Santa Paula Council: Housing, Recycling, Public Works, Audit, Measure D

By Sheryl Hamlin

With a full moon underway, the Santa Paula Council met via Zoom on September 2, 2020 for over three hours. Although lengthy, the agenda was balanced with relevant presentations from guests and staff. To watch the meeting click here:

Santa Paula Housing Authority (SPHA)

Mr. Ramsey Jay, Executive Director, presented the “mission, commitment and vision” of the SPHA, which he said had been established 50 years ago to provide safe and affordable housing not addressed by the private sector. Read biography of first Executive Director here who was hired 50 years ago.

The SPHA provides housing at 30% of the household income through Federal Section 8 vouchers and subsidies. He said, in answer to a question from Council Member Sobel, that the agency can adjust the rent due to Covid 19 emergencies. He named various award winning projects and said the SPHA is actively pursuing more sites for housing. SPHA just concluded its latest audit where HUD gave SPHA “high marks”.

In answer to another question from Council Member Sobel, Mr. Jay said the waiting list for Section 8 vouchers from the SPHA is eight (8) years.

Santa Paula Recycling

Athens waste services presented recycling challenges and opportunities. China turned off the Asian markets for all California four years ago, he said. This NPR article describes the American scientific community working on new uses for recycled plastic. In March through July, the recyclables were commingled with trash and sent to the landfill. With new laws and recycling programs in California (AB 8341, AB 8826, AB 827), recycling has picked up. The goal is still zero waste. He noted that with the Covid lockdown, more people staying at home generate more trash. LA Business Journal recognized Athens as the best in the LA area. The Sun Valley recycling plant is undergoing a $25 million update.

Public Works Quarterly Report

The data for this report covered the period April through June 2020. During this period the average chloride measurement coming out of the wastewater plant was 121.3 mg/L and 130.7 mg/L average groundwater chloride concentration.

The design for the Advanced Treatment process of the wastewater plant targets a two year period of design and construction. Read about the council study session for this addition to the plant. This $25 million project will be discussed individually.

The spill prevention measures were implemented at the plant. Recall there have been two expensive spills, both of which were uninsured. Read history here.

The Public Works department continues with the installation of the cellular water meters which enhances the ability of the meter reader. There was no discussion if these meters could be hacked.

Water Recycling Facility Influent Bypass Basins Project: The project scope will provide additional influent storage for the WRF under emergency high influent surges and major equipment breakdowns. The 6-million-gallon storage area will be located on the southwest side of the WRF. The design consultant is preparing 60% design drawings. Details not provided about aesthetics or cost.

Santa Paula Audited Financial Report FY 18-19

Fiscal year 18-19 ended June 30, 2019. Now approximately 15 months after the year end close, the CAFR (Certified Audited Financial Report) is presented. The same auditor Brett Van Lant who has been performing the audit for several years presented the methodology. The methodology and text of the report are structured identically year after year.

The draft report shows three important financial measurements: 1) the net pension liability is $25 million, 2) the General Fund showed a slight increase and 3) the Water Fund did not meet the rate covenant of 1.2 times net revenues for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019 as required by the bond indenture.

When asked about the record delay in producing the CAFR, Finance Director Ramirez cited delays in processing journal entries, staff turnover and staff shortage due to Covid. She plans the FY 19-20 (ended June 30, 2020) by December 2020.

New software will help the department understand ramifications of each staff change or addition through a modeling approach. They are also considering reduction in the amortization period of 30 years to pay down the loan at a faster rate. She noted that FY 19-20 shortfall was resolved with funds from Measure T.

Originally planned as a “final”, the report at the September 2, 2020 meeting was just a draft of the CAFR.

Wastewater Plant Reverse Osmosis System (RO)

Unable to reduce the chloride concentration from the wastewater plant for the last decade since the plant was launched, the city has been studying options for solving the problem. The solutions and discussion are described here in the MKN Report Original 9 Options.

MKN chose three vendors to present solutions: Gradient, Suez and Veolia. Rather than asking the vendors to provide designs via an RFP process, the council authorized MKN to design the system. A partial design was presented at the meeting. Note the staff report indicates MKN was authorized to design the RO system in February 2020, but an associated agenda item is not listed. The council authorized the MKN work in the Consent Calendar of March 18, 2020.

Source: staff report

Council had concerns about designing a system without information about the “chosen” company Gradient, its proprietary software, and lack of references in the municipal market. City Manager Singer suggested staff would return with more detail and the Public Works Director would ask for an extension of time from the Water Board.

Santa Paula Measure D: Appointed City Clerk and City Treasurer

In March of 2020, Santa Paula citizens approved Measure D. See Ballotpedia here. The ballot measure did not elaborate on the process for the appointments of each position.

At the September 2, 2020 council meeting, the council decided to roll the Deputy City Clerk into the City Clerk with the City Manager acting as a backup in the case of signatures. It was decided to incorporate the duties of the City Treasurer into those of the City Finance Director. The City Treasurer is concerned with investment monies only. The city must now write ordinances to support these decisions.

For more information about author, click sherylhamlin dot com

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City Manager Singer suggested staff would return with more detail and the Public Works Director would ask for an extension of time from the Water Board.

Gayle Washburn

Very dense reporting…and I mean that in a good way!
Wasn’t that 6 MGD storage project included in PERC’s contract?

Also, can the GF return some of the transferred Water Funds to get the bond ratio where it needs to be?

Re: R/O, I would be curious how many of these facilities has MKN designed.

We’re back to the same old solution…brine line to the ocean. It needs to be a joint project with Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula. The R/O will still create problems.