“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

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Fireworks, Politics, Resignations, Recreation, and a Mid Year Budget Review–February, 2015

Livingston, CA – 03/22/2015

So the 4th of July has formally asked they would like to come under the City Umbrella just like the Recreation Commission: to have a sand alone committee of sorts..so that has to be figured out. I know Legal Council will help out. That’s something they would like. One, because they would like to get the full support of the City every year. Excerpted from Comments and Discussion of future agenda items by Former City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez – January 20 2015 City Council Meeting: beginning about 19:52 minutes in. 

What we’re requesting is that we have the exact support or similar support as the Sweet Potato Festival. I don’t see what the difference is. I would like to see that support. Where, when you go to the Sweet Potato Festival, you see all staff is on hand. Every person from Recreation to Public Works’….so that’s what we’re looking for: the same type of support. Julio Valadez – Chair – July 4th Committee – Ibid.

Julio, I have a comment Since I know that you guys want to come under the City. But I think we already have a Recreation commission. And I think currently we only have 1 or 2 Commissioners on that. If you guys join the Recreation Commission, you guys could take on the Fireworks because the Commission is already-we don’t have to go through the process of doing a new commission. So we need more people on the Commission and the Fireworks would be part of Recreation. Which is part of, you know, you guys could take that on. That’s just an idea. If you guys want to. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza – Ibid

So why might the July 4th Committee want to come “under the umbrella” of the City? or join the Recreation Commission? More on that a little later, but first.

YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT BY THE TITLE
on the City’s Website, but there is an important informational meeting about the City’s Water Delivery System this Tuesday.

Water Workshop

As part of the settlement agreement with California River Watch, the City is obligated to provide additional information about the state of our Water System, and what the City is doing to address our Water Quality Issues.

Now..a brief look at some of the Agenda items covered during FEBRURARY’S 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 FEBRUARY 3, 2015 CLOSED SESSION included

  • 2 Cases of Potential Litigation

  • Continued discussion about the City Manager Recruitment

  • Another Discussion about Labor Negotiations with All Represented City Employees

During OPEN SESSION on FEBRUARY 3:

1. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza Presented Key to the City plaques to members of Grupo Musical Los Kinos

2. There was a Report on United Front Security and Patrol Security Company Seeking a Business License.

3. The Minutes of Meeting Held on December 16, 2014 were approved.

4. The Warrant Register Dated January 29, 2015 was approved. Except for one check issued in payment for Radio Advertising for the 4th of July Celebration. Although Interim City Manager Odie Ortiz stated the payment had been “approved by management”, Mayor Espinoza stated he wanted that check “held” until he had more time to talk to the Chairman of the July 4th Committee. (My best guess is “management” meant prior City Manager Jose Ramirez)

5. A Resolution appointing Odilon Ortiz as Interim City Manager was approved.

6. A Resolution Approving the continuation Ruben Chavez for the Position of Police Chief was adopted.

7. The Council filled the Vacant seats on the Livingston Planning Commission after ACCEPTEING THE RESIGNATION of Planning Commission Chair Luis Flores. Mario Mendoza was appointed to finish Flores’ term: which ends in December of this year. Ananan Bath was appointed to the other vacancy: which is a 4 year term.

As Reported in the Merced Sun Star –

 “After Flores resigned, Commissioner Mario Mendoza – who was seeking another term on the commission – was appointed to finish Flores’ term. Newcomer Adanan Bath was appointed to the other vacancy.

Bath last year pulled filing papers to challenge Samra in his re-election bid in November. Bath ended up not running against Samra.

Mendoza, however, did challenge Samra but lost by about 300 votes.”

This means the person who “changed his mind” about challenging  Samra for office was appointed to a 4 year term on the Planning Commission.  The person who didn’t drop out of the race was given what was left over of Mr. Flores’ term.

8. The Council Accepted and Authorized the Temporary Outsourcing of City’s Street Sweeping Services to Gilton Solid Waste. According to the Mayor, this needed to be done because the engine on the Street Sweeper was “blown”.

9. The Council Discussed  Changes to the DTC Zone. There are Residential Homes located in the Downtown Commercial Zone. That means those homes are “non conforming uses” which has created a whole host of problems for those people who want to keep their house as a “house” and not convert it into a “business”.

There was discussion about how there would need to be some planning work involved in “fixing” the problem while at the same time avoiding “spot zoning”

10. The Council Discussed Changing the City Logo Slogan from “The Last Stop” to “Sweet Potato Capital of the World.” It seems some people think “The Last Stop” means a place where you go to retire and/or die. I guess most people have forgotten that Livingston had “The Last Stop” Light on HWY 99: before the realignment was done. Maybe such things aren’t relevant in “today’s world”.

11. The Discussion Item: “Twelve Acres of Industrial Land at the Max Foster Sports Complex” was Continued to a Future Meeting. From what I understand, there may be a dispute between the City of Livingston and a Developer over how much of a Reimbursement is due to the Developer.

The FEBRUARY 17, 2015 CLOSED SESSION included:

  • 1 case of Potential Litigation

  • A Conference about Labor Negotiations regarding All Represented and Unrepresented City Employees

During The Regular Meeting FEBRUARY 17, 2015 :

Mayor Espinoza and Council Person Mendoza were absent

1. An Item placed on the Agenda by Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza & Council Member Arturo Sicairos to Present and discuss idea of possible Sister City relationship with the State of Jalisco, Mexico. The consensus of the Council seemed to be it would be a great idea to adopt Zapotlanejo as a Sister City: perhaps via the Sister City Program International.

2. The Warrant Register Dated February 12, 2015 was Approved.

3. A Resolution of the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston Approving the Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule (ROPS 15-16A) Pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 34177 for Period July through December 31, 2015 was adopted.

Well 12 - 13 - 1- - 17 - 184. A Resolution Approving the Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration for Improvements to Municipal Well No. 17 was adopted. New well site equipment and improvements will include an estimated 2,000 gallons per minute capacity

5. A Resolution Approving the Purchase of Equipment from Tesco Controls, Inc. for the Well No. 13 and Well No. 17 Projects, without Competitive Bids  was approved.

Well 8 - 9 - 11 - 156. A Resolution Approving a Contract with Forsta Filters for the Supply of Three Self-Cleaning Filters to remove Sand from Wells No. 9 and Well No. 11B was approved. This was done because the previous vender could not meet delivery times as previously expected. This expense was not in the Budget: an emergency situation created by the drought.

7. The City Council Directed Staff to Approve the Installation of a Varible Frequency Drive on Turbine #1 at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. According to Staff, by installing the Variable Frequency Drive, the City would Save on energy costs in the long run.

8. There was another Review/Discussion/Direction of the Annual Fireworks Booth Selection procedures. Members from both the July 4th Committee and Livingston Youth Football were in attendance and talked about why their Organizations should qualify for “the council pick”.

9. A Resolution Approving the Recommended 2014-15  City of Livingston Mid-Year Budget Revisions was adopted. Although Interim City Manager Ortiz said it looked like the City was seeing a Recovery, Mayor Pro Tem Samra stated “Yes. It is good news. But we’re not ready to open the Credit Card.”

