Oxnard City Council Meeting – 9-17-13- Recycling plant takeover, Downtown Mgt. District, Redevelopment property disposition

DelNorteRecyclingBy George Miller

(left: Oxnard’s Del Norte Recycling Plant)


Name
Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting September 17, 2013 03h 52m Agenda Video

 

Recycling plant takeover

In July, by a 3-1 margin (Councilwoman Padillo dissenting, MacDonald on vacation), the Council decided to take over operations of the City-owned Del Norte Recycling Plant, which is managed by Republic Services, Inc.   You can find the information in previous City Council meeting documents.

A business plan to accomplish that is now due, a significant challenge to meet the deadline with a well-thought out document. Originally, there was an RFP (Request For Proposal) in work for a new contract, which might have resulted in a new operator.  But, some on the Council, and in the public, were dissatisfied with the costs and felt Republic was making too much money. So, instead of renegotiating a new contract or finding another operator, a majority of the Council might have thought that the city could perform better than any possible vendor. They also resolved to pay much higher wages/benefits than Republic did, which helped to get employee and union support behind the plan, but would not necessarily contribute to the promised lower costs.

Previously, we heard complaints against Republic that the plant equipment/technology were out of date, but also understood  that such costs would be the City’s responsibility, so it’s not clear why this became Republic’s fault.

Councilman MacDonald was under the impression that the Council vote in his absence was just to do a business plan for the self-operation of the Del Norte Recycling Plant, to first determine whether this major change made economic and operational sense, which would be a reasonable course of action. He was told that wasn’t the case, which was also Citizensjournal.us’s understanding. In other words, the City intended to proceed with the takeover whether or not there was proof that this action made sense.  Since some other municipalities run their own plants, it might.  It has been noted that some councilmembers have strong support from unions and organizations like CAUSE. Both camps seem to be very much in favor of the takeover.

The City appears to be stalled in defining job classifications, job descriptions and salary ranges.  It was suggested that it start with contract labor to work around this bottleneck, maybe even engage Republic to do the work.

Public comments have been mostly in favor of the takeover- CAUSE, Bob Terry on 9/17 and others at previous meetings.  A few wanted to retain Republic because of its civic/charitable good works. Some in the past cautioned that Oxnard may not have the needed expertise. A resident pointed out several regulatory hurdles that might not have been considered.  Dan Pinedo noted that it is “only a change of management,” since it is already city-owned and most of the employees would be retained.

 

Downtown District Agenda, progress cited

Abel Ramirez Magana made a professional, but long presentation on where the special Downtown District has gone and is headed.  Long time Oxnardians will remember how awful the tired, rundown downtown area looked a decade ago.  It was an embarrassment to Oxnard, detracting not only from civic pride, but from safety and commerce. Recent visitors can attest to dramatic progress which was a result of “bootstrapping” by concerned citizens, merchants and city employees, along with liberal doses of government money, much of it well-applied.  A special Oxnard Downtown Management District (downtownoxnard.org) was set up, along with its own taxing authority. Over 350 businesses and even some residents fall under this.

Focus has been on: cleanliness, public safety, business development, beautification and management.  There seemed to be a stakeholder consensus that it is working.  Mr. Mangana leads this effort and was generous in sharing credit for success with those involved. He is reinforced by professional staff, help from the city, volunteers and interns.  The board consists of property owners, merchants and City officials. Current budget is $525K, not including normal city services. The City was cautioned about cutbacks made in police coverage.

The combined efforts have resulted in a claimed 41% drop in reported crime in three years, much less litter, graffiti and reasonable success in maintaining building occupancy during  a major economic downturn. Addition of events such as concerts in the park, various festivals and the farmers’ market have been well-received and contributed to a more thriving downtown.

An influx of new businesses, including numerous restaurants, is encouraging.  However, some established brick and mortar, taxpaying  restaurateurs fear cannibalization of their trade, not only from that, but from increasingly numerous “food trucks,” which are said to have the additional advantage of high mobility, lower costs and less regulation.

A sign of success is that some neighborhoods outside of the district want into the Downtown District.

The dissolution of the Economic ReDevelopment Agencies (RDA) due to state law may create complications in managing some future downtown city property utilization.  One thing conspicuously missing from the Downtown presentation was a financial statement, or at least a summary, requested by Dan Pinedo and by Citizensjournal.us afterward.  It hasn’t been made publicly available on the City site yet, nor was the promised digital presentation handout made available, nor has Mr. Mangano answered our inquiries for further information.

 

Redevelopment Agency Status

A detailed plan for disposition of city properties under the RDA was presented over multiple meetings in the last few months. You can find abundant documentation on the City Council site. A separate meeting was held recently, 44 attended, mostly on track for property disposition by the deadline, although no specifics were discussed at the 9/17 meeting. They are moving toward final disposition recommendations by the end of October to comply with state mandates.

 

Other

Several members of the public got up to comment on other matters.  Most significant was Steve Nash, who wants people who took the illegal post-retirement benefits granted by the previous administration to come to City Council meetings and explain why they did this. That would be interesting.

There was some discussion about the Police Dept annual ammunition buy, at $111K. It seems they are locked into Winchester ammo, from only one vendor, which has two divisions. Someone thought to question it. Questions arose about ammo shelf life, but we can’t see that lasting overly long, with monthly range time for at least 100 shooters out of a staff of 200+.


 George Miller is a “retired” operations management consultant and a Citizen Journalist, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

 

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