LIVINGSTON CITY COUNCIL
AUGUST 18, 2009
A Regular Meeting of the Livingston City Council was held in the City Council Chambers on August 18, 2009, with Mayor Varela presiding.
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Varela called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.
Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr.
Mayor Pro-Tem Rodrigo Espinoza (Excused Absence)
Council Member Frank Vierra
Council Member Margarita Aguilar
Council Member Martha Nateras
CLOSED SESSION ANNOUNCEMENTS
There was no Closed Session held.
CHANGES TO THE AGENDA
City Manager Richard Warne and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Vierra requested that Consent Calendar Items #5 and # 4, respectively, be moved to Discussion and Potential Action items.
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS
Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.
City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.
Council Member Margarita Aguilar
· Commented that school is back in session this week. She urged people to be careful and watch for school children. Livingston Union School District showed a film entitled the “Freedom Writers” at Livingston Middle School as part of their Welcome Back to School event. She said if anyone has not seen the movie, it is a great story and very motivational.
· Announced that the Livingston Community Network will hold the Multi-Cultural Festival to raise money for youth scholarships on August 24, from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., in Memorial Park. She said there will be food and entertainment for all.
· Thanked the Planning Commission for helping Pastor Bill Ruth and the Merced County Hunger Task Force by approving a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a community garden. A meeting regarding the community garden will be held on August 20.
· She hoped Police Chief Eldridge will have a report for the City Council about things going on in the community.
· Requested a report from the City Manager regarding the high school and what is happening on their property south of Peach Avenue. City Manager Warne said the Merced Union High School District has cleared the property south of Peach Avenue, which they have the right to do. The District has sent over some ideas regarding the rerouting of Peach Avenue. The School District was also going to visit with some of the property owners to discuss the road realignment. Council Member Aguilar asked if the project is going to come before the City Council before the School District does anything. City Manager Warne said that the ultimate decision regarding the roads rests with the City Council, so the decision on Peach Avenue will be brought to the City Council for final action.
Council Member Martha Nateras
· Commented that the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the Merced County Hunger
Task Force (Pastor Bill Ruth) community garden was approved by a 3-2 vote of the Planning Commission.
· Reported that a Red Ribbon Committee meeting will be held Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the Police Department.
Mayor Pro Tem Frank Vierra
· Commented that the Key Club students at Livingston High School along with other Key Club members from other high schools raised almost $700 for the Madera Trauma Center for children. Many children from Livingston go to the Madera Trauma Center. About 10 students are going to participate in the Special Olympics golf tournament at the Del Rio Golf Course on August 29.
· Stated that the former Almond Tree Restaurant is ready to open up as the Blueberry Hill Bar and Grill. This is another business for Livingston.
Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.
Mayor Daniel Varela
· Reported that he was invited by Superintendent Henry Escobar to attend the Livingston Middle School rally on August 12. He said the energy in the room was incredible with much excitement in the air. He noted there were about 300 teachers and staff present. There was a presentation by Mr. Manuel Scott who told his life story. There were many people drying their eyes after his speech. Mr. Escobar let everyone know they would get a book of Mr. Scott’s life story.
· Stated that on Thursday he asked Vickie Lewis to accompany him to the Livingston Medical Group. They were celebrating National Health Center Week. Congressman Dennis Cardoza was there and they were able to meet with him and John Alexander, the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the medical group. He said they have a great vision for the medical group and it was very exciting to witness what was going on at the clinic. They kept talking about Dr. Wollohan, one of the original founders of the Livingston Medical Group.
· Stated that he was scheduled to take a tour of the Fire Department last Friday, but due to a fire in Santa Cruz, fire personnel had to leave. He said he appreciated the Fire Department for what they do for the community.
· Outlined meetings that he will be attending as Mayor of the City of Livingston. Tomorrow morning he will meet with the U.S. Census Bureau Director for this area to discuss Census plans for the City of Livingston. On Wednesday he will be attending a meeting to discuss a program for the homeless called the Continuum of Care. At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday he plans to attend the Red Ribbon Committee meeting at the Police Department. Mayor Varela also said that he will be attending a leadership conference called Leadership Trust in Modesto. On Thursday he will be attending the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) Board meeting as Livingston’s representative. On Friday he has been invited by Mr. Calderon at Livingston High School to attend the Education Excellence for Hispanic Americans at the Merced Downtown Resource Center.
