Oxnard Council: golf course fiasco, new transit district bylaws, City Manager recruitment, recycling facility takeover.

By George Miller

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St. Anthony’s school was honored by the city in honor of National Catholic School Week

The January 28 Council meeting covered multiple topics, most notable being:

City Golf course financial fiasco redux-again

Gold Coast Transit District bylaws presented: read here- https://citizensjournal.us/gold-coast-transit-district-bylaws-presented/

Recruitment of City Manager and Attorney

Senior Services Commission annual recap

Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) takeover effective Feb. 1

Budget review

Free income tax preparation assistance to lower income persons

 

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting January 28, 2014 05h 58m Agenda Minutes Video

 

City Golf course financial fiasco redux, again

RiverRidgeGolfCourseIn previous debates, the wisdom of creating a golf course was debated, as were things such as approaches for a relatively unincentivized operator agreement, lack of marketing acumen, landfill site it is built on, unsustainable financing, whether there is an operating loss or just financing drains, schemes to enhance revenues, even class warfare about a golf course for the elite while the common peoples’ needs are neglected. Oxnard owes over $5 million on it, excluding large monetary transfers made to this “enterprise” project, which was supposed to pay for itself, while losses continue to mount. There has been no improvement since the debate began. Mayor Flynn said that the Oxnard operation has 40% fewer rounds of golf played on it than the neighboring Ventura city facility.

There was interesting discussion on the city’s responsibility to provide recreation to the public, how much it should be subsidized and whether golfing fits into that mission, since it is something for a much smaller segment of the population and is rather expensive. Councilman MacDonald felt it should be included, while Mayor Flynn and Councilman Perello did not, contrasting that with beaches and parks, which are for a broad section of the public.  There is sentiment to remove the golf course from the Enterprise category. Merge it into the general fund and let it take its lumps there.

City Council last directed staff to come up with improvement options for the golf course. What staff first presented was aimed at keeping it, under various schemes involving finance or changing operator agreements. All public speakers but one and three council members were unhappy enough with the options presented to demand new ones (including  divestiture), which the Council voted  3-2 to do, with Council Members McDonald and Padilla dissenting.

Our Past Articles on the Golf Course:

https://citizensjournal.us/oxnard-city-council-ex-city-manager-sotelo-claim-rejected-recycling-operator-to-change-golf-course-losses-debated-redevelopment-properties-need-dispositioning/

https://citizensjournal.us/oxnard-city-council-debates-what-to-do-about-money-eating-city-golf-course/

https://citizensjournal.us/tag/oxnard-city-golf-course/

Recruitment of City Manager and Attorney

Oxnard logoWhile this is not an urgent priority, since interim personnel are serving, the Interim City Manager Karen Burnham is in her third year. In addition, it has been deemed desirable to have a permanent City Manager in place before selecting a permanent City Attorney. Stephen Fisher is currently acting as Interim City Attorney.

Mayor Pro-tem Ramirez and Councilman MacDonald are directing the recruitment effort. Recruiters are being used.  They stressed that the ultimate decision is the Council’s, not recruiters and not delegated to the public, although they are looking for ways to include some public input. There was some concern by Mayor Flynn that the recruiters’ specs might improperly rule out people with valuable experience, but who had not actually been City Managers before.  Councilman MacDonald warned to stay on guard to avoid cronyism in hiring.

Three recruiters looked at City Attorney recruiting, bidding $24,500, $25,500 and 32% of annual compensation.  Some councilmen expressed a desire to see all resumes. There was talk about how to do screening of finalists, including background check, reference check, talking to locals in their hometowns, etc., subject to protecting confidentiality. Mayor Pro-tem Ramirez suggested enlisting the assistance of the state BAR.  HR Director Michelle Tellez cited confidentiality issues because  there are internal candidates. A panel of judges and attorneys may be used to help in the evaluation.

There was discussion about whether a salary range was required: No, per City HR Director Michelle Tellez, since it is a contract position. Some kind of a target must be established for recruiting and contracting purposes.  Mayor Flynn wants to discuss this at a regular meeting.  Existing salary, previous City Manager salary, the going rate  and total compensation package, with fringes, would all figure into that.

Senior Services Commission annual recap 

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Greg Barnes, Program Director, introduced members of the  Senior Services Commission, including Chair Nancy Rowe, who outlined what has been accomplished with the program and facilities.  These included things such as operation of senior center, 17,000+ meals delivered, seminars and courses taught, such as legal issues for seniors.

Measure “O” special sales tax money allocated to this program seems to have been well-spent on things such as a van, sound system, computer labs, chairs, pool table refurbishment and a survey of city seniors.

 

Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) takeover effective Feb. 1

DelNorteRecyclingCity management of the facility begins Feb. 1. It appears that a great staff effort, along with help from the existing operator, retention of 37 existing employees, use of contract labor and other services will suffice to keep it going.  New equipment and other improvements are planned to improve operating efficiencies and just as importantly, to increase landfill diversion (now 5%- interim goal is 15%) and enhance recycling revenue. In addition, Major Pro-tem Ramirez has been vocal about improving recycling efficiency via resident education, which would seem to be the most cost-effective way possible. Interim Public Works Director Rob Roshanian, Facility Manager Todd Housley and Director of Finance James Cameron predict about a $2MM savings over the previous outside operating contract, even with higher employee compensation expenses. No way to compare that to a new competitive outside contract.

 

Budget review

City is close to being on plan for the fiscal half-year, although there are some significant variances +/-.

  • General fund revenues up 11%, although sales taxes were off 15%.
  • Overall general fund expenditures up only 1%
  • Utility fund revenues up 12%, but expenses up 20%
  • More DETAIL
  • December REVIEW

Overtime variance was one of the biggest and most controversial variances. Discussion revealed that there is already a large overtime allowance built into the budget and this, too, was exceeded. Reasons were discussed: filling in for vacancies (15 in OPD alone), vacations, absentees, contingencies/emergencies. What was not discussed was scheduling competence or overtime abuses.

A ceiling on overtime was discussed, amid warnings about arbitrarily curtailing vital services. A blended 4-10 (4 ten hour days per week) or even 3-12 schedule approach was discussed. These are subject to bargaining unit approval and Cal Osha requirements.  Mayor Flynn mentioned a study he heard about which suggested that 9 hour shifts were optimal for productivity and safety.

Disposition/handling of the city golf course and performing arts center are significant items impacting the budget, which will be discussed at the February 4 meeting.

There was a significant budget variance due to unanticipated Obamacare expenses, which may run about $1 million for the year.

 

Free income tax preparation assistance to lower income persons

The Council unanimously approved a program to assist families making below $51,500 annually to prepare their income taxes.  This is being done with Oxnard College. There will be an ad on the city web site and TV channel.

 

Other

A closed session, held just prior to this meeting, covered negotiations with the Oxnard Middle Managers’ Association and ran overtime , delaying the start of this meeting just short of 30 minutes.  Once again, it was confidential and the public has no idea of what is being negotiated in their name.

Councilman Perello says the City is trying to get a grant to help attract a commercial scheduled airline back to Oxnard Airport, which it has lacked one since United departed years ago.  He voted for this even though a neighborhood council opposed it, due to noise/safety concerns.

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

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