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IN BRIEF: CITY COUNCIL JUNE 14 MEETING
A quick selective report on major agenda items including STVHR permit fees, Luckie Park Pool and abandoned shopping carts.
Our full pre-meeting agenda recap is here.
#1. CLOSED SESSION TO EVALUATE PERFORMANCE OF CITY MANAGER
Council did not discuss the performance evaluation in open session. However at the end of the Council meeting City Manager Luckino thanked Council for his review and gave credited staff and Council for their hard work.
#14. AMENDMENTS TO THE CITY’S MASTER FEE SCHEDULE (STVHR PERMIT FEES)
Short term vacation home rental (STVHR) permit fees cannot exceed City costs. So it would stand to reason that an accounting of costs is necessary for this discussion. Yet as was pointed out in our agenda recap, absolutely no breakdown of STVHR costs was provided by City Manager Luckino or new Finance Director Hernandez-Conde. And did the Council request an accounting of costs so they could make an informed decision? Nope.
The Staff Report recommended an increase in short term vacation home rental (STVHR) permit fees from $183 to $755 and STVHR renewal fees from $46 to $755. With added required inspections and other costs, new STVHR permits would cost $1,233.64 and annual renewals $797.48. However, the Finance Director pointed out that Staff had failed to account for the probable increase in permits from 277 to 500. So, again without accounting for any basis in actual costs, a recalculation dropped the permit fee to $541. We assume this drop fails to account for any projected costs incurred by City for management of 223 additional STVHRs.
STVHR owner and manager Susan Peplow objected to the amount of the increase, with most of Council apparently agreeing, despite the Staff Report indicating that STVHR permit fees in 29 Palms are a fraction of the fees charged by other desert cities. Mayor Karmolette O’Gilvie asked about the rational for the increase while Council member Joel Klink suggested simply doubling the existing fee to $366. Council settled on Member MacArthur Wright’s suggestion of $300 to be reevaluated in one year.
One more time, no discussion of actual costs or how the budget is impacted by reducing fees below the Staff recommendation of what’s necessary to cover costs. Here’s our quick basic calculation: $300 - $541 is a loss of $241 of cost recovery per permit. $241 x 223 permits = $53,743 in unrecovered costs. Admittedly it’s probably not that simple, but no calculators were in sight at Council.
#17. LUCKIE PARK POOL RENOVATION
City Manager Luckino outlined the long menu of potential adjustments needed to bring the current Pool rebuilding and renovation cost of 6.2 million dollars into alignment with previously approved cost of 4.7 million. The final option was to pull the 1.4 million dollar difference from City reserves so the project could move forward. And that’s what Council opted to do.
#18. LAFCO SPECIAL SERVICE REVIEW (WATER DISTRICT TAKEOVER)
Council voted to accept the service review finally bringing conclusion to the saga of the attempted Water District takeover by the City. City Manager Luckino continues to state that the City will “work towards potential savings outside of consolidation” but has yet to clarify what those savings might be.
#21. ABANDONED SHOPPING CARTS
Currently 29 Palms doesn’t require retail businesses to have a system in place for managing shopping carts. Community Development Director Travis Clark outlined systems for preventing carts from leaving retail premises and for retrieving errant carts, pointing out that the responsibility for retrieval and fining in other cities often falls on code enforcement. Council opted for a non legislative solution, with a consensus calling for a City organized meeting of retail owners to discuss the issue and propose a solution.