Winkles came from a large private gift.
Bessinger continued to talk about working with at-risk youth and suggested that local Kiwanis or Rotary clubs could pay for books and “we can grow our own,” he said, though what he meant by that was unclear. Ashbeck was in agreement and talked about hiring a community-service officer (CSO) to work with youth. Ashbeck asked Fleming if the mental-health official was still employed by the police department. Fleming said that yes, there were two such staff members, but he seemed to say they were employees of Fresno County. Ashbeck asked for statistics about the numbers of adults and children who receive help from the mental-health staff; Fleming said he would follow up.
Ashbeck thanked Fleming profusely and said that “people live here because they are safe.” Though she appeared to be closing the discussion, Mouanoutoua asked another question about the ratio of officers to residents; this matter had also been thoroughly discussed during the Citizens Advisory Committee meetings at which council members were present. Nevertheless, Mouanoutoua asked questions which had been addressed then, such as “would residents start to not receive services” [sic]. Fleming replied that there were “more gang members, more people with guns” now, and that some “pockets” of the city were “overrun” with criminals. Fleming said that juveniles were ingesting fentanyl, and overdosing was a problem. To which, Mouanoutoua said “getting it on the ballot now, better to do it sooner,” but what he was referring to was unclear. Holt said, “I believe you are talking about Nov. 2024.”
Ashbeck then asked about code enforcement. Haussler said that there was a code-enforcement team made up of people from different departments but that they could use more staff. Ashbeck suggested that rental-housing inspection could generate revenue. Fleming said he wanted five CSOs to do code enforcement and mentioned as he did during the Citizens Advisory Committee meetings that tolerating illegally parked boats, overgrown lawns, and the like, degrades the general quality of life in the city.
Ashbeck then talked about a community meeting in 2007 when the council gave disposable cameras to residents of specific neighborhoods and asked them to photograph what they liked and what they didn’t like; the exercise was very instructive, she said, and gave guidance about where code enforcement was needed. She did not say why such community-building neighborhood meetings were not held now.
Basgall asked about “citizen patrol,” referring to a volunteer group. Fleming said that since Covid, they have lost some members.
Public comment on the matter was opened. Dr. Kim Armstrong, president of Clovis Community College, spoke briefly and said she had met with Chief Fleming; they had talked about recruitment and hiring a grant writer. She saw “potential for partnership.”
Next Des Haus, an unsuccessful council candidate in the most recent election, spoke. She said that she sits on “a legislative committee” on mental health, but she did not otherwise identify it.
Again, Ashbeck thanked Chief Fleming.
Agenda Item #6 The council agreed to move forward with the creation and implementation of a City of Clovis Historic Preservation Committee, with each council member to suggest at least 1 or 2 names of potential members by Feb 21.
Ashbeck explained the background of the matter for the benefit of the new council members, who did not appear to have followed any recent council meetings. The idea began as a concern for the preservation of a particular building and the desire to “hold on to history,” said Ashbeck. The building in question is the former Carnegie Library building, which currently houses the Clovis Chamber of Commerce; the scope of a historic preservation committee would be wider.
Ashbeck opened public comment on the item. Sayre Miller, of the Clovis-Big Dry Creek Historical Society, who had requested in May 2022 that the council create a historical preservation committee, specifically citing the former Carnegie Library, was present to speak. She mentioned the opposition of the Building Industry Association (BIA), who, she said, thinks there will be no land for them to build on. She urged the council to appoint people who have the “heart” for it. There is lots of money available via grants for this endeavor, she said. Other towns do it and are well-funded.
A man accompanying Miller and identified only as “Tom” spoke next and said he looked forward to “get moving.”
Discussion among council members followed. Bessinger said that he had two names of potential committee members, but he put the piece of paper in his pocket, then they “went through the wash.”
Pearce said she was “really excited” about the matter, though she has lived in Clovis only a couple of years, and she referred to the last meeting’s discussion about the General Plan and history of “our community.”
Ashbeck clarified the difference between a Historic Preservation Sommittee and a historical society; the latter is not involved in preservation. In Clovis, the historical society runs the museum. Pearce wanted to know if there was no “redundancy.” This was an opportunity for “skin in the game,” Pearce said, without clarifying.
Holt clarified that per the direction from the September 2022 council meeting, each council member would appoint two members for a total of 10 and that committee members live in Clovis. However, at this meeting, it was decided that a committee member could live, work, or own property in Clovis; or they could have an “articulable historic connection to Clovis.”
Bessinger then asked if these terms constituted “skin in the game” or a “fly in the ointment.” The committee would be ad-hoc and will meet for a term or until objectives are met and would be subject to the Brown Act.
The committee’s first meeting date is to be decided.
City Manager Comments Holt had none.
Basgall said he went to a Pink Heals cancer fundraiser and that he became a member of the Clovis Rodeo Association. He will appear on television to speak during the upcoming funeral of Officer Carrasco, the Selma police officer who was recently murdered in the line of duty.
Pearce said “I don’t have too much,” but noted that she recently came across a book from the “Images of America” series about the history of Clovis and was “just really excited about it.” She was “learning so much about why we are who we are” and wanted to pass down the history to future residents who will “buy into the Clovis way of life.” She was excited to “know” and to “continually hear” all the things done in the city, “whether it’s the General Plan, talking about a committee, potentially a commission, whatever it might be.” She thanked the group responsible for creating the book and said that she looked forward to working “off of this” and to “synthesizing some of it in different ways to make sure” that when someone “makes Clovis their home, we have a way to make sure they know the history of where they have chosen to live.” Ashbeck pointed out that the book was published some time ago and was out of date. Pearce added, “on a personal note” that she found the national anthem sung at the Super Bowl to be very moving and that she loved the response on social media. She felt it showed people “genuinely celebrating this country and what it stands for, and I just thought that was fantastic.”
Bessinger told an anecdote about an 80-year-old Clovis resident who could not renew his driver’s license during the pandemic and was reportedly not given any information from the DMV. Clovis Roundup Transit rides “saved his life,” the man told Bessinger. Bessinger commented that the “little things” done by staff are a “big deal” in the lives of “everyday citizens.” Ashbeck said Bessinger’s story was “so beautiful” and mentioned that the theme of the upcoming mayor’s breakfast was “things that make Clovis ‘Clovis’” and that the gentleman Bessinger talked about should be invited.
Mouanoutoua said that he attended an opening ceremony for the Fresno County Blossom Trail and the Day of Remembrance held by the Japanese-American Citizens League. Mouanoutoua said the city of Clovis passed a resolution in 1942 to support and maintain Japanese-owned farms until the return of the interned owners, but it was not clear if that was true or if individuals simply looked after neighbors’ farms voluntarily. Mouanoutoua asked Holt to research. Nevertheless, Mouanoutoua said, “We were great back then.” Next Mouanoutoua talked about wanting “reflectors on posts” on the walking trails “so you can go, ‘OK, there it is’” [sic].
Ashbeck said that she attended a Council of Governments (COG) meeting. She said there was an additional $2.7 million in transit-oriented development (TOD) funding. She also mentioned a forestry training program and said, addressing Dr. Armstrong, that there was an opportunity to link to Clovis Community College. She added that she will attend Officer Carrasco’s funeral.
At 8:08 p.m., the council adjourned to closed session. The only item on the closed-session agenda was anticipated litigation regarding three claims for the Sunnyside Ave. water-main break and property-flooding incident of Jan. 3, 2022.
The next meeting will be Feb. 21, 2023, at 6p.m.
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