So You Think You Can Govern in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway….back to my main point.

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

With a few references to the consequences thereof….

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

  • The Recall, and Water Rates,

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

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

  • Arsenic Levels in the Drinking Water

  • The Water Rate Increase that was finally passed

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

  • The impact of the Drought

  • The relationship between Foster Farms and The City

  • Multiple lawsuits against the City

  • And so on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget Variance - 2013-2014 Proposed Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Rodrigo Espinoza (Mayor),

  • Gurpal Samra (Mayor Pro-Temp),

  • David Mendoza (Brother of Mario Mendoza)

  • Arturo Saciaros,

  • Jim Soria. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess it just depends on whose running.

Or whose not…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which meant

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

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

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

  • Alex McCabe was in 4th place

  • Mario Mendoza placed 5th

  • And so on down the line

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

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

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

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

  • Mayor – Currently held by Jim Soria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 QUARTER AVERAGE: As is this example.

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

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

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

  • The Range would be 8.5 – 11 Parts Per Billion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1,2,3, TCP

Industrial

A-1 Zoning

Industrial Wastewater

AB 1234

Infrastructure

Allowed Use

Joint Use

Assessed Property Values

LAFCO

Audit

Light Industrial

Audit Report

Litigation

Bank Owned Properties

Long-Term Debt Obligations

Benefit Assessment District

Low Density Residential

Breach of Contract

MAGPI

Brown Act

Master Plan

Budget

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)

California Public Records Act

MCAG

Capital Improvements

Medium Density Residential

Capital Projects Fund

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Cash Pool

Mitigated Negative Declaration

Centralized Water Treatment

Mixed Use

CEQA

Modified Accrual Method of Accounting

Citizens Advisory Committee

Municipal Code

Citizens Service Committee

Notice of Action

City Limits

Notice of Violation

City Manager Form of Government

Notice of Preparation (NOP)

Closed Session

Notification Level

Code

Nuisance Abatement

Code Enforcement Officer

Obligation Payment Schedule

COLA

Open Meetings Law

Commercial

Open Session

Commission

Open Space Reserve

Common Sense

Operating Deficit

Community

Operation and Maintenance

Community Commercial

Ordinance

Community Development Block Grant

Percolation ponds

Community Facilities District

Permitted Use

Community Service

Planning Commission

Community Values

Prevailing Union Wage Law

Community Vision

Primary Drinking Water Standards

Confidentiality

Proposition 218 Hearing

Conflict of Interest

Public Comments

Consent Calendar

Public Document Request

Constituent

Qualified Audit Opinion

Contract

Quorum

Cooperation

Recusal

Department

Redevelopment Area

Development Impact Fees

Reflective Listening

Detection Level

Regional Sewage Treatment Facility

Domestic Wastewater

Response to the Grand Jury

Easements

Restricted Fund

Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF)

Retainer

Enterprise Zone

Revenue

Environmentally Superior Alternative

Revenue Sharing

Errors and Omissions

right-of-way

Excused Absence

Secondary Drinking Water Standards

Expenditure

Serial Meeting

Fiduciary Funds

Shared Use

Fiduciary Responsibility

Site Design Review

Fiscal Impact

Special Planning Area

Fiscal Year

Special Revenue Fund

Fixed Assets

Sphere of Influence

Form 700

Strike expense

Fund

Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency

Fund Balance

Tax Sharing Agreement

General Fund

The Illegal 42′ Sewer Pipe

General Plan

 

Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP)

Union

Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

Unqualified Audit Opinion

Government Code

Unrestricted Fund

Grand Jury Report

Urban Reserve

Grievance

Warrant Register

Hearing

Wellhead Treatment

Heritage Tree Ordinance

Work in Lieu

High Density Residential

Workers Compensation

Highway Commercial

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

Thank You.

Advertisements

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

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

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

Livingston, CA 01/05/2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a mess.

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

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

  1. Amending the Watering Ordinance – ADOPTED May, 2014

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

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

  3. Planning Fees Increases – PENDING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    2. Project Scheduled to have begun on November 16

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

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

  10. AB1600 Draft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  15. Well #17 CBDG Grant Project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Exact Current Water Level data not available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. No info on this yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition to the above

Downtown Beautification Project

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

  • Expected construction in early 2016

Recruitment of a New Public Works Director – ON HOLD

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

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

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

Decommissioning the ponds at the old (Foster Farms) IWWTP

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

Winton Parkway Development Projects: Motel 6 and any others

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

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

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

Why do I feel this way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works out to about $49,302

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

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

THEN Mr. Duque would get NOTHING

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

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

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

  • Prohibit Commercial Grows

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

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

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

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

    • subject to certain other restrictions

For more details, CLICK HERE to read the entire Resolution

CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

JANUARY 5, 2016

CLOSED SESSION: 6:00 P.M.

OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

 

Notice is hereby given that the City Council will hold a Regular Meeting on January 5, 2016, at the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Deputy City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to this meeting at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 121. Any writings or documents pertaining to an Open Session item provided to a majority of the members of the legislative body less than 72 hours prior to the meeting shall be made available for public inspection at Livingston City Hall, 1416 C Street. The Open Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held in accordance with state law prior to the Open Session beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

 

Closed Session

 

1. Call to Order.

2. Roll Call.

CLOSED SESSION

 

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

3. Public Employee Appointment

(Government Code Section 54957)

Title: Interim City Manager

4. Conference with Labor Negotiator

(Government Code Section 54957.6)

Agency Negotiator: City Attorney Jose M. Sanchez

Unrepresented Employee: Interim City Manager

5. Public Employee Appointment

(Government Code Section 54957)

Title: City Manager Recruitment

6. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

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

Number of Cases: 1

 

Regular Meeting

 

CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2016-01

Next Ordinance Number: 626

 

Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call.

Closed Session Announcements.

Changes to the Agenda.

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

 

Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.

City Staff Announcements and Reports.

City Manager Announcements and Reports.

City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.

Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

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

 

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

 

CITIZEN COMMENTS

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

 

CONSENT CALENDAR

 

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

 

3. Approval of Warrant Register Dated December 10, 2015.

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

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

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

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

Livingston, CA – 04/22/2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which would

· Maintain safe and reliable drinking water for the community

and

· Address customer complaints

via the

Implementation of regular maintenance of the system

and that the

Program will use conventional flushing

1) System wide flushing

2) Spot flushing for specific cases

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

· Flushing Plan

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

– Flushing duration shall last 5-10 minutes

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

In addition

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

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

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

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

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

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

The MARCH 3, 2015 CLOSED SESSION included

  • 1 Case of Potential Litigation

  • Continued Labor Negotiations with All Represented and Unrepresented City Employees

  • Continued Discussion of City Manager Recruitment

During OPEN SESSION on MARCH 3:

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

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

CONSENT CALENDAR

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

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

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

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

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

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

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

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

ADJOURNMENT

The MARCH 17, 2015 CLOSED SESSION Included discussions about:

  • 1 Case of Potential Litigation

  • Continued Labor Negotiations with All Represented and Unrepresented City Employees

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

CITIZEN COMMENTS

During the OPEN SESSION of MARCH 17, 2015:

CONSENT CALENDAR

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

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADJOURNMENT

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.

Arsenic, TCP and Salmonella; Lawsuits and Politics; A Look Back at 2014 and A City Council Agenda

LIVINGSTON CALIFORNIA – 2/01/2015

A Livingston public works employees union recently questioned the mayor’s friendly relationship with Mendoza, in addition to accusing Mendoza of harassment.– Espinoza, however, said his friendship with Mendoza had nothing to do with him getting invited to China. “We’ve been friends, and we talk once in a while, but that didn’t play a part,” the mayor said. from Livingston council questioned over China trip – Ramona – Merced Sun Star – 12/03/2014

“There is an urgent need to have Well 16 back on-line in the near future to meet the City’s water demands that will likely increase in the Spring and Summer.” From STAFF REPORT -  Resolution Approving an Agreement with Shannon Pump for Sampling and Repairs to Well 16, Making Findings Supporting that Award of Such Agreement is Exempt from Competitive Bidding Requirements and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute the Agreement. MEETING DATE: February 18, 2014

Approximately 18,267 sq. ft of land is needed to locate the treatment facilities at the existing Well No. 8. The adjacent property (APN 024-020-023 and 029) is owned by Foster Farms.  From  STAFF REPORT  AGENDA ITEM: Resolution Authorizing the Purchase of Land Needed for the Installation of Water Treatment Facilities at the City Water Supply Well No. 8, Approval of the Appraisal Report Prepared by The Thomas Wilkins Company, and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute the Agreement with Foster Farms for the Purchase of the Land.  MEETING DATE: May 21, 2013

