Oxnard Council 9/23/14- Street repair financing; $80MM wastewater bond refi; shake-up at City Hall; coastal plan; and more

Slave labor for City landscaping?

By George Miller

Covered at meeting:  $80MM Wastewater bond refi; new $24MM bond issue for accelerated street repairs; Coastal Plan update, HUD audit of Housing Dept.; Investment activity report; Prison labor for landscaping?  (Wastewater fee increase on agenda- not discussed).

 

SisterCitiesOcatlan

Oxnard and Ocatlan, MX celebrate 50 years sister cities relationship- http://www.ci.oxnard.ca.us/22/108/ photo: Dan Pinedo, OMAC

 

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting September 23, 2014 05h 04m Agenda Video

 

Wastewater bond refi

Oxnard Wastewater Treatment Plant

Oxnard Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Finance Dept took advantage of a December call date and historically low interest rates (as they have been with other outstanding debt) to push through an $80 million refinance at a little over 4% interest, which will save the city $9.5MM. There was discussion of associated financing costs related to interest rate swap derivatives and other fees which was really not satisfactorily explained at the meeting. Interest rate swaps are actually a form of unregulated insurance which protects parties against fluctuations in interest rates.  Approved unanimously.

Accelerated street repair financing

One of the few priority-based budgeting targeted was the overwhelming consensus on getting Oxnard’s older streets redone. A $30MM program is now underway and will be supercharged with the approval of still more city debt- about $24MM worth, at favorable terms, including 3.25% interest.  Patching and superficial resurfacing (up to 1″) is done by the city, while major resurfacing (what this appropriation is for) is done by outside contractors. City officials would like to favor hiring local people to do the work. Related sidewalk and utility work will be done concurrently and is already funded, per city officials. This was approved unanimously with no real opposition.  Discussion. Report: Street (pdf 222 KB). Here’s what you’ll be getting for your money ….

OCCC9-23-2 054

 

OCCC9-23-2 015

 

Deisbob

Bob Deis of Management Partners. (photo: Dan Pinedo, OMAC)

OCCC9-23-2 030HUD audit of Housing Dept.

The HUD audit uncovered significant record-keeping deficiencies, some defects in city housing stock (being addressed) and management problems in Homelessness programs. Most programs are being moved to county management, which is endorsed by the Homelessness Commission. A consultant, Bob Deis, of Management Partners, was hired to do a report on this. Director Bob Wilkins retired  a few months ago, replaced by Ms. Carrie Sabatin. Report: HUD (pdf 950 KB)

 

Coastal Plan update

seariseA very complex plan of wide scope was briefly summarized by Dr. Chris Williamson. It encompasses such things as zoning, land use, parks, beaches, Ormond beach development, disposition of the NRG power plants at Ormond Beach and Mandalay Beach, harbors and planning for “sea rise.”  There was some heavy discussion from the public on whether it was wise to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars on sea rise studies when the facts are in conflict with assertions and predicted sea rise hasn’t materialized, as well as why are multiple cities along the coast all doing independent “sea rise” studies when water seeks its own level and sea rise in Santa Barbara, Malibu, San Francisco and San Diego is pretty much the same as Oxnard? Council voted unanimously to “receive” the report. Report: Coastal (pdf 807 KB)

 

Investment activity report

City Treasurer Danielle Navas reported $123 million in investments, $1.189 in earnings, in ultra-conservative fixed investments. There were questions from the public about oversight of bonds, comparison with other cities (Padilla), unfunded liabilities (Perello), whether we need an auditor and more, Navas’ response was not my job. Previous discussions revealed that consultants drive investment strategy, so legitimate questions are: what should the Treasurer be doing, what is her job description and who determines if she is performing adequately?  The City Treasurer is an elected position, presumably accountable to City Council. There are no known qualification requirements. Next election is November 2016. Mission statement from Treasurer web page: “The City Treasurer’s Office receives and keeps safe all funds received by the City. It is the mission of the City Treasurer’s Office to efficiently manage and protect public funds while providing the highest level of customer service.”

The Treasurer’s report: Investment (pdf 1.98 MB) posted on the agenda did not list the actual investments, although the PowerPoint presentation shown at the meeting did (flashed by too quickly to photograph). This is the best we could get (have a request in for info):

Oxnard Invest

 

Proposal to use prison labor for landscapingprisonerscuttinggrass

Buried in the “Consent Agenda,” which is usually approved in bulk unless a council member wants to discuss it, was an innocuous-looking item for landscaping costs. Of course $200,000 is hardly innocuous, but it turned out it was a fee to the County to let the City use uncompensated prison labor. An interesting discussion transpired. Most people thought it was great to get it done cheaply and give prisoners some relief from the confinement and monotony of prison, but Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez was greatly opposed to the exploitation and Councilman Perello and others felt it would deny employment opportunities to CityCorp and other employees. Motion carried with Ramirez and Perello opposed to that item.

 

Also heard informally at meeting: Human Resources Director Michelle Tellez was relieved. We initially heard she was replaced by Asst. City Manager Karen Burnham, which we later confirmed with the City Manager’s office. Also learned that Public Works will be split off into Utilities and that streets responsibility will be put in with General Services. Interim Director Roshanian will be Interim Director of Utilities and recruiting for a permanent Director will commence. The City Manager will be relying upon consultants Management Partners and Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai  for advice.  More of this and a broader look at the Phase I Reorganization of the City will be addressed at a special City Council meeting on September 30.

Lucy Andriano and others complained about the Anterra injection well, which deposits fracking and other oil industry wastewater. The facility is under investigation for excessive use vs. permits and potential groundwater pollution.  More complaints about Halaco toxic waste site.

Multiple speakers demanded action on the Public Access TV contractor RFP. OMAC has been the most vocal. The city has been struggling to get the evaluation done (outside experts needed) and committed to an October 12 decision.

Mayoral candidate Larry Stein noted the failure of the GREAT water program to become productive, the inequity of selling water to favored parties below cost and lack of a delivery system to accomplish most of this. Mayor Flynn requested a presentation of the situation, including when production will proceed and what agreements are in place.

Ines T. lamented 11 new lawsuits against the city year to date, meaning large potential liabilities and litigation costs.

 

George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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