So You Think You Can Govern in 2016

A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation. James Freeman Clarke

Historically, Livingston City Council elections have been rather sedate. Over the past 15 years or so, however, the campaigns have become filthy and juvenile. – Mike McGuire – Editor of the Livingston Chronicle from 1984-1996

One of the more challenging things about being a city councilman is learning change takes time. You can’t achieve everything you want overnight. You won’t win every battle. Small victories and steps lead to success. Learn to be patient. – Alex McCabe – Council member: June 2015 to present.

Air gaps are used in places where silicon chips are manufactured because arsenic and other poisonous chemicals are used, Boyce said.  "(With arsenic) one part per billion could kill you," he said. "You use an air gap because the threat is so significant." – Randy Boyce: Foster Farms General Council – Thursday Jul 13th, 2006Foster Farms in Livingston Threatened with Water Shut-off by City; Judge to Decide – Original Article by Merced Sun Star – Reposted by Indybay.org (Emphasis, mine)

The city’s arsenic levels exceeded the state’s maximum contaminant level of 0.010 parts per million numerous times in 2009, 2012 and 2013, according to the court documents. The latest levels were recorded as 0.013 parts per million April 9 and 0.011 parts per million April 30.  – MAY 15, 2014 – Nonprofit sues Livingston over drinking water –By Ramona Giwargis

"Belief can be manipulated. Knowledge is dangerous" Paul "Muad’Dib" Atreides of the Dune Series

Livingston CA – First Published 10/29/2016.
Postscript date: 01/28/2017

Here we go again, just a few short days away from another General Election.

Time for another chapter in the twisty saga of our own City Council and the goings on at City Hall: which includes the never ending discussion about What’s-In-Our-Water and Will-It-Eventually-Hurt-You.

What I have learned over the years is that the answer to those questions often depends upon which council member/or lawyer is talking, and what political or financial outcome s/he is seeking at the moment. Case in point: whether or not 1 Part-Per-Billion of Arsenic can kill you.

Livingston has wells that produce water with Arsenic levels that exceed 0.013 Parts Per Million. If you convert 0.o13 Parts Per Million into Parts Per Billion, you get 13 Parts per Billion.

The State/Federal Maximum Contaminant Level for Arsenic is 10 Parts Per Billion. However, depending on who you talk to, or what the litigation is about, the Arsenic levels in Livingston’s water may or may not be an issue or may or may not make you sick.

Anyway….back to my main point.

Every couple of years I take advantage of The Story Teller’s License as I sit at my laptop and write. What results is not an All Inclusive History of Everything That Happened over the Last Few Years. It’s just my general Kvetch about the way I see “Politics” playing out every couple of years or so in Livingston.

With a few references to the consequences thereof….

If you look over in the Right Hand Margin of this Blog, you will find plenty of links to loads of information about the continuing discussion about How-Much-Arsenic-Can-Hurt-You, and others such as:

  • The Recall, and Water Rates,

  • The Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee and the boatloads of money Restudying Livingston’s Water Quality Issues for the umpteenth time.

  • Notices of Violation from the State about the Old Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant,

  • Arsenic Levels in the Drinking Water

  • The Water Rate Increase that was finally passed

  • How the City is asking the State for money to help fix several Problems with the Water Delivery System because these Items will not be paid for by Water Rates.

  • The impact of the Drought

  • The relationship between Foster Farms and The City

  • Multiple lawsuits against the City

  • And so on

When I wrote the first “So You Think You Can Govern”, I’d been somewhat of a local political junkie for a couple of years prior to the 2008 Elections and I was concerned about the number of candidates whose faces I hadn’t recalled having seen at City Council meetings (or Planning Commission meetings, or Citizens Advisory Committee meetings when they still had them).

At the time, it was already clear to me that there were sitting Council Members who did not bother to read the material in their Agenda Packets, did not understand the significance of the long term effect of what they were voting on, were incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence, and/or were just “there” for reasons of their own.

I was also concerned that some of the people seeking to replace them didn’t have a clue as to what they would be getting themselves into. Livingston was going through several changes; had been on the “back end” of at least one very expensive lawsuit; was already enmeshed in a long, drawn out expensive mess of a General Plan Update and had already been through at least one Water Rate Study.

The General Election of 2008 came and went.And although there was a Council Meeting or two where everyone seemed to be willing to hold hands and sing Kumbya, it didn’t take to terribly long thereafter before the Political Cat Fighting began.

Well, the Recall Election of 2010 came and went: Theresa Land (Recall Candidate) displaced Martha Natares as Council Person and Council Person Rodrigo Espinoza, (Recall Candidate), displaced Daniel Varela as Mayor. Warren Urnberg, (Recall Supporter), was appointed as Temporary Council Member until the results of the General Election 0f November 2010 were tabulated.

Gurpal Samra, (Recall Proponent), won that “temporarily filled” Council Seat during the General Election in November of 2010 and Rodrigo Espinoza also kept his seat as Mayor.

And, as before, there were people on the council who clearly didn’t bother to read the material in their Agenda Packets, didn’t really seem to know the difference between a “Commission” and a “Department”; were even more openly hostile towards City Staff,  didn’t seem to know what an Auditor was for; didn’t understand the significance of the long term effect of what they were voting on, were incapable of speaking in coherent sentences; and/or were just “there” for God Only Knows what reason of their own.

Budget Variance - 2013-2014 Proposed Budget

And, as you can see from the graph above, Livingston’s financial situation started going to Hell in a Hand Basket. Rapidly.

The Elections of 2012 came and went. Mayor Pro Temp Margarita Aguilar had decided not to run again for office. Council Person Frank Vierra, also decided against running for another term on the Council.

During the Campaign of 2012, it became clear that relationships between some of the once Staunch Allies Of The Recall had begun to fray. Council Person Teresa Land, who had campaigned heavily for the Recall and Recall Committee backed candidates, found that she no longer had the support of those she had helped gain office.

Mayor Espinoza, instead, joined forces with Arturo Sacairos.  As Reported in the Merced Sun StarBefore the election, Espinoza released fliers endorsing himself and several other local candidates, including contenders for the Livingston council, city clerk, city treasurer, county supervisor, assembly and congress. Everyone he endorsed won.…….Espinoza put out the flier jointly with Sicairos, who said the flier might’ve helped him win, since a lot of Livingston voters look for guidance around election time”

{Before we go further, let’s take a brief Side Trip to map out a few familial relationships while we are here.

  • The City Clerk, Tony Silva is City Council Member Arturo Sacairos’, Father-in-law.

  • The City Treasurer, Maria Riberio, is the City Clerk’s Sister}

So three “newcomers” took their places as City Council Members, with Rodrigo Espinoza as Mayor and Gurpal Samra as Mayor Pro Temp. {and with 3 members of the same family holding the positions of City Clerk, City Treasurer, and City Councilperson}

And there were still those on the council who clearly didn’t bother to read the material in their Agenda Packets, didn’t really seem to know the difference between a “Commission” and a “Department”, didn’t understand the significance of the long term effect of what they were voting on, were incapable of speaking in coherent sentences; and/or were just “there” for God Only Knows what reason of their own.

And although most of that crop of newly Elected Officials didn’t “beat up” on City Staff quite as much as Previous Council Members did, it seemed mainly because there was fewer “City Staff” to browbeat or blame for the City’s ills. Most of those who had openly suffered the Wrath-of-Council-Members-Past were either replaced, retired, fired, or otherwise laid off due to a “reorganization” dictated by an ever shrinking budget.

Then came General Election of 2014 and it became clear that relationships between the core of the Recall Coalition had fractured even further. Mario Mendoza: Treasurer of the Recall Committee, (and brother to Council Person David Mendoza) tried to unseat Mayor Pro Temp Gurpal Samra. As usual, Things got “just a tad” ugly in the process. (Adanan Bath also took out papers to run against Gurpal, but pulled out of the race and ended up being appointed to the Planning Commission)

After the election, the City Council consisted of the following:

  • Rodrigo Espinoza (Mayor),

  • Gurpal Samra (Mayor Pro-Temp),

  • David Mendoza (Brother of Mario Mendoza)

  • Arturo Saciaros,

  • Jim Soria. 

2014 – 2016 did not lack for it’s share of political/financial turmoil and Water Quality Issues:

  • There was the flap about Favoritism and how Fireworks Booth Permits should be distributed.

  • Due to circumstances beyond his control, Council Member David Mendoza had to resign and was eventually replaced by Alex McCabe.

  • The City Manager bailed by January 2015, and was was eventually “replaced” by a New City Manager who only managed to last a couple of months.

  • Same with Livingston’s Public Works Directors. They seemed to come and go even more quickly than the City Managers did.

  • And although “adjustment” to water rates, was eventually adopted, many necessary repairs and upgrades to the Water Delivery System were expected to be paid for through State/Federal Grants and loans.

  • Well #16, a well designed initially to be a “back up well”, eventually was pressed into “full time” service while Well #14 was removed from service (Temporarily?) due to high TCP levels.

In the past, the “official” City Council mantra about Water Quality was, “We’re aware. Everything is fine. It may be “brown” sometimes but it’s Nothing to Worry about here. If anyone says different, they’re just making trouble”

More recently it has become “Nothing really new here. No surprises, really. We’re just in the same troubles as everyone else, because of the Drought.”

But, It’s been One emergency well repair after another. Even Foster Farms has recognized that it was in it’s best interest to help out the City with a repair or two in order to keep the water flowing. It is also worthy of note that the first well upgraded with a TCP Filtration System was a well used primarily to help deliver water to Foster Farms.

Remember that Settlement the City Received from Dow Chemical Company, from the lawsuit started back in 2005 over elevated levels of TCP in Livingston’s water? That has been dipped into several times over the years for “water related” projects. (Not all of them TCP related) There is still a boatload of work to be done to upgrade and repair our Water Delivery System. A recent Staff Report indicates that if things go as indicated on the State/Federal level, ALL of our well will be Out Of Compliance with the new TCP-1,2,3 Maximum Contaminant level slated to go into effect early next year.

So.. here we are, only a few short days away from another General Election. This time, for the office of Mayor and THREE council seats. Mario Mendoza is giving it another try. So is Adanan Bath. Alex McCabe and Arturo Sacairos are both trying to hang on to their seats for another term. As usual there are the “political newbies” to add to the Mix: Wapinder Kang – Livingston Police Officer; Jason Roth – Service Advisor; Juan Aguilar, Jr. – Firefighter/Social Worker. (If I have linked to the Wrong Facebook pages – please let me know!)