One of the city’s largest water wells previously plagued by a major contaminant now runs with a new filtration system, city officials announced this week…….The upgraded well, located on Livingston Cressey Road, near the Foster Farms plant, was chosen because water drawn from it contains high levels of TCP contamination, said Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra…. The well pumps 1,200 gallons of water per minute to the city, with the majority used by Foster Farms. Livingston water well receives $2.3 million filter system – Ramona Giwargis – The Merced Sun Star – 12/30/2014

Without Livingston, there is no Foster Farms, and without Foster Farms, there is no Livingston. Those were the words of Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra as he explained the company’s impact on the city. Samra joined Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza and Councilman Arturo Sicairos in presenting Foster Farms CEO Ron Foster with a commemorative key to the city Tuesday night. From Livingston city officials present Foster Farms with key to city – Ramona Giwargis – Modesto Bee -07/16/2014

This is not an all inclusive discussion of everything that happened in Livingston during 2014. It is only a brief look at what I consider some of the more significant historical and political happenings in the City of Livingston.

preparing-to-take-down-the-marqueeCOURT THEATER IS DEMOLISHED – Another sad chapter in Livingston’s History has ended with the destruction of the Court Theater.  In 2001, the City had purchased the Court Theater with the high hopes of restoring the Theater and transforming it into a Cultural Arts Center . In 2005, the City received a Community Development Block Grant: which it used to complete Architectural Drawings in 2008.

But between trouble getting enough additional financing, accusations in 2010 that Police and Fire Department budgets were cut to finance the project, and the deterioration of the relationship between City Council Members, the Court Theater Committee in 2011, it became pretty clear the Court Theater Project was doomed.

The City was able to salvage some of the Grant Money it had received by getting permission from the State to use these funds for improvements at Gallo Park.

The City also made attempts to save the Theater’s Marquee, Ticket Booth, and Sign.

WITHOUT LIVINGSTON, THERE IS NO FOSTER FARMS, AND WITHOUT FOSTER, THERE IS NO LIVINGSTON – In a previous post, I talked about the Symbiotic and Sometimes Dysfunctional Relationship between Foster Farms and the City of Livingston. Since Foster Farms is the largest consumer of water in Livingston: using at up to 66% of the water produced from Livingston’s wells, it can’t help but have a large influence on the size and condition of Livingston’s Water Delivery System.

Most of you remember that 2013 ended with Foster Farms coming under intense scrutiny due to an outbreak of antibiotic resistant Salmonella. This continued into 2014 as Livingston braced for fallout from an idled Foster Farms .  Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro reacted to the closing of the plant due to roaches as “long overdue.”: pushing for action against the company. Three days after federal inspectors shut it down Foster Farms got the OK to reopen plant only to shut it down again a day after reopening in order to expand safety procedures.

As the number sickened by salmonella outbreak rose to 430, according to government reports Foster Farms reopened the plant after a 10-day closure. And while Salmonella cases continued to grow, Foster Farms noted progress with it’s safety and prevention efforts

By April salmonella cases linked to Foster Farms, were reported to have grown to 524 people in 25 states and Puerto Rico.

May 2014 brought a couple of interesting developments. In Virginia, Foster Farms, in conjunction with Marketing & Planning Specialists LP, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the EPA improperly applied the Clean Water Act on land they wish to develop. In California, Foster Farms blamed and sued its exterminator for cockroaches.

The Months of June saw Foster Farms celebrating its 75th anniversary.  Meanwhile, in Congress, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill called the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act: which would require the USDA to recall meat, poultry and egg products contaminated by pathogens that cause serious illnesses or death and that are also resistant to two or more classes of antibiotics commonly used to treat human illnesses

In July, Foster Farms received the Key To The City of Livingston from Livingston’s Officials;  issued its first voluntary chicken recall since 2013 salmonella outbreak ; updated the recall to include additional "use or freeze by" and "best by" dates; and sued its insurance companies for recall reimbursement in ‘cockroach infestation’ “arguing that the forced closure of a plant earlier this year by the government and subsequent destruction of chicken amounted to a recall”.

By July 31, The Center for Disease Control said the salmonella outbreak appeared to be over. In September Foster Farms recalled chicken from Louisiana due to possible contamination by Listeria.

In October Ron Foster announced he would step down as Foster Farms President and CEO.

