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City Shedding Light On Issues

POSTED October 4, 2011 9:29 p.m.

Oakdale City Council is taking steps to get every streetlight in Oakdale turned back on in the near future. Council voted 5-0 at their Monday night meeting, Oct. 3, to seek loans to replace 810 city-owned streetlights with more energy-efficient magnetic induction fixtures.
The discussion of funding new streetlights started at the Sept. 19 meeting when Public Works Director Joseph Leach explained that the new streetlights would consume about half of the energy of the old bulbs and would cut the cost of the city’s energy bill. At the council meeting on Monday night Leach provided more financial information on the cost of installing the streetlights.
Council determined that they would replace city owned streetlights that were not part of Landscaping and Lighting Maintenance Districts (LLMDS) and not owned by PG&E. Over the past two years approximately 70 percent of those lights were shut off to reduce the city’s energy bill. The city has an available $50,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant that will pay for some of the cost of replacing the lights, but the grant money must be used by March 2012. These funds will replace up to 140 of the 810 fixtures.  Council voted to see a low or no interest loan for the remaining cost of the project, which will be paid back over the next seven years.
The total cost for replacement is approximately $285,000. Council member Tom Dunlop expressed concern over the possibility of the city taking on a loan.
“I just don’t want to take on any loans that we are stuck paying back over the next seven years,” Dunlop said.
City staff estimates that the energy savings of replacing the light fixtures, combined with almost no maintenance costs over the next 16 years, could save the city approximately $984,000. Staff will bring possible funding sources back to council at a future meeting for their final approval.
Council also continued their previous discussion of massage business licensing costs. Oakdale Police Chief Marty West said that the current cost of opening a massage business in Oakdale includes a $1,500 fee to the business for a police investigation into the establishment.
“Some of these establishments are a front for brothels,” West had explained at the Sept. 19 meeting.
The cost to open a massage business in Oakdale also includes a $300 fee for each massage technician and an annual $100 inspection fee to the business. Council members expressed concern that the fee might be driving legitimate massage and spa establishments out of Oakdale.
“When you compare it to what our surrounding cities are charging we are not being competitive,” council member Jason Howard said.
West reported back on Monday with figures of what other cities in Stanislaus County were charging to open a massage business. Modesto charges a $50 license fee, a $100 deposit, and $2 per $1,000 gross income quarterly. Riverbank charges $75 per establishment and $600 per technician. Mayor Pat Paul pointed out that Riverbank had previous issues with an illegal brothel operating as a massage business.
“And we have one here too. It’s pretty obvious when you watch the clients who go in and out and see the workers and what they are wearing,” Paul said.
West said that the Oakdale Police Department was looking into the reported issues occurring at an Oakdale massage business. That business, which was not named at the meeting, was established before the new fee schedule was put in place.
“None of the existing establishments paid the $1,500,” West said.
Council voted to establish a onetime fee of $300 per new massage business, plus a $100 background check fee for each massage technician and an annual $100 fee for an announced inspection.
Council also discussed the Oakdale Tourism Business Improvement District membership requirements on Monday night. The Oakdale Chamber of Commerce resigned from oversight and administration of BID programs, funds and activities on Sept. 21. President Doug Heath cited increasing cost and time requirements of administering BID. The council voted to change membership of BID to four hotel operators and three general members. Currently the BID funds, supported by a 2 percent hotel tax, are held by the BID board, which will need to appoint someone to administer the funds after the Chamber’s resignation.

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