Santa Paula Council: Food Vendors, Roundabouts, Wastewater, General Plan, Water-Sewer Rates

By Sheryl Hamlin

Five items were discussed during the Order of Business on February 6, 2017 which had come to council previously.

  • Food Vendors
  • SR 126 “Safety Enhancement Project”
  • Operations and Maintenance Agreement with American Water for the Wastewater Plant
  • General Plan Update
  • Standing Committee on Water and Sewer Rates

State Route (SR) 126 Safety Enhancement Projects

This item came up for discussion in February 2016 and was reviewed in detail here. It has now resurfaced and according to John Ilasin, Interim Public Works Director, a study is being circulated, but city staff has not seen the report. Vice Mayor Gherardi has spoken to the District 7 Caltrans Manager at VCTC. The initial plan calls for double lane roundabouts and in ten years due to traffic increases, they will be enlarged to triple roundabouts. The roundabouts will add 2 minutes in each direction between Fillmore and Santa Paula, according to Vice Mayor Gherardi, which is problematic for public safety and could be life threatening. Hence, the opposition resolution in the staff report was written. Interestingly enough, SR 126 has an accident rate equivalent to 25% of similar sized roads, because of the rumble strips and signage Caltrans added, according to Vice Mayor Gherardi.

Tim Hicks, Jennifer Heighton and Katie Brook spoke about the project. Tim Hicks said that trucks could roll when they slow down which would increase accidents. Jennifer Heighton, who lives near SR 126, said the cost would be $76 to $79 million for a questionable solution. Katie Brook, who also lives near the SR 126, said that there have been five fatalities in 13 years on their property. She has noticed an increase in aggressive driving and expects more in coming years. She likes several aspects of the project because it addresses speed and safety.

During council discussion, Council Member Procter said that he did not like the idea of being a “guinea pig for pilots”, found the use of eminent domain for prime agricultural land onerous and felt that there are other approaches, although Attorney Cotti said the landowners would be compensated. Council Hernandez said that price was not an issue in his mind, but that roundabouts were best deployed in urban areas. He noted that the speed on SR 126 had been reduced to 55 mph correcting the staff report and was writing a report for Supervisor Long for whom he works. Vice Mayor said she would support widening driveways and on-ramps, but not roundabouts. Vice Mayor Gherardi suggested that the letter praise Caltrans for safety concerns, but suggest alternatives and include the State Legislators in the distribution list. The item was approved and Attorney Cotti will revise and return with the revision.

Food Trucks

This item has been discussed at council twice before. Click here and here for previous reports.

James Mason, the new Deputy Planning Director, reviewed recent history in the food truck business as well as the law. He said that food trucks “exploded” during the recession to include full service kitchens, high-end foods and longer hours that the quick lunch hours. He said that there were 60 to 80 food trucks in Ventura and Oxnard. In 2016, there were four (4) applications in Santa Paula and in 2017 there have been two (2) applications to date. So, the question for discussion is how to move forward.

In Public Comments, Carlos Guzmán, said the problem is enforcement, not the ordinance. There has been nothing new in 23 years He is concerned that food trucks do not report sales tax. The owner of La Terraza said the problem has not changed since 1994. The brick and mortar restaurateurs pay high fees for projects, while food trucks pay little, he said.

During council discussion, Vice Mayor Gherardi asked for clarification about event food trucks and regular food trucks. Council Member Procter asked about the city’s rights to which Attorney Cotti said the city is prohibited from banning food trucks and can only regulate for traffic, sidewalks and public safety. Council Member Hernandez said he likes the taste of food truck tacos, as do many people, and he likes free enterprise. He also said the city receives 1.9% of the county sales tax pool for food vendors. The current ordinance lists several prohibited streets, but this does not prohibit using private property near these streets unless it places the truck within 100’ of residential property. Many street restrictions effectively creates a ban on food trucks, says Cotti. James Mason said that with the new fee structure each permit will be between $230 and $240 per year per truck depending on the category which includes is a decal which must be displayed to which Council Member Hernandez said we have probably spent the revenue from 2017 already on the current staff report and noted the lack of recommendations in the staff report. Council Member Garman, a restaurant owner, suggest fees be raised, hours instituted, and maximum number allowed in the city limits. The council moved to receive and file asking staff to return with recommendations at a future meeting to which Planning Director asked for clarity.

