By Sheryl Hamlin
The April 15th 2019 Special Santa Paula City Council was dedicated to street maintenance and the relocation of Civic Center and the Police Department. This meeting was a follow-on to the March 18, 2019 meeting where the relocation was first introduced.
City Manager Rock opened his report with the introduction of the new Finance Director, Christy Ramirez, who has 15 years in finance and is an “expert” in Incode, the accounting system. Ms. Ramirez confidently says she will be improving the process and the transparency.
Rock introduced Clete Saunier, Public Works Director to explain the special DigOut program. Mr. Saunier stated that they have identified the 100 most reported holes in the streets which will be repaired by Toro hopefully starting in June. They are also contacting the County of Ventura for this work.
Five Options for Relocation
The staff report included Options A-C in a chart with Option D as text and Option E as a new thought which Rock called “a piece of the puzzle”.
Note the line labeled “Streets”. This line was $4 million in the public packet but raised to $6 million. These are monies that will also be borrowed from the California I-bank but repaid from Measure T funds and SB1 fund, according to Rock’s plan.
The City Manager said staff is now in six locations. The goal would be to reduce this to three locations to reduce “back and forth” traffic.
Will Armandirez spoke about the plan to repave the streets, citing the area of 10th Street , Virginia Terrace and Santa Paula. He asked why this area was not included in the plan, yet a less traveled area Coventry Court with only 16 homes on a cul-de-sac was included.
Pam Murphy, who expressed dismay at the low turnout, suggested a “small round table” for discussion. She personally hoped services would stay in town.
Marshall Roath made three points: 1) the United Water Building is too small and has created a comparison chart, 2) the city needs a Master Plan which would expand south, 3) the plan would be designed in increments. He also said the UWCD building is more suited for a Marie Calendars restaurant.
Judy Rice said she has canvassed many people. No one wants SPPD to move to EA1. UWCD building is too small, but might be a police storefront. She was very concerned about long term costs. Quall Court, she said, is just too far out of town.
Mitch Stone, who wrote previously about the proposed relocation, spoke again about history. He noted that Santa Paula has struggled with its downtown spending millions, but downtown still needs economic support. He said the economic impact of losing a City Hall would hurt downtown considerably. What message would that say about the city’s real intention to revitalize downtown? He cited Oxnard who bought the old library adjacent for expansion. In 1958, Santa Paula dedicated the Civic Center which was a source of pride for the community to be able to move from a barracks across the street. Here we are 60 years later with a new plan. Will this plan be as successful lasting 60 years? Will it be a source of pride? We need to step back and create a decision worthy of the community. He also brought photos of the building under construction which showed rebar, contradicting the City Manager’s statement about the building being an unreinforced masonry building (UMB). This is a “legacy decision”, said Stone.
Staff and Council Discussion
City Manager Rock acknowledged the expense of the project, but he said that as East Area 1 is built out and one-time revenue from permits occurs, there will be more cash flow. He said the population could grow to 37,000 in 8 to 10 years from EA1, people who will contribute to the city’s financial well-being. There will be a water-wastewater rate review soon with increases regardless of the costs of the relocation project. However, as enterprises, water and sewer pay for their city services and will reimburse the city for the space they utilize.
Vice Mayor Araiza spoke at length about the proposed relocation. Noting his experience in the fire department, Housing board and early years as a contractor, he has much building experience. The plan, he said, still lacks information: no details, no drawings, only bits and pieces of information. There is not enough information to make a decision. They need the square footage per department to analyze costs, leasing costs and more. There have been previous plans for expansion which included closing off Ventura Street. He also said there is plenty of unused space around the perimeter of the existing building with no setback requirements, which could expand the footprint considerably.
Council Member Juarez stated that the facilities did not get run down overnight. The charts are intimidating with the large dollar amounts. One gravitates to Option A, because it is the least expensive. He reminded that the Grand Jury is only an advisory committee, recalling the previous report from the Grand Jury about the conditions of the SPPD space. He feels that Police and City Hall should be close. The Hallock signal light is on a four minute timer. Lemonwood is dark at night. The police storefront proposed at the UWCD building will require extra staffing 24 X 7. As to Option E, there was much effort to build a skate park. Would these citizens appreciate moving it? Would the War Memorial veterans like the monument to be moved? He said there should be an Option F which is stay in place and expand south saying this concept has been discussed for years. The challenge would be to encourage voters to renew Measure T. What would happened if Measure T not renewed?
Council Member Crosswhite cited the proximity of Quail Court to the flood plain, saying potentially everything around this would could flood. Response times from Quail Court would be significantly longer. She said that the loan total has changed, but the debt service has not changed, so questioned the numbers. She also said she has not seen the estimates from the departments for space. The last report for the SPPD upgrade was $2 million to remodel the station. Why the huge increase? She also questioned Option E saying the restrooms have just been redone as well as the playground, so why destroy them?
City Manager Rock said that Option A would probably be more expensive due to the cost of the jail which is not yet firm. Responding to Council Member Crosswhite, he said the old SPPD report was “out of context”, but did not explain. Defensively, he said that he also provided options for staying in place. Reiterating that the current site is only 1.5 acres, he seemed not to internalize Vice Mayor Araiza’s suggestions for expanding the footprint and/or closing Ventura Street. He also said that the adjacent property could be bought for $600,000. With Lemonwood and Quail the city gets three times the space. 14% of Measure T will pay 44% of the debt service, he said.
Council Member Sobel said he had hoped that the meeting would have been more specific as to departmental needs. He questioned the $10 million for the SPPD renovation. Asking City Manager about metrics for the ratio of staff to population, City Manager Rock said that Santa Paula is “semi-full service” so would need to add up to 15 new employees as the city approaches 40,000 people. Sobel said the dollar amounts were not unreasonable if there were details to substantiate.
Mayor Garman said he likes Option E, which is the most expensive. He also suggested that closing Ventura Street might work. The 10th street location, he said, is “who we are”.
City Manager Rock reiterated that this was just a study session. No decisions are to be made. He will bring more detail in a subsequent meeting.
To watch the meeting, click here.
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