ADJOURNMENT

Now, let me tell you a Brief TALE ABOUT FIREWORKS BOOTHS,  THE SWEET POTATO FESTIVAL and THE RECREATION COMMISSION

Once upon a time, the way I remember it, the City was in charge of putting on the July 4th Celebration: fireworks and all. Then there came the year of The-Run-Up-To-The-Recall. And, somehow, in the middle of all that, the order for the fireworks didn’t get put in in time.

It was as if the Conspiracy Theory Comet from Hell had struck: because of all the blame throwing and finger pointing. (I did do some checking on my own, and after asking for a General Ledger Report and looking it over, It looked to me like donations to the July 4th EVENT did NOT get booked into the July 4th ACCOUNT. But were booked into an account called Special Events. Near as I can tell it was just an honest mistake. But one that did not help calm the blamethrowing of the time. But I digress…)

A group of people banded together to, at least try, to see that the tradition of the July 4th Celebration wasn’t lost forever. Some people quit after the first year. Others kept on, year after year: rounding up donations and doing what needed to be done to meet the goal of Celebrating our Nation’s Independence Day with the Biggest and Best celebration possible.

In 2011, a new City Manager was hired. He thought it would be a Grand Idea to for the City to Revive the long dormant Sweet Potato Festival.

And stick it straight into the same week as the July 4th Celebration of 2012.

Which had some people I talked to scratching their heads about the timing. What were we celebrating that week? Our Nations Independence or Sweet Potatoes?

Later, there was the whole flap about the City “losing money” on the Sweet Potato Festival and the July 4th Committee having “money left over” after paying expenses.

Certain members of the City Council seemed to feel that the July 4th Committee should fork over their “excess” to cover the City’s “losses”.

Which, had some of us scratching our heads when we first heard about it. They way we understood it, the July 4th Committee was not organized as a fundraiser for the Sweet Potato Festival. It was organized to Plan and Organize an Event the City was no longer Planning and Organizing.

And any money “left over” after expenses would be rolled over to the following year.

As far as the Sweet Potato Festival was concerned, my understanding of the goal, from listening to the City Manager , was to at least break even: if there was any money “left over” after expenses, that would go towards funding other City Events.

Then in 2014, (as reported in the Merced Sun Star) Members of the Livingston Fourth of July Committee appealed to the City Council during its regular meeting  …..asking for help to pay off $5,441.14 of unpaid bills from the nonprofit’s annual fireworks show and festival.”

I can distinctly remember the “then” City Manager saying that management would take a look at the expenses involved to see which ones the City could “justify” paying on behalf of the July 4th Committee. (After all, it was a “City” event of sorts: with free admission to all)

So my guess is the “prior” City Manager, Jose Ramirez, approved the check for payment that Mayor Espinoza decided to “hold up”.

But IF YOU WANT THE CITY’S FULL SUPPORT, (and money for the Fireworks Show) how about joining the Recreation Commission? That was the suggestion made to members of the July 4th Committee, by Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza at the January 20th, 2015 City Council Meeting. According to the Mayor, this would solve two problems at the same time:

  • Getting enough members on the Recreation Committee to actually HAVE meetings on a Regular Basis – and –

  • Helping out with fundraising etc. for the 4th of July Celebration

The Logic going something like this: The Recreation Commission is already an Established Commission of the City. One of the tasks of the Recreation Commission is to promote activities That Benefit The Community. The July 4th Celebration is an Activity That Benefits The Community.  The are not enough members on the Recreation Commission. Therefore:

  • IF enough members of the July 4th Committee joined the Recreation Commission in order t0 make it a Functioning Commission,

  • THEN they could get “support” from the City

The response from some of the members of the July 4th Committee was that they are already very busy with activities that benefit the community, and really just don’t have the time to take on the additional responsibility: especially if the only reason to do so was to get “the support” from the City for an event that benefits the City As A Whole.

This is the way I see what has been happing so far.

  1. The City can issue up to 5 Fireworks Booth Permits. The City Council rewrote the Fireworks Ordinance so it could have the ability to grant a Fireworks Boots to up to two (2) Non Profit Organizations of its choice – making it possible to “Council Pick” Livingston Youth Football  and one other Non-Profit organization. That would put “everybody else” into a lottery for the remaining 3 booth permits.

  2. “Someone” got his nose out of joint when the July 4th Committee wouldn’t fork over their “profits” to bail out the Sweet Potato Festival’s “losses” one year and decided “since you wouldn’t donate your profit to the City, don’t bother asking the City to help you.

  3. And we won’t choose you for “Council Pick” for a Fireworks Booth Either. We’ll “choose” Livingston Youth Football, but you get thrown into the raffle like the other applicants.

  4. To Bad, So Sad, if you don’t get a Fireworks Booth

  5. Too Bad, So Sad if you “lose money” on putting on the July 4th Celebration.

  6. BUT “we” want a Recreation Commission that has meetings. So if you join the Recreation Commission, we will be willing to spiff you some “help” that way.

  7. BUT..Members of the July 4th Committee “reject” the offer to “obtain help” by joining the Recreation Commission.

  8. HOWEVER..The City Manager, recognizing the July 4th Event as a City Wide Event, as one of his last official acts before leaving at the end of January, 2015, authorizes the payment for the Radio Advertising. (It had to be either Jose or Odie: who else could be the “management” who could approve that check?)

  9. AND That check is “held up” by the Mayor at the very next Council Meeting

At this point, I will let you draw whatever conclusions you wish. I can say that “The Saga Continues”. The next chapter will continue when we meet again to look at What Happened in March, 2015.

More on the February Happenings in Livingston can be found by going to the links below:

For the February Police Department Update, click on the following link – LPD Update 2_3_2015

For relevant Sun Star Articles, see below.

Livingston manager’s last day brings some employees to tears BY RAMONA GIWARGIS, The Merced Sun Star – 02/01/2015 – Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra said Friday was a “sad day” for Livingston. It will be hard to replace Ramirez, he said, but the city will hire a recruitment organization to interview prospective candidates. While the City Council makes the final hiring decision, Samra said this method will “keep the process fair” and discourage favoritism.

Livingston police chief’s contract renewed for 3 years BY RAMONA GIWARGIS – The Merced Sun Star – 02/04/2015 –  Livingston Police Chief Ruben Chavez will continue working for the city another three years, the City Council determined unanimously this week

Chinese exchange students make friends in Livingston – BY THADDEUS MILLER – The Merced Sun Star – 02/08/2015 – About 50 students from China spent a couple of days here last week, visiting with others their age, sharing music and practicing their English. – The visit was the first edition of an exchange program, or “sisterhood,” that Livingston Middle School hopes to continue with Beijing Runfeng School, according to principals from both schools.

Livingston council talks fireworks stands and midyear budget – BY RAMONA GIWARGIS – The Merced Sun Star – 02/18/2015 – The battle over fireworks booths in Livingston has begun. – The city is accepting applications from nonprofits interested in selling safe-and-sane fireworks in July, officials announced at a City Council meeting Tuesday. Although the application period just opened, two groups – the Fourth of July Committee and Livingston Youth Football – were already appealing to the council Tuesday to choose them.

Livingston planning commissioner resigns over conflict of interest worry – BY RAMONA GIWARGIS – 02/22/2015 – The Merced Sun Star – The chairman of Livingston’s Planning Commission voluntarily resigned after elected officials threatened to have him removed because of a potential conflict of interest.

