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Council Members ‘Fence’ Over Issues

POSTED August 3, 2011 2:47 a.m.

Several issues presented to the Oakdale City Council on Monday, Aug. 1 generated discussion by members who showed no hesitation in voicing their opposing views.
A proposal by Community Development and Services Director Danelle Stylos for a $20,000 grant writing contract for the local firm of Augustine Planning Associates brought up the concern of the California Consulting debacle in which the city paid $2500 per month to a firm that didn’t produce any results from 2010 and 2011.
“We want to go with someone more local and would be more successful than in the past,” said Stylos.
Councilman Michael Brennan stated he would like to see periodic reports to confirm the firm was working to the city’s advantage. He also wanted to ensure that the costs of the writing of the grant would be recovered in the administrative costs if a grant was awarded.
Stylos assured the council both concerns were not a problem.
She also informed the group that the funding for the grant writers would come from the economic development funding budget but would cover grant writing for the police, fire, public works, and community development departments.
Councilman Jason Howard stated he did not see how the grant writing for all those agencies fit within “economic development” and was the lone dissenting vote when the proposal passed 4-1.
Public Works Director Joe Leach made a proposal for an upcoming city policy on clarifying construction and maintenance costs to city “boundary fences” that are shared by the city and private ownership.
During council discussion on the agenda item, Howard asked Leach how many hours were spent on the proposal.
Perplexed, Leach replied that only a few hours went into the project researching and drafting the proposal.
Howard explained that he felt with such a finite number of work hours for staff, that “in the grand scheme of things,” a fence policy was not that important.
Fire Chief, and former interim City Manager Mike Botto, later informed the council that Leach was acting on his behalf from direction that was given when Botto was in the role of city manager.
Others on the dais felt there needed to be more clarification in how the proposed fence policy was written to eliminate vague language in favor of more definite wording in the resolution.
In the end, the proposal that Howard felt Leach spent unneeded time on, was sent back to Leach for more work to be done.
Mayor Pat Paul announced that she wanted to schedule a meeting with the Riverbank City Council regarding the proposed Oakdale Police Department contact for police services with Riverbank.
Brennan stated before any meeting he would like to see what the contract would be.
“As it stands now,” Brennan said, “I don’t want to go to a meeting where I walk out two hours later where I go, ‘there’s nothing more than I already know.’”
Councilman Tom Dunlop voiced that he was elected by the citizens of Oakdale to protect the interests of Oakdale and was still unsure how the proposal was of benefit to the city.
“Are we trying to ‘bid down’ the county?” Dunlop asked.
Police Chief Marty West addressed the group, stating that the combining of city or town police services was “the wave of the future” and the research done in preparation for the Oakdale-Riverbank merger showed several benefits to both cities.
“My present desire is to move forward with this to see if there’s interest for this collaborative effort,” said West.
New first-day City Manager Greg Wellman stated he wanted to know more about the proposal himself. He suggested a bullet point presentation to the council at the Aug. 15 meeting to summarize the points for a clear understanding.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Don Knickerbocker of Wilkins Pump/Knickerbocker Electric delivered a $1,000 check to the city for the residents of The Vineyards Lighting District. In April, the city chose to go with Knickerbocker Electric as a local contractor even though he wasn’t the lowest bidder. The “refund ” that came as a surprise to city officials, put Knickerbocker as the low bidder for the contract.
The meeting closed with Wellman publicly thanking Botto for making his transition to the new city manager position a smooth one.

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