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

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

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

Livingston, CA 01/05/2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a mess.

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

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

  1. Amending the Watering Ordinance – ADOPTED May, 2014

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

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

  3. Planning Fees Increases – PENDING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    2. Project Scheduled to have begun on November 16

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

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

  10. AB1600 Draft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  15. Well #17 CBDG Grant Project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Exact Current Water Level data not available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. No info on this yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

In addition to the above

Downtown Beautification Project

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

  • Expected construction in early 2016

Recruitment of a New Public Works Director – ON HOLD

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

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

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

Decommissioning the ponds at the old (Foster Farms) IWWTP

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

Winton Parkway Development Projects: Motel 6 and any others

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

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

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

Why do I feel this way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works out to about $49,302

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

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

THEN Mr. Duque would get NOTHING

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

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

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

  • Prohibit Commercial Grows

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

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

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

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

    • subject to certain other restrictions

For more details, CLICK HERE to read the entire Resolution

CITY COUNCIL REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

JANUARY 5, 2016

CLOSED SESSION: 6:00 P.M.

OPEN SESSION: 7:00 P.M.

 

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

 

Closed Session

 

1. Call to Order.

2. Roll Call.

CLOSED SESSION

 

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

3. Public Employee Appointment

(Government Code Section 54957)

Title: Interim City Manager

4. Conference with Labor Negotiator

(Government Code Section 54957.6)

Agency Negotiator: City Attorney Jose M. Sanchez

Unrepresented Employee: Interim City Manager

5. Public Employee Appointment

(Government Code Section 54957)

Title: City Manager Recruitment

6. Conference with Legal Counsel – Potential Litigation

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

Number of Cases: 1

 

Regular Meeting

 

CALL TO ORDER Next Resolution Number: 2016-01

Next Ordinance Number: 626

 

Pledge of Allegiance.

Roll Call.

Closed Session Announcements.

Changes to the Agenda.

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REPORTS

 

Supervisor John Pedrozo Announcements and Reports.

City Staff Announcements and Reports.

City Manager Announcements and Reports.

City Council Members’ Announcements and Reports.

Mayor’s Announcements and Reports.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

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

 

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

 

CITIZEN COMMENTS

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

 

CONSENT CALENDAR

 

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

 

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

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

DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The City of Livingston and the 4 Utility Rate Consultants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the February 5, 2008 City Council Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and the

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

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

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

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

Who gave a presentation on Water Rates

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

And there were lots of comments, and lots of discussion

And the Council Voted 5-0 to Go TO Hearing

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

And the presentations were given again.

And there were lots of comments and discussion

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

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

And the presentations were given again.

And there were lots of comments and discussion

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

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

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

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

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

One from Dan Burgman

One from Bartel Wells

And one from the FCS Group

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

Then the Utility Rate Studies Committee was formed.

And a binder of information was prepared.

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

Then a Brand New City Manager was hired

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

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

So now we are up to Consultant #4 Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which Kinda Begs a Few Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and….

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

About that “Illegal 42’ Sewer Pipeline”

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

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

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

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

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

This is the General Plan

That Contained a Special Planning Area

Which Pertained to a Developer

Who Put in the Sewer Pipe

Which worried the Farmer

Who went to the Farm Bureau

Who Sued the City of Livingston

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

Which is, as of now, not “done”…..

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

From the City of Livingston Municipal Code

Meetings

LIVINGSTON PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING AGENDA

DECEMBER 29, 2011 7:00 P.M.

CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS, 1416 C STREET, LIVINGSTON

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

Call to Order: 7:00 PM

Roll Call – Chairperson/Commissioners

Pledge of Allegiance

Item No. 1 – Consent Agenda

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

a. None.

Item No. 2 – City Council Update

a. Update of City Council items.

Item No. 3 – Public Comment

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

Item No. 4 – Public Hearings

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

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

Item No. 5 – Reports

a. Planning Commission

b. City Staff

c. City Attorney

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

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if you need special assistance to participate in this meeting, please contact the Community Development Department at (209) 394-8041, Ext. 112. Notification 48 hours prior to the meeting will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to assure accessibility to this meeting.

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

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

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

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

Police Chief Recruitment City of Livingston

2012-2012 City of Livingston Draft Budget

The “Mission of the Utility Rate Stakeholders Committee” Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well #15 Enforcement Letter & Staff Report

Well #15 Manganese Enforcement Letter Discussions

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

How They Voted in 2010

How They Voted in 2009

How They Voted in 2008

How They Voted in 2007

How They Voted in 2006

City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2010

City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2009

City Council Draft Meeting Minutes for 2008

City Council Meeting Minutes for 2007

City Council Meeting Minutes for 2006

City Council Meeting Minutes for 2005

City Council Meeting Minutes for 2004

2010-2011 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

2009-2010 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

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

2007 2008 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report

2006-2007 Merced County Grand Jury Final Report