For the fifth year in a row, Winters witnessed a devastating wildfire which is close to 90,000 acres in size, the largest area we have experienced. This week was mostly dedicated to dealing with the ramifications of the County Fire and its impacts on the Greater Winters Area. The following is a synopsis and chronology of the events of the first couple days of the fire and some insight into our approach to response.
Given that we have done evacuations and dealt with large fires previously, we knew we would run into some issues. First was skepticism from residents on evacuation. Golden Bear has about 50 residences and about 15 on Positas Rd. Over the past four previous events, the number of people actually evacuating has diminished significantly because of restrictions on re-entry even when the fire is out. People essentially choose to stay, which is their choice. We visited every residence in both locations with Sheriff Deputies.
Our main goal at this point was to push information via our social media (mostly Facebook) and respond to “rumors” circulating about the fire. The Yolo Sheriff and OES did an amazing job of keeping the City in the loop on activities, as did the CalFire Incident Management Team. Regular briefings were scheduled we were represented at each.
Our experience with evacuations has taught us that most people are not interested in sleeping in a shelter. Many people have pets (which are typically prohibited) and most find a place to stay with friends. The Community Center does not have television, showers or internet which are now the basics of a good shelter. In the previous 4 years when we established shelters, we have never housed a single evacuee from Golden Bear or Positas. Most either do not evacuate or choose a hotel or stay with friends. The number one requested resource preferred during our previous evacuations was the availability and phone numbers for local hotels. Thus, when the evacuation order came forward, we immediately began calling hotels for availability and pushed that through our contacts and social media.
Some of the basic comments from folks was “why didn’t the City open a shelter”. The reason is rooted in our history of not having local evacuees and the amount of resources needed to staff a shelter. In this case, if we had requested the establishment of a shelter, they would have divided the resources from Esparto and sent them to Winters. In a shelter you also need to provide security and privacy. There is a system for persons coming to a shelter which is pretty labor intensive. Additionally, food, hygiene and things like television and internet are critical elements. Finally, we simply know our constituency for this situation.
In next weeks segment, I will cover the workings with CalFire and Incident Management Team 3.
Have a nice weekend.
We apologize for the lack of notification regarding the interruption of parking on E. Main St. businesses today. The City had an opportunity to get some pavements improvements using SB1 funding (gas tax) completed and had a very short time frame for notifying those businesses that would be impacted such as The Clayground and Steady Eddy’s. We dropped the ball on getting the word out. The work will be completed by 3pm today.
Again, our apologies for the disruption and lack of notice. The City completely supports our businesses and encourages locals and visitors to do the same. Parking is available in the lots west of these businesses and they are certainly open for business.
With 44,000 acres burned, 3% containment (as of this morning), a mandatory evacuation in effect, poor air quality and smoke covering the town, we have made the decision to cancel the July 3 Fireworks Show. We will re-schedule for another date.
We also want to emphasize caution for all folks using fireworks during a very delicate time for our community.
Updates on some items before the Planning Commission on June 26 and upcoming City Council Meeting on July 17.
The Planning Commission considered design review and site plans for two properties and Phase I of the Olive Grove subdivision.
The Planning Commission also heard updates on work being done regarding a new food truck ordinance and the creation of a regulatory framework for temporary rentals via Air BnB, VRBO and others. The Commission provide some really insightful input with both issues scheduled to come to their next meeting on July 24.
The July 17 City Council Meeting will have a pretty substantial agenda, including:
A couple of other notes:
City Hall will be closed on July 4 in observance of Independence Day.
Have a nice weekend.
Park Playground Stage To Close for Rehearsals
All other parts of the playground will be open when the Park Playground Stage is Closed Sun -Thurs from 6:30-9:30PM for next 4 weeks.
Winters Shakespeare Workshop teens will be rehearsing for the free public performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream July 20 and 21 at 8 PM on the park Playground Stage.
Rehearsals will begin Monday, June 25 through Thursday, July 19, 6:30 and 9:30PM, Sun-Thurs evenings only.
There are no rehearsals on Fridays or Saturdays, or on the 3rd and 4th of July Holidays.
During rehearsals, all other parts of the playground will be open as usual.
Stage areas will be taped, and public is invited to watch the play come together!
More information call 795-3476
A really big City Council Agenda, so I thought a Cliff’s Note Summary of some really important things which were covered is in order:
The consent calendar included:
The discussion agenda included five (5) public hearings and the City Budget.
The public hearings included and adopted the following:
Non-public hearing items included:
The Planning Commission has a number of items this week including site plan and design review for homes on Hemenway and Abbey Streets as well as consideration of the first five lots of the Olive Grove Subdivision. Also, brief updates on the food truck and Air BnB regulations will be presented.