Livingston police arrest seven known gang members – SUN-STAR STAFF – 02/25/2015 – Seven known gang members have been arrested in Livingston since Saturday, according to police. – Three of those arrests came Tuesday when Livingston police and Merced County probation officers searched a home in the 1500 block of Seventh Street, finding a loaded 12-gauge shotgun hidden in a wall with other weapons, and more than five grams of methamphetamine, police Chief Ruben Chavez said.

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.

Appeals Continued, Appeals Created, Postponed Projects, and a Planning Commission Agenda

Leveling a downtown block to build a Rite Aid drugstore is not the panacea city officials think it will be, at least not in the opinion of several people who stand to lose their businesses….In addition to the commercial buildings fronting Main Street, Rite Aid bought a small, city-owned park and parking area behind the buildings to gain control of the entire block..Excerpted from CITY’S WRONG ON RITE AID, SOME SAY – LIVINGSTON MERCHANTS WANT RELOCATION ASSIST, Bob White, Modesto Bee, February 17, 1999

In Lieu Parking FeeLivingston Municipal Code

Based on all the research that we have done in-house, In Lieu Parking Fees were never collected. – Jose Ramirez, City Manager: City of Livingston, personal interview, week of 3/4/12

Brandon Friesen (said).…With the building vacant for seven years, no business in there will ever meet the current parking requirements. The City might as well change or modify the parking ordinance. As for the type of business, he would be more concerned about the aesthetics than about it being a bar. That’s freedom of choice. He hopes the Planning Commission does due diligence and review the CUP for security, but not so much parking. Excerpted from April 12, 2011 Planning Commission Draft Minutes

Rodrigo Espinoza (said he)… thinks that every business should have the right to come into the downtown….. He feels that if a business wants to come in, they should be given the opportunity and hopefully they mean well.Excerpted from April 12, 2011 Planning Commission Draft Minutes

Motion by Commissioner H. Gains, seconded by Commissioner Castellanos, to adopt Resolution 2012-02, a Resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Livingston Amending Conditional Use Permit 2001-05, Approved by Resolution 2001-16 and Amended by Resolution 2004-01, for the Sale of Alcohol at 444 Main Street. Motion carried 4-0 Excerpted from the January 10th, 2012 Planning Commission Draft Minutes

 

WELL..IF I WAS CONFUSED BEFORE,  as time goes by I can’t help but become even more confused with how the Appeal  for the 444 Main Street Conditional Use Permit is being handled.  Mayor Espinoza’s opinion did an about face from: “every business should have the right to come into the downtown” to every business except Mr. Sperry’s Club should have the right to come into the downtown right before my very eyes.

Interesting….(can’t help but wonder what changed…)

More on that later………But First

SORP.ENG

THE 444 MAIN STREET CUP APPEAL IS NOT the only current Appeal in Process.

Although the Conditional Use Permit for the Livingston Family Apartments Project and the Resolution, Recommending to the City Council the Approval of Site Plan/Design Review 2009-03 and Development Agreement 2009-01 for the Livingston Family Apartments Project was approved by the Planning Commission, the Developers decided to Appeal the decision themselves.

Appeal by Pacific West

REMEMBER THAT GALLO ANEXATION PROJECT? Community Development Director Kenney has reported  it will be moving forward under the 2025 General Plan Update instead of the 1999 General Plan.

AT LAST TUESDAY’S CITY COUNCIL MEETING, It became clear early on that the Council-As-A-Whole had already made up it’s collective mind that Mike Sperry would not, under any circumstances, be allowed to open a Club at 444 Main St. 

The Council also sent a strong message that they will not be inclined to approve, under any circumstances, anybody’s Bar, Club or Similar Kind of Establishment opening up at 444 Main Street.

(And Mr. Sperry received a rather stern lecture that evening from the Mayor Pro Tem about how one should behave oneself when going before the Planning Commission and City Council to ask for things like Conditional Use Permits.)

What is really “interesting” to me about the way this is going is that, originally, Mayor Espinoza had been a Strong Advocate In Favor of Mr. Sperry’s Application for a Conditional Use Permit in the past: Yet it was the Mayor himself who appealed the Decision of the Planning Commission when the Conditional Use Permit was finally granted.

Mayor Espinoza said it was because the decision was “interesting”: the appeal itself giving  no indication of anything “wrong” with the Specific Conditions in the Conditional Use Permit. Nor were there any suggestions given therein as to which Conditions should be changed, added to or deleted from the Conditional Use Permit in order to make it more palatable.

Now…I’m neither lawyer nor sociologist. But, from what I understand, there is one main “social issue” and two main “legal issues” involved. The Social Issue is: some people don’t want a bar/club at 444 Main Street because that would be “too close” to schools and children. The “legal issues” have to do with “parking” and the limit on the number of Establishments selling Alcohol by the Glass that could be located in the Downtown Commercial Area

(I’m not going to address the “Social Issue” here, except to wonder aloud if Council Members have considered those Establishments (close to schools and children) which sell Beer by the Pitcher: and nobody seems to have their knickers in knots over them.)

First: Some people were against it because it would violate the Zoning Code that said Establishments that sold Alcohol By The Glass couldn’t be within a certain number of feet of each other.

But the El Diamante closed, so that didn’t seem to be an issue any more.

Then, some people seemed to be against it because there wouldn’t be enough parking.

But addressing parking under the Current Municipal Code would be difficult for any new business in the Downtown because of actions the City took in the past. Actions like:

..Changing the parking in the Downtown from Diagonal to Parallel: which eliminated several parking places and

..Facilitating the sale of land to Rite Aide: which eliminated a public parking lot and therefore even more parking places.

And I know that the City has that In-Lieu Parking Fee “plan” such that;

a. Said funds shall be deposited with the City in a special fund and shall be used and expended exclusively for the purpose of acquiring and developing off-street parking facilities located insofar as practicable in the general vicinity of the buildings for which in-lieu payments were made. Municipal code Section 5-4-5(E)3a.

But I’ve observed City Council discussions about waiving and/or reducing In-Lieu Fees for some projects and the City has no proof whatsoever that it has ever even received any In-Lieu Parking Fees from anyone at anytime.

Besides, especially in this economy, do you really foresee the possibility of the City constructing a Brand Spankin’ New Parking Structure in the next 5 years? 10 years? Ever?

Philosophically, I’m "neutral" on the Merits of having a Club at 444 Main St. It could be a "good thing" or a "bad thing" for the Downtown, depending upon the Business Model. I have not seen the Business Model, but I did not see anything "bad" in the Conditions of the Conditional Use Permit either.

So if the main issue is really about parking, any new business that would want to move into the 444 Main St. location would face "parking issues" which would  make it pretty much impossible for the average Small Business to afford moving into that building on Main Street.

And, I do not think the existential tongue lashing Mr. Sperry received from "the other side of the dais" that evening was in any way an example of a fair, impartial, discussion of the Merits of a Conditional Use Permit as written,  or how anyone’s concerns might be addressed by adding additional Modifications to the Conditional Use Permit.

So what’s next? Well, both sides seem very entrenched in their respective“positions”: The Council doesn’t want a club “there”. Mr. Sperry still wants to open his club “there”.

