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Paso Robles City Council meeting highlights from Sept. 15 

City Council meeting highlights

–The following are highlights from the Paso Robles City Council Meeting that occurred on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

In compliance with social distancing, the council, staff, and the public participated via conference call. The public was given the opportunity to view a live stream 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 cityclerk@prcity.com prior to the meeting.

The council took the following actions:

Received update on COVID-19 – Council received an update on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the state, county, and local levels; updated info available online. Under California’s new blueprint for reducing COVID-19, SLO County remains in the “widespread” purple tier, but has made good progress reducing new cases over the last two weeks, which puts the county on track to move into the next tier (red) in late September, if these gains are maintained. 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 a Capital Projects Update – Paving and striping is complete on Spring Street from 24th to 36th Street; lighting improvements are pending. Final work on the new Main West Water Tank on 21st Street continues, while the tank is in full operation. site work and paving of the access roads are the primary remaining tasks. Union Road improvements along Barney Schwartz Park are mainly done, pending the arrival of pedestrian crossing poles and lights.

Recognized the Receipt of a Wastewater Project of the Year Award – In 2019, the city completed construction of Tertiary Treatment Facilities at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, funded in part by a $4 million state grant. The project included many environmentally sustainable features, producing high quality recycled water and further reducing the city’s impact on the Salinas River. In 2020, the California Water Environment Association awarded the Tertiary project its Engineering and Research Achievement Award. In addition, the Global Water Intelligence selected the Tertiary project for its Global Water Awards 2020 Wastewater Project of the Year, among a short list of other excellent projects from Egypt, China, and India. The mayor recognized Wastewater Manager Matt Thompson, other Wastewater Division Staff, design engineer Black & Veatch, Cushman Contracting Corporation, and construction manager Covello Group on these awards and extended gratitude for their dedicated service to the City of Paso Robles

Received an update on the Small Business Grant Program – The City of Paso Robles created a COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program utilizing $200,000 in federal CARES Act funds to provide one-time grant funding for small businesses in Paso Robles. The program was created to support local economic recovery by helping businesses address COVID-19 impacts and to help them retain their employees. The city received over 100 applications, with grant requests totaling over $1 million, far exceeding the $200,000 in available CARES Act funds for the program. Each application was carefully reviewed by a selection committee to ensure each grantee met the program criteria. In total, 33 local businesses in various locations, ranging in size from 1 to 21 employees, were selected to receive a grant. These awarded grant funds support a combined total of 209 local jobs across a variety of sectors.

Received an update on the CARES Act Funds Expenditures to date – The city received approximately $385,000 in federal funding for pandemic-related expenses, including reimbursement of city expenses and/or direct community assistance, On July 21, the council approved the use of funds for three primary activities in three cost ranges, as follows: Partial Reimbursement of City COVID-19 Response Efforts ($100,000-$200,000); Education and Outreach on COVID-19 Response ($15,000-$25,000); and Small Business Assistance Program ($100,000-$200,000). The city submitted a required progress report of expenditures (actual and estimated) to the Department of Finance. Funds have been spent or are projected to be spent by Dec. 30 in those categories within the ranges approved by the council. Approximately $175,000 has been or will be spent on to reimburse the city for COVID-19 response efforts unlikely to be reimbursed by FEMA, including on-street dining program costs, IT equipment required for remote/virtual city operations and public meetings, homeless sanitation facilities, increased disinfecting and sanitization of public facilities, preventative laundering of public safety uniforms, and attorney costs related to COVID-19 response efforts. Approximately $18,000 are being utilized to continue to provide and expand public education and outreach regarding public health orders to gain increased compliance and keep Paso Robles’ residents safe and healthy. Finally, $200,000 will go directly to 33 local businesses that were selected through the Small Business Grant Program to receive grants of $4,000-$6,500. While they unfortunately are not sufficient to address the full scope of the need, these funds will help support 209 local jobs.

Accepted two grants from FEMA for emergency services – One was for portable and mobile radios for firefighters and apparatus, which will ensure that each firefighter has his or her own assigned radio. The other grant was to cover the cost of some of the personal protective equipment utilized in COVID-19 response efforts. For the $89,000 in grant funds, there is a small 10-percent match required from the city, leveraging city funds ten to one.

Accepted Final Maps for the Olsen-S. Chandler Specific Plan – Council approved the Olsen-S. Chandler Specific Plan in February. Approval of Final Maps is the next step in allowing the development to move forward.

Approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Housing Authority – In February, the council approved the Olsen-S. Chandler Specific Plan and an associated development agreement (DA) with the Developer, Olsen 212 LLC. The agreement requires the developer to build at least 60 units of workforce housing at 160-percent of area median income (AMI). The DA provides the city with an option (through 2022) to work with a non-profit affordable housing development partner to develop a higher number of units at more affordable levels with longer deed restrictions, in order to better meet the diverse needs of Paso’s workforce and to meet state housing requirements. The Housing Authority expressed interest in serving as the city’s non-profit affordable housing developer, and the MOU gives them the ability to acquire the land and develop 75-100 units affordable to households earning 60-percent of AMI or below. If the Housing Authority cannot acquire in time, the city would have 90 days during which to exercise its remaining option period or allow the DA to revert to the workforce housing required by the developer.

Continued the Beechwood Housing Development Specific Plan – Given that negotiations between the city and the development team are ongoing, the council continued their review of the plan to the Oct. 6 meeting.

Considered Actions to Further Reduce and Prioritize Operating Costs – The pandemic has exacerbated the city’s structural deficit by reducing revenues while the demand for city services is the same or greater. In June, the 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, $5.7 million in funds are being drawn from reserves to continue to provide city services. On Sept. 1, the council directed staff to implement the additional cost-reduction steps already planned, such as voluntary retirements/resignations/hour reductions, and to return on Sept. 15 with additional potential cost savings measures for this year, totaling between $1.5M and $2.5M, as well as a “Plan B” outlining what services and budget would need to be eliminated nest year if Measure J-20 does not pass on Nov. 3. Council directed staff to continue to analyze cost reduction scenarios, excluding reductions from Police and Emergency Services, and to return in January with updated revenue information and cost reduction scenarios.

The council adjourned the meeting in memory of Ed Steinbeck, who was a former City Councilmember and a significant contributor to the Paso Robles community. He recently passed away of Parkinson’s disease.

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 City Council’s next regular meeting.

The next regular City Council meeting takes place on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 6:30 pm 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 cityclerk@prcity.com.



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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.