Fortuna City Council Addresses Panhandling
The Council Meeting started off with several important proclamations including “National Bike Month and National Bike to School Day,” which will be happening on May 12th. Lookout for young bicyclists and their parents, participating in this event. Also presented was the proclamation for “Older Americans” Month by Suzi Fregeau with the Area 1 On Aging. Fregeau mentioned a new program called, “Redwood Coast Village,” which was equivalent to an “Angie’s List” for senior citizens. Screened service providers would offer discounts to senior citizens. The final proclamation was recognizing May 15th -21st as National Police Week and Police Officer’s Memorial Day.
Other positive things to note include a new commissioner was appointed to the Fortuna Parks and Recreation Commission seat. Jose Garcinuno was unanimously voted in to fill the spot. Jose addressed the City Council and spoke briefly of his background, including he was a Chilean citizen who came to the United States 10 years ago, to work for Pacific Lumber Company. He now lives in Fortuna and works for Green Diamond. He cited his three children and the fact he wants to see great things happening in Fortuna, as being reasons for applying for the commissioner position.
On the business portion of the agenda, it was discussed there will be a Special Council Workshop on May 10th, 2016 at 6 PM, at the Fortuna River Lodge, to discuss the Essential Services Ballot Measure. There will be several presentations made by City staff regarding the status of the Fortuna General Fund as well as a special “Q&A” section as the end of the presentation. They are hoping to to have the workshop over by 8 PM, but said they’d stick around if there were more questions. They are hoping for a large turnout of interested citizens. The Council expressed they will accept letters, phone calls, and e-mails from anyone who has an opinion but are unable to attend the workshop. A future Budget Workshop is also scheduled for May 19th at 6 PM at the Fortuna City Council Chambers.
Other discussed items on the business agenda include approving an extension of the 2016/2017 MOU with the Fortuna Employees Association as well as an approval of expansion of the the 12th Street Utility Undergrounding District Boundary. The project is being paid for by special PG&E credits in the tune of $3.8 million dollars (thanks to the County assisting) and not coming out of our General Fund. You can expect this project to clean up the number of power poles you see coming into town on 12th Street, as things will be moved to underground.
One interesting business item brought up was in regards to the River Lodge needing new carpeting and whether or not this would be approved during our current fiscal year. The carpeting is original to when it opened in 1998 and would cost around $32,000 to replace (with a quote given for tile carpeting). When asked during public comment if the River Lodge was making a profit yet, it was discussed that it actually runs in the red, costing the City between $23,000 to $32,000 a year to operate (10 years ago it cost the City almost $80,000 a year to run). The Mayor was quick to point out that although it currently costs the City more money than earned to operate the River Lodge, there is no way to tell the amount of money it brings into local hotels and eating establishments attending River Lodge events.
The second reading and adoption of the Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire ordinance was discussed and eventually unanimously adopted by the City Council. During public comment, a citizen asked how this ordinance would affect citizens wanting to be “Uber” drivers. City Staff explained they had no way of knowing who might be an Uber driver in Fortuna, and the ordinance would not apply to them. City officials encouraged Fortuna Uber drivers to obtain a Fortuna business license.
Final items of note included the reading and adoption of a new panhandling ordinance. The second reading of ordinance 2016-723 was done, adding Chapter 9.28 to Title 9 of the Fortuna Municipal Code. In an unanimous decision by the Fortuna City Council, it was adopted and now prohibits Aggressive and Intrusive Solicitation in specified areas of the City. The first reading of ordinance 2016-724 also occurred, which will possibly be adopted at the next Council meeting. This portion of the ordinance covers drivers who give handouts from their vehicle, when it is not legally parked. This link has a complete copy of agenda packet including the ordinances.