I’ve talked to Mr. Sperry and he sees no real “legal” reason to prohibit him from opening his Club at 444 Main Street and is still willing to negotiate the Conditions in the Conditional Use Permit in order to make that happen 

That is…provided the opportunity to negotiate is even offered.

So….What will happen next? Maybe you can tell me….. In the meantime, If you would like to hear the discussion CLICK HERE

AND NOW ON TO THE….

LIVINGSTON PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

MARCH 13, 2012 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 Minutes from the March 5, 2012 Special Meeting with report.

Item No. 2 – City Council Update

a. Update of City Council items.

Item No. 3 – 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. 4 – Public Hearings

a. Conditional Use Permit 2012-02. Blaine Yagi and Meng Vue have applied for a Conditional Use Permit to continue a legal nonconforming agricultural use within the City on approximately 15 acres (APN 024-100-059 and 047-200-022) just north of Campbell Avenue on the west side of Hammatt Avenue.

b. Zoning Text Amendment 2012-01 and Conditional Use Permit 2012-01. MFA Medical Group has applied for a Zoning Text Amendment and a Conditional Use Permit to operate a medical clinic to be located at 1616 Second Street, Livingston, CA, in a Low Density Residential (R- 1) zoning district.

Item No. 5 – Discussion and Direction

a. Murals

Item No. 6 – Reports

a. Planning Commission

b. City Staff

c. City Attorney

Item No. 7 – Adjournment to regular meeting on April 10, 2012.

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.

Appealing a Commission Decision, and a Planning Commission Agenda

Rodrigo Espinoza… thinks that every business should have the right to come into the downtown….. He feels that if a business wants to come in, they should be given the opportunity and hopefully they mean well. Excerpted from April 12, 2011 Planning Commission Draft Minutes

Motion by Commissioner H. Gains, seconded by Commissioner Castellanos, to adopt Resolution 2012-02, a Resolution of the Planning Commission of the City of Livingston Amending Conditional Use Permit 2001-05, Approved by Resolution 2001-16 and Amended by Resolution 2004-01, for the Sale of Alcohol at 444 Main Street. Motion carried 4-0 Excerpted from the January 10th, 2012 Planning Commission Draft Minutes

Mike Sperry thanked the Planning Commission for being open minded and said that he will make it work. Ibid

I am requesting that this decision be appealed to the City Council for Final Decision. Excerpted from the Appeal’s  letter written by Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza

From April 2011 to February 2012 isn’t even a whole year, but my what a difference a few months make. Personally… I’m just a tad confused about the way this Conditional Use Permit thing is going.

More on that later, but first: another peek into Delta Bravo Sierra Land

No...He Aint Talkin About Valentines Day EitherDo I REALLY Need to Explain ThisHave You Figured It Out Yet

There’s strange, than there is “Army Strange” out there in Delta Bravo Sierra Land: courtesy of Damon Shackelford: furious scribbler of military cartoons.

 

Rest in Peace Regino—Mass of Christian Burial will be at St Judes Catholic Church, Livingston, CA on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 2:00 P.M. with burial to follow at Winton District Cemetery. The family has set up the account to help pay for funeral expenses.

Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank with the memorial account No. 7347876224.

Thank you Julio Valedez for getting out the word on how folks can help this family through this time of terrible grief and loss.

Anyone For Fish?

clip_image004[5]There’s Still Time to Help Give the Lil Guys and Gals and even better place to play!In 2006 the city purchased the storm drain basin (4 lots) next to the park and filled it in with the intent of making it a park to service the ball park participants and their families. Since then, Lil Guys and Gals field has been a ball park used for many years by the residents of Livingston…

The Recreation Commission determined in 2011 to take on the park as a project. The commission wanted to involve the community and let them help bring this project to reality. By purchasing a stepping stone the community not only provides the financing for the park, but in turn places a personal monument in the park for years to come.

Stones will be sold until there are enough sales to cover the completion of the park. The Commission’s goal is Summer of 2012.

Once you have purchased a stone you will be called by the Recreation Department for an appointment to make/create your stone.

If you are interested in creating a Memorial Stone and/or participating in one of the many work days that will take place to upgrade the park, call the Recreation Office at 394-8830 for more information.

Remember that Appeal I mentioned earlier?

As I was working on the Planning Commission Agenda to get it ready for posting, I noticed the following Agenda Item.

c. Action Minutes from the January 10, 2012 regular meeting with Report.

Now…I’m used to seeing the phrase “Action Minutes” having to do with months in which the Planning Commission had met. But Action Minutes “with Report”? Uh-Oh. Now what?

So I download the Agenda Packet and look at the Staff Report and lo and behold: someone was appealing the decision to grant a Conditional Use Permit to (the formerly Tequila Club) 444 Main Street.

Now that really got me curious. You see, it seems that since around April or so of last year, some of the members of the City Council and Planning Commission  have been trying to come up with creative ways to amend the Zoning in the Downtown Commercial District to allow Mike Sperry to open a Bar/Club at 444 Main Street (after all, that building has been empty and unused for the longest time).

At the time, there seemed to be 2 main Stumbling blocks getting in the way of doing something with that building:

  1. a footnote in the Zoning Ordinance that prohibited establishments selling Alcohol by the Glass to be within 1,000 feet of each other and

  2. the general lack of parking spaces in that part of town.

In April 2011, the Planning Commission voted to recommend doing away with the 1,000 ft. restriction, but that decision was rejected by the City Council. The Vote at Council was as follows:

M/S Aguilar/Land to deny the recommendation by the Planning Commission. The motion carried 3-2 by the following roll call vote:

AYES: Council Members: Aguilar, Land, Vierra

NOES: Council Members: Espinoza, Samra

But the El Diamante closed and the Restaurant planned for that location fizzled: which meant 444 Main Street would no longer be “negatively” impacted by the “1,000 ft. rule” any more.

Which left “parking” as the main issue to be resolved.

At the January 10th Planning Commission Meeting, when the Planning Commission Granted the CUP for 444 Main St.

Assistant City Attorney Minkler explained the action the Planning Commission just took is to modify the existing CUP for this site. It gives Mr. Sperry permission to sell alcohol by the glass as a bar and operate as a bar and it doesn’t impose any additional parking requirements.

So it seemed everything was falling into line for Mr. Sperry to have the building inspected, get his Business License, and get on with the process of opening his Club.

Until Mayor Espinoza filed his appeal that is: stating

There was an interesting decision taken by the Planning commission on Tuesday January 10, 2012 regarding CUP 2001-16 on 444 Main St. Since this item interest the community and it in involves our downtown, I think that the City Council should review it. I am requesting that this decision be appealed to the City Council for final decision.

So…Mr. Sperry finally gets his Conditional Use Permit from the Planning Commission and the Mayor want’s the decision moved to the City Council for review?

WHY?

Because it was an interesting decision?

