Oxnard: Red light cameras faulted; Credit card fees contemplated; Fee waivers; street paving

By George Miller

Discussed at 7-18-17 City Council meeting: A County Grand Jury Report exposed some shortcomings in the red light camera system operated by a contractor. It has been shut down. The City started accepting credit and debit cards last year- a convenience to customers and a revenue accelerator. But Oxnard is getting eaten alive by the fees as card use explodes and may be positioning to pass costs along to card users this year. A hot dispute over who can grant fee and penalty waivers and under what rules was fought out, but not totally resolved. The street paving/maintenance plan was presented as stabilizing and eventually improving the city’s 370 miles of roads, but laboring under significant underfunding. Staff said $12.3MM/year is needed and is well short of that.

Meeting Agenda

 

Item N-1- Red Light Camera Oxnard Red Light Cameras report 5-17

Oxnard Police Commander Randy Latimer, of the traffic unit said that red light cameras reduce collisions in the city and use of them should continue. However …

 

… a County Grand Jury investigation revealed some problems (summary above and in agenda materials-see link at bottom). Also READ. Oxnard Police Department audited system and found 3 intersections with improper yellow light timing. They shut down cameras at those intersections and stopped citing, even refunded payments.  The whole system has now been inactivated. Contract expired 1-31-17. Now no red light camera enforcement in the city.

City disagrees that timing was not vetted and “cost neutrality” was vague. The latter term refers to the City not being obligated to pay the operator Redflex any money beyond that raised from fines and fees.  It claims cost neutrality was assured and that city would never owe a balance. This was presented to council in 2008 and internally vetted.  Police want to renew the system “once the city has  a robust traffic dept.” for future reactivation, per Commander Latimer. The City refunded 147 improper citation payments and court fees.

Council Vote 5-0 to accept.

 

Item N-2- Credit card interchange fee absorption

Per City Treasurer Phil Molina, the city takes credit and debit cards for certain transactions. It pays the credit card fees and is considering charging customers instead. These fees cost more than all other banking fees combined- $240,000 trending to a forecast $500,000 within just a few years. Banks charge a percentage plus fixed fees. Typically it costs about 2%, based upon the examples he read at the meeting. About 6% of dollar volume is now by debit and credit cards and may rise to 80% eventually. 

Are other cities doing it? Thousand Oaks- 2.5%, Pasadena- 0%. Many cities don’t charge, many are studying this revenue opportunity.

He requested that the council decide what to do about it. Charge a fee or keep the status quo.  The Council is ready to pursue passing these costs along directly to its customers.

The City’s Fiscal Policy Task Force has recommended charging fees (option #3 in chart above).

Council:

Madrigal- what about ApplePay?  Molina doesn’t know.

Ramirez- Expect to pay more for using credit/debit cards. (Opotion #3)

Perello- Thinks card users should pay fees and not be subsidized by cash payers. (Option 3).

Flynn- Favors Option #3

MacDonald- Favors Option #3.

Perello- Moves we start charging ASAP.

 

City Atty Fischer- If council votes, then a resolution would be prepared by the Treasurer for approval in September.

City Mgr. Nyhoff- Need to develop a method to charge customers. Must go through the fee adoption process.

Vote- 5-0 to proceed to the next step, which would involve more specific policy recommendations and how to go about implementing them.

 

N-3- Waivers of fees and penalties

Asst City Mgr. Jesus Nava says that late fee waivers not Treasurer’s responsibility, per Ord 2350- Classifications of City Clerk and Treasurer.  He says that the City Mgr. assigns their administrative duties, in addition to state-mandated statutory duties they already have.  He says that City Mgr is responsible to evaluate their performance of admin. duties and that Dept. heads will be delegated waiver responsibilities. Council can decide which.

Per Nava- 16,000 penalties waived by Treasurer. 78,31 total waivers. He wants to grant dept heads up to $500 waiver authority, on a one-time basis, but did not clearly specify what that means.

Council:

Perello- Is explicit one time waiver one time, lifetime, case, etc.?   This resolution does not protect the city enough and provide specific limitations. Need to add the term “penalty” to fee in resolution. Nava agreed.

Ramirez- Have concerns about favoritism. Wants to know waiver reasons, at least for recent items. Had no idea there were so many waivers. Want a strong policy for fairness and consistency.

Nava- will be a written record, subject to audit.

Madrigal- what is onetime courtes? Nava- one time based on your account history in your name. You can also work out a payment plan.

Treasurer Molina- This item was agendized under City Treasurer’s office, reviewed, resubmitted differently under Asst, City Mgr.  Sometimes fees are waived as as well as penalties (connect fees, broken lock fees, etc.).  Clarify what “one-time” means and be more specific.  All waivers granted were documented.  Reasons should be given. 2.157 Power and Duties office-  not quoted. Excepts City Treasurer from  City Manager assignment of responsibilities. Treasurer has specific resp for processing utility and business license billing responsibility. Certain fee waivers should only go to council. Up to $30,000 has been waived, but not ny Treasury. Another $36,00o one pending for a customer which has had previous waivers. More detail/definition of resolution is needed.

Flynn- Molina raised good points, but way too much minutiae for this meeting, should have been vetted by Fiscal Policy Task Force first. Sees contention for who has authority. Need to close loopholes. Sees lots of things to still be worked out.

Nyhoff- This has been goig on fora long time., For 20+ years, City Mgr has been doing this. To change is a Council policy decision and would require ordinance changes. You refused to do  a resolution, wanted it to be in Treasurer’s name. Needs clarification. Make decision and we can get it back to you in Sept.

