CALIFORNIA CITY - The March 26 City Council meeting produced some very welcome news for the officers and other employees of the California City Police Department, while a decision on rezoning of properties to allow for commercial marijuana cultivation was tabled until July 23.
Sworn officers of CCPD will receive a pay increase of 27.5 percent over the next three years following unanimous approval by council for a memorandum of understanding with the association representing them. Members of the Miscellaneous Employees Association will receive a pay increase of 12 percent over the same period, per the MOU with their association.
As a department head, Chief Eric Hurtado's pay is not affected by the memorandums of understanding. Council member Don Parris requested that a raise for Hurtado be discussed at a future meeting.
The officers will receive a 20 percent raise in the first year, followed by a 5 percent raise the second year, and another 2.5 percent in the third year. Non-sworn or miscellaneous employees will get an 8 percent raise the first year followed by 2 percent for each of the next two years.
CCPD ranks among the lowest paid police officers in Kern County and retaining them have become a serious issue in recent years. On several occasions citizens have spoken up on that issue suggesting that until Cal City can offer competitive pay it will continue to hemorrhage police officers to higher paying agencies across the state.
Both MOUs also include an increase in the city's contribution for health, dental and vision coverage to address the increases in health care costs over the previous three years. It also creates a joint management and labor committee to annually analyze the changes in health care costs and negotiate the city and employee's contribution for health coverage.
On the Agenda for the evening were some housekeeping items and some genuine choices for the dais. Among them, a hitch in moving the cannabis industry forward-again. Local investor, developer and former home builder Michael Ellison had two parcels ready to be re-zoned from RA to M1 light industrial. The plans were all complete and the parcels fall into the cannabis zone.
New Community Development Director Matthew Alexander pointed out that, according to state law council can only amend the General Plan four times a year. Alexander advised council against the re-zoning act, given they have already done two of them so far this year.
The recommendation from staff was to go forward with the public hearings on the two parcels, but continue the matter until July 23 for action when additional projects could potentially be added for action at that time. Alexander said the property owner had already been advised of this and agreed to delay a decision on the items.
No members of the public offered comments on the specific zoning changes, instead two residents used the public comment time to ask that the entire general plan be evaluated.
Cal City resident Kristy Mundt said the council should go over the entire plan. "We need to do this on a large scale basis and get it done in one fell swoop." Businessman D.J. Twohig echoed that sentiment, "look at areas of California City that would allow us to truly attract industry by doing general plan amendments."
An item that should have brought little discussion turned into the issue of the night as Public Works Director Craig Platt put forth this year’s Fremont Basin Integrated Regional Water Management plan. The state has mandated that all water agencies join up with at least two other water providers in their region to form a regional collective of sorts to account for all water in California. Failure to follow the new laws and form collectives meant that the state would take over water management for areas who did not form such an agency. California City joined up with Mojave Public Utilities District and Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, to form the Fremont Basin IRWM.
The IRWM regional groups can apply for funds for infrastructure upgrades to their water systems every year from the state, but to be able to apply for those funds this annual plan must be submitted to the state.
The council and some citizen speakers then promptly wandered right off that simple action item and into a wide and wandering series of side roads concerning water standby fees, misread meters, and fixed income billing mistakes, none of which were what the item on the agenda was about. After nearly a hour of the wandering, City Manager Bob Stockwell and Platt finally pointed the fact out that council is only to act on the actual item on the agenda, none of which had to do with any of those topics. Once order was restored, council quickly approved the item.
Council also approved the leasing of some new gear for the Public Works Department. Those being a 2019 Case 580SN Backhoe for $105,373.13 over 36 months, and a 2019 Case 856C AWD 4B Motor Grader for $233,693.82 over 36 months to replace the two 1990’s era units the city is still using.
In other business, Off Highway Vehicle Program Admin/Tech Karen Sanders requested approval to combine two of three part-time seasonal positions into one full time position and one part-time position. The new clerk position will aid in many day to day aspects of the OHV program as well as assisting with preparing for state grants and other aspects of operations. The request was approved unanimously.
Council also approved a proclamation recognizing the month of April as DMV/Donate Life California Month and approved execution of an $11,500 general services agreement with Pyro Spectaculars for the annual Fourth of July fireworks presentation.
Several members of the public spoke during public comments about their displeasure with the recent changes in procedures. Changes included moving of public comments to the end of the meeting and having staff prepare written responses to questions asked by the public during council meetings.