I..am..s0..very..much..confused

Now…For the Planning Commission Agenda

{Note from TheGardeningSnail: This was produced by taking a PDF Image file, bouncing it through a Program that converts Image to Text, copying the text into the Blogging Software, than posting to the Internet. Soooooo if there happen to be any goofs, gaffs, and other Textual Gremlins, sorry bout that! And I’ve stuck a note here and there as well }

LIVINGSTON PLANNING COMMISSION

REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

FEBRUARY 14, 2012 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 Minutes from the December 13, 2011 regular meeting.

b. Action Minutes from the December 29, 2011 Special Meeting.

c. Action Minutes from the January 10, 2012 regular meeting with Report. (Note from TheGardeningSnail. This is in regards to an appeal of the decision to grant a Conditional Use Permit to 444 Main Street (formerly the Tequila Club)

Item No. 2 – City Council Update

a. Update of City Council items.

Item No. 3 – 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. 4 – Public Hearings

a. Site Plan/Design Review 2009-03, Conditional Use Permit 2009-03 and Development Agreement 2009-01. The Pacific Companies has applied for Site Plan/Design Review, a Conditional Use Permit and a Development Agreement for 49 affordable apartment units and a community center to be located on a 4 acre parcel (APN 047-310-028) just south of Peach Avenue and the canal on the west side of Lincoln Blvd.

b. Amendment 2011-08, Livingston Municipal Code (LMC) 5-3, Setbacks. The City Council asked the Planning Commission, through Resolution of Intent 2011-71 to take public comment, determine General Plan consistency, and make a recommendation to the City Council concerning an amendment to reduce residential rear yard setbacks from a minimum of fifteen (15) feet to a minimum of five (5) feet. The Planning Commission at their regular meeting of December 13, 2011 by 5-0 voted to recommend retaining the existing fifteen (15) foot rear yard setback. The City Council at their regular meeting of January 3, 2012 requested the Planning Commission review the materials again and make recommendation concerning the inclusion of a second story rear setback for the R-1 zoning district in addition to a revised first story setback.

Item No. 5 – Discussion and Direction

a. Provide staff direction concerning nonconforming uses and a Resolution of Intent. (Note from TheGardeningSnail: a property owner has a Highway Commercial (C-3) zoned parcel (APN 047-210-020, 2351 F Street) with nonconforming residential buildings/use that has been vacant for over six (6) months. Per City Code, the next use of the property must be a commercial use but the owner would like to sell it as a residential rental property)

Item No. 6 – Reports

a. Planning Commission

b. City Staff

c. City Attorney

Item No. 7 – Adjournment to regular meeting on March 13, 2012.

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 he appealed to the Livingston City Council by filing an appeal, in writing and paying the appropriate fees, with the City Clerk.

And for those of you who want to immerse yourself in even more Livingston’s Political History

A FEW FORM 700’S ABOUT WHO OWNS WHAT AND WHERE IN LIVINGSTON

2012 CITY COUNCIL Agendas and Meeting Minutes If you click on this link, you will be taken to a page where not only can you access the Agenda Packed, but also individual pages on each Agenda Item

2011 CITY COUNCIL Agendas and Meeting Minutes (I’ve got a few more things “linked up” since my last post. Might want to check and see if there is anything in the History that interests you.)

POLICE CHIEF RECRUITMENT CITY OF LIVINGSTON

2012-2012 City of Livingston Draft Budget

The “Mission of the Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee” Series

February 15, 2011 Discussion: Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee In Which the idea was first proposed for a Stakeholders Committee in which members would work with City Staff and Consultants

  • April 05, 2011: Discussion of Utility Rate Stakeholder Committee Member Appointments In which the people who would be working with City Staff and Consultants were chosen

  • June 07, 2011 Discussion of Utility Rate Committee Meeting In which it was revealed that the people who would be working with City Staff and Consultants already had their first  “get together”. But the public was not invited.

  • December 06, 2011 Change of Utility Rate Study Consultant Discussion In which it was revealed the City Manager ended the Contract with the “Council Approved” Consultant and sent out a Request for Proposal to look for a Brand New One.

  • January 24, 2012 Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee Meeting – At which the Committee postponed the selection of a New Utility Rate Study Consultant.

  • Out with the “Consultant #3, In with Consultant #4” Series

  • A FEW LETTERS, SUN-STAR & AND MIKE MCGUIRE ARTICLES ABOUT LIVINGSTON POLITICS (AND A FEW OTHER THINGS WORTHY OF NOTE)(THE LINKS HERE GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE 2008 ELECTION CYCLE)

    The 1995 Water Rate Resolution (Do you see anything in there that says “Industrial”?)

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

    Well #15 Enforcement Letter & Staff Report

    Well #15 Manganese Enforcement Letter Discussions

    How They Voted in 2011 (It’s still a Work In Progress. But I’m Working on it!)

    How They Voted in 2010

    How They Voted in 2009

    How They Voted in 2008

    How They Voted in 2007

    How They Voted in 2006.

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2010

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2009

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2008

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2007

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2006

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2005

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2004

    2010-2011 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2009-2010 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2008-2009 Interim Reports Merced County Civil Grand Jury Postscript to FY2007/2008 Grand Jury’s Report On The City of Livingston

    2007 2008 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2006-2007 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    An “Outrageous” Attorney’s Bill, A “Dead” Agency, and a City Council Agenda

     

    Thought he HATED that Anexation Proposal - Wonder What -or- Who Changed His MindFrom Livingston annexation appears on fast track

    THE WATER HAS BEEN BROWN TO RED SINCE THE LATE 60′S TO MID 70′S. THE OLD PIPES IN CERTAIN PARTS OF TOWN HAVE NEVER BEEN REPLACED. EVERY NEW CITY MANAGER THAT CAME IN AND LEFT, DID NOTHING TO REMEDY THIS. . EXCERPT FROM A COMMENT BY KARMA ONDIRTY SMELLY WATER ON TAP IN LIVINGSTON” – MERCED SUN STAR (EMPHASIS MINE)

    Oh and the manager also favor’s gallo too much. He wants the rancho san miguel to come in along with a slave mart. Those to are way too expensive for the locals and will not bring any outside taxes to the city. Terrible decicions. Yep those two stores won’t be packed. Hope they go away too. – Comment by Karma – Wal-Mart drops plans for supercenter in Livingston

    Have to admit…sometimes I really wonder how some people’s  minds work.

    More on that a little later. But first: It’s been a while since we’ve peeked into Delta Bravo Sierra Land…….

    I wasn't stationed in Germany - But I know someone who wasDon't you just hate traffic signs

    There’s strange, than there is “Army Strange” out in Delta Bravo Sierra Land: courtesy of Damon Shackelford: furious scribbler of military cartoons

    Ding! Dong! “Redevelopment” is Dead

    Redevelopment Agencies that is..

    Redevelopment Agencies were supposed to be about Getting-Rid-of-Blight and Cleaning-up-the-Neighborhood and Making-Life-Better-For-Us-All. (If you want, you can click here for more information on Livingston’s Redevelopment Agency)

    And the California Supreme Court just said the State of California can abolish those Agencies (and scarf up a bunch of tax money for itself – which is a whole ‘nuther issue)

    Now..for purposes of discussion here, I am not focusing on the “legal technicalities” or “financial technicalities” or “tax/revenue consequences to the City”, or  on which City Council member owns property within the confines of Livingston’s Redevelopment Agency.

    I’m just focus on what the actions of a Redevelopment Agency might “look like” to the average person.

    Say, for example, there are some “Old Run Down Buildings” on a Main Street.