· Commented that Public Works Supervisor Kathryn Reyes is back to work after surgery and it appears that everything went well. He thanked Streets Supervisor Jim Rightsell for his job efforts and overall what the Public Works Department maintenance crews do.
· Mentioned the retirement barbecue for Chief Eldridge on September 3. He said he knew that Council Member Nateras wanted to meet with Chief Eldridge concerning the Neighborhood Watch Program.
· Stated that kids are back in school and he urged everyone to be careful. He turned some time over to City Manager Warne.
City Manager Warne reported to the public that the City of Livingston has received two more federal grants. The first grant is an $807,243 State of California Safe Routes to Schools sidewalk construction grant. This State sidewalk construction grant is in addition to the $871,000 federal sidewalk construction grant that has already been received by the City. The City will be building approximately $1.7 million dollars in sidewalks during this fiscal year.
The second federal grant the City has received is a $37,085 Edward Burns Memorial grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. This federal grant is for the purchase of a police vehicle and associated equipment. He said that this is good news for the City of Livingston. The City aggressively applies for grants.
Mayor Varela commented that as bad as the economy is, the City of Livingston has shovel-ready projects and now we have some funding. He said that he got an e-mail from the sponsors of the housing foreclosure prevention workshop and they want to have another workshop again. Council Member Nateras said that there were some complaints and concerns that came out of the last workshop held in Livingston. She said that she had passed them along to Supervisor Pedrozo. Mayor Varela said that we can contact Congressman Cardoza’s office and Assembly Member Cathleen Galgiani’s office and relay those concerns.
1. Resolution Setting the City of Livingston’s Gann Appropriation Limit for the Fiscal Year 2009-2010.
The agenda item was presented by Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Vickie Lewis. The Gann appropriation limit is the result of a vote of the people in 1979 and limits the growth of certain City revenues to a formula based on population and the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This year’s Gann Appropriation Limit is $3,578,446.
Mayor Varela opened the Public Hearing at 7:23 p.m. and subsequently closed the Public Hearing at 7:23 p.m., there being no public comments.
Council Member Nateras said that she wanted to thank City Manager Warne for the excellent job he did going through each budget item. She said that it made the budget easier to understand.
Motion: M/S Vierra/Aguilar to adopt Resolution No. 2009-40, setting the City of Livingston’s Gann Appropriation Limit for Fiscal Year 2009-2010 at $3,578,446. The motion carried 4-0 by the following vote:
AYES: Council Members: Aguilar, Nateras, Varela, Vierra
NOES: Council Members: None
ABSENT: Council Members: Espinoza
2. Review and Discuss Fiscal Year 2009-2010 Budget and Consider Adoption of Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Adopting the Final Budget of the City of Livingston for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2009 Through June 30, 2010, Repealing all Resolutions and Parts of Resolutions in Conflict Herewith.
City Manager Warne presented the agenda item. He said that this was the annual budget public hearing. The proposed budget has been available at City Hall, on the City website and on compact disk. Unless the City Council has any questions, he recommends that the public hearing be opened. There were no comments or questions by the City Council.
Mayor Varela opened the Public Hearing at 7:26 p.m. and subsequently closed the Public Hearing at 7:26 p.m. as there were no comments from the public.
Council Member Aguilar asked for an explanation of the section in the budget resolution that states that all other resolutions or parts of resolutions in conflict with the budget resolution are repealed.
City Manager Warne responded that this language was written by a previous City Attorney, and he would let City Attorney Hobbs explain. City Attorney Hobbs said that this section is common in budget resolutions, and does not refer to a specific resolution. It is a catch-all phrase that is commonly used that says, if there is any other provision of any other resolution that is in conflict with this resolution, that those sections are repealed and would no longer be in affect.
Council Member Nateras asked if adjustments could be made once the budget is approved, or is everything sealed in concrete. City Manager Warne said that the City Council can make policy changes and budget adjustments throughout the year. All major capital improvement projects, staffing levels and City policies are approved by the City Council.