Finally, the last official full City Council meeting for long time City Clerk and Director of Administrative Services Nanci Mills was on Tuesday. There are few in the history of Winters who have provided a steady and impactful influence on the administration of the City of Winters as Nanci has!
During her tenure, Nanci has worked with four (4) City Managers, almost 40 different City Council members and has attended more than 900 City Council Meetings. In her position of Director of Administrative Services, she has hired all City employees for the last 32 years, coordinated all labor relations, managed all recreation programs and facilities and overseen both risk management and the City’s records management system. In the absence of the City Manager, she has routinely served as the Acting City Manager. Her service to the City has been stellar!
Nanci has played a significant role in practically every major initiative of the City. The renovation of City Hall, revitalization of Downtown, the new library and swimming pool, major upgrades in water and wastewater utilities, the construction of bridges and the restoration of Putah Creek. Internally, Winters administration is as modern and professional as any in the area. Regionally, Nanci has served as the chairperson of the Yolo Public Risk Management Authority and is viewed and respected as a key leader in covering the liability and interests of the County of Yolo and the cities and special districts.
Most importantly, Nanci has served as a steady influence on the tone and demeanor of how the City organization works with our constituents. Her focus on helping folks and customer service has defined City Hall as an important resource in aiding those who come seeking assistance. Her ethics and moral compass has provided supervision and mentorship to many who have worked for the City over the past four decades. Without question, she has put Winters and our service before her own interests over the years.
Nanci is an irreplaceable member of our staff. I will share that those who will take some of her responsibilities come into a well run and professional operation that will continue the legacy of quality and thoroughness which defines Nanci.
As she moves into her “next phase”, Nanci will always remain a member of the City family and her influence will remain for years to come. She has a beautiful family and is a true friend to so many. While we will dearly miss her but we will quietly celebrate for her in retirement.
Have a nice weekend!
John W. Donlevy, Jr., City Manager
Lot’s happening and ramping up for a new fiscal year with many projects.
City Council Agendas:
Some notes on things happening in the City:
The most controversial items on the upcoming agenda’s will be a discussion regarding water and sewer rates. Under considerations are increases in the $5-11 per month range for both bills. The call for an increase is simple, decreasing revenues are putting both utilities into the red.
The primary reason for the decrease in revenues is due to water conservation measures undertaken by the residents in response to the State of California’s mandatory 25% reduction in water use called for by the Governor and the Legislature during the drought. Our customers responded accordingly, reaching 30% reduction in water use when compared to pre-drought (2013) levels. The result of the conservation has significantly reduced water rate revenues to operate the system. More than 50% of the revenues for the Water Fund are based on volumetric (usage) portion of the water rate, which is comprised of a fixed fee based on the size of the water meter erving the property and a volumetric charge based upon the water used per month. The City’s current rate structure is generally allocated as follows- 40% Fixed/60% Volumetric Rate Revenue.
In June, 2018, the Legislature passed and the Governor has signed a bill making the conservation levels permanent and City revenue projections are tracking that the conservation will be sustained with the new regulations.
Similarly, the Sewer Fund also had a reduction in revenues. Like the water rates, the City’s sewer rate consists of a fixed monthly charge and a volumetric charge. Reduced water consumption has also resulted in reduced sewer revenues.
While water and sewer use has declined, the costs of operating the systems has only increased including electricity, maintenance, permits and personnel to operate the system leaving both funds unable to meet the cost of current year operations from current year revenues. Essentially both operations are running in a deficit position. The proposed increases are to the “fixed” portion of customer’s bills. In 2007, the City issued bonds to do significant repairs on water and sewer lines throughout the City and the current revenues are positioning the City in a negative position to meet our bond debt service ratios which impacts the credit rating of the City and our ability to pay the financing costs.
Water and sewer bills are the toughest discussion within how the City does business. It hits literally every customer in the City. In this case, the cause is the State’s new conservation requirements and the worst part is, that it has the potential to get worse with the new regulations and building code requirements. The idea of paying more for a lot less does not sit well with anyone and we cannot agree more. The problem is we cannot just get rid of the operational aspects of the system, we need to pay the permits, electricity is constantly going up in cost and the cost of equipment just keeps going up and up.
The process for raising rates includes a mailer to all of our customers as required under Proposition 218.
John W. Donlevy, Jr., City Manager
A bunch of items:
Here are the items on the June 19, 2018 Preliminary City Council Agenda:
June 19, 2018 City Council Meeting
Items from a couple of the City Departments:
Monday will begin the City’s 2018 Intern Program with three graduate level students in the program. Lot’s of assignments will be worked on over the summer, including:
Finally, our local elections are completed with the retention of the three incumbent Council Members and the passage of Measure G which makes the City Clerk and City Treasurer appointed position.
A common question asked by a lot of folks is “what does it entail being on the City Council?” The answer is revealed each City Council Meeting during the Council Comments section.