Jim Soria is on the Ballot for Mayor. (Mayor Espinoza has Moved On to The Board of Supervisors) There is also a Write in Candidate for Mayor: Rosalinda Ruiz

Once again we have Candidates for Office who have hardly ever shown up for City Council meetings since the last election.

And we are still looking for a new City Manager……

And we are still looking for a new Public Works Director…..

And there is still Litigation in progress: on more than one front. When the new Maximum Contaminant Level for TCP finally goes into affect, I would not be surprised if there was even more litigation in Livingston’s future.

And we have still not yet fixed that mess of a General Plan Update that has already cost the taxpayers of the Livingston hundreds of thousands of dollars in Court Fees, Attorney’s fees, Consultant’s Fees, and wasted Staff Time. Although it seems to have been set aside for the moment.

The Council Meeting which would have taken place on November 1st has been canceled. Looks to me like EVERYTHING is being placed on hold until after the the Elections.

"Dirty Politics" seems to have become the Norm, not the Exception in Livingston. If you have lived here long enough, you know what I mean. Although this time around, there doesn’t seem to be quite as much heartburn about Political Signs this year as in years past.

I’ve heard about a few sign’s being stolen, but no general uproar over the signs on City Property/Right of ways, and similar locations.  In years past, that had been a BIG deal with certain candidates.

I guess it just depends on whose running.

Or whose not…..

I said it before, and I’ll say it again now, the Ethical and Effective Council Member of the 21stCentury will need to be more than just a person who sits behind a dais and votes “yes or no”. S/he must be able to comprehend, analyze and distinguish between a multitude of competing interests, knowing that all decisions made will have implications for the future.

S/he must recognize that the issues facing Livingston won’t just impact those living within “the City”. There are those outside the City Limits and Sphere of Influence that are as important to the cultural and economic health of Livingston as those who live “inside”.

An ethical and effective Council Person must be fully aware of present needs, and yet have an eye for the future consequences of any and all actions taken, votes cast, and directions given to City Staff in the present. S/he must understand both the “the Time Value of Money” and the “Money Value of Time”: spending both taxpayers dollars, and City Staff time wisely and well.

I have included a partial list of terms any competent council person should be aware of, understand, and able to use in a complete,coherent sentence.

For anyone who REALLY wants to be knowledgeable about how City Government works, I would strongly suggest s/he get out a dictionary, do an Internet Search, or talk to someone at City Hall about any of these terms/concepts s/he may never have heard of before. Granted, it’s only an abbreviated list: an “Introduction to 21st Century City Government 101” so to speak, but at least it would give you an idea of the kinds of stuff you would need to know so you don’t end up sounding like a damn-fool every time you open your mouth .

POSTSCRIPT TO THE ELECTIONS OF 2016 (January 2017) After all the votes were counted, Jim Soria won the Mayor’s seat by a significant margin. As for the Council seats: that’s where things got a little more “complicated”. Results for the race for Council were as follows:
2016 Council Election Results

Which meant

  • That Juan Aguilar Jr. was elected for a four year term

  • That Wapinder Kang was elected for a four year term, and

  • That Arturo Sacairos was elected for a two year term.

  • Alex McCabe was in 4th place

  • Mario Mendoza placed 5th

  • And so on down the line

However, it was discovered that Wapinder Kang could not be sworn in as Councilmember and keep his job with the Livingston Police Department. According to Government Code 53227.  (a) An employee of a local agency may not be sworn into office as an elected or appointed member of the legislative body of that local agency unless he or she resigns as an employee.  If the employee does not resign, the employment shall automatically terminate upon his or her being sworn into office.

Council Member-Elect Kang chose to remain as a Livingston Police Officer: opening up a vacancy on the Council. On January 17, 2017, the Council appointed Alex McCabe fill the Vacancy.

Because the seat became “vacant” during the first half of what would have been a 4 year, State Law will only allow Mr. McCabe to hold office until an individual is elected to complete the term at the next general municipal election (November 6, 2018).

Which will mean, next time around, there will be 4 seats on the Council up for grabs.

  • Mayor – Currently held by Jim Soria

  • 3 Council Members – Currently held by Gurpal Samra, Alex McCabe and Arturo Sacairos

PRIMARY DRINKING WATER STANDARDS address health concerns. (Things in the water that can make you sick or kill you if you drank enough of it over time)

SECONDARY DRINKING WATER STANDARDS – (things that make the water look and smell yucky, but might not necessarily make you sick or kill you)established to address issues of aesthetics (discoloration), not health concerns. In California secondary MCLs (Maximum Contaminant Levels) are enforceable.

UNREGULATED CONTAMINANTS – Chemicals and stuff which do not yet have a Maximum Contaminant Level. (emphasis on “yet”) There is ongoing testing So the The Environmental Protection Agency can decide whether or not these contaminants occur often enough and at high enough levels to warrant further attention and/or regulation. (In other words, the Government is still debating the science about how much of that stuff will make you sick or kill you over time.)

ARSENIC – : a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices.

CHROMIUM – 3 An Essential Trace Mineral, not to be confused with it’s deadlier cousin: Chromium – 6.

CHROMIUM – 6:  Chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, is a naturally occurring metal. It is also used in several industrial processes. Chromium-6 has been known to cause cancer in humans when inhaled. In scientific studies in laboratory animals, chromium-6 has also been linked to cancer when ingested (Think “Erin Brokovich”)

MANGANESE: Manganese is a pinkish-gray, chemically active element. it is one out of three toxic essential trace elements, which means that it is not only necessary for humans to survive, but it is also toxic when too high concentrations are present in a human body. When people do not live up to the recommended daily allowances their health will decrease. But when the uptake is too high health problems will also occur. (Not getting enough? You get sick. Getting “too much”? You get sick)

TCP – 1,2,3:  TCP-containing fumigants were used extensively by farmers in the production of a large variety of crops from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. In California, these fumigants (known by the trade names D-D and Telone) were among the most widely used pesticides in the history of the State, second only to sulfur…. In 1999, 1,2,3-TCP was added to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer (Livingston sued Dow Chemical and netted about $9.5 million dollars to put towards removing the TCP from our Drinking Water )

mg/L: Milligrams per liter or Parts Per Million.

ug/L: Micrograms per liter or Parts Per Billion, (ppb).

Parts per Billion, (ppb) – Imagine 13 drops of ink in one of the largest tanker trucks used to haul gasoline. That would be 13 Parts Per Billion of ink.

MCL: Maximum Contaminant Level – The highest level of a toxic substance allowed in Drinking Water. The Health & Safety Code §116365(a) requires California Department of Public Health to establish a contaminant’s MCL at a level as close to its PUBLIC HEALTH GOAL (PHG) as is technologically and economically feasible, placing primary emphasis on the protection of public health

  • If a toxic substance is higher than the Maximum Contaminant Level using a 4 QUARTER AVERAGE, a water purveyor has to figure out a way of reducing that number down to below the MCL, and/or come up with another source of water to deliver to it’s customers.

  • The Maximum Contaminant Level for Arsenic currently stands at 10 Parts Per Billion

  • We have at least 2 wells that are over the limit of 10 Parts Per Billion and others that are really close to going over that limit.

4 QUARTER AVERAGE: As is this example.

  • If quarterly testing for arsenic at Well A produced the following results in Parts Per Billion: 8.5, 9.9 , 10, 11

  • The 4 Quarter Average would be 9.85 Parts Per Billion.

RANGE: The Lowest and the Highest. Using the Above as our example,

  • The Range would be 8.5 – 11 Parts Per Billion

NOTIFICATION LEVEL – The level at which the State of California says the public needs to be notified about a contaminant in the Drinking Water

.
  • The Notification Level for TCP – 1,2,3 is 0.005 ug/L( 0.005 Parts per Billion)

  • I’m not to crazy about decimals. So to “get rid” of the decimal, we move the decimal 3 places to the right and get 5 Parts per Trillion.

  • According to the Report by Kennedy Jenks, a significant number of Livingston’s wells produce water with TCP ABOVE the Notification Level.

Parts per Trillion (ppt):– Imagine 5 drops of detergent in enough dishwater to fill a string of railroad tank cars ten miles long. That would be 5 Parts Per Trillion of detergent.

RESPONSE LEVEL – The level of contamination at which the State of California says a well “should” be removed from service because of a potential threat to Public Health.

PUBLIC HEALTH GOAL –  Concentrations of drinking water contaminants that pose no significant health risk if consumed for a lifetime, based on current risk assessment principles, practices, and methods.(Translation: levels low enough that you should die of old age before any of that stuff would make you really sick or kill you)

1,2,3, TCP

Industrial

A-1 Zoning

Industrial Wastewater

AB 1234

Infrastructure

Allowed Use

Joint Use

Assessed Property Values

LAFCO

Audit

Light Industrial

Audit Report

Litigation

Bank Owned Properties

Long-Term Debt Obligations

Benefit Assessment District

Low Density Residential

Breach of Contract

MAGPI

Brown Act

Master Plan

Budget

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)

California Public Records Act

MCAG

Capital Improvements

Medium Density Residential

Capital Projects Fund

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Cash Pool

Mitigated Negative Declaration

Centralized Water Treatment

Mixed Use

CEQA

Modified Accrual Method of Accounting

Citizens Advisory Committee

Municipal Code

Citizens Service Committee

Notice of Action

City Limits

Notice of Violation

City Manager Form of Government

Notice of Preparation (NOP)

Closed Session

Notification Level

Code

Nuisance Abatement

Code Enforcement Officer

Obligation Payment Schedule

COLA

Open Meetings Law

Commercial

Open Session

Commission

Open Space Reserve

Common Sense

Operating Deficit

Community

Operation and Maintenance

Community Commercial

Ordinance

Community Development Block Grant

Percolation ponds

Community Facilities District

Permitted Use

Community Service

Planning Commission

Community Values

Prevailing Union Wage Law

Community Vision

Primary Drinking Water Standards

Confidentiality

Proposition 218 Hearing

Conflict of Interest

Public Comments

Consent Calendar

Public Document Request

Constituent

Qualified Audit Opinion

Contract

Quorum

Cooperation

Recusal

Department

Redevelopment Area

Development Impact Fees

Reflective Listening

Detection Level

Regional Sewage Treatment Facility

Domestic Wastewater

Response to the Grand Jury

Easements

Restricted Fund

Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF)

Retainer

Enterprise Zone

Revenue

Environmentally Superior Alternative

Revenue Sharing

Errors and Omissions

right-of-way

Excused Absence

Secondary Drinking Water Standards

Expenditure

Serial Meeting

Fiduciary Funds

Shared Use

Fiduciary Responsibility

Site Design Review

Fiscal Impact

Special Planning Area

Fiscal Year

Special Revenue Fund

Fixed Assets

Sphere of Influence

Form 700

Strike expense

Fund

Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency

Fund Balance

Tax Sharing Agreement

General Fund

The Illegal 42′ Sewer Pipe

General Plan

 

Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP)

Union

Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

Unqualified Audit Opinion

Government Code

Unrestricted Fund

Grand Jury Report

Urban Reserve

Grievance

Warrant Register

Hearing

Wellhead Treatment

Heritage Tree Ordinance

Work in Lieu

High Density Residential

Workers Compensation

Highway Commercial

One last thing. Please Mr./Ms. Council People of the future: when you do speak, please finish your first sentence before beginning a totally different one. Trying to follow some of the rambling trains of thought I hear regularly at Council Meetings gives me a headache.

