The Portola City Council Aug. 9 discussed supporting the formation of the Beckwourth Peak Fire Protection District and approval of a special tax to fund the new fire district, Measures E and F on the November 7 ballot.
According to a letter from the Local Emergency Services Study Group (LESSG), on July 11 the Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved adding the formation of the Beckwourth Peak Fire Protection District to the November 7 ballot. The ballot will include two measures to be voted on by registered voters within the boundary of the proposed new fire district. Measure E asks voters to approve forming the new fire district and Measure F asks voters to approve a new tax to fund the new fire district.
“Although there are restrictions on public agency activities with respect to ballot measure advocacy, the California Courts have found it permissible for the governing body of a public agency to take a position on a ballot measure in an open and public meeting where all perspectives may be shared,” the letter read.
It was clarified further that while City Council could support the measures, in addition to providing neutral, factual information about the ballot measures. Council members may not any city or public resources to advocate for or against ballot measures, down to utilizing office equipment and supplies.
Council members and staff may engage in activities that support or oppose the measures. The letter emphasized that this is to be done on their own time as individuals.
“If the City Council votes to support the measures, members of the Council will then be able to publicly state that the agency supports formation of the new fire district and the proposed tax funding.”
“Hopefully everyone will be informed and vote appropriately, because we don’t know what we will do if it doesn’t pass,” said Mayor Pro Tem Pat Morton. “If people check on this and go look, the lack of volunteers is not a local problem, it is nationwide. It’s very important to get something in that is sustainable.”
“The lack of volunteers is not a local problem. It’s nationwide”Mayor Pro Tem Pat Morton
Councilmember Stan Peiler asked the city to approve the item on behalf of past mayor Tom Cooley, stating that “Tom may not be here, but his legacy is still here.”
Councilmember Leah Turner expressed how vital it was to pass the two measures, stating that she didn’t think that people “really understood the issue we have if we don’t get this to pass… Like Pat said, time, money– there is so much training involved to be a volunteer.”
Morton added that in Portola the average home would pay $110 a year for fire and emergency services.
It was noted that the actual campaign will not be government funded in any way, using no resources from the city or districts.
“Society is needing more from volunteer fire departments than they ever thought they would,” added Interim City Manager Jon Kennedy. “The effort that this group, the LESSG, led by Tom Cooley, is the most sophisticated, intellectual, mathematical approach to solving this problem in the history of this county. It was even more sophisticated than some of the efforts I have seen in larger counties. I am really proud of the work that has been done and I really hope that the folks here realize this and are able to acknowledge the need.”
Council unanimously voted to approve the agenda item.
During city communications, Morton noted that Beckwourth Fire Department had 56 total calls for the month of July, with 49 of those calls in Portola and four being fire calls.
A report from the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) shared that there would be an air-quality related field study starting soon, and residents of Portola are invited to participate. More information is available by calling 530-832-0102 or by visiting myairdistrict.com.
All Portola residents are also reminded to book an appointment with a chimney sweep as soon as possible. Area sweeps quickly booking out for the fall season. In regard to burning curtailment for Portola residents, moderate non-attainment goals set for the community were not met in winter 2021. Curtailment will begin early this season starting September 1 and will run through April 2024.
$500,000 water grant in the works
Kennedy reported that the city continued to make headway on collecting the many months of unpaid water bills, with Project GO covering thousands of dollars in unpaid water bills for qualifying local residents.
“Public works have been working on the project that started years ago trying to redo our water and sewer infrastructure with the state, and that planning is robust right now,” Kennedy said. “We’re working on an expedited $500,000 drinking water grant right now- to help with some projects.”
Peiler then asked Kennedy to clarify what the black and white painted boxes on the streets around the city. Kennedy briefly explained that they were GPS location points specifically to assist in work and repairs being done on water and sewer systems in the city.
Council unanimously approved the consent agenda by roll call vote, with a note that the city would be revisiting the topic of code enforcement costs in the near future.
Council members also approved the renewal of the ongoing state of emergency proclamation. A state of emergency was declared on March 8 due to the large winter storm, along with Plumas County.
A payment in the amount of $505,392.79 was made to Q&D Construction for work completed to date on the North Loop project in the city.
The Portola City Council welcomes all to its meetings which are regularly held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the City Hall Council Chambers at 35 Third Ave. in Portola. Local interest and participation is encouraged and welcome. More information can be found online at www.cityofportola.com.