About 7 years ago, the City Council began going through their calendars and announcing their appointments and meetings which have occurred between each City Council Meeting. They report out their attendance at City events, Board and Commission Meetings, State-wide events, educational seminars and even their individual meetings with Staff and the City Manager. Each will recite the number of commitments required often without any explanation of their need for preparation, exhaustive reading and follow up with the staff from the outside agencies for which they represent the City. The typical member probably describes a minimum of 12-20 meetings and obligations each month, depending on the season. This is done for transparency and disclosure.
In a small town, the participation and due diligence of the City Council is a critical role. On major issues like the Yolo Conservancy Plan, they are often required to read thousands of pages of narrative and technical reports before attending 3-4 hour meetings with more homework following that meeting. Representation is critical, because their votes and attention to detail can represent thousands and at times, millions of dollars to the City.
The reporting out also understates their own personal knowledge which is required to be on the City Council. “Getting up to speed” on issues, especially land use can take years! “Routine” items like understanding the City-wide assessment district, the City’s debt limit report (Gann Limit), Weed Abatement Ordinance are no simple tasks. These folks work hard at what they do.
Mostly, being on the Council takes a pretty firm commitment to becoming a knowledgeable representative of the entire community and making votes and decisions which represent a very long view for City residents. When the Council votes, we often remind them that they don’t represent just the folks who show up at the meeting, they represent every resident and business member not in the room, which can make for a very unpleasant evening on controversial issues.
Winters has been blessed with City Council members who really care and take their roles seriously. They evolve into visionaries, seeking to make an impact both within and beyond the City’s borders. They have made Winters a regional “leader” on many issues, taking the local community interests and values and translating those regionally. They “represent” and extend the reputation of Winters in how they conduct themselves and ultimately, they are the one’s “at the table” when it is time for allocations of funding for City needs with their influence making the difference in how monies are distributed.
The City Council are developing and cultivating future leaders in a very unselfish manner. They develop opportunities for folks to “engage” with the City on committees like the Parking , Hispanic Advisory and Economic Development Committee’s. Eventually folks rise to appointments on the Planning Commission which is a strong foundation for moving to higher levels.
I genuinely feel blessed with those I have worked with. Dedicated folks, who generously commit themselves (hundreds if not thousands of hours annually) to representing our community and take on leadership roles which eventually evolves into becoming mentors and cultivators of future leaders.
Have a nice weekend.
First, a major omission in recognizing a major contributor to the City Park Playground Build and that is the Mariani Nut Company Foundation who was a top donor to the project. Without question, Mariani Nut is a major contributor to our community in many ways. They were a major donor to the first playground build in 1989 and their generosity was one of the key elements to spearheading the 2017 build. They are a major benefactor to the Winters community through grants and scholarships to graduates from Winters High School. From a corporate generosity standpoint, they are a model in Winters!
Lots of other stuff this week:
Finally, being the City Manager of a small town involves some highs and lows. In less than a 24 hour period this week I got to experience both in very dramatic ways.
On Memorial Day, I attended the services held at the Winters Cemetery which was sponsored by the Winters Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Cemetery District. It was our hometown at its best, with the Boy Scouts conducting a flag ceremony, the Brownies and Girl Scouts doing the flag salute and the Star Spangled Banner. Mayor Wade Cowen gave an incredible speech on the meaning and history of Memorial Day and the day was culminated with the ceremonial wreath laying by Kimi Kato, the widow of Winters resident Pete Kato who went from a Japanese Internment Camp to a part of the most decorated division in the United States Military in World War II. Music was provided by ARC Guitar owner Al Calderon. The day was a little windy, but one of the most patriotic and beautiful ceremonies I have ever experienced. It never amazes me how folks coming together in our town can top anything you may see at any of the major events anywhere. It was just beautiful!
On the following Tuesday morning, I received notice from our Police Department that Robert Duvall, our Police Chaplain had been dispatched to give a death notification due to an auto accident. The name was Julia Millon. I almost fell down!!
Julia was a Winter High Valedictorian in 2008 and was a rising star with the Winters Express as the associate editor. I had considerable interaction with Julia in her coverage of the City and she had recently interviewed us about the demise of our redevelopment agency. She was bright, articulate and someone who certainly was a star in our community.
The thought of her passing was an absolute tragedy. All you can say about potential, future and loss can be attributed to her sudden death. Without question, she will be missed by many and her friends. We at City Hall have been especially sad!
Being a small town City Manager is an absolute blessing but the times when you are privy to bad news is the absolute worst. You get to know so many people, their families, kids, co-workers and the people. You lose a lot because the small town brings us all together and when one is taken, it’s a time of sadness.
I count my blessings for the times we all come together as well as the times where we mourn.