Thank You.

“Broken” Wells, State Mandates, A Contract Public Works Director, A Council Member Resigns, And a Brief Summary of APRIL, 2015

If the city loses one of its existing wells, Samra said, it would have to implement severe conservation efforts, such as restricting residents from watering their lawns or asking Foster Farms to alter its production   Ramona Giwargis – Merced Sun Star, September 16, 2013 – Livingston gets water project grant amid struggle to pass balanced budget

On April 3, 2015, Well #14 experienced a sudden and unexpected failure…. At the time that Well #14 failed, Well Nos. 9 and No. 11B were still out of service due to the large quantities of sand they produce. – Excerpted from the Staff Report: Resolution Approving a Memorandum of Understanding with Foster Farms to Repair the Submersible Pump at Well #14 and Making Findings Explaining Why Public Bidding is Not Required for this Project.

With new measurements showing the state’s mountain snowpack at a record low, officials said California’s drought is entering uncharted territory and certain to extend into a fourth straight year. As a result, Brown issued sweeping new directives to reduce water consumption by state residents, including a mandatory 25 percent cut in urban water use – California governor issues mandatory water cuts as snowpack hits record low – The Merced Sun Star – April 01, 2015

The issue that we have is that because of the 4th of July Festival, all the streets around the Livingston Pentecost Club’s buildings are completely blocked. We don’t have much access to and from the buildings and its causing us a lot of problems. Eldini DeJesus – President – Portuguese Pentecost Association – May 05, 2015 City Council Meeting. appx 8:20 minutes into the meeting.

TIMELINE OF SIGNIFICANT EVENTS OF APRIL

  • April 01, 2015: Well #9 & 11B still not operational pending the installation of Sand Separators.

  • April 03: Motor on Well #14 Fails – now 3 wells are offline at the same time.

  • April 07, 2015: Regular City Council Meeting Canceled for lac of Agenda Items.

  • April 14, 2015: Special City Council Meeting – Memorandum of Understanding with Foster Farms for repairs to Well #14.

  • April 14, Planning Commission Meeting

  • April 21, 2015: Regular City Council Meeting.

    • City considers installation of Solar Farm at the Old Industrial WasteWater Treatment Plant.

    • Council approves contract for a Contract Public Works Director

    • Council discusses, but does not adopt an Emergency Drought Declaration

    • Council approves purchase of Body Worn Camera System for the Police Department.

  • April 30, 2015: Council Member David Mendoza submits resignation from the Council 

LIVINGSTON, CA 06/12/2015

Livingston 4th of July 2015THE 4TH OF JULY FESTIVAL WILL BE MOVING to the MAX FOSTER SPORTS COMPLEX this year. According to Julio Valedez, the move would place the event entirely on City Property: with more space for Event Activities and Parking. Everyone would be welcome to bring lawn chairs and Umbrella Shades: just like a day out at the beach. There are also plans for a Shuttle to run between Memorial Park and the Sports Complex: for those who cannot or would rather not drive over.

The move will certainly make some members of the Portuguese Pentecost Association very happy.  At the May 5th City Council Meeting, Association President Eldini DeJesus, accompanied by some committee members and directors went before the City Council: stating that Street Closures on behalf of the July 4th Celebration interfered with the Portuguese Pentecost Celebration and Parade.

Moving the July 4th Celebration across town should resolve any conflicts between the two events.

THE REGULAR MEETING for April 07, 2015 was canceled due to lack of agenda items. However, just one week later, at an April 14, 2015 Special City Council Meeting, the Council approved a Resolution Approving a Memorandum of Understanding with Foster Farms to Repair the Submersible Pump at Well #14 and Making Findings Explaining Why Public Bidding is Not Required for this Project.

Well-Locations-with-Local-Landmarks6

According to the Staff Report,

On April 3, 2015, Well #14 experienced a sudden and unexpected failure….  At the time that Well #14 failed, Well Nos. 9 and No. 1lB were still out of service due to the large quantities of sand they produce.

Foster Farms received the City purchased filters to remove sand from Well Nos. 9 and 11B on March 20, 2015, and they were making arrangements to install them when Well #14 failed. Foster Farms installed the filters on Well Nos. 9 and 1 lB on April 4th and those two wells are now back in operation….Foster Farms wants to restore the water system’s redundancy as soon as possible to avoid any disruptions to their production.

Foster Farms would like to purchase and install a new submersible pump at Well #14. Foster Farms is the largest water user in the City and benefits from having a reliable supply. Thus, Foster Farms is not asking to be reimbursed for these repairs.

During the meeting, the City Engineer stated that it was Foster Farms who had approached the City about doing the repairs, and that Foster Farms had already had to shut down because of a well being down.

Mayor Pro Temp Samra said that this was was Health and Safety Issue. Mayor Espinoza stated a lot of wells in the area were going down because of the drought.

April 14, 2014

PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING

On the Agenda

  • Appointing a new Chair and Vice Chair

  • Substituting Rosenberg’s Rules of Order for Robert’s Rules of Order

Because Commissioners Mendoza and Castellanos were absent, the Commission decided to postpone the appointment of a permanent Chair and Vice Chair.

It was reported by the Contract Planner that he was working with Carlos Vierra. Mr. Vierra is interested in moving his  Boxing Studio, currently located at 444 Main Street to a new building to be built at the corner of 2nd & B St.

APRIL 21, 2015

REGULAR CITY COUNCIL MEETING

CLOSED SESSION Items included

  • 1 case of Potential Litigation [(Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(2)]

  • Another Conference with Labor Negotiator regarding All Represented and Non-Represented City Employees

Regular Meeting

AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

Ceremonial:

1. Color Guard by Livingston Police Explorer Post 518.

Invocation by Police Chaplain Mike Outten.

Introduction and Affirmation of Oath of Office and Re-pinning of Badges for Police Officer Taylor Kollmann and Reserve Police Officer Enrique Villalobos by Police Chief Ruben Chavez.

2. Presentation by Dennis Mueller (VP/CTO) of American Solar Utility on the following: – Livingston City Energy Assessment status. – Solar project Aggregate Net-Metering options with both PG&E and MID. – Solar project Land Options. – Solar project Power Purchase Agreement – Options between ASU and Livingston. – Energy Efficiency technologies (lighting, etc.) with near and long-term options. – Next steps and schedule.

In late December, 2014, the City Council gave the approval to do an Energy Audit and to look for possible places to build a Solar Farm.

During the Presentation, one of the Suggestions was to locate the Solar Farm at the old Industrial WasteWater Treatment Plant site which is being decommissioned by Foster Farms: as the Permitting Process would be easier.

But there’s a slight hitch…even though Foster Farms brought it’s own Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant online in December 2010, it may be a while yet before the site of the Old Plant is completely decommissioned and ready for other uses. According to a Clean Up and Abatement Order issued by the Californial Water Board on July 21, 2012 for the Old Industrial Wastewater Treatment Facility: Foster Farms was instructed to

Pond Remediation Schedule

According to the Schedule Above, the last of the ponds will not be cleaned up until of the end of 2017. However, Mr. Mueller indicated that he ought to be able to negotiate with Foster Farms and help the process move along just a little bit faster.

There was also a discussion about whether the City should enter into a Power Purchase Agreement, or buy the System outright: with the City Attorney stating he had experience negotiating Power Purchase Agreements and could evaluate all the City’s Options.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

3. Resolution Adopting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan. 

According to the Staff Report, an ADA Self-Evaluation was a requirement of Caltrans. If this Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan was not done, the City “would not be able to request funding authorization on any transportation projects funded by the Federal Highways Administration.

Deficiencies turned up by this Evaluation would be addressed as funds become available. Although the City does not currently have enough money to correct everything listed in the Engineer’s Report, there may some money coming for these projects at a later date.

CONSENT CALENDAR

4. City Council Authorize the Purchase and Installation of Memorial Marker for the Late City of Livingston Planning Commissioner Michael Anthony Silva.

This item was pulled from the Consent Calendar for a separate discussion. During the discussion, Warren Urnberg, (a current planning commissioner) suggested that instead of a plaque dedicated to just one person, the council commission a plaque that could accommodate the names of those who have served the City over the years: particularly those who have already passed away.

Mayor Espinoza replied that the Council had taken some heat for naming a street after Karina Lau, and he thought Mr. Silva was deserving of a Memorial Plaque.

5. City Council Authorization for the Purchase of One New Police Vehicle. 

A 2014 Ford Explorer Police Vehicle. Funds to come from:

  • 20% Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program

  • 40% Seizure Funds

  • 40% Community Development Fund

6. Approval of Warrant Register Dated April 2, 2015.

7. Approval of Warrant Register Dated April 16, 2015.

CONSENT CALENDAR – CITY COUNCIL/SUCCESSOR AGENCY

8. Adoption of Two Resolutions Approving a Four (4) Year Loan Repayment Agreement Between the City of Livingston and the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency. 

Once upon a time, The General Fund loaned a whole bunch of money to the Livingston Redevelopment Agency with the intent that it would be paid back over time.

When the State decided to get rid of Redevelopment Agencies, the Livingston Redevelopment Agency still owed the General Fund $700,000. But, eventually, the State said “nope” to the Redevelopment Agency’s transfer of $700,000 to the General Fund and demanded the money be transferred from the General Fund to the Successor Agency.

The City ended up going to court about it: claiming there had been a valid loan between the General Fund and the Redevelopment Agency. But the Court ruled that Livingston did not have enough valid documentation to prove it really was a loan.

BUT, because of the City’s financial situation, if it had to cough up $700,000 all in one lump sum, it would put the City in the position of not having enough cash on hand to respond to any emergency that might crop up.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

9. City Council Direction on Appointment of Parks and Recreation Commission Members. 

There were no new letters of interest submitted since the last time the Council took up this issue in March. Mayor Pro Temp Samra stated the council was doing everything it could to get people to serve on the Commission. Mayor Espinoza suggested the duties of the Parks and Recreation Commission be assigned to the Planning Commission.

