Jan 4 2015

City Administrator Benoit Brought Change to Piedmont in 2014

Arriving in March of 2014 from Astoria, Oregon, Piedmont’s new City Administrator Paul Benoit has put in motion changes to some City procedures, programs, and policies. 

Piedmont’s long forgotten Conflict of Interest Code was updated to include new and well-established staff positions. Additionally, the Police and Fire Pension Board members were added to the list of those covered by the Code.

Elected and appointed officials as well as staff members were presented with a training program on the Brown Act, California’s sunshine law.  Adherence to the Act has been an issue in prior years; yet no program had been presented to inform individuals of their responsibilities such as not acting in private excluding the public and their right to know public business.

City contracts are being more carefully defined and scrutinized. The 2007 contract with a previous City Attorney did not contain a requirement for Errors and Omissions insurance, perhaps a problem when he approved and signed the costly undergrounding contract placing risks on all Piedmont taxpayers rather than property owners in the private project.

Top City employees are now encouraged to attend Council meetings, to provide background information and answer questions about agenda items. 

The Piedmont City Council reached agreement with the Piedmont Center for the Arts for an expanded lease to allow construction of a lift to give disabled users of the Center access to the newly renovated restrooms.

Blair Park has benefited from an expedited safety plan of removing dangerous, diseased Monterey Pines from the park.

Use of the approximate $500,000 in East Bay Regional Park District WW Bonds is on a fast track to assure timely application and use of Piedmont’s entitlement. Hampton Field and surrounds have been designated for safety and cost-saving improvements.

To spare taxpayers additional costs for sanitary sewer improvements, Benoit devised a temporary loan plan utilizing windfall property transfer taxes at essentially no interest to provide needed funds.  An expeditious program to replace poorly functioning pipes is now in place. In 2011 City Hall asked taxpayers for $11 million for the sewer update, later budgeted at a corrected cost of $1 million.

Other policies have changed.  Apartments will be allowed above commercial buildings.  Body cameras will be standard on police officers.  The Bike and Pedestrian Plan was approved.  The Annual Piedmont Turkey Trot will be providing the City of Piedmont Athletic Facilities Preservation Fund with revenue.
Voters approved an election date change to synchronized Piedmont’s election with the State General Election. Public smoking will be further restricted in Piedmont. The revised Housing Element of the General Plan met the State deadline.

Benoit will be faced with new and continuing challenges in 2015.  The law suit over the undergrounding debacle has yet to be resolved.  Prioritizing expenditures and implementing approved programs and policies will be ongoing.

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