In November, a billboard scrutinizing Foster Farms was set up: an indication that Foster Farms still has a ways to go before things settle down to “business as usual.”

WITHOUT LIVINGSTON’S WATER, WHAT WOULD BECOME OF FOSTER FARMS?

Impact on Foster Farms

Without the “low cost” water coming from Livingston’s wells, there would be no Foster Farms as we know it today. I’ve already mentioned the Symbiotic and Sometimes Dysfunctional Relationship between Foster Farms and the City of Livingston and how Foster Farms is the largest consumer of Livingston’s water.

In 2014, The City of Livingston purchased land from Foster Farms, in order to have enough room to install a TCP Filtration system on a well that sends most of it’s water to Foster Farms. 

I have also noted that, in the long run, Foster Farms would need to address an issue much larger than cockroaches and salmonella: that of having enough water that meets State and Federal Drinking Water Standards.

It is no secret, to those who have been paying attention, that Livingston’s Water Delivery system has been degrading over time. Arsenic levels have been rising and Foster Farms had to shut down at least 1 shift in February 2013 due to problems with water quality

In December, 2013, California River Watch served the City of Livingston with a 60-Day Notice of Violations and Intent to File Suit alleging various violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. This was followed up with a Complaint against the City in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California, Case No. 1:14-CV-00437-AWI-MJS. In June 12, 2014, this was followed by a 90-Day Notice of Violations and Intent to File Suit alleging various violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. 

A Settlement Agreement and Release was signed in September 2014. Some of the agreed upon actions to be taken by the City include:

  • Well 13Install and operate wellhead treatment for Arsenic at Well No. 13 no later than June 1, 2016.

  • Continue monitoring for Arsenic at Well No. 13 consistent with federal Safe Drinking Water Act and California Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.

  • Well 8-9(b) Install and operate wellhead treatment for 1,2,3 Trichloropropane (“TCP”) at Well No. 8 no later than January 1, 2015.

  • Within six (6) months after the Effective Date of the Agreement, post on its website information regarding the City’s efforts to address TCP in drinking water.

  • on a semi-annual basis, provide inserts in its utility bills that provide information on efforts to address TCP.

  • update its website and the utility bill inserts, as needed, to reflect current
    information.

In January, Governor Brown had declared a drought emergency, and urged residents to reduce water consumption by 20 percent

Shortly thereafter, the Livingston City Council voted to ban outside watering on certain days of the week. “City leaders said the plan has been in the works the past few years, but was given a new sense of urgency after the governor declared a drought on Friday.”

Well 16In February, the Livingston council approved an urgent contract for repairs at Well #16 

In April, the City Council voted to begin the Proposition 218 Process for Water rate increase. Notices about Livingston rate increases went out the following Friday .  Meetings were held at which the new Rate Structure was discussed

In June the Livingston council approved utility rate increases and also approved a contract for emergency repairs to a damaged main pipe at the wastewater treatment plant . It should be noted that the Water Rate Increases adopted by the City of Livingston assume that Grants and Low/No Interest Loans from the State Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund will fund the majority of Repairs/Upgrades to Livingston’s Wells and Water Delivery System over the next 5 years: any loans to be paid back over the next 20 to 30 years.

In September, the City received a Notice of Violation from the Water Board regarding the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant for not meeting certain testing and reporting requirements.

Well 8-9Well 11 - 15In November, there was discussion about wells #11 and #9 having been taken offline because of sand causing problems with Foster Farms: overwhelming their filters.

By the end of December, the TCP Filtration System on Well #8 was up and running; and the City Council approved the purchase of Arsenic Filtration equipment to be eventually installed on Well #13. As I mentioned earlier, installing filtration on both of these wells was covered in the Settlement Agreement between the City of Livingston and California River Watch.

BUDGETS,  CONCESSIONS, AND DEFICITS

Although the 2013/2014 Fiscal Year began back in JULY 2013, the Budget for that year wasn’t adopted until March 2014. This budget included salary reductions and other concessions from employees

The 2014/2015 Fiscal Year was barely over in June before the Budget for the Next Year Fiscal year was predicted to be $146,000 in the hole. Employees were again asked for a 7 percent pay cut: which was rejected.

In JULY a Memorandum of Understanding and a Side Letter Concessions Agreement between the City of Livingston and the City of Livingston Management and Confidential Employees Association was adopted. Terms included:

  • One furlough day per month

  • 1% pay decrease effective July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015

  • $100 per month medical contribution per member

  • freezing 40 hours of vacation cash outs.