10. Resolution Establishing Designated Level I Reserve Police Officers. Which would extend “police officer authority” 24/7 allow these Reserve Officers to carry a Concealed Weapon without having to go through the process of obtaining a Concealed Carry Weapons Permit.

11. Resolution Approving a One (1) Year Professional Services Agreement with Mountain Valley Environmental Services and Authorizing the Interim City Manager to Execute Agreement.

It has been nearly a year and a half since the City had a Public Works Director. Although the City went out with 4 recruitment tries, According to the Acting City Manager, Odilion Ortiz, Livingston’s location and the salary being offered has made it a challenge to fill the position: candidates that have been interviewed were interested in making a little more than Livingston was offering.

Per this contract, the City will now have a Contract Public Works Director for 4 days a week for up to 25 hours per week.

12. Resolution Proclaiming a Local Drought Emergency and Implementing Mandatory Water Use Restrictions and Rescinding Resolution 2014-1.

The City Attorney recommended continuing this item until the next meeting to allow staff time to finish drafting an Ordinance.

I asked a question about the State’s Mandate of a 25% reduction in water usage: How could the City as a whole reduce water usage by 25%, when over 60% of Livingston’s Water goes to just one user.

The reply was that Industry will have to do it’s part. There had been some recent contact with Foster Farms and they are working on the problem.

13. City Council Authorization for the Purchase and Implementation of a Body Worn Camera System and Replacement of In-Car Video System. 

Mayor Pro Temp Samra stated that it was a good idea. Mayor Espinoza commented that, with the cameras, citizens know they are being recorded and that there had been calls that someone was harassing them.

14. Resolution Approving a Deed Restriction for Parcels Designated with Assessor Parcel Numbers 022-050-027, 022-050-008, and 022-050-006 (collectively known as the Joseph Gallo Park) Pursuant to the Requirements of the Roberti-Z’berg-Harris Nonurbanized Area Need-Basis Grant Program for the Joseph Gallo Park Improvements Project. 

Simply put, this is a promise by the City that it will continue to use the Park as a Park and not sell the Grant Funded Improvements to anyone else for at least 16 years or so

Joseph Gallo Park Grant 

ADJOURNMENT

In my next post, we will continue with brief Summary of What Happened In May, such as:
 

You might also be interested in the following articles from the Merced Sun Star: Let me know if the links don’t work

More water restrictions likely in Merced County communities  – BY ROB PARSONS – 04/03/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – Further water restrictions are already in the works for Merced County residents ahead of the order earlier this week from Gov. Jerry Brown to cut back water use in cities and counties by 25 percent.

Drought expands across large section of nation’s crop region – THE ASSOCIATED PRESS – 04/06/2015 – The Merced Sun  – DES MOINES, IOWA —Drought conditions are expanding across a large section of the U.S., from California to the Great Plains. –The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska says the area covered by moderate drought or worse expanded by nearly five percentage points to 36.8 percent during March. –The drought monitor shows dry conditions broadened in the Midwest with 22 percent of the U.S. corn production area and 18 percent of the soybean area in some degree of drought. That’s up sharply from early March when just 6 percent of the corn growing area and 5 percent of the soybean region were in drought conditions. –Dryness worsened during March in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. –Two-thirds of California is in extreme to exceptional drought.

Livingston Kite Festival Photo Gallary – The Merced Sun Star

High-flying fun in Livingston – 04/17/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – Livingston’s fourth annual Kite Festival was another big hit with families, with more than 5,000 kite enthusiasts and their supporters coming from as far away as Sacramento and the Bay Area, according to event organizers….  The family-friendly, free event was hosted by the Knights of Columbus at Livingston Middle School. The Kite Festival kicked off the Week of the Young Child, a nationwide observance meant to bring attention to the development of children and the needs of their families that ends today.

Livingston council considers new water rules, approves police body cameras – 04/22/2015 – By Ramona Giwargis – The Merced Sun Star –Livingston has trimmed its water consumption by 18 percent compared to 2013, but city leaders are considering scaling back even further.—The City Council on Tuesday considered a resolution that would reduce outdoor watering from three days per week to two, ban washing cars and prohibit irrigating outdoors within 48 hours of a storm.—It would also restrict excessive water runoff onto the pavement or sidewalks and require property owners to fix water leaks.—The council did not pass the resolution Tuesday, instead voting 3-0 to bring it back with a few changes. Councilmen Arturo Sicairos and David Mendoza were absent Tuesday.

A Game of Chicken – USDA REPEATEDLY BLINKED WHEN FACING SALMONELLA OUTBREAKS INVOLVING FOSTER FARMS – Story by LYNNE TERRY  – Oregonlive.com – 05/01/2015 – Over the course of a decade, hundreds of people from Eugene to Baker City to Portland and Seattle were struck by bouts of food poisoning so severe they fled to their doctors or emergency rooms for treatment. – They had no idea what made them sick. But federal regulators did. – Oregon and Washington public health officials repeatedly told the U.S. Department of Agriculture they had linked salmonella outbreaks in 2004, 2009 and 2012 to Foster Farms chicken.

Mendoza expected to resign from Livingston City Council – By Rob Parsons– 05/04/2015 – David Mendoza is expected to resign Tuesday from the Livingston City Council, according to the council’s agenda posted Monday….(Council Member) Samra … said he would be willing to consider the possibility of allowing Mendoza to step away from the council temporarily with the idea that he would return at a later date….Mendoza was elected to the council in 2012, along with Councilmen Jim Soria and Arturo Sicairos. 

You can find even more Livingston History if you CLICK HERE

  •  

Fireworks Booths and Council Picks, Flushing Away the Brown Water, A Water System Update, and a Brief Look at March, 2015

Livingston, CA – 04/22/2015

If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. – A little ditty I remember from the last time California had a major drought.

(RE SAND FILTERING EQUIPMENT wells 9 & 11) As you know, we purchased equipment, sand filtering equipment, that should be here later this month. We also met with Foster Farms. The and Foster Farms will be working together. Foster Farms actually offered to install those for the City So that will be a win-win: saves time. So we don’t have to go through all the bidding things and all of that. Livington City Engineer, March 03, City Council Meeting, appx 13:03

(Re: CITY MANAGER RECRUITMENT) The recruitment firm that is helping us now is Avery and Associates, who also helped us the last time around with the Recruitment. They are preparing the ad that…they’re showing us different drafts to post on their website and on different publications…The goal is to have the filing deadline close April 24th. Livingston City Attorney, March o3, City Council Meeting, appx 21:13

(RE: Well #15 and REIMBURSEMENT AGREEMENT WITH GALLO) That is currently being negotiated. We’re working with representatives from Gallo. I think we/re doing a good job on compromising on some issues. As far as timeline, I don’t have an exact date that it will go to the Planning Commission. But I know its around the corner because their eager to get moving as well with some of their developments. .Livingston City Attorney, March 03, City Council Meeting, appx 22:06 

(RE: HYDRANT FLUSHING TO RESOLVE BROWN WATER PROBLEMS) I just want to make a comment about the brown water. I think there’s issues but I think that we have to go back to the hydrant flushing because we still have a system that needs to be flushed: the ends in the system. —–We have to, I think, direct the City Manager to again to make some time with employees so we can do a rotating around town, especially in the areas where water sits longer and the brown stuff accumulates and I think that’s where it needs to be flushed more often so that we don’t get the brown water.—–It always was a problem and I think we used to do it in the past. In the past I addressed it to the City Manager. But now I’m gonna stress again to out current Interim that we need to devise a plan. —–With a plan I think a couple times a month to do a rotating flushing of the hydrants. Especially on the West side of the city is worst.—–Stuff close to Foster Farms, inside the City, Foster Farms pulls a lot of water so its cleaner.—–But on the West side, there’s more standing water and people get more dirty water, or brown water. —–So I think as long as we rotate the flushing, people will get cleaner water. So we’ll work on that. Mayor Espinoza, March 03, City Council Meeting, appx. 31:10

(RE: HOW THE JULY 4TH COMMITTEE SHOULD JOIN THE RECREATION COMMISSION) I just think that as Recreation they can work on any projects. Especially right now that the 4th of July needs a lot of help. They can always focus on helping the 4th of July. so I think I’ll try to get some more people on here and to encourage people from all over the Community and I’m challenging our Council members as well. Hopefully 30 days will be good. Mayor Espinoza, March 03, City Council Meeting. Appx 1:02:02

 

Page 1As part of the settlement agreement with California River Watch, on March 31, 2015, the City held a workshop about the state of our Water System, and what the City is doing to address our Water Quality Issues. Although the purpose of the workshop was to address issues specific to Livingston, the discussion often drifted into other areas: such as the recent controversy over Water Transfers out of Merced County and the “insanity of wells going in everywhere”.

Page 6Those of us who have lived here a while, and are paying attention, know that Livingston has had it’s abundance of WATER SYSTEM CHALLENGES for years: complaints about Dirty, Smelly, brown water being one of them.

At the March 03 City Council Meeting, in response to a Residents Comments about BROWN WATER, the Mayor made a lengthy statement about how we needed to get back to Flushing The System on a Regular Basis.

Now, those of you who have lived here a while already know that LIVINGSTON’S BROWN WATER PROBLEM is a topic that has come up Over, and Over and Over Again for years. The records I have so far show complaints about Dirty, Smelly Water go back to as early as 2006 and the City has had a history of paying residents claims for damages to clothing caused by the “dirty, brown water”

And how the “Usual Remedy” is to “flush the system”: opening up a hydrant and letting the water run, and run, and run, and run, until it is no longer “brown”.

If its clear, drink it dear. If its Brown, flush it down…… the Street.

Here’s a brief history taken from just a few examples from City Council Meeting Minutes

March 18, 2014: City Manager Ramirez Thanked Paul Avila, Battalion Chief, CAL FIRE, who is working very closely with the City Engineer on implementing a fire hydrant flushing program and exercising of valves. He said they will be assisting the City with fire hydrant flushing throughout the year because the City has been having issues with red water. They have divided the City into quadrants for hydrant flushing due to manpower.

In MARCH 18, 2014, there was a Presentation by Paul Avila, Battalion Chief, CAL FIRE – Fire Hydrant Flushing Program.

Mr. Lou gave a presentation about the flushing program, the City water system and the purpose of the program. CAL FIRE is assisting public water agencies by implementing this program.

Which would

· Maintain safe and reliable drinking water for the community

and

· Address customer complaints

via the

Implementation of regular maintenance of the system

and that the

Program will use conventional flushing

1) System wide flushing

2) Spot flushing for specific cases

3) City will target dead-end sections of the system to ensure proper recirculation of any stagnant water within the pipes.