    The Redevelopment Agency “buys” the land and buildings from the Property Owner than sells it to a New Owner who is supposed to build something Bright, Shiny, and New.

    Like a Rite Aide.

    Or…let’s say you own a House in the area of town zoned “Downtown Commercial”. You’re living in it (or renting it to someone who is living in it) and the City thinks it’s time for that house to turn into something “better, bright, shiny, and businessy”: like a Dentist Office, or…a Coffee Bar, or an Organic Bistro….or whatever…

    The Redevelopment could “buy” your house, than sell it to the Business Person who wanted to turn it into a Commercial Operation, Business, whatever…

    But…notice how I put “buys” in quotation marks?

    That’s cuz there was an “ugly underside” to the whole Redevelopment biz.

    That being…not everyone wanted to sell when Redevelopment Agencies came around looking to buy.

    And some Redevelopment Agencies had no problem with declaring even nice homes and parts of town as “blight” and using the power of  Eminent Domain to make that sale happen.

    Which earned Redevelopment Agencies the wrath of Property Rights Groups like The Castle Coalition. :Who argued that under California’s vaguely written Redevelopment Law, virtually any Property could be declared “Blighted”

    So, while City Governments may be bemoaning the demise of  Redevelopment Agencies, those property owners in the paths of Redevelopment Projects(ie: the ones that DON”T want to sell) are probably sighing in relief.

    I Thought Those “Outrageous” Attorney’s Fees Were All Supposed to Go Away after the recall.

    I was looking through the December 28, 2011 Warrant Register when I noticed the following……

    See That Line Item for Sperry Legal for 11-11 plng

    See that line Item of 11/11 plng? The one for “Sperry legal services”?

    In the amount of  $12,274.20? Yep…that one..

    At the November 08, 2011 Planning Commission Meeting, Mike Sperry gave a Presentation Concerning a Parking Plan  for  444 Main Street (The Tequila Club). What the presentation ended up amounting to was a request to waive all parking requirements, for the club, for at least 3 years.

    At the end of this meeting The Planning Commission agreed, by consensus, to bring back CUP 2001-16 (Mr. Sperry’s application) to their next meeting of Tuesday, December 13, 2011, for discussion and action.

    This was the Agenda Item for that meeting on December 13th 

     Review of CUP 2001-16,.444 Main Street. The bar at 444 Main Street has been closed for approximately seven years. The bar retains Conditional Use Permit 2001-16 for the sale of alcohol-by-the-glass in the 5,488 square foot building. Michael Sperry desires to open a bar at this site pursuant to his presentation to the Planning Commission on November 8, 2011. Pursuant to LMC Sections 5-6-1(D)(3) and 5-6-1(D)(5) the Planning Commission will consider whether to modify, revoke, or reapprove the CUP.

    There was also supposed to be a “field trip” to the building. But…lo and behold…it was announced that evening that that item was being postponed until (at least) the next Planning Commission Meeting.

    Now I did a little Math and calculated that the  $12,274.20 of Attorney’s Fees for the Sperry Application works out to about 56 “billable hours” of Attorney Time for an Agenda Item that was postponed at the last minute.

    And I can’t help but wonder if the people who were so incensed about “high attorney’s fees” before the recall will be even half  as angry now

    While I am still somewhat in the subject of “Pre Recal vs. Post Recal Logic and Reasoning”

    Back when the Recall Effort was in full swing, folks like Karma bashed the (then) City Manager (and certain Council Members) for just about anything and everything. If the Certain People at the time  were for something it, they were against it. And visa versa.

    BEFORE the Recall, Karma said "the (City) manager also favor’s gallo too much”.

    NOW there is a New Council and New City Manager, he calls Gallo’s project  a Visionary annexation.

    Makes me wonder if he, and those like him, really have their own opinions about Projects Like These, or if they are only Political Toys to be used to enhance their own Political Agendas.

    Now, I want to be clear about my point: each and every project that comes before the Public, the Planning Commission, and the City Council deserves to be heard and discussed upon it’s own individual merit.

    It’s when they become Political Clubs used to beat up upon Political Opponents, that  it just creates a Great Big Mess

    And we, the taxpayers, end up footing a Big Part of The Bill.

    Now, on to the

     

    clip_image002[3]

    CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

    JANUARY 3, 2012

    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 3, 2012, 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 in the City of Livingston City Hall Conference Room located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

    Closed Session

    1. Call to Order.

    2. Roll Call.

    CLOSED SESSION“Closed” or “Executive” Session of the City Council or the Livingston Redevelopment 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 Hall Conference Room 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

    A.

    1. Public Employee Appointment

    (Government Code Section 54957)

    Title: Chief of Police

    2. Conference with Legal Counsel—Potential Litigation

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

    Number of Cases: 1

    3. Conference with Labor Negotiator

    (Government Code Section 54957.6)

    Agency Negotiator: City Manager Jose Antonio Ramirez

    Employee Organizations: All Represented and Unrepresented City Employees

    Regular Meeting

    CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2012-1

    Next Ordinance Number: 598

    Pledge of Allegiance.

    Roll Call.

    Closed Session Announcements.

    Changes to the Agenda.

    AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

    GRANT ANNOUNCEMENTS

    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 2011-01 for the Taco Bell Project.

    2. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of an Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Livingston Municipal Code (LMC) 5-3 Setbacks, Setback Exceptions, Maximum Site Coverage and Maximum Floor Area Ratio Concerning Residential Rear Yards.

    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 Minutes of Meeting Held on December 5, 2011.

    4. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on December 6, 2011.

    5. Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 14, 2011.

    6. Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 28, 2011.

    DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

    7. Resolution Reappointing Luis Enrique Flores to the Planning Commission.

    ADJOURNMENT

    And for those of you who want to immerse yourself in Livingston’s Political History

    A FEW FORM 700’S ABOUT WHO OWNS WHAT AND WHERE IN LIVINGSTON

    2012 CITY COUNCIL Agendas and Meeting Minutes If you click on this link, you will be taken to a page where not only can you access the Agenda Packed, but also individual pages on each Agenda Item

    2011 CITY COUNCIL Agendas and Meeting Minutes (I’ve got a few more things “linked up” since my last post. Might want to check and see if there is anything in the History that interests you.)

    POLICE CHIEF RECRUITMENT CITY OF LIVINGSTON

    2012-2012 City of Livingston Draft Budget

    The “Mission of the Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee” Series

    Out with the “Consultant #3, In with Consultant #4” Series

    And Don’t Forget There’s a Search on for this Additional Consultant too…

    The “Brief History of How We Got Into This Mess” Series

    A FEW LETTERS, SUN-STAR & AND MIKE MCGUIRE ARTICLES ABOUT LIVINGSTON POLITICS (AND A FEW OTHER THINGS WORTHY OF NOTE) (THE LINKS HERE GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE 2008 ELECTION CYCLE)

    The 1995 Water Rate Resolution (Do you see anything in there that says “Industrial”?)

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

    Well #15 Enforcement Letter & Staff Report

    Well #15 Manganese Enforcement Letter Discussions

    How They Voted in 2011 (It’s still a Work In Progress. But I’m Working on it!)

    How They Voted in 2010

    How They Voted in 2009

    How They Voted in 2008

    How They Voted in 2007

    How They Voted in 2006.