In August, the City Council adopted a budget which included a deficit of $44,000. The Council also considered the topic of planning fee increases. The leader of the Public Works Employees union expressed frustration over the way labor negotiations were being handled

A Resolution Approving a Successor Memorandum of Understanding Between the City of Livingston and the Livingston Police Officers’ Association (LPOA) OE3 Unit for the Period of January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015 was approved in December of 2014.

A Memorandum of Understanding for the AFSCME Public Works and Parks Employees Unit for the period July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 was not approved until January 2015 and included one (l) furlough per month, freezing 20 hours of vacation cash­ outs effective July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 and contributions of $75 per month towards medical insurance premiums.

MAYOR’S TERMS, “POLITICS”, FIREWORKS, AND “FAVORITISM”

IN JANUARY, the Livingston City Council approved a ballot measure which would EXTEND THE MAYOR’S TERM of office from two years to four: in order to maintain “institutional knowledge” on the council according to Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra, who had placed this item on the Agenda.

A previous ballot measure in 2006, Measure C, had asked Livingston voters if they wanted their mayors to have a two year or a four-year term. By about 66 of the vote, the term for mayor was limited to two-years. In 2006, voters said “no” to a 4-year term for mayor. Voters said “no” again in 2014. Voters said “no” again in 2014

IN JANUARY, The Council also discussed changing the way Fireworks Booth Permits were distributed by the city. Directions given to Staff was to include language in an Ordinance that would allow the City Council the ability to award the “COUNCIL’S CHOICE” to the Livingston Youth Football Organization for (2) CONSECUTIVE YEARS.  According to Youth Football Coach and City Council member Jim Soria, he had placed the Item on the January 21, City Council Agenda. According to Council Member Soria, the recent death of Mike Coronado created a Special Circumstance which justified giving Youth Football priority other non-profit organizations.

There was another discussion of the proposed Ordinance on February 18, and March 04: along with a fair share of criticism, replete with allegations of favoritism.

The actual Issuance of Permits to Sell Safe and Sane Fireworks took place on April 15th. Although Mayor Pro-Tem Samra made a motion to put all applications in a lottery,  Council Member Jim Soria’s “push to award a fireworks stand to a nonprofit for which he volunteers proved successful” by a 2-1 vote.

Allegations of “favoritism” was not limited out to just the handing out of Fireworks Booth Permits.  One of Livingston’s unions alleged acts  sexual harassment were committed by the City’s Public Works Supervisor.   “the union began receiving numerous complaints about his leadership, leading to a vote of no confidence signed by 11 employees in May” in addition to (allegations that) “Mendoza has an inappropriate relationship with Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza, allowing the mayor to have preferential treatment on projects related to his property.”

And although Mayor Espinoza claimed favoritism was not a factor when he picked who would travel with him to China , it couldn’t prevent questions from being raised. Public Works Supervisor Ruben Mendoza also went on the trip: in addition to Council Member Jim Soria, and City Manager Jose Ramirez. According to the Mayor Espinoza “I got invited through a friend and former mayor of Lathrop,” and was asked to invite 10 other people.

2014 WAS AN ELECTION YEAR with two seats “up for grabs” on the City Council, and also had it’s fair share of controversy.  A photograph circulated by Mayor Pro-Temp Gurpal Samra elicited claims of “dirty politics” and slander by by his opponent: Planning Commissioner Mario Mendoza. 

THE CITY MANAGER ANNOUNCED HIS INTENTION TO RESIGN during a Special City Council Meeting in DECEMBER. According to the City Attorney, the Report out of Closed Session, as stated by the City Attorney, was as follows:

Tonight in Closed Session, the City Manager informed the City Council that he is resigning from his employment with the City.  Mr. Ramirez has elected to resign to pursue personal and professional opportunities outside of the region.

The City Council on a vote of 4-0-1 (Council Member Mendoza was not present) has accepted the City Manager’s resignation and has agreed to waive the 60 days’ notice provision in the City Manager’s contract. 

