A quick review of the City Council Agenda for February 18, 2020:
Discussion Items are mostly direction on appointments and feedback:
- Direction on the assignments to the Putah Creek Committee
- Climate Action Plan Development Board Appointment Process
- Procedure for filling a Planning Commission Vacancy
- A review of the Community Engagement Input and Options for moving forward.
The consent calendar:
- Minutes from January 21 Workshop and Regular Meeting from February 4
- Acceptance of the First Street Parking Lot Construction
Also presenting will be Ron Turner, representing the 100 Club of Solano & Yolo Counties presenting a donation to the Chaplaincy and Crisis Intervention Program for the Winters Police Department.
This weeks edition is just a download of things on the City Manager’s Calendar and key items on the horizon.
- Hexavalent Chromium (CR6) and the potential for new maximum contaminant levels (MCL’s) from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is a big item. I will be meeting with State Board Members over the next couple weeks to discuss the economic impacts on the City and our customers. The potential would be for a significant water processing operation which may cost in the range of $40 million dollars and increase our water rates to our customers by as much as $93 to $150 per month. The current MCL in California is 50 parts per billion (ppb) and they are looking to reduce it to as low as 10 ppb. The national and basically worldwide standard is 100 ppb. CR6 is a naturally occurring element and in Winters our levels are between 17 and 22 ppb. A $40 million project would cripple the City’s capital capacity for debt for any other improvements or repairs to any of our utility systems and would place a massive burden on our utility program. Staff has talked with our water regulators and there are really no easy solutions that would satisfy compliance with the lower MCL. The SWRCB is working on an economic “white paper” which they will publish on the effects of a new MCL and I will provide our impacts for consideration in their consideration. This is a really big deal and could be a big hit on lower income residents and seniors. Stay tuned.
- Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)- Pension liabilities and costs are amongst the highest priority items for cities. I am a part of a representative group which has been presenting to the PERS Board on the issues and impacts to local governments, our need to work with the PERS Staff on solutions and key policy issues which will help stabilize costs to member agencies. Thus far, our dealings with the PERS staff has been extremely positive and their Board has been receptive. This is actually a lot of work.
- Staff is starting to assemble our Fiscal Years 20-21 and 21-22 City Budgets. That means a lot of up front work on financial forecasting, capital project needs, increased costs for operations and important items such as insurance and pension obligations. The last two fiscal years have been some of the tightest financially for the City and while we are forecasting some upticks in some revenues, we are extremely cautious on some increased costs, especially in our pension obligations. In April, we will move to some workshops and hearings on Council and community priorities. In total, the City spends a little over $13 million each year across our General, Capital and Utility Funds.
- Housing Element and Planning- Staff is distributing the Request for Proposals for consultant services related to the upcoming housing element update process. We are linking and emailing the document which we hope will have us selecting someone and having them working by May. We also have other planning projects related to an SB2 Grant and a Specific Planning Process. The City will also be working on our Climate Action Plan and a programmatic environmental impact report to cover a number of key policy documents. Our community engagement strategy to maximize community input is being generated and can be accessed here: http://www.cityofwinters.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020_0211CommunityEngagementSummary.pdf
- Animal Services- The Cities and Yolo County are working on a new governance strategy for how animal services are being provided which basically entails starting a new administrative structure and oversight by those previously under contract with the Yolo Sheriff for the services.
- Automated License Plate Reader Technology- Staff will be scheduling meetings with Caltrans to discuss deployment of the ALPR technology. Within the region, Winters is one of the few which currently does not have this law enforcement tool. Each of our neighboring communities have it is a tremendous resource in investigations and early warning for potential issues. We will be seeking permission from Caltrans to mount devices on traffic signals along Grant Ave.
- Succession Management- Within the next two months, the City will be losing two key staff members. Coordinating their work and determining a future course for some key areas is a high priority.
- Growth and Development- Over the past few weeks, staff has had multiple meetings with persons related to the potential for a growth measure in Winters which deals primarily with the northern area of the City’s General Plan. Conversely, the key property owners in the north area have asked for a meeting and staff will meet with them. Additionally, key stakeholders such as Legal Services of Northern California and their legal allies, the State Housing and Community Development Department and regional planning will need to be talked to. The advice I have given to those concerned with growth, property rights, affordable housing and planning is that they should all be talking to each other, which is what I am going to stress emphatically. This is a really big deal and all parties need to understand each other and the ramifications of their actions.