· Flushing Plan

– Systematic flushing of the entire water system once per year of the four zones

– Flushing duration shall last 5-10 minutes

– Flushing shall occur during non-peak hours, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

In addition

Mario Gouveia, City Engineer said his office works in conjunction with the Fire Department and the Fire Department has the lead on this program with the support of Public Works.

In APRIL 15, 2014, Mayor Espinoza advised community residents that if they are having problems with brown water to let the water run and then call City Hall to have someone come out to flush the system.

The City Manager (Jose) Ramirez said the City has different types of pipes throughout town and two-thirds of the pipes have been addressed and the other third is being looked at in the hopes of finding some type of funding. The City Engineer came up with a map to divide the City into quadrants to make it easier for the Fire Department that is helping with the fire hydrant flushing program.

At the JUNE 03, 2014 City Council Meeting   there was a Presentation by Larry Bergman, Fire Captain, Merced County Fire/Cal Fire: Fire Hydrant Flushing Program. – Captain Bergman gave a presentation discussing Merced County Fire/Cal Fire’s efforts in flushing-out the City’s fire hydrants. Captain Bergman explained that this process has started off smoothly and that he expects to complete this project in approximately 3 weeks. City Manager Ramirez stated this program was organized by a team of professional engineers who are primarily concerned with the performance of the fire hydrants. In particular, they are looking at elements like water pressure, valve access, and things of that nature.

So…it seems the City is committed to its “flushing” program as a means of “cleaning out” the brown water. But with the States recent mandate for Water Providers to cut consumption by at least 25%, just how long will Livingston be able to just “flush” it’s brown water troubles away”?

Now..a brief look at some of the Agenda items covered during the MARCH City Council Meetings. As of the date of this posting, written minutes have yet to be prepared. However, if you would like to view an archived video of the meeting, you can do so by CLICKING HERE. You can also go to City Hall and request a Copy of the Meeting Videos.

The MARCH 3, 2015 CLOSED SESSION included

  • 1 Case of Potential Litigation

  • Continued Labor Negotiations with All Represented and Unrepresented City Employees

  • Continued Discussion of City Manager Recruitment

During OPEN SESSION on MARCH 3:

1. The Resolution Approving the Sun Valley Estates Site Plan/Design Review (2015-1) Located Southwest of the Intersection of Peach Avenue and Main Street. Was Approved.

There was a question about whether or not Livingston had adequate water for additional housing. In response Mayor Espinoza mentioned about Fersenius having gone out of business and the City Engineer stated “That’s another “cush” that the city didn’t take into account” (when the “will serve” letter for the project was issued)

CONSENT CALENDAR

2. The Minutes of Meeting Held on December 22, 2014. Was approved

3. The Minutes of Meeting Held on January 6, 2015. Was approved

4. The Minutes of Meeting Held on January 20, 2015. Was Approved

5. The Warrant Register Dated February 26, 2015 Was Approved.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

6. The City Council discussed Appointments to the Parks and Recreation Commission. During the Discussion, the Recreation Director explained that as of the deadline, only 3 people had applied. Although there is interest by members of the community to work on specific neighborhood related projects, there doesn’t seem that much interest in being on the Recreation Commission itself. It was decided to advertise for another 30 days in hopes of rounding up a few more applicants and the Mayor stated that members of the City Council should start asking people to apply.

7. The Resolutions Required by the State Water Resources Control Board as Part of the DWSRF Application. Were Approved

8. A Resolution Awarding the Wastewater Treatment Plant SCADA System Upgrade and Integration Project to Tesco Controls. Was Approved.

ADJOURNMENT

The MARCH 17, 2015 CLOSED SESSION Included discussions about:

  • 1 Case of Potential Litigation

  • Continued Labor Negotiations with All Represented and Unrepresented City Employees

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

CITIZEN COMMENTS

During the OPEN SESSION of MARCH 17, 2015:

CONSENT CALENDAR

1. Approval of Warrant Register Dated March 12, 2015. Was approved.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

2. The Resolution Accepting Completion of the Joseph Gallo Park Improvements and Authorizing the City Clerk to Record a Notice of Completion with Merced County was approved.

3. The Resolution Accepting Bid for City of Livingston Well #13 Arsenic Removal Treatment from TNT Industrial Contractors, Inc Was Approved. The equipment had already been purchased from Loprest. This item was for the installation. The City is hoping to get either a grant or 0% interest loan from the State to cover the costs. In the meantime, the City will be tapping the TCP Settlement funds until a funding agreement is issued by the State.

4. The Issuance of Permits to Sell Safe and Sane Fireworks took place. As some of you might remember from last year, the City Council rewrote the Fireworks Ordinance in order to have the ability of awarding a FIREWORKS BOOTH PERMIT to up to 2 (two) Non-Profits via “Council Pick”. At the time, it was stated that the motivation for the changes to the ordinance was to allow the Council to “give” a FIREWORKS BOOTS PERMIT to the Livingston Youth Football Organization for two (2) consecutive years.

According to Youth Football Coach and City Council member Jim Soria, he had placed the Item on the January 21, 2014 City Council Agenda: partly in memory of Mike Coronado.  According to Council Member Soria, the recent death of Mike Coronado created a Special Circumstance which justified giving Youth Football priority other non-profit organizations. 

After the Ordinance had been rewritten, and it came time for FIREWORKS BOOTH PERMITS to be “divvied up” in 2014, the Council awarded a Fireworks Booth Permit to the Livingston Youth Football organization and threw all the other applicants into the Lottery. 

This year, “Council Pick” went to Livingston Youth Football for the second year in a row; and to the July 4th Committee. (Who did not join the Recreation Commission BTW).

In regards to the “fairness” of Livingston Youth Football receiving a booth permit two years in a row, Mayor Espinoza stated: I myself personally promised that I would try to help them with my votes because of Michael Coronado. He was a great man. He helped the community and supported the Youth Football. So I say for two years will be able to have the booth. This is sometimes it doesn’t seem fair but the High School had it for a lot of years: they had different programs and it didn’t seem fair to a lot of people that also. I think that to help the youth that Michael Coronado did himself most of his life. So I think they deserve that.

ADJOURNMENT

Watering Days, Fireworks Booths, Arsenic, Sand and “Broken” Wells: plus a City Council Agenda

LIVINGSTON, CALIFORNIA 02/17/2014

I am going to invoke a little of the Story Teller’s License before discussing my take on Current Events as they relate to Water Related Stuff.

I’ve developed a theory, which started bubbling up in my brain, ever since the Days-of-the-Recall, that there have been, and still are, two quite distinct factions within our Elected and Appointed Officials .

One faction has known all along about the growing problems with our Groundwater and Water System. They have been on the council long enough to have had more than a fair few Staff and Consultant’s Reports in their Agenda Packets: they have no excuse whatsoever in my mind for “not knowing”.

But for Political Reasons they seem to have made it a deliberate practice to ensure that that knowledge and comprehension has not been passed to other Elected/Appointed Officials, and Livingston-Residents-As-A-Whole.

We’ll call them “Political Can Kickers” because they have been Kicking the Political Can about Water System Problems down the road for quite a while.

The other faction of Elected/Appointed Officials, which we will call “Water Truthers”, most likely believed everything that the “Political Can Kickers” said about significant repairs and upgrades to Livingston’s Water System being “Unwarranted” and “Unnecessary”, and that any claims about contamination of the Groundwater and problems with the Water System were either Wild Exaggerations, or Figments of the Imagination.

Which the “Water Truthers” intended to prove once they got into City Hall, “cleaned house” and hired a New City Manager, a New City Attorney, and perhaps a few New Consultants and a few New Engineers, and a New Public Works Director Of-Their-Own-Choosing.

After which, they could Re-Study Everything and therefore be able to discover, then declare the REAL Truth-About-Our-Drinking-Water: that all claims of Groundwater Contamination and System Problems were either patently false, or wildly overstated, and that the City DIDN’T really need all the expensive Wellhead Treatment Systems and System Repairs it said it did.

More on that a little later. But first, lets catch up on couple things…

FERSENIUS WILL BE CLOSING the end of May: which will leave Foster Farms as the only Industrial Water User in the City of Livingston.

FOSTER FARMS REOPENS AFTER A 10 DAY CLOSURE,  According to a report in the Merced SunStar, the Foster Farms Plant in Livingston reopened on January 22, after a 10 day voluntary closure. According to the article,

Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation in Modesto, said the extended closure, originally planned for a few days, came about because of an abundance of caution while workers cleaned the plant thoroughly. “They wanted to be perfectly sure they had zero tolerance,” he said. “So they did it twice instead of one go-round.”

Most of you reading this are probably well versed in Foster Farms recent struggles with Cockroaches and Salmonella, so I won’t rehash the whole sorry saga here.

Except to point out that Foster Farms uses around 66% of Livingston’s water. And if there isn’t enough water, Foster Farms cannot Clean and Sanitize the plant or process chicken.

With that in mind……

Well 8-9-16ONE OF THE 2 WELLS REPORTED TO BE OFFLINE, at the February 10, 2014 meeting of the Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee is Well #16. This well, which is on the same side of town as Foster Farms, has been shut off since at least 2011 because the Arsenic Filtration Media was used up. The Arsenic concentrations in that well are nearly 3 – 4 TIMES the legal limit, and without the Arsenic Filtration System up and running, the City cannot legally use that well.

(One of things that should be noted at this point of the discussion,  Well #16, was NOT meant to be used on an everyday basis. It was to be used as a BACK UP well. Because of the High Arsenic levels, and the High Cost of filtering out that Arsenic, Well #16 is hugely expensive to run on a regular basis).

In Early, 2011, the Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee was established to “come up with ideas” about how to address Livingston’s water issues, and  “work with” the City and the Engineers and the Consultants who were hired to work on projects like this one, and to “make recommendations” to the City Council.

In October, 2012, the Resolution to Award a Contract to Filtronics, Inc. of Anaheim, California for Goods and Services Provided to Change Out the Arsenic Removal Media for the Well 16 Arsenic Removal Treatment System was approved by the City Council.

By September 03, 2013, most of the work had been completed and the only steps remaining to bring the well back online were stated to be as follows:

  • Final calibration/adjustment process fine tuning:

  • System Disinfection

  • California Department of Public Health (CDPH) field inspection

  • CDPH approval of Operation Plan and Final Permit to Operate

During the September 03, 2013 City Council Meeting, there was an intense discussion about whether or not Well #16 really needed “improvements” like a Variable Frequency Drive or Orifice Plates, etc. before being brought back online.