The City Manager’s last day of employment with the City will be January 31st

Mr. Ramirez has expressed his willingness to continue to assist the City with current projects and to assist in the City’s transition to a new City Manager.  The City will be working with Mr. Ramirez to accomplish this

And now, on to the

CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

FEBRUARY 3, 2015

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 February 3, 2015, at the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Deputy City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to this meeting at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 121. Any writings or documents pertaining to an Open Session item provided to a majority of the members of the legislative body less than 72 hours prior to the meeting shall be made available for public inspection at Livingston City Hall, 1416 C Street. The Open Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held in accordance with state law prior to the Open Session beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

Closed Session

1. Call to Order.

2. Roll Call.

CLOSED SESSION

A “Closed” or “Executive” Session of the City Council or the 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 Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Any public comment on Closed Session items will be taken before the Closed Session. Any required announcements or discussion of Closed Session items or actions following the Closed Session will be made in the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California.

3. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

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

Number of Cases: 2

4. Public Employee Appointment

(Government Code Section 54957)

Title: City Manager

City Manager Recruitment

5. Conference with Labor Negotiator(Government Code Section 54957.6)

Labor Negotiator: Interim City Manager Odi Ortiz Employee Organizations: All Represented City Employees

Regular Meeting

CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2015-3

Next Ordinance Number: 623

Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call.

Changes to the Agenda.

AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

1. Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza – Presentation of Key to the City plaques to members of Grupo Musical Los Kinos for their continuous contributions to the Livingston community.

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.

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.

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

3. Approval of Minutes of Meeting Held on December 16, 2014.

4. Approval of Warrant Register Dated January 29, 2015.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

5. Resolution Appointing Odilon Ortiz as Interim City Manager and Approving a Second Amendment to the Employment Agreement between the City of Livingston and Odilon Ortiz.

6. Resolution Approving the First Amendment and Restatement to Agreement for Employment between the City of Livingston and Ruben Chavez for the Position of Police Chief.

7. Vacancies and Appointments to the Livingston Planning Commission.

8. Council Accept and Authorize Temporary Outsourcing of City’s Street Sweeping Services with Gilton Solid Waste.

9. Discussion Regarding Changes to the DTC Zone.

10. Discussion Item: Consideration of Changing the City Logo Slogan from “The Last Stop” to “Sweet Potato Capital of the World.”

11. Discussion Item: Twelve Acres of Industrial Land at the Max Foster Sports Complex.

ADJOURNMENT

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

LIVINGSTON, CALIFORNIA 01/13/2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~~~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Returning to the Staff Report, we find

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that problem has to do with Livingston’s Water

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

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

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

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

As will the residents of the City of Livingston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And THAT news goes National.

Then what?

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

And Now On To The

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

CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS, 1416 C STREET, LIVINGSTON

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

Call to Order: 7:00 PM

Roll Call – Chairperson/Commissioners Pledge of Allegiance

Item No. 1- Consent Agenda

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

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

Item No. 2 – Public Comment

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

Item No. 3 – Public Heariugs

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

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

Item No. 4 – Reports

a. Planning Commission

b. City Staff

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

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

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

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

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

TCP-1,2,3, Iron and Manganese and TCP, Oh My!

Tainted water disrupted poultry production at Foster Farms last week, and city officials are trying to find out what caused it. Discolored Water disrupts production at Foster Farms, Mike North, Merced Sun star, 02/27/2013

The city is working to identify the source of the iron and manganese, (City Manager Ramirez) said, adding that the problem could be one well, several wells or linked to a certain area of the city.Ibid

Earlier this year the city was notified by the California Department of Public Health that one of its wells failed to comply with drinking water standards. Well 15’s water had a higher-than-allowed for level of manganese….In a notice letter, the state said the city must begin the process of buying a filter for the pump’s water or face fines of up to $1,000 a day….The estimated cost for a filter is $1 million, Livingston forced to pay for well filter , Jonah Owen Lamb, Merced Sun Star, 11/19/2009

Motion: M/S Vierra/Nateras to move forward with well-head filtering treatment for manganese in Well #15, inform the State of the City’s decision, and authorize the City Engineer to begin to work with the State to determine the most appropriate treatment process. The motion carried 4-1, with Council Member Espinoza voting no.City of Livingston Draft Meeting Minutes, 07/07/2009

Council Member Espinoza commented that Livingston’s General Fund has already paid the Water Enterprise Fund deficit of $1.3 to $1.5 million. Therefore, the Water Enterprise Fund does not have a deficit.  – Ibid

The city of Livingston broke state law and health codes when it adopted a resolution that will increase water rates by an initial 40 percent.…The suit also claims the company will be negatively impacted by the city’s July 7 resolution and demands that the court order the city to rescind the increase. Foster Farms sues Livingston over water rate increase, Jonah Owen Lamb, Merced Sun Star, 07/29/2009