Council Member Aguilar said that there were no public comments made at the budget public hearing this evening. She said that she had a couple of parts that she had questions on, and had not had time to meet with the City Manager. In addition, she said that Council Member Espinoza was not present and she would like to hear his comments. She asked if this item could be continued to the September 1 City Council meeting to allow us more time to read and look through the proposed budget.
Mayor Varela said that it has been noted that, when we took on the responsibility of City Council members and set up standards for the Planning Commission, we said we would all take appropriate steps prior to the meeting to read and inform ourselves of every agenda item and every issue that comes before the City Council. Mayor Varela said he met with the City Manager and we discussed issues related to the budget. He said that if there are no more issues, he suggested moving forward and adopting the budget.
City Manager Warne noted that Mayor Varela, Council Member Nateras and Mayor Pro Tem Vierra came in and asked questions about the budget. He said that he answered their questions and had in-depth discussions on many issues with each of them prior to this meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra said he spent many late nights reviewing this budget. He noted there are no large expenditures and no employee raises, except merit raises required by the Memorandum of Understandings with the employee unions. It is a bare-bones budget. He said that there are 14 vacant positions and he believes that the City needs to replace any additional person that leaves City employment. We cannot continue to place additional work on people beyond what we have already asked them to do. He has gone through the budget two or three times and he sees zeros everywhere. He does not know how much lower we can go. He felt that the City Council should move forward and adopt the budget.
Mayor Varela commended the City staff for the tremendous job in putting together this budget, especially when the State is taking City funds. The State and Merced County have major fiscal problems. He said that the staff had done an excellent job with the budget and in getting these sidewalk construction grants, especially during these difficult economic times. We have people in this community that are aggressively looking for these grant funds.
City Manager Warne asked that, as the Council makes a motion, staff would like the City Council to add the two federal grants to the budget and include the Summary of Capital Projects and Future Impacts on Operating Budgets before them on the dais in the final budget document. He said this is a status quo budget. We have been conservative in the past over time. We have not allowed our operating costs to get out of control. The City will strive to provide the same level of service as in the past. With the staff vacancies, all City employees will have a heavier work load, and the City may not be able to respond as fast as in the past. The State budget cuts have been factored in.
Council Member Nateras asked if the major capital projects are going out to the public. City Manager Warne commented that capital projects are in the budget document. Mayor Pro Tem Vierra read what projects are listed as capital projects for the public’s information.
Motion: M/S Vierra/Nateras to adopt Resolution No. 2009-41 Adopting the Final Budget of the City of Livingston for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, Adding in the Two Federal Grants to the Budget and the Summary of Major Capital Projects and Impact on Future Operating Budgets, and Repealing all Resolutions and Parts of Resolutions in Conflict Herewith. The motion carried 3-1 by the following vote:
AYES: Council Members: Nateras, Varela, Vierra
NOES: Council Members: Aguilar
ABSENT: Council Members: Espinoza
Mike Torres, 1616 Eighth Street, asked if consent item #4 will be discussed. Mayor Varela said that this item was pulled for separate discussion.
William Ingram, 956 F Street, commented that a house on Eighth Street and Peach Avenue is overgrown with weeds that are now extending to the neighbor’s house. The neighboring home has been damaged. He said this problem has been reported to the City and someone needs to take action. Community Development Director Donna Kenney noted this house is in the abatement process. She said the City’s building official has been out there twice. Staff is having a hard time finding out who owns the property. The building official has been on the phone and talked to several banks trying to determine who owns the property.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra asked if it is possible to amend the City Code regarding the Good Neighborhood Fence. He commented there is another situation on Joseph Street where the fence is down and the property is vacant. Mr. Vierra said he has heard that neighboring cities have the right to tear down houses if it is a large problem. City Attorney Hobbs said that he would have to look into the matter.
Warren Urnberg, 1331 Eighth Street, commented that there is a house on F Street down the street from the church that sits in the back of the lot. He said that the weeds on the property have been cut, but the roof of the house is down and tree limbs have fallen down nearly to the sidewalk. He said it’s a fire hazard and the timber is ripe for a fire.