Molina- wants Treasurer only responsible for utility and planning billing. Says Ordinances already call for that. Want consistent delineation

Ramirez- Language needs to be cleaned up.

MacDonald- Fee waiver should reside with City Mgr. If he delegates to Treasurer, etc.m, Yes. Power must emanate from one point- City Mgr.

Perello- Totally disagree with MacDonald. Until Molina took office, Perello said, I cannot speak for other Councilman, but was never aware of problems revealed by Molina, causing great consternation with City Atty and Mgr.  Large unpaid debts were highlighted by Molina.  Procter and Gamble took more than a million bucks. Why hasn’t this dispute been worked out? I will not support this. It’s embarrassing that you have not pulled this together.

Flynn- Trying to take a 6 month feud and resolve it tonight

Perello- You bounce me off Fiscal Policy Task Force but you have not have not had the task force resolve it and you are complaining about it now.

Flynn- Molina trying to provide another pair of eyes. This cannot be resolved tonight. Tighten up resolution. Define penalty fees (Molina said other fees too). Wants it to comeback to Fiscal Policy Task Force.

Ramirez- favors one head delegating duties- City Mgr.

Perello- moves to deny action. No second.

Ramirez- approve with resolution to tighten it up.

Vote 4-1 approved, Perello dissented.

 

Public:

Martin Jones- There is someone here who is a CPA and an MBA.  The elected Treasurer is the most qualified to do the job. Please let him do his job. Remembers P&G “ripping off the city for more than $100,00 a year.

 

N-4 Street Maintenance Program Update

Public Works Director Dan Rydberg: Close to maintaining all city streets which could last 30-40 years with proper maintenance and better preventive maintenance program.

370 miles of pavement, Pavement Index is only 60, substantially below critical point of 65-70. Spending on roads has increased. Need to spend $12.3MM annually just to maintain PVI of 60.

Some stopgap finishes are being applied (about 1″), plus hot patching.

27 projects planned within 2 years:

 

For more details on above, consult agenda materials page 7-9 for cost and schedule. They include neighborhood streets, resurfacing,  arterial street resurfacing and preventive maintenance. Rydberg- could come to $120 million in 30 years.

Nyhoff pointed out that we are delaying replacing some cast iron pipes in some streets because of lack of utility funding to replace needed assets.  This will delay repaving of affected streets. Priorities are defined by pavement index.

Perello asked why Vineyard funding couldn’t be used for other neighborhoods with streets in worse shape. Staff pointed out that Vineyard project is being done with federal funds.

MacDonald- why are county streets so much better than ours?

Ramirez- would infrastructure use fees be used for streets with  pipe replacements? Staff: yes.

Osuna- 5 year program- $31 million.

Perello- what do we have in the bank in infrastructure use fees, how much is committed to be used? Rydberg:  $14MM  to be used at $4Mm/year.  Perello: What is the risk if we lose the lawsuit on the infrastructure fees? Fischer claims a clear nexus with the utility activities on the roadways.  Pointed out that Glendale lost a similar suit and had to borrow/spend $57 million for restitution.

Ramirez- Lamented non-passage of transportation tax. Appreciate staff work, do best we can.

Madrigal- What about Rice Ave? Staff: est is 12.3 MM. Looking for a solution.  You said need $12.3 MM/year top maintain 60 PCI, but would have to spend more than you show to reach that amount.

Flynn- One of the top issues. Relief looks sooner than thought for arterials. Much will be done with cheaper overlays.

Nyhoff- need to delineate which projects are actually funded.

Public:

Jackie Tedeschi- Appreciates this effort. Realizes funding/priority drivers.

Pat Brown- Heritage Square area pavement is terrible.

 

Also:

Item M- Information Consent Agenda

Exceptions (this agenda is voted on in its entirety by default unless a Council Member cites specific exceptions)

Item 1C- Perello- make sure any new vehicles purchased have locator devices. (A recent theft o a fire department truck, finally located in San Francisco, prompted that).

Wants to know repaving priorities. Per Ruth Osana- that will be in agenda materials tonight.

Public speaker

Daniel Chavez, Jr.- Re water rates; $3.60 average increase- excessive/abusive.  Does thecity have adrought contingency plan. Residents being punished now for conserving water.

Vote- passed 5-0, covering about $1.8 million in one fell swoop, per Council Member Perello.

 

Note: Discussions at this meeting of marijuana delivery and the Renaissance Petroleum oil operations expansion occurring are addressed in these other articles:

Public raises oil/gas well expansion issue at Oxnard City Council meeting

Public raises oil/gas well expansion issue at Oxnard City Council meetingBy George Miller-It wasn’t even on the agenda. It’s not even within City jurisdiction. But, at the 7-18-17 Oxnard Council meeting, numerous members (circa 37) of the public argued pro and con over Renaissance Petroleum’s 2014 application to Ventura  County (which has jurisdiction) to expand its oil operations on unincorporated land within sight of […]

Oxnard Council to allow medical marijuana deliveries

Oxnard Council to allow medical marijuana deliveriesBy George Miller- This week, the Oxnard City Council voted its willingness to allow medical marijuana (cannabis) deliveries in the city.  They have so far rejected commercial growing or processing of it as well as recreational marijuana sales, but seemed to be leaving it open for future consideration.   Ordinances would have to be drafted, […]

 

George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard. He has been a sea kayaker for 25 years.


Get Citizensjournal.us Headlines free  SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Publius
Publius
3 years ago

Question that was not asked or answered: How much money does the city save by accepting credit cards? How much does it cost to pay a clerk to receive checks in the mail, open envelopes, process checks, etc.? My guess is it costs more than the credit card fee. The city should be thankful that some citizens are paying with credit cards, rather than punish them with a fee.