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2010

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2009

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2008

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2007

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2006

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2005

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2004

    2010-2011 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2009-2010 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2008-2009 Interim Reports Merced County Civil Grand Jury Postscript to FY2007/2008 Grand Jury’s Report On The City of Livingston

    2007 2008 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2006-2007 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    A Brief History of Time About Utility Rates Part 8: A Change of Consultants: An Illegal 42’ Sewer Pipe; and a Special Planning Commission Meeting

    THE WATER HAS BEEN BROWN TO RED SINCE THE LATE 60′S TO MID 70′S. THE OLD PIPES IN CERTAIN PARTS OF TOWN HAVE NEVER BEEN REPLACED. EVERY NEW CITY MANAGER THAT CAME IN AND LEFT, DID NOTHING TO REMEDY THIS. . EXCERPT FROM A COMMENT BY KARMA ON “DIRTY SMELLY WATER ON TAP IN LIVINGSTON” – MERCED SUN STAR (EMPHASIS MINE)

    (The)Public Works Superintendent… commented that when they started monitoring the wells in 2004 for (TCP),…City Council was notified of it, then every year after that the public was notified, is all in a Consumers Report…. health language was included in those notices….there is a public health goal which is .7 parts per trillion which the City exceeds in every well. Also there is no maximum contamination level yet, but the state anticipates having one fairly soon which according to state terms could mean anywhere from 1-10 years… unfortunately the City water system could be impacted.AUGUST 02, 2011 Draft Minutes

    ‘’All of the wells have 123 TCP levels substantially above the public health goal and the highest levels of 123 TCP are from wells 8, 14 and 12. Well 15 has Manganese and Arsenic levels above the MCLs. Nitrate levels were above the MCL for wells 8 and 14. DBCP was detected above the reporting limit of 0.01 µg /l in wells 8, 9 and 14 and the remaining wells were non-detect for DBCP.”RFP – PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING SERVICES TO PREPARE A FEASIBILITY ANALYSIS REPORT FOR A CENTRALIZED WATER TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR THE CITY WATER SUPPLY

    Mayor Samra commented that the Council received this information at the same time as everyone else. He added that no one likes a price increase, but it will take time for the Council to digest the information presented.” JUNE 19, 2007, City Council Meeting Minutes

    Council Member Espinoza stated the Council will have to make a tough decision, but some type of action needs to be taken.January 15, 2008 City Council Draft Meeting Minutes

    Motion:  M/S Varela/Vierra to authorize the City Manager to advertise and schedule Proposition 218 Public Hearing.  The motion carried 5-0. – FEBRUARY 17, 2009City Council Draft Meeting Minutes

    Council Member Samra stated the Council had made a commitment, therefore, needed to move forward with the rate studies. March 1, 2011 City Council Draft Minutes

    And so we ended the contract a couple of weeks ago, and we’re currently, we sent out an RFP and that RFP is going to come to council with a Recommendation of a new Rate Consultant as it relates to that.  – Jose Antonio Ramirez: City Manager, City of Livingston: December 06, 2011 City Council Meeting

    Round and Round and Round we go. Where it will stop, does anybody know?.

    I’m going to invoke a bit of the Story Tellers License to tell you the tale of….

    The City of Livingston and the 4 Utility Rate Consultants

    Once upon a time, on  JUNE 19, 2007, The City Council (which comprised of Mayor Gurpal Samra, Mayor Pro-Tem William Ingram, Council Member Frank Vierra, Council Member Rodrigo Espinoza, and Council Member Roy Soria) had a presentation by Dan Bergman about Utility Rates. (Consultant #1)

    Council Member Espinoza commented that there have been many complaints about the water system and a rate increase is warranted to correct the problems.

    Council Member Soria agreed with Council Member Espinoza; however, he would like comments from the community and will follow their guidance.

    Mayor Pro-Tem Ingram complimented Mr. Bergmann on his presentation and commented that a rate increase is needed, but hopefully it will be a gradual increase.

    Regarding Foster Farms, Mayor Pro-Tem Ingram commented that Foster Farms should install water meters to monitor water usage, so they would only be billed for the water used.

    Mayor Samra commented that the Council received this information at the same time as everyone else. He added that no one likes a price increase, but it will take time for the Council to digest the information presented.” and also mentioned he hoped people would volunteer to be on a committee to study the rate increase proposals.

    Then, there was the Public Hearing on January 15, 2008

    City Manager Warne commented that this item was first presented for Council consideration in June 2007.

    Acting City Attorney Roger Peters explained how the rate increases would take place unless there is written protest.

    A slide presentation was given by Dan Bergmann, the consultant hired by the City to analyze the water rates.

    There were quite a few Public Comments on the subject. Then

    Council Member Soria commented that it is not easy to make a decision and that the rate increase will affect many senior citizens who live on fixed incomes. However, he pointed out that rates have not been raised in over 15 years and something needs to be done to pay for necessary improvements.

    Council Member Vierra commented he doesn’t understand why it took 15 years before considering a rate increase, but he realizes that something needs to be done. He suggested tabling this item to the next meeting.

    Council Member Espinoza stated the Council will have to make a tough decision, but some type of action needs to be taken.

    Mayor Pro-Tem Ingram stated that everything is going up, gas, etc,: however, he feels the Council needs to raise rate in small/slow increments. He realizes there are many residents, who live on fixed incomes, but action needs to be taken; however at a slower pace.

    Mayor Samra commented that making a decision is not easy for him and her agrees with all of his colleagues that something needs to happen. He said the Council will study this matter; however, not just the Council, but also the community at large needs to deal with the issue. Mayor Samra added that residents’’ concerns will be answered and he agrees that this item be continued.

    Motion: M/S Ingram/Soria to continue the Public Hearing to the Council’s regular meeting of February 5, 2008.

    At the February 5, 2008 City Council Meeting

    City Manager Warne recommended that this item be continued to the Council meeting of March 4, 2008, for further analysis of the water rates and citizen comments.

    Representatives from Carollo Engineers gave a slide presentation on the City’s water supply. The available water vs. demand and the master plan projects.

    And there were a few questions and public comments, and then it was

    Motion: MS Soria/Espinoza to continue the Public Hearing to the march 4, 2008, regular Council meeting. The motion carried 4-0-1.

    And at the March 4, 2008 City Council Meeting it was reported

    o Staff is still meeting with Foster Farms to come up with a solution for their water rates.

    o Livingston Union School District and Merced Union High School District moving forward with water meter installation.

    o Warren Urnberg suggests holding off on the rate increase until everyone is metered.

    and the

    o Public Hearing is continued to a future City Council meeting.

    Well, after the 2008 General Election, there was a Brand New City Council (Mayor Daniel Varela, Sr., Mayor Pro-Tem Rodrigo Espinoza, Council Member Frank Vierra, Council Member Margarita Aguilar, Council Member Martha Nateras),

    And “The City Attorney was directed to find someone she felt comfortable with their approach and methodology in order to comply with all federal, state laws and regulations relating to setting rates.”

    On FEBRUARY 17, 2009 there was a Brand New Presentation by a Brand New Consultant (Consultant #2: Sudhir Pardiwala, from Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc.,)

    Who gave a presentation on Water Rates

    And also gave a presentation on Waste Water and Solid Waste Rates

    And there were lots of comments, and lots of discussion

    And the Council Voted 5-0 to Go TO Hearing

    Now…Before the Hearing, there was an Information Meeting on March 26, 2009

    And the presentations were given again.