Flash forward to February 10th, and According to the City’s (New Set Of) Engineers, the only thing really standing in the way of turning that well back on is getting the Well’s new Operations Manual approved by the California Department of Health. However, something DOES really need to be done to slow down the number of gallons the well pumps per minute: especially if the City plans to use the well on More-Than-Just-The-Occasional Basis. A Variable Frequency Drive would be nice: but expensive. Orifice plates would be much less expensive: but wouldn’t work as well.

NOW THE CITY NEEDS TO SKIP THE BIDDING PROCESS for Repairs and Upgrades to Well #16 altogether because, according to the Staff Report, “There is an urgent need to have Well 16 back on-line in the near future to meet the City’s water demands that will likely increase in the Spring and Summer.” Part of the reason this has become So Urgent Urgent Now is because

Well 8-9ALSO ON THE FOSTER FARMS SIDE OF TOWN, and reported to the Utility Rates Stakeholders committee as having been shut down for repairs, is Well #9. This well was taken offline for repairs, after reports by Foster Farms, and testing done by the City, revealed a problem with sand infiltrating the well. 

According to the City Manager and Engineers, it could take anywhere from about a week to a month to “redevelop” the well and bring it back online.

Well 13According to the Findings in the Council Resolution, another reason given fixing up Well #16 is so Urgent is that “There is an urgent need to bring Well 16 in production to enable the City to move forward with the installation of wellhead treatment facilities at Well 13, which will require Well 13 to be off line for some time.”

According to the report by Kennedy Jenks, Well #13 (at Joseph Gallo Park) had been inactive, but was reactivated in early 2013. Which in my mind implies, that Livingston is getting pretty desperate for water.

AND THERE IS ONE MORE WELL ON THE FOSTER FARMS SIDE OF TOWN, that will need to shut off a while for scheduled “upgrades”: Well #8. This is the first well in Livingston scheduled to have a Filtration System for TCP installed. Back in 2004, the City began tracking the levels of TCP in Livingston’s water.

In 2005, the City sued Dow Chemical Corp about the TCP Contamination.

2006 Memorandum Of Understanding Foster Farms and Livingston croppedIn 2006, the City of Livingston and Foster Farms entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in which Foster Farms would lend Livingston the money needed to get the Well #8 TCP Filtration Project moving along. In 2011, the City received a settlement from Dow Chemical: and I guess you could say the City no longer had the need to borrow the money from Foster Farms for that particular project.

In late 2011 the City Council awarded a Professional Engineering Services Contract for Water Treatment at the City Water Supply Well No. 8 (for TCP) to AECOM 

In May, 2013, that contract was amended for Additional Design and Construction Support Services for the 1,2,3 Trichloropropane (TCP) Treatment at the City Water Supply Well No. 8

The City Council also approved a Resolution Authorizing the Purchase of Land Needed for the Installation of Water Treatment Facilities at the City Water Supply Well No. 8, Approval of the Appraisal Report Prepared by The Thomas Wilkins Company and Authorizing the City Manager to execute the Agreement with Foster Farms for the Purchase of the Land. in May, 2013.

In October, 2013 the City Council approved a Resolution Awarding Construction Contract to Conco West, Inc. of Manteca, CA; Approving the Expenditure of Construction Funds for the Well No. 8 Wellhead Treatment System and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute a Construction Contract and Any Change Orders Thereto with Conco West, Inc.

Although Well #8  is currently up and running, it is expected to be shut down sometime from May – July for construction.

Now Livingston is in the position of needing to do repairs and upgrades on multiple wells: the trick being to not to end up with multiple wells down at the same time and/or not have any at all down during the Summer: when water usage is at it’s highest.

Sooooo, let’s meander back to where we started about “Political Can Kickers”, “Water Truthers” and how that relates to the mess the City of Livingston is clearly in now.

And did I mention this is a drought year?

But I digress….

Back in 2007-2008 the Rate Study done by Dan Bergman talked about groundwater contamination, 6 wells needing treatment and the need for more capacity and storage etc.

In 2009 – 2010 a New Rate Study done by Raftelis Financial Consultants talked about: Pipeline Removal and Replacement, Wellhead Filtering at Wells 8, 16, 12, and 14; a New Supply Well #17, etc.

Not to mention the May 2009 Enforcement Letter for Violating the Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level for Manganese at Well #15 (which is by Starbucks) by the California Department of Public Health

But during the Days of the Run Up to the Recall over Water Rates, the Can Kickers and the Water Truthers joined forces and all reasonable discussions about Livingston’s Water System went to Hell in a Hand Basket.

And while the Post Recall Council started “cleaning house” and hiring Staff Of Their Own Choosing, the California Department of Health sent even more documentation which pointed out even more problems.

Like the California Department of Health Sept. 2010 Letter on Water System Funding 

And The California Department of Health: City of Livingston 2011 Water System Inspection Report 

After the General Election of 2012, the “bad news” just kept coming in reports like:

The California Department of Health: City of Livingston 2013 Water System Inspection Report 

Followed by the California Department of Health – Compliance Order For Violation of the Arsenic Maximum Contaminant Level: May 16, 2013

And it wasn’t just the California Department of Health saying there were problems. The New Staff/Consultants the New Council hired were saying pretty much the same thing. For example:

In July, 2013, the  Feasibility Analysis For A Sustainable Water Treatment Strategy–Kennedy Jenks Consultants was released: Which basically stated that, yep, we have problems, big problems, and the longer we go the bigger they get.

So now, I believe the Can Kicking Days are coming to a close, and the painful truth of the matter is, unless the City can pull off some kind of miracle and get the State to bail us out somehow, we are going to end up in a world of hurt.

Now that it is an Election Year, I only hope we end up with a group of Open Minded and Informed Realists on the Council who can guide Livingston through the days to come.

Resolution 2011-32 Includes Complete CommitteeBTW – SINCE WE TOUCHED ON THE SUBJECT OF WELLS ON THE FOSTER FARMS SIDE OF TOWN, something has been puzzling me for quite a while. Way back when the Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee was established, Foster Farms was “given a seat at the table” to represent the Industrial Class of Water Users: you can see for yourself how one of their VP’s was actually named on the Council Resolution.

I’ve been to practically every single meeting since that Committee was set up, and I can tell you that attendance by anyone from Foster Farms has been spotty at best over the last few months.

And I just can’t help but wonder why…I’ve heard there have been some “staffing changes” lately. But so far, no “Official Announcements”.

Watering RestrictionsWATERING DAYS ARE BACK!  At the January 21 City Council Meeting, the Council voted 4-0 to reinstate Mandatory Watering days in Livingston. According to the Municipal Code, the restrictions will be as follows.

9-5-712 (C) Water Restrictions.

  • When directed by the City Council, the following outside watering restrictions apply to residential, commercial and industrial customers of the City of Livingston:

    • 1. All house numbers ending with an even number may water on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday.

    • 2. All house numbers ending with an odd number may water on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

    • 3. No outside watering on Wednesday.

    • 4. The washing of vehicles will be allowed on the designated watering day and on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays), regardless of house numbers, as long as a quick-acting positive shut-off nozzle is used.

  • (D) Enforcement.

    • It shall be the duty of the Police, Fire and all other departments and employees to give vigilant aid to the Public Works Department in the enforcement of the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 576, 12-16-08)

To give Livingston’s residents time to adjust to the newly reestablished watering restrictions, the Council voted to give residents two “warnings”, before imposing fines as follows:

  • $25 (after those first two “reminder” warnings)

  • $50 the next time

  • $100 each time thereafter 

The flier above states that “water conservationists are patrolling the City”, looking for violations of the Watering Restrictions.

Amendments to the Fireworks Ordinance CroppedPUBLIC HEARING ALERT! COUNCIL TO GIVE YOUTH FOOTBAL the right to a Fireworks Booth Permit for (2) years to ….At the 01/21/2014 City Council Meeting, the City Council voted 4/0 to direct staff to bring back an Ordinance which would eliminate the current Booth Permit Rotation list; assign (1) Booth Permit to the City which would be assigned to either the Recreation Department or other City Wide Non-Profit Organization, give the City Council to award  (1) Booth Permit to the Organization of it’s choosing; and assign the remaining (3) Booth Permits by Random Lottery.

Also included in the Directions to Staff was to include language that would allow the City Council the ability to award the “Council’s Choice” to the Livingston Youth Football Organization for (2) consecutive years.

According to Youth Football Coach and City Council member Jim Soria, he had placed the Item on the January 21, City Council Agenda: partly in memory of Mike Coronado.  According to Council Member Soria, the recent death of Mike Coronado created a Special Circumstance which justified giving Youth Football priority other non-profit organizations.

Council Member Soria stated “One of the reasons I put this on is, a few months ago or I’m not sure when it was, we had a few fireworks booths grandfathered in. Youth Football wasn’t selected. I just want, being part coach, I volunteer as a coach and I see that the financial impact – that financial impact that it helps – in helping the Youth football and the kids. That’s what I’m about: about the kids.” 

During that night’s discussion, Mayor Pro-Temp Samra said – …The best thing to do is have everything in front of us. Its nice and clean and everybody knows what we’re talking about and what we’re voting on…you want to vote on that’s fine. I don’t have any objections either way. But I think it would be cleaner if it was like written down so everybody knows what to do. My suggestion is to direct staff to bring to the Council at their earliest convenience as quickly as possible.

Mayor Espinoza stated — “I know that, the High School has had probably the majority of the booths all the time every year. And in memory of Mike Coronado, we think it’s a great thing to do.” and that

“I know we have it tough because if we give you guys priority we’re gonna get ridiculed and criticized by other organizations. But I know the High School has had it for a lot of programs: they had the majority of the years. So, but this is a good memory – of Mike Coronado’s memory – its still for our youth in Livingston so I’m all supportive. Two years – I agree to two years. So hopefully, later on in the future, what ever Council is here, they can decide that. But hopefully, to help out, right now this youth. With the other rotations – we’ll have to deal with that.”

Council Member Sacairos said — Like the Mayor said – we might get criticized. But, you know what, when I was growing up I had to go to Winton to play for the Cowboys because there was no program for here and I wish there was here and it was not cheap. So that’s what I have.

The City Attorney said —It’s just a rotation list. There is nothing currently in our Code that allows for this (grandfathering in any particular organization). The Code needs to be amended… But the direction helps a lot. That way it can be drafted a certain way. Seeing that this is an Ordinance, having the direction to put something General in there as far as the City Council selection helps because then by Resolution or Motion, then you could decide who gets that booth.

If you would like to read the entire discussion that took place that evening: Click Here 

And now on to the..

CONCURRENT MEETING OF THE CITY

COUNCIL AND SUCCESSOR AGENCY TO THE REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY OF THE

CITY OF LIVINGSTON

REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

FEBRUARY 18, 2014

CLOSED SESSION: 6:00 P.M.

OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

Notice is hereby given that the City Council and Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston will hold a Regular Meeting on February 18, 2014, at the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Deputy City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to this meeting at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 121. Any writings or documents pertaining to an Open Session item provided to a majority of the members of the legislative body less than 72 hours prior to the meeting shall be made available for public inspection at Livingston City Hall, 1416 C Street. The Open Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held in accordance with state law prior to the Open Session beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

Closed Session

1. Call to Order.

2. Roll Call

CLOSED SESSION

A “Closed” or “Executive” Session of the City Council or the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston may be held in accordance with state law which may include, but is not limited to, the following types of items: personnel matters, labor negotiations, security matters, providing instructions to real property negotiators, conference with legal counsel regarding pending litigation. The Closed Session will be held in the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Any public comment on Closed Session items will be taken before the Closed Session. Any required announcements or discussion of Closed Session items or actions following the Closed Session will be made in the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California.

3. Successor Agency

Conference with Legal Counsel – Existing Litigation

[Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1)]

City of Livingston and Successor Agency to the Livingston

Community Redevelopment Agency v. Ana Matosantos, et al

Superior Court of the State of California – County of Sacramento

Case No. 34-2013-80001460

4. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

[(Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(2)]

Number of Cases: 2

5. Conference with Labor Negotiator

(Government Code Section 54957.6)

Labor Negotiator: City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez

Employee Organizations: All Represented City Employees

Regular Meeting

CALL TO ORDER

Roll Call. Next Resolution No. 2014-4

Next Ordinance No. 611

Pledge of Allegiance. Next Successor Agency

Resolution No. 2014-1

Closed Session Announcements

Changes to the Agenda.

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.

City Staff Announcements and Reports.

City Manager Announcements and Reports.

City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.

Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

1. Resolution Conditionally Approving Site Plan/Design Review 2013-04 for the Proposed Motel 6 Project, a 75-Room, 3-Story Motel on a 2.43 Acre Parcel Located at 110 N. Del Rio Avenue.

2. Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Title 7, Chapter 4 of the Livingston Municipal Code Pertaining to Fireworks and the Issuing of Permits.

CITIZEN COMMENTS

This section of the agenda allows members of the public to address the City Council on any item NOT otherwise on the agenda. Members of the public, when recognized by the Mayor, should come forward to the lectern, and identify themselves. Comments are normally limited to three (3) minutes. In accordance with State Open Meeting Laws, no action will be taken by the City Council this evening. For items which are on the agenda this evening members of the public will be provided an opportunity to address the City Council as each item is brought up for discussion.

CONSENT CALENDAR

Items on the Consent Calendar are considered routine or non-controversial and will be enacted by one vote, unless separate action is requested by the City Manager or City Council Member. There will be no separate discussion of these items unless members of the City Council or City Manager request that specific items be removed.

3. Resolution Supporting and Implementing AB 1012 “Timely Use of Funding”.

4. Resolution Authorizing Award of Contract/Purchase Order to Sequoia Equipment Co., Inc., Fresno, California for the Purchase of One (1) Tier 4 Title 23 Backhoe Purchase.

5. Resolution Approving Amendment No. 1 to the Contract Agreement Between the City of Livingston and HDL Coren & Cone to Continue Providing Support Services in Property Tax Areas and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute a Three Year Service Contract Extension.

6. Waive the Second Reading and Adopt Ordinance No. 610 of the City Council of the City of Livingston, Amending Livingston Municipal Code Sections 1-18-11 (A), 4-6-3, 4-2-8-2 (A)(3), 4-2-8-2(A)(4), 8-2-1, and Zoning Ordinance Sections 5-3-16 (Table 7), 5-5-8 (E)(Table 12), and 5-4-7 (C).

7. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on February 4, 2014.

8. Approval of Warrant Register Dated February 13, 2014.

“CONSENT CALENDAR – SUCCESSOR AGENCY”

9. Resolution of the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston Approving the Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule (ROPS 14-15A) Pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 34177 for Period July Through December 31, 2014.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

10. Resolution Approving an Agreement with Shannon Pump for Sampling and Repairs to Well 16, Making Findings Supporting that Award of Such Agreement is Exempt from Competitive Bidding Requirements and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute the Agreement.

ADJOURNMENT

Cockroaches, Arsenic, and TCP; A Requiem for the Court Theater and a Planning Commission Agenda

LIVINGSTON, CALIFORNIA 01/13/2014

Tainted water disrupted poultry production at Foster Farms last week, and city officials are trying to find out what caused it. Mike North, Merced Sun Star Discolored water disrupts production at Foster Farms, February 27, 2013

Among 403 persons for whom information is available, illness onset dates range from March 1, 2013 to December 1, 2013…. Thirteen percent of ill persons have developed blood infections as a result of their illness. Typically, approximately 5% of persons ill with Salmonella infections develop blood infections. No deaths have been reported. Center for Disease Control – http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/

If the city loses one of its existing wells, Samra said, it would have to implement severe conservation efforts, such as restricting residents from watering their lawns or asking Foster Farms to alter its production, Ramona Giwargis, Merced Sun Star Livingston gets water project grant amid struggle to pass balanced budget – September 16, 2013

As of December 18, 2013, a total of 416 individuals infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 23 states and Puerto Rico…. Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13

“USDA has said they did not have the authority to shut down Foster Farms, despite repeated outbreaks,”…“We are exploring options to ensure they have clear authority to do so, instead of hoping they find filth before they can shut down a plant they already know is a problem,”…“Change must be made to protect Americans.” Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro – former chairman, and current ranking member, of the U.S. House subcommittee responsible for funding the federal Agriculture Department, DeLauro reacts to closing of chicken plant due to roachesShelton Herald – January 10, 2014 (ht Mike McMguire)

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Foster Farms released a statement Sunday saying it has voluntarily put operations on hold at its Livingston facility. …The company says it is taking extra time to expand safe manufacturing procedures and monitoring systems. The move comes after U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended operations on Wednesday because of a cockroach infestationABC 30– Breaking News, January 12, 2014 (ht Belinda Silva)