Finally, a little bit about planning and why the City does it. I tell every councilmember and planning commissioner that the decisions we make or don’t make today will determine what we have or don’t have tomorrow. People are worried about “change”, but the reality is that Winters is changing daily and the Winters of 2020 is dramatically different than the Winters of 2000. In 2000, half of the Downtown was empty and deteriorating buildings. Preserve, Steady Eddies, Chuy’s, Turkovich Wines Spin a Yarn, Berryessa Gap, El Pueblo, Ficelle, Velo City, Winters Healthcare, Scoop, Arc Guitar, Yolo Traders all did not exist. In 2003, we closed the old car bridge for two weeks in fear that the high creek flows would make it collapse. The Downtown “looked” very different with rusted cobra head streetlights, broken sidewalks, empty storefronts and literally a single business (Buckhorn) open on the busiest evenings. The planning for renewed vibrancy and investment, important infrastructure improvements “changed” things into what we have today.
This also has to do with the services we provide. In 2004, the swimming pool was condemned, the library was a wet, mildew filled mess on First Street and the public safety facility did not exist.
I will share a short story on where we have come from in the area of services.
In 2001, Winters Fire discontinued its basic life support (bls) ambulance services because they were unable to adequately staff the unit and adhere to the requirements of an ambulance license in California. For advanced ambulance service (like we have today from AMR), the acceptable response time for service was 20 minutes (our ambulance came from Davis then). Our current service response is under 4 minutes. When I started as the CM in Winters and they told me of the 20 minute response time, I thought they were joking. In Southern California, if you were more than 4 minutes, you lost your ambulance franchise. All I knew is that 20 minutes meant you were basically dead!
Recently, an anniversary hit on my calendar which I know has changed the lives of many people and embodies the reason why it is important to never settle for the way things are and to keep moving forward.. It also gives a perspective that some things take a lot of time.
In 2004, our Fire staff and volunteers were dispatched by these radio “pagers” which provided an audio alarm and call out for incidents. When the call was picked up by the responding unit, you could listen in on the call and what was happening.
One morning, the pager went off (I had one) for a very well known Winters resident who was “not feeling well”. Winters Fire staff responded to the call and met the person and their spouse in the dining room of their home. The call for the ambulance said they were responding from West Sacramento! They talked with the individual who was completely lucid and could talk and describe what was going on. Within seconds, the person dropped to the floor of their home in full cardiac arrest.
I listened as the ambulance was stuck in traffic on the causeway. Our staff began defibrillation procedures, then began CPR which they attempted until the ambulance arrived almost 30 minutes later. Over the radio I could hear the frustration of the ambulance crew stuck in traffic. I could hear the strain in the voice of our Fire staff (who never gave up) who would periodically come up on the radio with dispatch. I listened as they reported that the individual was deceased. All because advanced life support and medications were not available to save their life.
I immediately ran down to the Fire Station on Abbey Street and to talk with our Fire Chief Scott Dozier. Scotty was strong and stoic and basically told me “that these thing happen” in our area. I could not accept what I was being told and honestly, I cried. The result, we became an organization on a mission.
For the next 7 years, we worked to change ambulance services in Winters. This involved planning for a new public safety facility (which we moved into in 2011), gaining representation on local emergency medical response boards and mostly exploring every functional, political and administrative avenue possible to departing the then existing structure in ambulance licensing so we could improve things. As a small jurisdiction, our ability to maneuver services takes time and sometimes four times the effort.
On February 6, 2013, an ambulance drove into the first space of the apparatus bay of the City’s public safety facility where they have been stationed every 24 hours a day since. Because of this service, we have experienced more than a dozen “life saves” and countless responses which have changed the lives of countless numbers of people and their families.
From this entire experience, I learned what heroes really look like and realized that there truly are angels amongst us. They are staff like Brad Lopez and Art Mendoza and the entire Winters Fire organization which lived in the “old world” of EMS in Winters. It is volunteers like Barb and Terry Karlen who drove the Winters Ambulance (Barb drove while Terry worked on the people in the back). It is people like Phil Hoag and the AMR Ambulance Team who bring people back to life.
Probably my biggest hero was a guy named Scotty Dozier who not only lived all of this, but was the one who produced the documents which enabled us to perform an unbelievable political power play which got us to the service we now enjoy each day. Scotts legacy will live forever in our town.
Mostly, we learned to never give up trying to make things better and advancing the community. It may save someone’s life.
Happy Valentines Day.