Mr. Urnberg asked why it takes 60 days to get meeting minutes to the City Council for approval. He also commented that Citizen Comments have been moved around like a yo-yo, where in the past they were always listed in the same place on the agenda. He also said that the City should construct sidewalks where we need them. He said the City constructed sidewalks in front of the pallet yard where nobody walks. He said the main thing is to construct sidewalks where the children walk.
Mayor Varela said that the agenda had not changed. City Manager Warne said that nothing had been moved in over a year.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra said that the Citizen Comments section was moved a couple of meetings ago at the request of a Council Member. Other than this instance, the Citizen Comments section has not moved.
City Manager Warne explained that the City Council had a number of meetings that were very long, very tedious, with numerous public comments and threats of litigation. It has taken longer than normal to prepare these minutes. The City is carefully transcribing these minutes to be sure that they accurately reflect the comments that were made in the meeting. Some of those meetings have gone several hours, ending after 11:30 p.m. We are currently operating with six full-time and four part-time fewer employees. The City has had fewer people in the office to do the work and to process the minutes on these controversial meetings.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra said he came to pick up his mail one day and observed City Manager Warne, Danna Rasmussen and Betty Cota all working on the minutes. Council Member Nateras said she empathized with Danna Rasmussen on taking minutes because that was one of her duties as the former City Clerk. She knew how difficult it can be to hear and understand the speaker.
City Manager Warne said that Council Member Nateras is correct. He stated that if a person is not coherent when they speak it makes it difficult to understand what is being said and harder to do the minutes. Some people, including City Council Members, mumble when they are speaking. He asked the Council Members not to mumble and to please speak directly into their microphones.
Luis Flores, 707 Almondwood Drive, said he noticed that in the minutes his last name was incorrect. For the record, he stated his last name was Flores and not Torres. He invited everyone to attend the Community Network Multi-Cultural Festival on Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. He said the event was free to the public.
Mr. Flores also commented that he had visited the Merced County Superior Court and said that there is a hearing taking place on Thursday, August 20, at 8:15 a.m. in Court Room 3. City Attorney Hobbs said that Foster Farms had originally filed a motion for a court-ordered stay to prevent the City from implementing its water rates. Foster Farms has withdrawn its motion for the court-ordered stay, and so there will be no court hearing. The City can implement its new water rates.
Angelina Torres, P.O. Box 31, said she has seen signs advertising new homes on Peach Avenue and Robin Avenue. She asked what was taking place and if the developer had transferred the property. Donna Kenney said that K. Hovnanian Homes has kept the property and they have pulled their ninth building permit. Mayor Pro Tem Vierra asked if they took over the Lafferty property. Donna Kenney said that they had not taken over the Lafferty subdivision, but she did receive a call from David Agee, a K. Hovnanian Homes representative, asking about the property entitlements and the development agreement. She invited David Agee to come to her office to discuss the Lafferty property with her.
Mayor Varela asked City Manager Warne how many building permits had been issued this year. City Manager Warne responded that the City had issued six building permits and had three ready to issue. The City only issued three building permits during the last fiscal year. K. Hovnanian Homes has not purchased the Lafferty property.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra presented the following consent calendar items for the Council’s Consideration:
3. Approval of the Master Agreement for Federal-Aid Projects with the California Department of Transportation and Adopt a Resolution Authorizing the City Manager or Designee to Act on Behalf of the City of Livingston for the Execution of Master Agreements, Program Supplemental Agreements, Fund Exchange Agreements, Fund Transfer Agreements and/or any Amendments Thereto Related to Federal and /or State Funded Projects with the California Department of Transportation. (Resolution No. 2009-42).
4. Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Enter into an Agreement with J.B. Anderson Land Use Planning for the Environmental Assessment of the Diede Construction, Inc. Hotel Project Site.
Moved to Discussion and Potential Action Items.
5. Designation of Voting Member and Alternate for Annual League of California Cities Conference.
Moved to Discussion and Potential Action Items.
6. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on June 16, 2009.
