A “Lost” City Manager, A Blocked off Parking Lot, An Ordinance About Marijuana and a City Council Agenda

Mayor Pro-Tem Gurpal Samra said the resignation came “out of the blue” and he’s sad to see Ramirez go. From  Livingston city manager to resign Jan. 31, Thaddeus Mill, The Merced Sun Star – 12/24/2014

Councilman Gurpal Samra said he was not aware of any conflicts between Duque and the council or city employees. He echoed the city attorney, saying Duque said he wanted to pursue another job. “He didn’t give any reasons,” Samra said. Excerpted from:  Livingston city manager resigns after two months – Thaddeus Miller, The Merced Sun Star, 12/21/2015

Livingston, CA 01/05/2016

Looks like we lost two (2) City Managers in less than the space of about a year or so: both resignations coming as a “surprise” to members of the City Council.  More on that a little later, but first….

I was taking a walk about town the other day, when I noticed a “traffic jam” of sorts in the parking lot in front of True-Value. A Gilton truck was trying to back up from behind the Fiesta Market. But he had to wait for the Delivery Truck behind him to back up. But the Delivery Truck behind the Gilton Truck had another Delivery Truck behind him. So the First Delivery Truck had to wait for the Second Delivery Truck to back up. And the Gilton Truck was stuck until the other trucks backed up. And Not even the smallest of cars could in until the trucks got out of the way.

Parking LotWhat .. a..mess..It might not have been quite as much of a mess if half the Parking Lot had not been blocked off.

Why, you might wonder, was half the parking lot blocked off? If you have lived here as long as I have, you know that the parking situation in the Downtown was already a mess of sorts before these spaces were blocked off.

Downtown Livingston MapBut we’ve gotten used to it. More or less. I bet many of you hardly even notice anymore that the Parking Lot to the left of Dollar Mart is blocked off. (That’s about 24 spaces. Right?) If the parallel parking in the Downtown is full, most people seem to adapt by parking in the Rite Aide parking lot or the Parking Lot in front of Mountain Mikes and Liberty Market.

I am now going to invoke The Story Teller’s License. (Since I don’t know all the Legal Technicalities Involved.) I do have a General Idea of What Happened. And the story goes something like this…

Building next to Fiesta MktONCE UPON A TIME….A few months or so ago, while my husband and I were out and about, I noticed the Jewelry Store that had occupied the (now empty) building next to the Fiesta Mkt. had been replaced by a business called Novedades. At the time, my husband told me some people he knew had bought the building and the parking lot at an auction. He wasn’t sure of all the details: just that they had bought the building so they could open their own business.

NovedadesIt only seemed like a few short months later when Novedades moved to a different building. (Previously occupied by the Third Street Armory) And not too terribly long after that, the piece of the parking lot that was attached to the building Novedades had moved from, was closed off.

I asked my husband if he knew anything. He didn’t seem to know much, except there had been some kind of “mistake” and the owners of Novedades were really mad about it.

I did a little more asking around, and from what I understand, a mistake was made by the Title Company involved with the Building/Parking Lot purchase. The owners of Fiesta Mkt. had actually bought the Building Next Door. The owners of Novedades had bought the portion of the parking lot that was associated with that building.

And (according to the story) the owners of Fiesta wanted the owners of Novedades to pay rent for the use of the building.

Now, at this point, some of you are already thinking, “Um..wouldn’t it make sense for the Owners of Fiesta and the Owners of Novedades to work out some kind of “rent swap” arrangement? So that Novedades would continue to have the use of the building and Fiesta would continue to benefit from access to the parking lot.”

HOWEVER (as the story goes) the owners of Fiesta eventually evicted Novedades from the building for non payment of rent. And did not want to pay the owners of the parking lot any kind of rent for access to the parking lot.

So, the owners of Novedades responded by closing off the Parking Lot.

What a mess.

THE RESIGNATION OF CITY MANAGER, Jose Antonio Ramirez became final the end of January 2015. As I mentioned a bit earlier, his resignation took the City Council by surprise (seriously?). During the January 06th and January 20th City Council meetings, he presented a List of Items the City Council would need to address some time in the future.

Now that we are back to “square one” in the search for a New City Manager, (If I had the time, I could do a whole post just on the “revolving door” City Hall has been over the last few years: when you consider ALL the staff who left or were let go.)let’s take another look at that original list and see what has been “resolved, and what may still be “pending”.

  1. Amending the Watering Ordinance – ADOPTED May, 2014

  2. Repairs needed to be done to the City’s Water Storage Tank . According to the California Department of Health: City of Livingston 2013 Water System Inspection Report“The interior coating (walls, floor , and interior support column) is in overall poor condition. There is a large amount of blistering, cracking, and pinholes in the coating. It is recommended to blast and recoat the interior of the tank .” 

