Santa Paula Council: Five New Employees, New City Manager Authority and Veolia Redux

By Sheryl Hamlin

New employees

During the presentations section of the meeting, four new employees were presented.

Two new SPPD officers received their pins. Officer Morales grew up in Santa Paula where he volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club and at Santa Paula High School. Officer Ponce is a recent Police Academy Graduate, as well as a U.S. Marine. Both spoke articulately about their new positions. A fifth new employee is Nikkolette Perez, SPPD dispatcher, who did not speak.

Finance Director Sandra Easley presented Anthony “Tony” Rainey, the new Assistant Finance Director. Mr. Rainey was born and raised on March AFB in Riverside county and he attended Cal. Citing experience with Norfolk, Va and Seattle, Wa. , he said he saw development opportunities in Santa Paula which would yield revenue.

Public Works Director Clete Saunier presented the new Assistant Public Works Director, Thai Chau, who is a Civil Engineer with ten years in land development. He is a member of the American Society of Civil engineers and was born in Vietnam. An engaging speaker, Mr. Chau is a member of Toast Masters.

Budget

Note that the two staff positions were previously budgeted in Fiscal Year 17/18, but were not filled until FY 18/19. The SPPD received Measure T funds for several new officers. Funding was not discussed during the presentation or in the staff report.

Return of Veolia

As of May 30, 2018, American Water exited the wastewater treatment plant service management business. In doing so, American Water selected Veolia to assume their contracts. On July 13, 2018, Veolia purchased the American Water contracts, which included Santa Paula, both the wastewater plant and the collections system. On August 1, 2018, Veolia assumed operations of both, keeping workers and provided an updated emergency plan.

The agenda item was a consent to the assignment of the contract.

There are no rate increases. The collections contract ends 12/31/2018 and is out to bid. The wastewater plant contract ends 4/16/2018. Read about that selection here where American Water was the most expensive bidder.

Paul Savage from Veolia North America in Irvine was present to answer questions.

Council Member Procter asked about the sewer camera work. It is on a four year schedule. Council Member Crosswhite asked about the 24 hour monitoring. Yes, said Savage, this continues.

Mayor Gherardi said she had a problem with American Water initially. The city still doesn’t know what it costs to run the plant, she said. She is concerned about a transfer to a big, international company, so will vote against.

Council Member Araiza said that the city cannot unreasonably deny withholding the assignment and asked City Attorney Cotti to confirm. City Attorney Cotti confirmed.

Mr. Savage said the Veolia has 15 California clients. John Guardiola, plant manager, spoke. Mr. Savage said Veolia is happy with operators and plant manager. As a nuclear engineer himself, said Savage, he understands details.

Council Member Procter said that the waste water business is a “small universe” and the possibility of finding a local firm is not going to happen. He reminded the council that Veolia was one of the two finalists for the plant years ago, as a competitor to PERC. He also said that Clete Saunier would monitor.

Council Member Crosswihite said it is the same people working and Veolia has already started.

Veolia was approved 4-1 with Mayor Gherardi opposing.

SPUSD School Crossings

Presented by Clete Saunier, Public Works Director, the project is a result of a study called “The Neighborhood Safety Improvement Project”.

Intersections at 5th and East Santa Paula, 6th and East Santa paula and 5th and East Santa Barbara would be modified with curb cuts, flashing beacons, sidewalk bulbouts, pavement and striping and minor drainage modifications at the intersection.

Council Member Araiza said SPUSD paid for the study contradicing Mayor Gherardi who said the city paid for the study. The project, she said is grant funded as a joint venture with SPUSD. The staff report shows $266,000.00 from VCTC and City Match of $89,000.00.

Not mentioned in the discussion was the Santa Paula Historic Residential District in blocks 600 to 900 of East Santa Paula Street. Perhaps this historic distric is why the 6th Street drawing shows only two corners on the school side. With Council Member Crosswhite recusing because of proximity to the project, the vote was 4-0 to approve.

Council Doubles City Manager Purchasing Authority

The purchasing ordinance was last updated in 2003. The ad-hoc economic development committee (mayor and vice mayor) met with a consultant who suggested changes in “yellow”. Colors not shown in public packet.

The staff report shows a list of 87 California cities of varying size with City Manager approval of $50,000. Council Member Crosswhite asked why a small city would increase the amount to $50,000? City Manager Rock said that charter cities have higher spending limits and that budgets are not relative to population. The Cousultant Coggins reminded that the chart of 87 cities represented only those cities who responded.

City Manager Rock said that if something unforeseen and not in the budget like a “crazy Study”, then he would bring it to the council.

Council Member Araiza said there were still “checks and balances” without elaborating.

The item passed 4-1 with Crosswhite voting “no”.

To watch the video, click here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com


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