Oxnard Council- General Fund deep deficit predicted; HUD funding for low income housing; Recycled water program advances; $200K DHS funding coming

By George Miller

In a 6 1/2 hour marathon meeting, the Oxnard City Council addressed multiple major topics, including:  the shaky state of city finances, new Interim Finance Director, priorities for millions of dollars of expected HUD funding to help address homelessness and very low income housing needs and three major proposals to address water supply via recycling.

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Mayor and Council fete Oxnard PAL Soccer team- Coast Gold Div. Boys champions! (Photo: Citizensjournal.us)

 

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting January 13, 2015 06h 28m Agenda Minutes Video

 

City to incur LARGE deficit?

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Bob Deis, at a previous meeting (Photo: Citizensjournal.us)

City Manager Greg Nyhoff obtained approval for $400,000 to fund consulting work in human resources and finance. Part of that was for a review of the state of the city’s finances, by Management Partners Consultant Bob Deis, a former Stockton City Manager. He presented his preliminary report, predicting a minimum of a $3 million General Fund deficit this year, based on continuing revenue and spending trends as they stand. This does not even include compensation increases, filling most vacant positions, major needed increases in infrastructure spending, pension and workman compensation/backfill cost increases, or a turn for the worse for the economy. So, in other words, it could be much worse, forcing severe spending cuts, program deferrals or cancellations, tax increases and/or more borrowing.  The situation would seem to constrain adequately addressing major deferred maintenance/infrastructure and some other issues.

Deis also believes that forecasts for development fees, fines, reimbusements and miscellaneous revenues were over-optimistic and that expectations of tax allocations returned by the state will need to be scaled down as well.

 

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New Oxnard Interim Finance Director Dave Millican (Photo: Citizensjournal.us)

“It appears that the deficit amount is mainly a function of past incremental policy and budget choices that have not been fully vetted together until now,” wrote Deis in his report.

City Manager Greg Nyhoff announced a new Interim Finance Director, Dave Millican, who assured us that he was previously serving Stockton to address the bankruptcy situation, not cause it.

The job vacancy management problem was also cited. The large number of unfilled positions have helped to reduce expenditures (while in some cases exacerbating deferred action problems). However, it only masks overruns in other areas, since the city does not seem to do line item expense management well, preferring to dwell more on aggregate results.

Long time resident public commenters who have been saying some similar things for years were pleased with the report and would seem to be vindicated. We’re thinking of folks like Jim Lavery, Larry Stein, Eileen Tracy, etc.

 

Water Recycling

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Because of available water sources and city foresight, Oxnard is far less dependent on imported water than most area cities, which must obtain a greater percentage of their usage from external sources. But with major drought and future growth envisioned, Oxnard must continue and improve these efforts. The nearly half billion dollar GREAT program is a major part of this.

Three major proposals were discussed and all approved by the Council:

Utilities Department
2. SUBJECT: Full Advanced Treatment Recycled Water Management and Use Agreement. (033)
RECOMMENDATION: Approve and authorize the Mayor to execute the Full Advanced Treatment Recycled Water Management and Use Agreement between the City of Oxnard and United Water Conservation District, Pleasant Valley County Water District, Houweling Nurseries, Southland Sod, and Reiter Affiliated Companies (A-7651).
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Jay Duncan Phone: 385-8387Document: Staff Report (pdf 5,409 kb)ACTION: Approve as recommended.
3. SUBJECT: First Amendment to Agreement for Professional Services with Jensen Design & Survey, Inc. for Engineering, Design and Post Design Services for the Hueneme Road Recycled Water Pipeline Phase 2. (095)
RECOMMENDATION: Approve and authorize the Mayor to execute a First Amendment to the Agreement with Jensen Design and Survey, Inc. (A-7669) in an amount not to exceed $1,775,415 to execute all engineering and design tasks related to Phase 2 services for the Hueneme Road Recycled Water Pipeline Phase 2, which will bring the total authorization for Agreement to $2,948,499.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Jay Duncan Phone: 385-8387Document: View Item K-3 (pdf  1.94 MB)ACTION:  Approve as recommended.
4. SUBJECT: Mitigated Negative Declaration for Groundwater Enhancement Recovery and Treatment (GREAT) Program. (131)
RECOMMENDATION: Adopt a resolution approving a Mitigated Negative Declaration regarding the ongoing implementation of the Groundwater Recovery Enhancement and Treatment Program (Phase 1).
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Jay Duncan Phone: 385-8387Document: View Item K-4 (pdf 4.54 MB)ACTION:  Approve as recommended.

