City council discusses temporary homeless camp, reducing personnel costs
–Highlights from the Regular City Council meeting, held on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, as sent by the City of Paso Robles, are as follows.
Note: In compliance with social distancing, the council, staff, and the public participated via conference call. The public was given the opportunity to view a livestream of the meeting at www.prcity.com/youtube, invited to call into the meeting at 805-865-PASO (7276), and to email public comment to email@example.com prior to the meeting.
Received update on COVID-19: There have been over 715,000 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California, 3,006 in the County, and 734 in the Paso Robles area zip code. California has a new blueprint for reducing COVID-19, which imposes risk-based criteria on tightening and loosening allowable activities and expands the length of time between changes to assess how any movement affects the trajectory of the disease. Counties are assigned to a tier based on their rates of new cases and positivity. Counties must remain in every tier (except the most restrictive tier) for a minimum of 21 days before being eligible to move into the next tier. Each Tuesday, California will update each county’s data for the previous week and make corresponding changes. To move into a less-restrictive tier, a county must meet that tier’s criteria for two straight weeks. Conversely, counties that fail to meet the metrics for their current tier for two consecutive weeks must move to the next more-restrictive tier. Currently, San Luis Obispo County is in Tier 1, the most restrictive tier (which is color-coded purple). Counties in the purple tier may open some businesses and activities with modifications, including all retail, shopping centers at maximum 25% capacity, and hair salons and barbershops indoors. Restaurants are still limited to operating outdoors only. Once we move into the red tier, schools will be able to open, and restaurants will be able to provide indoor dining with 25 percent capacity, along with other changes, all of which are outlined at www.covid19.ca.gov.
Received an update on the temporary homeless shelter: The temporary camping facility for homeless residents has been operational at the Borkey Flats site for a few weeks. The site has restrooms, showers, and a safe needle exchange program, and is offering a safe parking area. The City’s Community Action Team (CAT) has been regularly visiting homeless encampments in the riverbed. They have visited 15-20 camps and informed individuals of the new camping area on the Borkey Flats site and of the city’s intent to clean up the riverbed to mitigate fire risk and protect water quality. To date, three encampments have been cleaned up of all debris and waste products. The camping site has not seen high levels of utilization to date, but the city has seen a drop in fire activity since the CAT team has been active and cleanup has begun. The city will need to move the Borkey Flats encampment in the winter given that it is in the flood plain, and continues to work with homeless service provider partners to identify long-term solutions.
Continued the Beechwood Housing Development Specific Plan: Given that negotiations between the city and the development team are ongoing, council continued their review of the Plan to the Sept. 15 meeting.
Accepted the 2020 insurance services office public protection classification: The Insurance Services Office (ISO) is an independent organization that serves insurance companies by assessing property and casualty insurance risk. Based on their assessment of a community’s fire response capabilities, the ISO assigns a Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating, which can range between 1 and 9; Class 1 generally represents superior property fire protection, and Class 9 indicates that the area’s fire suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria. The PPC is used by 90% of all property insurance underwriters in determining insurance rates. In general, the price of fire insurance in a community with a good PPC is substantially lower than in a community with a poor PPC. Paso Robles went through a rigorous evaluation early this year and received the same PPC classification rating as the 2014 evaluation, 03/3X. Several critical deficiencies were identified in ISO’s 2020 Paso Robles Fire and Emergency Services (PRFES) evaluation. Among them are: Emergency Reporting, Emergency Dispatch Protocols, Training Facilities and Use, Deployment Analysis, and Company Personnel. Due to insufficient staffing, there is significant potential for property loss in low, medium, and high hazard occupancies. ISO has identified the lack of staffing as a critical factor since its first evaluation in 1998. Not addressing this critical deficiency will put the department further behind and put our residents and visitors at further risk, as well as increase fire insurance rates.
Considered ongoing and planned actions to further reduce personnel costs as a result of the impacts of the pandemic on the city’s revenues: The pandemic has exacerbated the city’s structural deficit by reducing revenues (by appx $1million/month) while the demand for city services is the same or greater. In June, Council approved over $7.4 million in reductions to the City’s General Fund budget to address this year’s projected deficit. Even with these significant reductions, funds are being drawn from reserves to continue to provide essential city services. City Manager Frutchey outlined several ways that existing staffing practices result in lower costs to residents than in peer cities, even in cases such as emergency services where demands for service are higher per capita than in peer cities. The council adopted the updated Graduated Personnel Cost Reduction Plan (previously the Layoff Prevention Plan) and authorized the city manager to implement the additional cost-reduction steps already planned and/or discussed with labor groups. In addition, council directed staff to return on Sept. 15 with additional potential cost savings measures, totaling between $1.5M and $2.5M, including a “Plan B” outlining what services and budget would need to be eliminated if Measure J-20 does not pass on Nov. 3.
The council adjourned the meeting thanking Public Works Director Dick McKinley for his service to the community. McKinley has accepted a job as the General Manager of the Alderwood Water and Wastewater District in Washington state.
The agenda can be found at https://www.prcity.com/agendacenter and the livestream from the meeting can be found at www.prcity.com/youtube. The minutes will be available as part of the packet for the council’s next regular meeting.
The next regular council meeting takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. via livestream at www.prcity.com/youtube. Public comment can be made during the meeting by 805-865-PASO (7276) or provided prior to the meeting by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.