    And there were lots of comments and discussion

    And it was announced the Public Hearing would be on April 21st

    The APRIL 21, 2009 Meeting was a really, really long one.

    And the presentations were given again.

    And there were lots of comments and discussion

    And some Council Members indicated that there probably never would have been a Prop 218 Hearing any way if only, someone had told them beforehand it would have taken 4 votes to pass the rates instead of 3 (I’m still trying to figure out that “logic” by the way)

    And after that there was meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting, and the Lawyer was replaced, and the New Rates Were Adopted by a 3-2 vote, and the Lawsuits Happened, and there were appeals, and League of Cities actually joined in an appeal, and the Recall Happened, and the November Elections Happened, and the Rates Were Repealed, and the Appeal was Scrapped (while we were just waiting for the Ruling to come out)

    And Rate Study 2 was scrapped and Consultant Number 2 was dumped.

    And the Post Recal Council promised ever so ever much more “transparency”, and swore that everything, everything, EVERYTHING would be coming before them FIRST for approval: in Open Session of course)

    So a Brand New Request for Proposals was put out (with the Councils blessing of course) and three replies were received

    One from Dan Burgman

    One from Bartel Wells

    And one from the FCS Group

    And the Brand New City Council (who swore everything would be coming before them first: so the people could see the “transparancy”) gave their blessing to the contract with Bartel Wells. (Consultant #3)

    Then the Utility Rate Studies Committee was formed.

    And a binder of information was prepared.

    And a couple of “informational meetings” were held with Staff

    Then a Brand New City Manager was hired

    Who, lo and behold, ended the contract with Bartel Wells without disusing it first with the City Council (and getting their blessing) in Open Session. (Even though the City Council had sworn on multiple occasions that everything, everything everything, must go before them first so “the people” would have an opportunity to speak on the subject and see all the promised “transparency”: in Open Session of course)

    And he had a new Request for Proposals sent out for a Brand New Consultant, to do a Brand New Utility Rate Study, and do a Brand new Series of Prop 218 Hearings.

    So now we are up to Consultant #4 Now

    And according to the RFP that was sent out, the City will

    • Receive Proposals on January 10, 2012
    • Select the Firm on January 24, 2012
    • Complete Contract Negotiations by February 3, 2012
    • The City Council will Award the Contract on February 7, 2012
    • The Notice to Proceed will be issued on February 8, 2012

    And New Rate Studies will take at least a couple of months. Say March? April?

    And the Utility Rate Studies Committee will need to have their say too. Say April – May?

    Then there is all that 45 Day Public Noticing that has to happen before an Official Proposition 218 Meeting can be held.

    Which may put any Utility Rate Hearing Right around the time of the June 2012 Primaries, and the November 2012 Election Cycle.

    Which Kinda Begs a Few Questions

    What improvements to the infrastructure will be proposed now that that “fat” TCP Settlement Check has been Received?

    Will there ever be a truly “finished” Utility Rate Study?

    Will all the members of the City Council actually read the Study and Approve Rate Study Number 4?

    When, if ever, will a “real” meeting of the Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee be held?

    When, if ever, will the results of this FOURTH STUDY be presented in Open Session?

    And will it be a 5-0 vote to go to Hearing?

    Or will some members of the Council have such severe “problems” with the numbers that they will want to scrap it and start all over again?

    Will anything get done before the June Primaries and November General Election Cycle?

    and….

    JUST HOW MUCH HAS THIS NEVER ENDING CYCLE OF STUDIES AND CONSULTANTS COST US ANYWAY!!!!!

    About that “Illegal 42’ Sewer Pipeline”

    If you look at the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Gallo Project, as prepared by PMC, and scan down until you hit the top of page 2.0-2, you will find this innocuous sounding quote”

    If You Know Your History-You Know Just How Controversial This Sewer Trunk Line Is

    Now…. that 42’ pipe was a part of the whole 2025 General Plan Update mess, resulted in a Grand Jury Investigation, was part of the driving force behind a Lawsuit by the Farm Bureau, and in a way was partially responsible for a Judge telling the City to Redo Parts of the General Plan and EIR

    I’m not going to go into the whole thing right here, right now..

    But for the moment, I’ll give “the short, short, short version” which goes something it like this…

    This is the General Plan

    That Contained a Special Planning Area

    Which Pertained to a Developer

    Who Put in the Sewer Pipe

    Which worried the Farmer

    Who went to the Farm Bureau

    Who Sued the City of Livingston

    And forced some “re-does”
    In the General Plan Update..

    Which is, as of now, not “done”…..

    But Before We get to the Special Meeting Agenda, something to keep in the back of your mind

    From the City of Livingston Municipal Code

    Meetings

    LIVINGSTON PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING AGENDA

    DECEMBER 29, 2011 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. None.

    Item No. 2 – City Council Update

    a. Update of City Council items.

    Item No. 3 – 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. 4 – Public Hearings

    a. General Plan Amendment 2011-01 Annexation 2011-01, Prezone 2011-01 and Negative Declaration. Michael Gallo proposes a general plan amendment and to annex and prezone approximately 334.7 acres into the City of Livingston located north of Vinewood Avenue, west of Robin Avenue, south of HWY 99 and east of the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant.

    {Note From TheGardeningSnail. If you click on the link above, you will be able to review the complete agenda packet in PDF: which included the Staff Report, Resolution, and other attachments}

    Item No. 5 – Reports

    a. Planning Commission

    b. City Staff

    c. City Attorney

    Item No. 6 – Adjournment to regular meeting on January 10, 2012.

    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.

    A Few Form 700’s About Who Owns What and Where in Livingston

    2011 CITY COUNCIL Agendas and Meeting Minutes (I’ve got a few more things “linked up” since my last post. Might want to check and see if there is anything in the History that interests you.)

    Police Chief Recruitment City of Livingston

    2012-2012 City of Livingston Draft Budget

    The “Mission of the Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee” Series

    Out with the “Consultant #3, In with Consultant #4”

    And Don’t Forget There’s a Search on for this Additional Consultant too…

    The “Brief History of How We Got Into This Mess” Series

    A Few Letters, Sun-Star & and Mike McGuire Articles about Livingston Politics (and a few other things Worthy of Note) (The links here go all the way back to the 2008 Election Cycle)

    The 1995 Water Rate Resolution (Do you see anything in there that says “Industrial”?)

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

    Well #15 Enforcement Letter & Staff Report

    Well #15 Manganese Enforcement Letter Discussions

    How They Voted in 2011 (Granted, it’s a Work in Process, but there are links to things there you might be interested in.)

    How They Voted in 2010

    How They Voted in 2009

    How They Voted in 2008

    How They Voted in 2007

    How They Voted in 2006

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2010

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2009

    City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2008

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2007

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2006

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2005

    City Council Meeting Minutes for 2004

    2010-2011 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2009-2010 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2008-2009 Interim Reports Merced County Civil Grand Jury Postscript to FY2007/2008 Grand Jury’s Report On The City of Livingston

    2007 2008 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

    2006-2007 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report