More on GREAT Program

Larry Stein again objected to providing water to businesses/farms at what he said was below cost and then billing residents for the difference.  The city response was that the recycled water being produced cost less to provide. But they did not adequately explain how construction costs are accounted for and allocated/billed, including special pipeline construction to deliver it,

 

Very low income and homeless housing

This session was intended to be an open discussion about program priorities and allocations, which will lead to funding and organizational decisions in the future.  Discussion was how to best use it and how to get more.

An annual plan unmet needs assessment was presented, which summarizes the different grants and progarm areas but provides no quantification or qualification of finances, staffing and action plan descriptions.  Funding sources are Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investment partnerhip (HOME) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG).  Mayor Pro-tem Carmen Ramirez thought there is less than $2.9  million in HUD (Housing Urban Development) agency grant funding involved.  Grant trend is down.

Rose Vallello, Resource Services Coordinator, feels that job training and continuing education are key to helping address root causes of poverty and should receive a high priority. We heard no disagreement on that at the meeting.

Tim Hawkins, Community Action, Ventura, says homelessness is getting worse; keep transition center open; trying to do more with less, prioritize homeless services; provide “micro housing”- tiny modular structures, cargo containers; make Section 8 housing vouchers  available to the homeless.

Danny Carrillo said provide a hand-up, not a handout; need  and employment program; program for helping/employing people with criminal records, addiction history.

Francine Castanon said that emergency vouchers are lacking, if a shelter is open and a rep. is present, needs can be addressed.

Other speakers noted that with tens of millions of immigrants being imported, while tens of millions of jobs are exported, the problem will get worse, that actual unemployment is far worse than the reported 5.6% national figure- 23% is more like it.

There seemed to be consensus that these are very serious problems, that inadequate resources are available. There was little consensus on priorities and direction evident at the meeting.

There was some question about economic information. It is known that average household income in Oxnard is only about $50 thousand, very low for such a high cost area and many families have to make do with far less. It was stated that some families must spend 80% of reported income on housing.

Mayor Flynn asked if a housing needs assessment is available. Someone said the census data is some help. Councilman Bryan MacDonald said there is a regional study done. It would be dificult to know if people outside of Oxnard want to move here or existing residents want to upgrade, or if housing in nearby communities was available.

Flynn also stated that 2/3 of the county’s homeless are thought to be in Oxnard and Ventura, 1/4 of Oxnard population is impoverished, and 5-7 thousand housing units are believed to be sub-standard. He feels the city needs an ordinance to prohibit unlicensed boarding houses.

High cost and short supply of rental housing was decried. “Slumlords” are exploiting the situation. The appropriate use of code enforcement was mentioned. We have heard varying estaimates of the number of homeless in Oxnard ranging from 1-2 thousand. Not included are people temporaily staying at others’ homes, so the true number is unknown.

Councilman Bert Perello said there are very large needs and that he has no idea how to meet all of them. He said we need to fix abuses and make sure they never happen again.He also protested “slumloads” who exploit and downgrade neighborhoods- that they must be punished. Asst. City Manager Scott Whitney said codes must be in complaince with spirit of HUD requirements.

Councilman MacDonald noted a shift in homeless trends, with far more people living in RV’s.  Councilwoman Padilla said that the approach needs to be more “strategic.”

 

Homeland Security Grant (quoted directly from meeting agenda S-4:)

SUBJECT: Recognize and Appropriate Grant Revenues for the 2014 State Homeland Security Grants Awards. (217)
RECOMMENDATION: 1) Recognize $217,650 in grant revenue from the State Homeland Security Grants Program (SHSGP); and 2) Approve budget appropriations in the amounts of $75,000 to Regional Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Equipment, $20,000 to Regional Listos training, $75,000 to Regional Hazmat Task Force, $38,650 to Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Maintenance, and $9,000 to Oxnard Fire CERT Training.
Legislative Body: CC Contact: Brad Windsor Phone: 385-7708

Document: View Item S-4 (pdf 612 KB)

ACTION:  Approve as recommended.

 

Other

Resident speakers:

Joseph Contaoi wants utility bills to itemize infrastructure costs, as is done in some other jurisdictions.

– Lucy Cartegena decried use of nextdoor.com by Oxnard PD to express alarm that some state legislation has led to higher incidence of crime. Others have previously said that it is legitimate to point out things that present a challenge to public safety and law enforcement.

– Ms. Andriano and John M. object to planned new refinery near St. Louis Obisbo, saying it will route dangerous 80 car, 1.4 mile long oil trains through Oxnard, presenting safety and envoronmental hazards.

– Elias Bonanal (sp.?) protested unfounded attacks on police reputation and incitement to violence, which he feels will come to no good.

– Elliot Gabriel of Toder Poder Collectiva protested “taking of lives, black and brown, by law enforcement.” Wants civilan oversight, police review board.

John Adamson protested what he said was an unncessary $14 million fire Dept. training facility.

 

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

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