Oct 5 2011

City Council decides: Sewer Fund & Tax, Linda Beach Playground, and Candidate Fee Waiver

Report on the October 3, 2011 City Council Meeting

Closed Session  The meeting began with a closed session for two agenda items.  An undisclosed subject of potential litigation took the full time of the closed session, leaving no time to discuss undergrounding litigation involving City of Piedmont v. Robert Gray Associates and Harris & Associates.

Open Session

Public Forum:  Ralph Catalano asked the Council to provide neighbors and the community with the same documents provided to the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO).  He expressed concern that the City has inappropriately aligned itself with the proponents of the Blair Park development.


Construction of ADA access for Linda Beach playground will be deferred pending additional funding to cover unexpectedly high bids.  The ADA improvements are a priority and will be considered at the mid-year budget review.

–  Municipal sewer surtax:  A proposed new tax increase equal to 50% of the existing sewer tax, was placed on the February 7, 2012 ballot. Two-thirds of those voting need to vote yes on the ballot measure for it to be approved.  George Childs stated that the sewer tax proposal of a 50% increase was too high, too aggressive, and the pace of City repairs was not needed.  The Council noted adjustments to the tax would occur annually, based on budget workshops held each May and June.

$280,000 Crest Road wash-out:  There was extensive discussion arising from correspondence submitted to the City by Rick Schiller. Schiller and other residents have asserted that the use of the Sewer Fund to pay for the Crest Road wash out — caused by a combination of heavy rains and undergrounding work — was an incorrect use of the Sewer Fund.  The City Administrator, and the City Attorney reversed their previous opinions and agreed with the project engineer that the problem did not relate to sewers.  The more than $280,000 taken from the Sewer Fund will be considered by the Council at a future meeting. The issue is also a part of the City’s litigation against the undergrounding engineering firms.

Joint City/School District Facilities Replacement Fund:  The concept of a joint City/School District Facilities Replacement Fund was discussed and well received by the Council.  Recreation facilities, such as play fields and gymnasiums, regularly need updating and improvements.   Ray Catalano spoke in favor of long-term planning and the need for contributions to a fund. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars of future replacement costs that are currently unfunded according to documentation provided.  This is the beginning of establishing a mechanism for equitably distributing funds between the City and School District for the joint use of  facilities.  Many details need to to be worked out prior to establishing the fund.  The City has received a check for $50,000 as an initial contribution to the fund from an anonymous donor .

Discussion also focused on the idea of the City charging an extra $25 per participant to cover the actual cost of maintaining facilities.  Concern was expressed that if the fees were too high, it would discourage recreational users in the decreasing Piedmont youth population.

Charges to Council Candidates:  A proposal to charge City Council candidates approximately $600 for their Voter Handbook statements was favored by Council member Margaret Fujioka.   However, Weiler, Chiang, Keating, and Barbieri voted against it, stating that the election is a proper City expense.  In addition, they noted that the positions are voluntary and candidates should not have to pay to present themselves in the voter publication.  Fujioka is seeking re-election in February, 2012.

The full agenda, draft minutes and staff reports may be viewed on the City website .

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