In numerous meetings Warne has said the city needed to raise utility rates since it was borrowing from the general fund, not restricted funds, to pay for the deficits in restricted utility funds, such as the water fund. Foster Farms Files Suit Against Livingston, Jonah Owen Lamb, Merced Sun Star, 01/27/2010

M/S Aguilar/Urnberg to adopt Resolution No. 2010-56, Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Repealing Resolution No. 2009-32 (Resolution of the City Council of the City of Livingston Establishing Water Service Rates). The motion carried 4-1 by the following roll call vote:

The city spent about $1 million on legal fees battling the lawsuit brought on by Foster Farms, which uses about 63 percent of the water in Livingston, Lewis said, Lawsuit against Livingston dropped, Mike North, Merced Sun Star 04/07/2011

Ramirez said the issue was a costly one for Foster Farms, as supervisors had to shut down a shift, but King said they kept most employees at work despite stopping processing in one of Foster Farms’ two processing plants. Discolored Water disrupts production at Foster Farms, Mike North, Merced Sun star, 02/27/2013

So the issue was a costly one for Foster Farms and the city is NOW “working to identify the source of the iron and manganese”?

Uh huh. Yeah. Right. Gotta get that water cleaned up pronto now.

More on that a little later. But first.

1234

Ah me…even when it comes to matters of the heart, There’s Strange and then there is Army Strange. Courtesy of Damon Shackelford: furious scribbler of military cartoons.

FROM THE JOINT HOMETOWN NEWS SERVICE, Fort Meade MD

RamirezAir Force Airman Fernando Ramirez graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas…The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Ramirez is the son of Alfredo and Adelaida Ramirez of Black Pine Way, Livingston.

He is a 2011 graduate of Livingston High School.

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS FREE THROW CHAMPIONS

Fresno-20130223-00069Three(3) girls from Livingston ages 10 to 14, were named Chapter Champions of the Knights of Columbus Council 9363 Free Throw Championship: held recently at the Livingston Middle School Gymnasium. The Chapter level included cities from Livingston to Hanford in the Central Valley and the Mountains.

Chapter Champions were 10-year-old Gursimar Sidhu , 11 year olds Grace Chavez and 14 year old girls champion and Gurpreet Sodhi.

Each contestant attempted 25 free throws in the contests. All ties were settled by successive rounds of five free throws per contestant until a winner emerged.

Each of these winners will compete in the STATE LEVEL. Contestants will have the opportunity to advance to National level.

The State Championship will be held on March 10 at in Paso Robles, California.

Pictured are winners from left to right Gursimar Sidhu, Gurpreet Sodhi, and Grace Chavez along with event organizer Joey Chavez.

For more information, Contact: Ramon Avila 209-250-6032

 

DOES ANYONE REALLY THINK THE “UGLY BROWN WATER” PROBLEM IS A NEW ONE?

Or is it more likely a symptom of a growing problem with Livingston’s deteriorating Water System?

As all the while certain members of the City Council insist publically that no such problems exist.

For example: Well #15 (the well by the Winton Parkway Exit) has been a source of high concentrates of Manganese for YEARS.

At the July 7, 2009 City Council meeting, a Staff Report about an Enforcement Letter from the State about Well #15 was included in Council Members’ Agenda Packets.

The Staff reported stated the State was giving the City two options:

1. Install a Treatment System on the well  (I’ll call this the “We don’t want Manganese in our water. Yes! Fix the well. Clean up the water!” Option.

2. Apply for a waiver from the State (I’ll Let’s call this the “Having Manganese in our water sucks. But we are willing to put up with it”)  Option

To make a long story short, the Council voted 4/1 to go forward with the “Fix the well! Clean up the water!” Option.

Those of us who have been following Livingston’s Water Quality Issues closely knows what happened over the next few months: a battle over “Unnecessary and Unwarranted Water Rate Increases”, a Recall, a New Council, the rollback 0f Rates to 1995 levels, and a new batch of consultants.

With even higher projections about how much it is going to cost to address all of Livingston’s Water Quality Issues now.

Seems to me that “identifying the source of the problem” is the least of Livingston’s worries.

It’s scrounging up enough money to fix everything that needs fixing that’s going to be the real problem to solve.