    1. When the New Water Rates were adopted in 2014,  $30,000 was to be spent on Tank Repairs in 2014-2015, $400,000 to be spent on Tank Repairs in 2018-2019: for a total of $430,000

  3. Planning Fees Increases – PENDING

    1. According to the Asst City Manager internal fee studies were started and may have been completed but not fully reviewed. ….city’s general fund continues to subsidize such functions. Its highly recommended to hire an independent consultant to perform a professional fee study for city wide services. Recent law changes call for a public hearing when fee increases are being implemented.

  4. Well Deconstruction Fees. The City will have to start issuing Well Deconstruction Permits.  – PENDING

  5. Master Plans for Sewer, Water, and Storm Drains need to be updated – IN PROCESS – According to the City Engineer,

    1. The Urban Water Master Plan Update is in progress:funded by a Community Development Block Grant grant.

    2. The City would have to identify funding sources to entertain the sewer and storm drain master plans.  Most likely these two areas will be visited during the mid-year budget review to obtain cost estimates and discuss the possibility of addressing those in 2015-16.  The City will be looking for new feasibility study grants that could fund those areas.

  6. The 4th of July Committee would like to come under the umbrella of the City – STATUS UNCLEAR – To the best of my knowledge, there has been no movement on this item.

  7. Sunvalley Estates and Well #17  improvements – IN PROCESS

    1. Contract to Conco West, Inc. awarded on September 15, 2015

    2. Project Scheduled to have begun on November 16

  8. Devante Villas project: haven’t heard from them in a while. But sure they will be coming back – STATUS UNCLEAR – I have not heard back from anyone at the City about this yet.

  9. Kera (?) Fernandez Reimbursement issue: Staff is working with legal council on this issue – Went to court. Settlement agreement reached.

  10. AB1600 Draft:

    1. According to the Asst. City Manager, the Final draft is ready and Staff is working with legal council to move foreword with the adoption – –  An internal fee study was performed, however, there were some “legal” concerns applicable to the current general plan….It was decided to put a hold on fee study until the general plan update issues are addressed.

  11. Tree Grant: the city still has trees to plant.

    1. Per the Asst. City Manager The Tree grant was successful and it’s 100% closed, the City received about $20K.

  12. Winton Parkway Development: Mr. Javier Galvan is very interested in moving that project forward with his partners. He mentioned he had a letter from the City from some years ago promising funding for the Winton Parkway street.

    1. The Asst. City Manager personally requested a copy of such commitment and to date has not received it.

  13. New WCIII Proposed Fees Schedule as part of the Building Services Department

    1. The City switched to 4Leaf on June 02, 2015. See Item 3

  14. Pipeline from Well #14 to Well #8 currently being designed and going out to bid in early spring. – IN PROCESS

    1. According to the City Engineer, it is Still under engineering review and is expected to start in Spring 2016 or sooner

  15. Well #17 CBDG Grant Project.

    1. The City received an Award of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the amount of $1,600.000 for Water Well #17

    2. In December 2014 a contract was  Awarded to Loprest Treatment Company to Supply Three Complete Water Filtration Systems for the Removal of Arsenic and Manganese at Wells #13, #17, and #15.

    3. In September 2015 was the the Resolution Accepting Bid and Awarding Contract to Conco West, Inc. for Well #17 Improvements and Wellhead Treatment

  16. Well #13 Project Design complete and going out to bid in February. (California Department of Public Health Grant) – NEARING COMPLETION

    1. According to the City Engineer:  This project is at its final stage, its expected was expected to be completed by end of November and taken to council for approval/acceptance in December.

  17. Well #15 Project should either be a grant or a 0% loan – No Updates Yet

  18. Groundwater Levels have dropped and monitoring needs to continue. 35 to 40 foot drop last year. Levels have risen about a foot this year.

    1. Exact Current Water Level data not available.

  19. Self Monitoring for ADA Requirements. As the City has been replacing curbs, gutters, and sidewalks, issues are being addressed.

    1. I have noticed cracks being filled in various places throughout the City.

    2. There has been 1 claim filed against the city that I know of.

  20. Community Facility District Formation in the Winton Parkway area. Once the Gallo Subdivision takes place, make sure that goes forward.

    1. Since everything seems to be still “in the planning and review stage, this may take a while.

  21. National Endowment for the Arts Grant has been applied for, in conjunction with the Merced Arts Council: Start a Mural Project in the Down Town, beginning with the City Owned Building next to the Council Chambers.

    1. No info on this yet

  22. Tax Sharing Agreement with the County has yet to be finalized– STILL IN PROCESS – Some of you may remember that the County revoked the previous Tax Sharing Agreement with the City as of July 1, 2009. The County had disagreed strongly with portions of the City’s 2025 General Plan Update and wanted substantial changes. When the City refused to make those changes, the County revoked the 2004 Tax Sharing Agreement that had been in place.

    1. I’ve been to several Council Meetings at which I heard it said it was still “under discussion”

  23. Cal Trans Campbell Project Properties: They are trying to come up with the cost of those odd shaped properties so they can tell the City what they want for them.

    1. Per Asst. City Manager – No recent activity nor City interest

  24. Health Insurance: There had only been 1 response to the Request for Proposals. Council might want to extend the request period.

