June 19, 2023 — Visalia City Council

Documented by Jackie Schuster

Here’s what you need to know

  • The Visalia City Council approved all items on the meeting’s consent calendar, including approving the Visalia Transit’s Zero-Emission Bus Rollout Plan and the Visalia and Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District Water Management Plan. 
  • The council authorized delinquent utility fees, which were contested by the public at a previous city council meeting, to be added to the property tax roll. 
  • A second public hearing was held to allow appropriation of funds through the Measure N Spending Plan for fiscal years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 to spend on patrol vehicles and a contract with Axon Enterprise.

Visalia City Council Members 

Liz Wynn, District One

Vice Mayor Brett Taylor, District Two

Mayor Brian Poochigian, District Three

Emmanuel Hernandez Soto, District Four 

Steve Nelsen, District Five

The Scene

The Visalia City Council meeting started at 7:01 p.m. All council members were present. 

Actions/Discussions/Public comment

  • Special presentation for Juneteenth 
  • Mayor Poochigian recognized today as Juneteenth on behalf of the council.
  • Public comment
    • Gwen Schrank thanked the council for recognizing Juneteenth and said that many “ugly” things have been passed down in  the country’s history to result in systemic racism. She encouraged council members to engage with people of color in the community to combat racism. She also thanked the council for the $200 donation they recently provided to her organization, Schrank’s Clubhouse. Schrank said that she is personally making sure that “everyone in the community knows what is happening in the community.”
    • Elizabeth Sartuchi, Miss Tulare County, and Olivia Harden, Miss Central Valley, told the council that the Miss California competition will be hosted in Visalia at the Visalia Convention Center at the end of June. Harden said the organizers of the competition were impressed with the convention center, downtown area and Visalia community. Sartuchi invited everyone to attend. 
    • Assistant City Manager Nick Mascia said that later this summer they will be putting a request in to change the name of Plaza Raceway and make improvements on the site. 
    • Another staff member invited residents to the meeting occurring on June 20 to gain community feedback on the city’s first inclusive park that accommodates children with disabilities.
  • Consent calendar
    • Poochigian pulled item 5, Taylor made a motion to approve the rest of the items. The motion passed unanimously 
    • Item 5 – Poochigian said he wanted Mascia to recognize Fred Lampy, the project manager for this item, for all the work he has done on this project and over his career because he is retiring soon. 
    • Council member Nelsen made a motion to approve item 5, and the motion passed unanimously.
  • Item 1, property owner appeal to revoke the approved oak tree removal permit near their property.
    • A representative for the property owner said they are requesting the appeal because there is a new development from SJV Homes being built on the adjacent lot to their property and they are concerned that if their easement is removed, their facility may become a nuisance to the community. The property owner operates a nut facility on the land, so he is requesting a continuation of the discussion so they can resolve this problem with the council and SJV Homes. He said even though the city is OK with the removal of the trees, he thinks it is premature to make a decision at this time.
    • A city staff member said the city forestry department received the request, and arborists looked at the tree and concluded that in order to fulfill this request, Oak Tree 2 needs to be removed. They said that the tree does not seem to be maintained. He also said the developer is proposing adding more trees to the property that could provide the privacy the current trees allow. 
    • David Wynet said he owns a walnut-processing facility on 21 E. Main St. and the only access they have to the storage facility depends on keeping their easement. He said they were asking the council to extend a period of dialogue between them and the property developers to talk about the tree removal.
    • Jim Robinson from SJV Homes said this project was approved two years ago and there was no opposition from nearby property owners at the time. He said they are just trying to keep to the guidelines originally agreed to. Robinson said SJV Homes can’t delay project development, but as far as the question of tree removal, a continuation would be OK because they can work around the trees for now. 
    • Nelsen said he saw a dirt access road coming off of Goshen on the property and asked who owns it. Robinson said that it’s on the adjacent property to SJV Home and will not be developed by them. 
    • Nelsen said if SJV Home is open to the 60-90 day extension then he is OK approving the appeal. All other council members said they agreed.
    • Nelsen made a motion to table the matter for 90 days to give both entities time to have a discussion and bring the item back to the council if they cannot make a decision on their own. The item passed unanimously. 
  • Item 2, authorize the city to place contested items on the tax roll.
    • City employee Ruth Pena said at the last public hearing on this item, two people contested three of the items that the city proposes to place on the tax roll. She said one item has been resolved but two items still need to be on the tax roll, which are for delinquent utility fees. 
    • Council member Wynn moved to approve the proposed changes, and the motion passed unanimously. 
  • Item 3, public hearing and adoption of resolution 2023-2024 to authorize changes to the city rates and fee schedule for fiscal year 2023-2024.
    • With no public comment, a motion by Nelsen to approve the proposed adjustments passed unanimously.
  • Item 4, fiscal year 2023-2024 mid-cycle financial report.
    • Finance Director Renee Nagle gave the fiscal year 2023-2024 mid-cycle financial review. 
    • The review showed that the city’s revenue is not expected to change much over the next five years, but might drop some in the following five years. Nagle said the only change in expenditures would be wages and health insurance because health insurance costs are rising next year and the council approved a wage increase for city employees earlier this year.
    • She said with the first five-year forecast for city finances, they are expecting no recision and continued growth in revenues over the next five years. 
    • Nagle said that the two-year budget will start in September but the city will begin gathering citizen and council comment on it in October. 
  • Item 5, annual recertification of the Measure T plan.
    • Nagel said they have to recertify the Measure T plan annually.
    • Measure T is a sales tax shared by the police and fire departments that uses a 20-year plan to hire personnel, purchase equipment and construct projects. In the past, Measure T has funded things like 23 police officers, 13 firefighters, two police precincts and two fire stations. Nagel said Measure T is still needed to pay for  existing staff, stations and vehicles, as well as hire remaining staff from the original plan. 
    • Nelsen moved to recertify the Measure T plan. The motion passed unanimously. 
  • Item 6, holding the first public hearing to amend the Measure N plan from one police officer position to two community service officer positions. Measure N is a half-cent sales tax to fund public safety services, as well as repair and maintenance of streets, parks and trails.
    • Visalia police Capt. Daniel Ford said the department is asking to convert one fiscal year 2023-2024 police officer position to two community service officer positions. He said the item was recommended for approval on May 18 by the Measure N Committee. 
    • With no public comment, the hearing was closed. 
  • Item 7, conduct the second public hearing to amend the Measure N spending plan.
    • Since the first public hearing had already been held for this item and there was no public comment, Nelsen moved to appropriate the money for fiscal years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 to address cost increases for patrol vehicle purchase and upfitting and to renew the contract with Axon. The council passed the motion unanimously. 

With nothing to report from the closed session, the meeting adjourned at 7:48 p.m. The next Visalia City Council meeting will be held on July 17 at 7 p.m.  

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