Wastewater Treatment Facility Operations and Maintenance Contract

This item was been reviewed three times before. Click here for October 2017, here for October 20, 2016 and here for October 4, 2016.

Michael Nunley, contractor, presented a summary saying the cost changes to the city for the four year contract ranged from $300,000 to $340,000. Part of the savings comes from eliminating redundant collection system labor. He also said that American Water would manage the recycled water storage project without an increase in fee (note: no description of date of this project has been given). He reiterated that this is a Professional Services Contract and not a bidding project to justify that the committee chose the highest price bidder. The county has reduced its solids fee saving the city $45,000, but he did not say why that would count toward the American Water cost reduction. There is an option to use solar power which will save money, but he did not say how this related to the American Water contract.

John Ilasin presented a new contract to which revisions had been made saying they are still reviewing legal provisions, but the terms are now solid.

In Public Comments, Gayle Washburn, former mayor and council member of Fillmore, presented a spreadsheet showing how the American Water contract for four years exceeded the PERC bid by $1,027,715. She also suggested that current PERC employees should be retained. She asked about additional costs not shown in the bid such as the consultant Nunley’s fee, overhead and chloride removal costs. The fact that American Water reduced their bid during the “negotiation” simply meant that the first bid was padded, she said.

Vice Mayor noted that the first agreement was 3” thick for the O&M agreement with PERC. She questioned if they had cross-referenced the two contracts to ensure all had been covered in the new contract. Mike Nunley said this is a services contract only and Attorney Cotti said that they have updated the indemnity provisions and liability limits.

Vice Mayor Gherardi asked why there is no local contact in the contract? And, she said, there cannot be a change to the local contact without notification.

Attorney said that the plant does not remove chlorides, as has been shown in litigation. Chloride removal is now the city’s responsibility to which Vice Mayor Gherardi asked for an update on chloride removal.

John Ilasin said that there is a meeting with the Water Quality Control Board who will advise what will be needed to distribute the recycled water, so he expects more detail on this plan soon.

As to costs, Vice Mayor said that costs for the plant were getting away from them now that they own the plant. She would still like to see a thorough financial analysis as well as a discussion of the chlorides. There are too many pieces, she said, neither coordinated nor detailed.

In what was the most stunning remark of the entire meeting, Council Member Hernandez said that the plan had become a “strain on current resources” and perhaps they will have to budget for a WWTF manager?

It is inconceivable that the city engaged on the buyout of this plant without a proper financial proforma comparing what was provided under the PERC agreement versus what would be required when the city owned and operated the plant, but evidently that is exactly what has happened.

Council Member Procter was “disappointed” in the savings. Vice Mayor Gherardi said that there must be a termination clause and that she was dismayed about the last minute changes. The council voted to approve and bring back the contract. No one asked about Nunley’s fees.

General Plan Update

This item has been reported here. Additionally Planning Director said the city had received a grant of $175,000 from SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) to prepare the General Plan. Documents and meetings are available at MySantaPaula.com.

Director Minsk said that the new owner of the Adams Canyon property had hired a consultant to develop a plan for the property which will be available in Spring 2017. This will be incorporated into the General Plan. They need this for LAFCO to keep Adams Canyon in the sphere of influence, she said.

Standing Committee for Water and Sewer Rate

The city had formerly established a subcommittee on water and sewer rates. However, due to increased interest in the Enterprise Funds, Attorney Cotti has recommended that this committee be reconstituted as a Brown Act Committee. This change means that the subcommittee will have posted meetings and agendas where citizens can speak and voice concerns. This was approved with no mention of the members of this committee.

For previous discussion on the Enterprise Funds and Prop 218, click here.

To download the materials or watch the video, click here.

Part One of this Council Report is HERE

For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com


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