    1. At the May 26, 2015 Special City Council Meeting, the Council voted to select the current PACE program with the Anthem Blue Cross $1300 deductible PPO plan and Anthem Blue Cross $25 copayment HMO plan.

In addition to the above

Downtown Beautification Project

  • Per City Engineer, the final modifications to the design by engineers is expected to go back to council for final review and comments shortly.

  • Expected construction in early 2016

Recruitment of a New Public Works Director – ON HOLD

  • Originally – Until the New City Manager did an evaluation of work loads – Now its on hold for the next City Manager

Amending the RTIF – so projects like the Motel 6 will be excluded from paying those fees when they pull their permits?

  • Per Asst. City Manager – No need to amend the RTIF at this point.

Decommissioning the ponds at the old (Foster Farms) IWWTP

  • According to the City Manager. Per discussion with Foster Farms about 3-4 months ago, they were on schedule.

Winton Parkway Development Projects: Motel 6 and any others

  • Per City Engineer, these are in process: Under review and discussion

YEP. WE “LOST” TWO CITY MANAGERS THIS YEAR – Both resignations were a “surprise” to members of the Council and Both left on “good terms”. Although the First-T0-Go, Jose Antonio Ramirez managed to stick around for over three years, the Second, Eddie Duque didn’t even manage to make it three months.

The Story Goes that he resigned “of his own accord.” I have a hard time believing that. Given Livingston’s History, there MUST be more to his story than the City Council is willing to divulge.

Why do I feel this way?

Because if you read Pages 3, 4, and 5 of the Employment Agreement, under the heading “Termination of Employment and Severance” you will see that:

If MR. DUQUE was to decide to terminate the Agreement: (Translation..”Resign of his own accord)

THEN he was to give 60 days WRITTEN notice AND he would get NOTHING

If the CITY COUNCIL decided to terminate the Agreement “without cause”, during the first year of employment

THEN Mr. Duque would be entitled to 4 months Base Salary as Severance PLUS Health Care Coverage for 2 months.

{($140,000 Annual/12months)x4months} + $2,636 in Health Benefits

Works out to about $49,302

…AND nothing is to be said to the public or Press except for in a Mutually Agreed Upon Joint Press Release ULESS they cannot agree as to the content. In that event, the City is to simply say he is no longer employed by the City.

IF the CITY COUNCIL decided to terminate the Agreement “for cause”

THEN Mr. Duque would get NOTHING

THEREFORE….Given WHAT he got + WHEN he got it + This City’s history of chewing through Staff = There Just Has To Be More to the story.

IT TOOK THE PLANNING COMMISSION 3 (THREE) HOURS to come to an agreement on how to phrase a Zoning Text Amendment which would allow Qualified Patients and their Primary Care Givers to cultivate Medical Marijuana within the City of Livingston. While the Planning Commission Chair favored a total ban, the rest of the Commissioners felt some kind of allowance should be made for Private Grows by Qualified Patients and their Primary Care Givers.

The Resolution the Commission sent to the Council had the following intent

  • Prohibit Commercial Grows

  • Allow Deliveries to Qualified Patients by Licensed Dispensaries (subject to certain restrictions)

  • A Primary Care Giver bringing Medical Marijuana to the Qualified Patient would not be regulated as a Delivery and would be exempt from Licensing Requirements.

  • Allow for a Qualified Patients and their Primary Care Givers to grow up to 6 plants

    • outside of the Residence (if the plants are grown in some kind of structure, the structure would be subject to Building Code. However, structures less than 120 sq. ft. are not subject to Code.

    • subject to certain other restrictions

For more details, CLICK HERE to read the entire Resolution

CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

JANUARY 5, 2016

CLOSED SESSION: 6:00 P.M.

OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

 

Notice is hereby given that the City Council will hold a Regular Meeting on January 5, 2016, 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 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. Public Employee Appointment

(Government Code Section 54957)

Title: Interim City Manager

4. Conference with Labor Negotiator

(Government Code Section 54957.6)

Agency Negotiator: City Attorney Jose M. Sanchez

Unrepresented Employee: Interim City Manager

5. Public Employee Appointment

(Government Code Section 54957)

Title: City Manager Recruitment

6. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

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

Number of Cases: 1

 

Regular Meeting

 

CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2016-01

Next Ordinance Number: 626

 

Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call.

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 Approving Site Plan / Design Review 2015-3 to Construct a Building Containing an Office, Dressing Room, and an Apartment at the Guru Nanak Sikh Mission, 884 “B” Street, Livingston, CA.

 

2.   Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Title 5, Chapters 2, 3, 5 and 7 of the Livingston Municipal Code Prohibiting Commercial Marijuana ( Cannabis) Activities, Regulating Delivery of Medical Marijuana, and Regulating the Cultivation of Medical Marijuana Including Establishing Exemptions for Cultivation by Qualified Patients and Primary Caregivers.

 

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. Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 10, 2015.

4. Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 23, 2015.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

5. City Council to Provide Direction for Appointment to the Planning Commission.

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