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NEWS IN BRIEF, July 21, 2022
City Council wrap up, cracks in Project Phoenix gym floor, District 3, 4, 5 incumbents announce, and a poll on term limits
COUNCIL INCUMBENTS IN DISTRICTS 3, 4 AND 5 SEEK REELECTION
At Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, all three Council Members with seats up in November declared that they would seek reelection. Daniel Mintz (District 3) has been in office 12 years and is running for his fourth term, MacArthur Wright (District 5) has been in office eight years and is running for a third term, and Karmolette O'Gilvie is completing her first term four-year term and will be running for her second term.
As Council Members confirmed their plans, some members of the public were pleased with the news while others muttered about the need for term limits. So what do you think?
JULY 20 COUNCIL MEETING WRAP UP
As per usual Council voted 5-0 to follow staff recommendations for all items on Wednesday’s agenda.
There was public commenton a few items which prompted some discussion and feedback from Council and City Manager Luckino, who phoned in from vacation.
Item #19: Contract with Carollo Engineers for $391,592 for the furtherance of the City Wastewater Treatment Project
Per our agenda review, it was pointed out during public comment that while City Manager Luckino has described the sewer and wastewater project as “citywide,” draft plans and Luckino’s verbal description of the Phase 1 scope show that Phase 1 does not appear to be citywide. The scope of the project has not been clearly disclosed to the general public.
It’s also unlikely that the sewer system will be fully funded by the state grant for disadvantaged communities. Ongoing tax assessments or a sales tax will be needed to make up a funding shortfall. The City Manager continues to insist that the several other cities vying for the $350M pot of grant funds may not be ready to apply, but Twentynine Palms will be ready, therefore full funding will be requested. He equates requesting full funding with receiving it. He did concede that if the City doesn’t receive full funding, other “creative” forms of funding (i.e. local tax increases) will be needed.
Regarding transparency and keeping the public informed, the City Manager argued that he had indeed kept the public informed about the project’s scope — he pointed out that a project map was included in a April 2022 City Council agenda package. The map is reproduced below, it was buried in the 515 page agenda.
Luckino then proceeded to list the roads defining the north, south, east and west sewer project Phase 1 perimeter, publicly, for the first time.
Councilman Bilderain asked if the map could be put on the City website, and the City Manager conceded that it might be time to add a wastewater tab to the website to keep the public informed.
Note: Jonathan Hume is working on an in-depth article on Twentynine Palms sewer and wastewater plans to be published in early August.
Item #20: Proposed Budget Revisions for Special Revenue Funds and Other Funds for Fiscal Year 2022-23
Members of the public pointed out that $200,000 is in the budget for land acquisition on Pioneer Park, which currently has no line of funding and is within two miles of Knotts Sky Park and Luckie Park, while Indian Cove and the west end of the city still lacks any parks or other city amenities. During open public comments the public added that the City owns three parcels west of Indian Cove, any of which would be suitable for a Park and the lack of public pickleball courts or tennis courts in the City.
An argument was also made for arts funding and a part time Cultural Affairs position. The City promotes the arts as central to its mission yet only sets aside $15,000 annually for arts funding. Councilman Wright requested that Frank talk to the Tourism Business Improvement District on this issue.
Other Public Comments
Additionally a property owner suggested that the cap of 500 STRs needed to be reconsidered. With pending and permitted STRs, Frank advised that the City now stands at 490 — just 10 short of the hard cap of 500 STRs.
The cap was put in place to give the City time to replace homes removed from the residential housing market and is intended to be reconsidered in 2030. The City is tasked with developing a system to remove unused permits once the cap is reached in order to make room for new permits.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE GYM AT PROJECT PHOENIX?
With daytime temperatures over 100 degrees and the Luckie Park Pool closed for renovation, you may be wondering what’s up with the new air conditioned gym at Project Phoenix? Why hasn’t the City announced programming?
According to City Manager Frank Luckino, the gym is closed due to a “gym floor construction fix”. In early June, just as Parks and Rec were going to announce their summer programming, Recreation Division Manager Kary Minatrea was informed “that construction repairs would be taking place and access to the facility would not be available for the next several weeks.” According to City officials, the contractor is repairing the floor at no cost to the City. It is anticipated that repairs will take another two to three weeks.
Luckino made the decision to close the gym pending repairs due to concerns that opening then closing again would, “confuse people of times of operation.”
Minatrea confirmed that once reopened, gym programming will include “open gym for drop-in programs as well as opportunities for volleyball, basketball, badminton, etc.” All gym programming by Parks and Rec will be free to the public. An official public service announcement is scheduled to run next week.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR TRAVIS CLARK MOVES ON
Travis Clark has resigned as Community Development director as of August 1, adding that he will be available to the city on a part time basis to ease the transition to a new director. A call for applications went out on July 20 with a deadline of August 2, which seems brief for a leadership position. Does the City already have someone in mind? Also is this hire approved by City Council or at the sole discretion of the City Manager?
Public comments on any of the news briefs are welcome and encouraged.
Thanks to Heidi Heard and Jonathan Hume for assisting with this news brief.