7. Approval of Warrant Register Dated August 13, 2009.
Motion: M/S Varela/Vierra to approve Items 3, 6 and 7 on the consent calendar. The motion carried 4-0.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
5. Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Enter into an Agreement with J.B. Anderson Land Use Planning for the Environmental Assessment of the Diede Construction, Inc. Hotel Project Site.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra said that he pulled this item so that the community would know what was taking place on this development.
Community Development Director Kenney presented the agenda item. She said that the proposed hotel is similar to the one on West Main Street in Turlock. It will be a three- story hotel with a pool and a 150-person conference room with a kitchen area next to it. They will be able to host meetings and weddings. It is a 2.5-acre parcel next to the truck stop and McDonalds. There are two one-acre parcels in front of the hotel that they hope will someday accommodate a couple of restaurants. The requested action tonight is the approval by the City Council of the environmental consultant.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra said the City Council previously approved a 9% hotel room tax. This tax is charged to all people staying in a motel or hotel in Livingston. He stated that the room tax is City money and the State cannot take it away from Livingston.
Mike Torres, 1616, Eighth Street, said that the project was nice, but he had a concern about the off-ramp at Winton Parkway. He said that there is more traffic all the time. He said that the new City Council needs to look at the big picture that includes the interchange.
Mayor Varela said that the City is concerned about the interchange. He asked City Manager Warne to comment on the interchange. City Manager Warne said that the interchanges at Winton Parkway and Hammatt Avenue have been a concern of the City and the City has been working on them. He said that the City has completed the Design-Study Report and came to an agreement with the California Department of Transportation on the cost-sharing arrangement for the environmental study for the interchanges and the Highway 99 widening project from the City of Livingston to the Stanislaus County line. The City would contribute $543,000 and the California Department of Transportation would contribute $2.5 million for the environmental study. This is the agreement with the California Department of Transportation, but they have been slow to follow through. This funding arrangement was approved by the California Transportation Commission.
William Ingram, 656 F Street, said that the City needs to pay close attention to this issue so that it does not have the same situation as the City of Atwater has at the Highway 99 Applegate Interchange. He said that it sounds like the City is taking the right steps.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra said that the interchange at Winton Parkway needs to be addressed. We cannot put it on the back burner. We are at the mercy of the State and the California Department of Transportation. Mayor Varela said he and the City Manager have looked at the off-ramp. He said we are looking at future potential problems at the off-ramp. We will make the right connections with those in the state government and the California Department of Transportation. Until the funding is there, we cannot stop this project. We will address these issues. We need to make sure the funding is there.
Mayor Pro Tem Vierra asked if we are going to ask these new businesses coming in to help contribute to the interchange in the future. City Manager Warne said that the City would be asking these businesses to contribute to the interchange. The City’s Traffic Circulation Master Plan, approved by the City Council for the environmental study, includes the interchange improvements and includes the calculation of a traffic impact fee that includes the cost of upgrading the interchanges.
City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy commented that the Traffic Circulation Master Plan includes improvements to the interchanges and future development agreements will contain traffic impact fees.
Motion: M/S Vierra/Nateras to approve Resolution No. 2009-43 Authorizing the City Manager to Enter into an Agreement with J.B. Anderson Land Use Planning for the Environmental Assessment of the Diede Construction, Inc. Hotel Project Site.
The motion carried 4-0 by the following vote:
AYES: Council Members: Aguilar, Nateras, Varela, Vierra
NOES: Council Members: None
ABSENT: Council Members: Espinoza
6. Designation of Voting Member and Alternate for Annual League of California Cities.
Mayor Varela moved that he Council Member Nateras be appointed as the voting representatives for the City of Livingston at the Annual Conference of the League of California Cities; and that Council Members Aguilar and Espinoza be appointed as the alternate voting delegates. Council Member Vierra seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved.
8. City Manager Announcements and Reports.
The meeting was adjourned by consensus at 8:13 p.m.
City Clerk of the City of Livingston
APPROVED: October 20, 2009
Mayor or Mayor ProTempore
The written meeting minutes reflect a summary of specific actions taken by the City Council. They do not necessarily reflect all of the comments or dialogue leading up to the action. All meetings are digitally recorded and are an official record of the meeting’s proceedings. Digitally recorded verbatim minutes are available, upon request, and may be obtained at Livingston City Hall.