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AGENDA PREVIEW: CITY COUNCIL, OCTOBER 24
Discussion of the sewer system and wastewater treatment plant; a public conversation about hiring a new City Manager
At this meeting, the City Council will discuss the sewer and wastewater treatment project, which has received a promised allocation from the State but at only a fraction of the projected cost.
The Council will also discuss recruitment of a new City Manager and provide direction.
As always, you have an opportunity to comment on agenda items and issues important to you at every City Council meeting. Please use the opportunity to question your Commission and Commitree members on the issues affecting our City. The agenda is here.
To comment, pick up a green form at the desk, fill it out, and hand it to the Clerk who is usually sitting on at the desk at the front of room on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to City Council members and the City Manager and request that comments be read at the meeting.
Next week, on October 30, the City Council and the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) will be holding a joint strategic planning workshop. Put this on your calendar if you want to comment on TBID’s management and future direction.
Closed Session Pursuant to Government Code §54957 - Public Employees Performance Evaluation, City Clerk Cindy Villescas.
Invocation. Chaplain Mike “Grumpy” Kelliher, of Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel, will be giving the invocation. With so many Twentynine Palms options, the Desert Trumpet wonders why the invocation is being given by a Yucca Valley pastor. To keep it local and increase the diversity of inspirational introductions, contact City Clerk Cindy Villescas at email@example.com to give an invocation that aligns with your personal persuasion.
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
The Twentynine Palms High School Volleyball team will be honored for their participation in the Cash for Trash recycling program.
The Public Arts Advisory Committee will make a presentation about their Workshop29 program.
October 2023 will be recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Outgoing City Manager Frank Luckino will be recognized for his service to the City.
Consent Calendar items are considered routine by the City Council. All items can be approved with a single motion and vote; any item may be removed and considered separately. You may comment on the items prior to City Council action.
There is a backlog of minutes from meetings to approve because of the reversal of the decision to defund TBID and to appoint an interim City Planner upon Frank Luckino’s resignation: August 22, September 12, September 26, October 10, October 11, and October 16.
Approval of the Project Phoenix warrant register for August and September.
Approval of the City’s warrant register for mid-August through mid-September.
Legislative Report for October 2023.
Fire Department’s emergency response report for September 2023.
Treasurer’s report for the first quarter of FY24.
Updated information on the Local Agency Investment Fund.
Updating authorized signers on City bank accounts.
Equity and Social Justice Element. The City Council will discuss and vote to adopt or reject the Equity and Social Justice Element as part of the City’s general plan. The Planning Commission approved it in their September 19 meeting, and the Desert Trumpet took a close look at it in our recap of that meeting. The report includes a great deal of data about the state of the City, and it is worth spending time with it.
Wastewater Services. Presented as compliance with Federal and State law, the City will discuss and vote to adopt or reject regulations governing connection to the current wastewater system — referring to the community septic system downtown —and the proposed, larger sewer and wastewater system.
The agenda notes that the “proposed zoning text amendment has been reviewed for its potential to impact the environment…The activity is covered by the commonsense exemption that CEQA applies only to projects which have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment.”
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
Wastewater Project. The State has notified the City that it will receive $50 million in allocation for the Wastewater Project, but the news is that the State Water Board approved a reduction in the funding it will allocate.
The State had originally allocated $350 million for septic-to-sewer projects for small, disadvantaged communities, but on July 18, 2023, the State Water Board approved a $150 million reduction. Evidently the Water Board has been working on prioritizing small community projects for funding this fiscal year and indicates that grant/principal forgiveness funds will be available.
This meeting’s agenda is a confused mixture of text clipped, perhaps, from a Waterboard email and past City Council reports—the course of action is unclear. It appears that to receive funding, the City must provide:
a draft engineering report that includes the revised scope, cost, and schedule for the project, and
a draft mandatory use ordinance requiring homeowners to connect to the sewer system.
The agenda observes the public dialogue about the proposed location of the treatment plants being too close to residential and notes that moving the plant away from connections that have already been priced will increase the cost of the project.
One alternative would be for the Council to choose not to proceed with the $50 million in construction and continue planning for the project and seek funding later.
In what may or may not be a coincidence, trial balloons are being sent up about raising the City’s sales tax, perhaps to fund the sewer, perhaps to fund other needed improvements. Probolsky Research is conducting a survey of City residents—you might have recently received a text or email about the survey. The Desert Trumpet took a deep dive into a recent survey that also explored raising the sales tax.
As we noted then, sales tax unfairly burdens lower income residents, especially in a disadvantaged community like 29. People who earn less, such as those who support the tourism industry, pay a larger share of their salary in sales tax when compared to those with higher earnings.
City Manager Recruitment. The Council will discuss recruitment of a new City Manager and provide direction. Three proposals have been received from recruiting firms. The Desert Trumpet looks forward to a transparent process and the hiring of a City Manager who represents all residents’ interests.
PUBLIC COMMENTS follow the discussion. On October 10, former City Council member Steven Spear asked, and this is a question the Desert Trumpet echoes: Is moving public comments to the end of the City Council’s agenda a deliberate move to stifle public input?
Desert Trumpet writer Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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