When you stack a Sierra Madre City Council meeting up against a Lakers/Celtics playoff game, you kind of know where the attention of most is going to be focused. And that is just fine. We didn't go, either. It might have been the lowest public turnout ever. But we are not above sacrifice here at The Tattler. So much so that we actually watched the entire thing on the always informative SMTV3. It's how we roll.
Public Comment kicked it off in style. We covered Dave Hinton's contribution yesterday. Barbara Lee spoke for less than the new order's required 3 minutes and asked about the utilization of the springs on the Heflin property. She also asked to know who exactly owns these springs. In a time when water is becoming an extremely valuable commodity, the questions were good ones. Linus Pakulsky spoke for more than three minutes, which caused the Mayor to get a little uncivil with him. But his point about the awful cell phone service in Sierra Madre is important, and we should be grateful that he persevered. His concern is that in an emergency, people would not be able to get in touch with the proper services using their cell phone. Something that could result in a terrible tragedy some day. It is an important issue and deserved a more respectful hearing. Batting cleanup was Heather Allen, who gave some good advice on how those wishing to do so can can register their protests against the Water Rate Hike, and make it stick.
The first item up for City Council discussion was entitled: Award of Construction Contract for FY 2009-2010 Street Resurfacing Project to Sully-Miller Contracting Company. Public Works Director Bruce Inman presented details about this project, along with the awarding of the contract. Sully-Miller was the lowest responsive and responsible bidder. The highlight here is that the successful bid of $364,450 was around $400,000 under what Bruce had thought it might be. Competition being fierce in the construction trade, I suppose. Bruce contacted other cities doing similar work to see if their experiences were the same, and apparently they were. It's a buyer's market out there for street grease, and the City Council went for it.
This was followed by a discussion about Street Sweeping. Another topic that probably didn't have too many switching over from the Lakers game. Chief Diaz, responding to the complaints of residents that their streets are not being properly swept because people leave their cars sitting where that work is supposed to be done, presented options for thwarting these scofflaws. But at what cost? Well, actually, about $127,000 for the first year of enforcement alone, or well beyond what we spend to get the streets swept in the first place. There was the enacting of an ordinance; a need to hire something called Inter-Con to write tickets (two part time people at $20.37 per hour); vehicle specific signage (four signs per block for a total of $70K) and 12 weeks to bid the signs. There was more, but none quite as entertaining as these.
My question, had I been there to ask it, is why is it the Sierra Madre Police Department, during their vigilant patrolling of our streets, does not stop to visit with cars parked in inappropriate areas on designated street sweeping days? We're already paying them, and certainly it would be an enforcement kind of thing to do. But maybe they have more important things going on, or perhaps real policemen just can't be expected to perform so menial a task? I do not know.
The Council opted to go volunteer on this one, with Councilmember MacGillivray's suggestion of working with the Neighborhood Watch getting some appreciative bobbles from across the way.
Item #4 will forever be known as thus: Discussion - Approval of Resolution No. 10-43: Approving the Projected Ending Balances for FY 2009-2010 and Revised Budget FY 2010-2011; Approval of Resolution No. 10-41: Approving the Changes to the Salary Matrix for FY 2010-2011.
The important takeaway is that this item has been continued to the next regularly scheduled Council meeting on June 22nd due to sensory overload. In a detailed and well-prepared presentation, Finance Director Karen Schnaider kept her $$$ in their respective columns while dazzling the assembled by invoking a language that was somewhat familiar to the English speakers present. I believe it is a variant tongue known as Fund Speak.
Coming through loud and clear was the usual "we need more police and we need more firemen" refrain, and it will cost lots of new dollars to make this dream come true. However, we do have a budget surplus of $1.1 million (or is that $1.45 million due to Sacramento putting some of our cookies back in their jar?), and a balanced budget for the next two years, which is in no small part because we have even more UUT revenue than we knew due to estimating deficiencies. Kind of like Bruce and his tar.
We were treated to a masterful demonstration of Fund Accounting, and the careful observer could actually catch a glimpse of these elusive funds in their natural habitat. A curious statement that $66K in administrative costs are being shifted from the RDA to the General Fund in order to prevent poaching by Arnold the Austrian Oak was heard. I think the RDA has the lion's share of the city's funds (about three times might be accurate) and it would be good to leave the RDA administrative costs in the RDA Fund. Why should our more exposed and beleaguered General Fund have to take that hit, right?
Look, all this number talk made my head swell in a painful way. If so inclined, go down to City Hall and ask for a copy of this presentation. Leave some quarters on the copy machine. Bring it home and read it closely. It makes no sense to take it out of context. Elaine and Karen encourage both City Council and the faithful come on down for a little fiscal heart to heart should they so desire. No appointments necessary.
I would suggest you start by asking why we need to hire more police, more firemen (not volunteers but paid employees), another Public Works person, more Development people, and a clerk upgraded to an Administrative Assistant. More Government = More Shenanigans being the Fund Speak equation I like to use. If you want to keep our town small, keep City Hall small. Idle hands being the Devil's plaything and all. Personally I'd like to reduce it to the size of a postage stamp, and then have it run out of a back closet at The Pantorium.
Item #5 was presented unto the faithful as: Discussion - Resolution No. 10-45 Declaring Support for an Energy Partnership Between the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, Southern California Edison, and the City of Sierra Madre.
I know that some people get very excited about this kind of thing, but I don't get it. All the City Council members were in agreement that this is a fine thing, with the exception of John Buchanan who had to leave the room because the energy monopoly he works for is involved. But even he said it was good when he eventually returned. That there is $4.5 million dollars in taxpayer money out there to get cities to say they agree that wasting energy is a bad thing seems almost surreal. Wouldn't helping out some hungry or sick kids be a better use for this cash? Fixing our schools? That amount would almost cover for the entire PUSD Measure CC Parcel Tax debacle of a few weeks back. Sierra Madre's cut of this nutty confection is $171,000. Which we're now getting because our City Council declared that wasting energy is bad. Well done, I guess.
Item #6 staggered into view, and it was called: Discussion - Adoption of Resolution No. 10-44 Authorizing Participation in the Los Angeles County Energy Program.
This LA County energy program essentially loans homeowners money for insulation, new windows, water upgrades, and solar installations, among other fine energy saving do-dads. It eliminates the need for ponying up front money by property owners. The catch? They place a lien on your property for playing. But if the thought of enjoying significant energy savings enthralls you, and you don't want to spend the scratch to install upgrades like people did back in the days when LA County was solvent, it sure beats using the Visa card. No harshing of mellows over such issues as loan contracts, interest rates, foreclosure, or bankruptcy, was heard.
Councilmember MacGillivray inquired about the impact of this program on Hillside Ordinances and current zoning regulations. The City Manager and City Stafferperson assured her all existing zoning acts would prevail. But they also said they would check back and report back with more information.
No information was given regarding how to apply. Or exactly how much of this swag would be available here. I suspect there won't be a whole lot of money, and the competition to get some of it could be spirited. Perhaps resident cage matches at Lucky Baldwin's Delirium would be a way of deciding who gets a piece of this action?
The last real item was Lucky #7. It was declared to be: Discussion - Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) Update.
MaryAnn MacGillivray spoke about the SCAG and SGVCOG meetings she attended. Nobody else did because they weren't able to attend.
That concludes today's report. Enjoy the rest of your day.