In my Last Post, I talked about the sometimes turbulent, sometimes antagonistic Symbiotic Relationship between The City of Livingston and the City’s largest employer: Foster Farms and how most of the turbulence and antagonism centers around Livingston’s Water, Water Quality, and Foster Farm’s use of that water. We’ll talk a little more about how recent events may continue to impact both Foster Farms and the City of Livingston. But First…

~~~~~~~~~~

Preparing to take down the MarqueeTHE DEMOLITION OF THE COURT THEATER has been rescheduled to begin January 14, 2013. As reported in the Merced Sun Star, demolition was originally to have begun a weak earlier, but was postponed while the demolition company waits for some required equipment.

The Staff Report for the Demolition Contract tells the Court Theater Story this way…

The "Court" Theater was designed in August 1945 and built soon thereafter by the Court Family to replace a 200-seat theater that had burned to the ground…. It was used extensively over the subsequent years and used primarily for movie viewing. The theater is reported to have closed in 1977 and has remained vacant since then.

The property was purchased by David and Judith Theodore in November 1987.

On February 5, 2002, the Livingston City Council approved a motion to buy the theater for $115,000.

In April 2002, the City purchased the property from the Theodore family in hopes of restoring it to its former glory.

On January 15, 2002, the City Council established the Livingston Court Theater Committee and appointed Committee members on February 5, 2002.

In 2004, the building was evaluated by a structural engineer (Pelton Engineering) which determined, at that time, that the building structure was in general good condition, but the interior needed "proper rehabilitation."

The planned renovation efforts involved six phases: 1) roof repair, 2) clean up, 3) interior demolition, 4) refurbishment, 5) new construction and expansion of north side 6) new construction and expansion of south side. The architects estimated costs totaled $2,350,000.00.

In 2004, the City applied for four grant applications (CDBG Planning and Technical Assistance Grant, California Cultural and Historical Endowment, and Roberti-Z’Berg­ Harris Nonurbanized Open Space and Recreation Grant Program) to assist the City with design and renovation costs associated with the Court Theater Renovation Project.

In July 2005, the City was awarded a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $500,000.00 from the State of California Housing and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) General/Native American Allocation Program.

The Marquee is downI’m going to interrupt the Staff Report at this point to add a few more details. ….In Fiscal Year 2008, the City used its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)  to complete the architectural drawings for the Court Theater renovation. It also applied for another $1 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help provide funds for the Court Theater Restoration Project. Total cost of the Court Theater restoration was estimated at that time to be $7,652,672. (2008-2009 Budget p. 344)

By February, 2010, the Court Theater Project had become caught up in the turbulent politics of “Run Up to the Recall About Water Rates”: with the accusation being that $1 million dollars had been cut from the Police and Fire Department Budget in order to finance the Project.

By May of 2011, the Court Theater Committee did not feel that they had the Council’s support for the project when they went out to do fundraisers and they  just wanted to know if this project was something the Council wished to continue and asked for an official Resolution of Support. During the City Council discussions, the Committee was taken to task by Mayor Pro-Temp Margarita Aguilar for the “perks” the Committee was receiving: Thing like, being referenced on the City’s Web Page. Having Published Agendas and meetings in the City conference Chamber. Things of that sort.

In contrast, Council Member Samra stated the intent of this resolution was to give moral support. He went on to state the Council needed to make a decision on what to do with the project and not place the blame on the committee and suggested that if the Council’s desire was to eliminate the project, then they should deny the resolution and bring back the project for a decision on what to do with the building.

A Motion to Deny Approval of the Resolution of Support was made by Council Members Land and Aguilar: and failed by a 2-3 vote. A Motion to Approve the Resolution of Support was made by Council Members Samra and Vierra: and passed 3-2.

By December 2011 there were discussions about changing the scope of the project, because finding sources of funding was becoming increasingly difficult.

On January 17, 2012, the City Council unanimously adopted a Resolution Accepting Submittal of a Proposition 84 Grant Application to Construct the New Court Theater, Office Buildings and Downtown Parking Structure; Prepare a Downtown Master Plan and Form-Based Zoning Code; and Provide Passive Recreation Activities at the Merced River. 

I also remember the City hiring a Professional crews to clean up the Pigeon droppings and cover the roof with a tarp in an effort to stave off more damage. (I don’t remember exactly when. I just remember seeing the workers dressed up in white Hazmat type suits)

Returning to the Staff Report, we find

The City spent some of this money on permits and design work but was unable to start the work.

The State has since asked for reimbursement of grant proceeds. The City entered into a repayment plan to pay back $147,000 per year for three consecutive years.

The Livingston Court Theater is in a state of disrepair and is no longer structurally sound. The building appears to be in imminent threat of falling and is considered unsafe. The building now serves as a nesting area for pigeons and has now accumulated a significant amount of pigeon waste.

In the City’s efforts to look ahead and examine downtown revitalization efforts, it is considering various options to restoring a vibrant downtown. One option is deconstruct the theater to make room for other possible options, including a new theater project that preserves the integrity of the old architecture design and integrates new technologies available for a theater and auditorium use.

Will they be able to save the ticket boothFrom what I understand, the City planned to save the marquee, ticket booth, and Court Sign. I went out the day the marquee came down and was informed that because of corrosion and other structural issues with the sign, City workers would be unable to take the sign down. …It is still hoped that the sign can still be saved….

American FlagTHE LIVINGSTON-DELHI VFW AND LADIES AUXILIARY are very proud to announce that their entry into the Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest not only won first place at the District level but has gone on to win first at the State Level.  ….Lenna Foster is a sixth grade student at St. Anthony’s school in Atwater California.  We are very proud of Lenna and look forward to seeing her in Sacramento at the Voice of Democracy Banquet on Friday, January 18th. 

We wish to thank the three teachers for encouraging their students to enter the contest and for their promotion of patriotism in their students. 

Our thanks also go to the parents of the students for all of the encouragement they gave to all of those who entered the contest.  Each of the students are winners in our opinion.  The judging was very difficult with so many excellent essays to read.

HamburgerVFW FAMILY HAMBURGER NIGHT….. Join us for the VFW Hamburger Night, Thursday, January 30, 2014, from 5-7 pm at the Livingston Veterans Memorial Building, 1605 7th Street, in Livingston. The public is invited, and you do not have to be a member to attend.

You will be able to enjoy hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and chili. The sandwiches include your choice of homemade salads. Price ranges from $2.00 to $4.50 per meal. All proceeds go to help support our community programs.

If you need more information on any of our events, contact Denis Wells at (209) 394-2059 or visit our website at www.vfwlivingston.com.

“CAN FOSTER FARMS OVERCOME COCKROACH CONTROVERSY?” Was a question posed in the Modesto Bee recently.

You might have already read about the Livingston Plant being shut down for a couple of days while Management devised a plan to rid of the little pests.

You might already know about the Outbreaks of Salmonella that the Centers for Disease Control have attributed to Foster Farms.

You may have heard about how this series of events has attracted the attention and ire of  “Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro – former chairman, and current ranking member, of the U.S. House subcommittee responsible for funding the federal Agriculture Department.” 

And you may have already heard the news that Foster Farms “voluntarily” “shut down its largest poultry plant in Central California on Sunday, two days after federal inspectors lifted a suspension for cockroach infestation.The company (saying) fresh chicken production at the Livingston facility was put on hold for several days to expand safety procedures.” (ht Mike McGuire)

Foster Farms’ Salmonella and Cockroach Problems are big ones to be sure: problems that have made national headlines and have surely damaged Foster Farms “bottom line”.  But in my view, foster Farms has an ever bigger problem to deal with, if it is going to survive and thrive in Livingston.

And that problem has to do with Livingston’s Water

Because without enough Water that meets Drinking Water Standards, Foster Farms cannot process chickens, and Clean/Sanitize the processing plant.

The Foster Farms Plant in Livingston uses 65%-to 66% of the water produced by The City of Livingston’s wells.

Anyone who has been following Livingston’s Water Quality Issues over the last few years KNOWS there are problems with the Groundwater and Water Delivery System which must be addressed or companies like Foster Farms, or that brand new Motel 6 and Restaurant that’s supposed to be coming, are going to end up NOT HAVING ENOUGH OF THE WATER they want/need to operate at peak efficiency.

I only conclude that if Foster Farms cannot get enough water that meets State/Federal Drinking Water Standards than Foster Farms Production and Sanitization Procedures will suffer.

As will the residents of the City of Livingston

But, the Livingston just does not have enough money to fix all the known problems with the Water Delivery System by itself.

And a part of that reason is, since the last time Water Rates were raised in 1995,  City Councils Past did not raise them again Incrementally-Over-the-Years so the City could properly address issues with the Water System as they came up. (Either because they could not understand the issues, or for Political Reasons did not want to understand. IMHO)

So when Water Rates WERE finally raised in 2009, the amount was such a shock to residents that some of them mounted a Recall Effort. They believed that Water Rates shouldn’t be raised “that much”:  because there were No-Real-Problems-To-Fix, therefore, there was no real need for those increases.

((By the way, the Recall Proponents also said the Rates were raised “the wrong way”: by a 3/2 vote of the council instead of at least a 4/1 Supermajority.))

And some residents sued because they believed that Water Rates shouldn’t be raised that much because there were No-Real-Problems-To-Fix. Therefore there was no real need for those increases.

((By the way, the residents who sued said Rates were raised the wrong way: by a 3/2 vote of the council instead of at least a 4/1 Supermajority.))

And Foster Farms also sued because they said "The increased rates cannot be justified because they are intended to pay for unrelated city activities to generate unlawful surpluses, not to provide water service to the city’s residents." And “the company will be negatively impacted by the city’s July 7 resolution”

((By the way, Foster Farms said the Rates were raised the wrong way: by a 3/2 vote of the council instead of at least a 4/1 Supermajority.))

And after that, Foster Farms Sued AGAIN alleging (among other things) “… that to fill deficits (in the Water Enterprise Fund, the City Manager), commingled restricted funds meant for specific uses, such as water services, and failed to inform citizens of this fact, in violation of state law”

(Translation: “you weren’t collecting enough in rates – so you took money from other funds to cover the deficit in the Water Enterprise Fund”)

And yes..a whole bunch of money got spent in litigation

(A little side note here. When the City of Atwater raised it’s Water Rates a few months back: it did so by a 3/2 vote of the City Council. Go figure…)

After the Recall Effort was successful in 2010, those “illegal”, “unwarranted”, and “unnecessary” Water Rates were rolled back to 1995 levels.

So…what came next…after that long period of time in which There-Were-No-Real-Problems-To-Fix?

For one thing, control of the whole “raising water rates” process ended up firmly in the hands of Recall Proponents: some of whom now sit on Livingston’s Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee, the Planning Commission and City Council.

And…. since then, Foster Farms has had to shut down at least one shift because of Water Quality Problems. 

And the California Department of Health has given Livingston a long list of stuff it says needs fixing. 

(Translation: You have several problems and potential problems you need to address)

And after THAT, The California Department of Health gave Livingston a COMPLIANCE ORDER for failing the Maximum Contaminant Level for ARSENIC! 

(Translation: You have too much Arsenic in your water. That is a problem you must address)

The Kenedy Jenks Report, commissioned by the City Council, was released. It states in part, “The combination of challenges leaves the City exposed to water rationing if existing demands repeat the 2010 and 2011 water use levels. Loss of Wells 12 and 14 would be catastrophic and without Well 16 operating the City would be unable to meet existing water commitments without implementation of water conservation measures”. “City of Livingston Feasibility Analysis for a Sustainable Water Treatment Strategy”, Executive Summary, Page V, Kennedy Jenks Consultants, July 12, 2013

(Translation: There are Problems with the Water and Water Delivery System that must be addressed)

Livingston’s Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee, which has the task of advising the City Council about Things-That-Affect-Water-Rates has been informed that “there is no available water for future growth, and that Livingston is “out of compliance for (water) capacity”. 08-19-2013 Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee Meeting , 12-02-2013 Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee Meeting 

(Translation: There are BIG Problems with the Water and Water Delivery System that must be addressed)

But now… unless the City can now pull off some kind of miracle, pay off the deficit in the Water Enterprise Fund, and get a whole lot of Grant and Low Interest Loan Money from the State/Feds, there will not be enough money to fix all the Arsenic, Manganese, and TCP-1,2,3 problems the City must address.

And if Foster Farms would have been “negatively impacted” by “Higher Water Rates”, just how “negatively impacted” will they be when the water they pull from Livingston’s Water System NO LONGER MEETS STATE/FEDERAL DRINKING WATER STANDARDS?

And THAT news goes National.

Then what?

Especially given Ritchie King, a VP at Foster Farms, is a “voting member” of Livingston’s Utility Rates Stakeholders Committee. (Signed copy of actual Resolution available upon request)

And Now On To The

LIVINGSTON PLANNING COMMISSION REGULAR MEETING AGENDA TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2014 7:00 P.M.

CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS, 1416 C STREET, LIVINGSTON

Members of the public are advised that all pagers, cellular telephones and any other communication devices be put on vibrate mode or turned off during the Planning Commission meeting.

Call to Order: 7:00 PM

Roll Call – Chairperson/Commissioners Pledge of Allegiance

Item No. 1- Consent Agenda

All matters listed under the Consent Agenda are considered routine by the Planning Commission and will be adopted by one action of the Commission unless any member of the Commission wishes to remove an item for separate consideration.

a. Action Meeting Minutes from the December 10, 20 13, Planning Commission Regular Meeting.

Item No. 2 – Public Comment

a. Members of the Audience – At this time, any person may comment on any item that is NOT on the Agenda. PLEASE STATE YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS FOR THE RECORD. While the Planning Commission encourages participation from the audience, no more than five (5) minutes are allowed per discussion item. Topics not considered urgency matters may be referred to City Staff and/or placed on the next agenda for consideration and/or action by the Planning Commission.

Item No. 3 – Public Heariugs

a. Site Plan/Design Review 2013-04. Motel 6 has applied for a Site Plan/Design Review application to develop a 27,852 sq. ft. 75-room, 3-story motel and pad for a proposed future restaurant on a 2.43 acre parcel located at 100 N. Del Rio Avenue and 110 N. Del Rio Avenue, Livingston, generally located on the north side of Joseph Gallo Drive, west of Winton Parkway on property zoned Highway Service Commercial (C-3), APN 022-010-016.

b. Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment 2014-0 l , Various clarifications and corrections to the Livingston Municipal Code, Title 5, Zoning Regulations. Review and approve clarifications to various references in the Livingston Zoning Regulations.

Item No. 4 – Reports

a. Planning Commission

b. City Staff

Item No. 5 -Adjournment to regular meeting on February 11, 2014.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you need special assistance to participate in this meeting, please contact the Community Development Department at (209) 394-8041,

Ext. 112. Notification 48 hours prior to the meeting will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to assure accessibility to this meeting.

Members of the public who have questions regarding any agenda item may comment on that item before and during consideration of that item when called upon by the Planning Commission Chairperson.

All actions of the Livingston Planning Commission can be appealed to the Livingston City Council by filing an appeal, in writing and paying the appropriate fees, with the City Clerk.