FOR MORE ABOUT WELL #15’S MANGANESE ISSUES

To read the Staff Report and Enforcement Letter from the State that was included in the July 7, 2009 City Council Agenda Packet CLICK HERE 

To read the Draft Minutes from the July 7, 2009 City Council Meeting and get a really good idea about how certain Council Members felt about Well #15’s “issues”, CLICK HERE

SINCE WE ARE ON THE TOPIC OF WATER QUALITY “ISSUES”

A memorandum sent from a consultant to City Engineer Nanda Gottiparthy last week notes that 1,2,3-trichloropropane, a highly toxic chemical that’s made its way into Livingston’s drinking water supply, has been detected in every city well……The contaminant can pose a serious threat to public health and is mainly concentrated in well No. 8…….Often used in the production of pesticides, TCP is a man-made chemical that can cause cancer, kidney failure and tumors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All Livingston Wells Contaminated, Mike North, Merced Sun Star

According to the article referenced above, most of the TCP is concentrated in well No. 8, which is by Foster Farms. (ouch!)

Meeting AgendaOn Monday, March 03, 2013, the Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee will meet in the City Hall Conference room at 5:30. Two of the Water Quality Issues that are “impacting” Foster Farms will be discussed: 

  • The Icky Iron Manganese in the water Issue

  • The TCP 1,2,3 in Well No. 8 Filtration Project

Given that Richie King, Vice President of Chicken Production at Foster Farms is a voting member of this committee, it could be quite the interesting discussion indeed.

Did I mention that these meetings are open to the public?

I’m going to that meeting. Wish you would too.

And now on to the

CONCURRENT MEETING

CITY COUNCIL AND SUCCESSOR AGENCY TO THE REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY OF THE

CITY OF LIVINGSTON

REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

MARCH 5, 2013

CLOSED SESSION: 6:30 P.M.

OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

Notice is hereby given that the City Council and Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston will hold a Regular Meeting on March 5, 2013, at the City Council Chambers, 1416 C Street, Livingston, California. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Deputy City Clerk at least 24 hours prior to this meeting at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 121. Any writings or documents pertaining to an Open Session item provided to a majority of the members of the legislative body less than 72 hours prior to the meeting shall be made available for public inspection at Livingston City Hall, 1416 C Street. The Open Session will begin at 7:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held in accordance with state law prior to the Open Session beginning at 6:00 p.m. The Closed Session will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 1416 C Street. The agenda shall be as follows:

Closed Session

CLOSED SESSION

A “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.

1. Call to Order.

2. Roll Call.

3. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

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

Number of Cases: 2

Regular Meeting

CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2013-7

Next Ordinance Number: 600

Pledge of Allegiance. Next Successor Agency

Resolution Number: 2013-2

Roll Call.

Changes to the Agenda.

AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS

1. Presentation by Rich Green, Transit Manager, Merced County Association of Governments,

“Upcoming Bus Changes.”

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.

CITY COUNCIL FUTURE AGENDA ITEM REQUESTS.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

2. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of an Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Title 10, Chapter 3 of the Livingston Municipal Code Titled “Animal Control Regulations”; Resolution Updating Fees Associated with Animal Control Regulations.

3. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of Ordinance No.___, of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Livingston Municipal Code (LMC) Section 5-4-2(J)(1) Relating to Front Yard Setback Fence Heights.

4. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of Ordinance No.___, of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Livingston Municipal Code (LMC) Section 5-6-2(B): Pertaining to Amendment or Rezoning Initiation.

5. Introduce and Waive the First Reading of Ordinance No.___, of the City Council of the City of Livingston Amending Livingston Municipal Code (LMC) Section 5-3-15: Table 2, Table 3, Table 4, and Addition of Section 5-5-12, Cultivation or Annual Crops.

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.

6. Approval of Warrant Register Dated February 28, 2013.

SUCCESSOR AGENCY CONSENT AGENDA

7. Resolution of the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Livingston Approving the Recommended Mid-Year Budget Revisions for Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

8. City Council Direction to Staff Regarding Appointments to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

9. Resolution Approving a One (1) Year Concessions Agreement with Paul Maurer Shows (PMS) and Authorizing the City Manager to Execute the Agreement.

10. Resolution Approving Recommended Mid-Year Budget Revisions for Fiscal Year 2012-13.

11. Review and Discussion of Proposed Revisions to Fireworks Ordinance.

ADJOURNMENT