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Lindsay misses mayor at meeting impasse

Lindsay misses mayor at meeting impasse

For the first time since becoming mayor, Ramona Padilla was not in attendance at a Lindsay City Council meeting as both her and City Manager Rick Wilkinson were absent due to the flu. And while her absence didn’t leave the council without a quorum, it did leave the council deadlocked between the “old” council and the “new” council.

The Feb. 12 meeting began with a failed vote to pass the Consent Calendar. Recently elected Councilmember Steve Mecum motioned to remove the minutes for the Jan. 22 meeting and Jan. 30 special meeting after Trudy Wischemann requested they be removed during the public comment period. Mecum wanted to discuss the detail of the minutes, asking why two public comments were omitted from the Jan. 30 meeting and why split decisions did not include how each Councilmember voted. Councilmember Roseanna Sanchez, also serving her first term, seconded the motion. Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Salinas and Councilmember Pam Kimball voted against for 2-2 tie.

City Attorney Julie Lew agreed that both meeting minutes had to be amended and advised the Council to revote on the Consent Calendar, but tabling those minutes for the following meeting’s agenda on Feb. 26. The vote then carried unanimously 4-0.

The Council came to a stalemate on the issue of awarding a bid to repave the Lindsay Memorial Building Parking Lot, which may ultimately kill the project. City Services Director Mike Camarena said the City received five bids on the project with the lowest coming from 99 Pipeline of Lindsay for $219,896.42, well under the budgeted amount of $348,000. The City is also required to take the lowest bid, unless there are issues or concerns with the bid.

“The project needs to be substantially completed by the end of March,” Camarena said.

Finance Director Tamara Laken said the project would renovate the entire dilapidated parking lot of the Lindsay Memorial Building by using a portion of the USDA loan for the Wellness Center.

“This is a loan, right?” Mecum asked.

Laken said it is part of the original $3.6 million loan used to build the Wellness Center in 2006. In a later interview, Laken described the USDA money as a line of credit that the City withdrew money from and then paid back principal and interest on the amount it has drawn. She said because the project is connected to the Wellness Center via walking paths through City Park, the parking lot renovation was eligible to use a portion of the loan. The City has a $933,000 balance in the USDA loan.

“Once it’s gone you won’t have it and it can’t be used for anything else,” Laken said.

Laken said that portion of the loan will be repaid by revenues from the Wellness Center and City revenues. The remainder of the loan is being repaid by the Lindsay Hospital District, which has pledged $233,000 per year. Laken said the loan principal and interest payment per year is about $150,000. The Hospital District pays for about $124,000 of the loan repayment and $109,000 for programming at the Wellness Center. The City pays about $26,000 per year on the loan.

Kimball motioned to award the bid and it was seconded by Salinas. Both Mecum and Sanchez voted against awarding the bid. After the 2-2 vote, Laken was unsure how to proceed. The same City Council authorized staff to go out to bid on a 4-1 vote just a few weeks earlier. City Attorney Lew said the City could re-bid the project or reconsider it at the next meeting. Ultimately, the issue will come up for a revote at the Feb. 26 meeting.

The property was transferred from the Lindsay-Strathmore Memorial District to the City of Lindsay in November. The Memorial District did not have the funds to do the project and transferring to the City allowed for a broader base of funding opportunities.

The Mayor’s absence also delayed the formation of an Agenda Policy Committee, to review how items are placed on the agenda, who has the final decision for agenda items, when the public can participate on specific items and other issues pertaining to the City Council agendas.

Maria Knutson, administrative supervisor/assistant to the City Manager, said the only person to apply for the appointment was Job Lara. A well known pastor, business owner and youth mentor, Knutson said Lara was an excellent candidate to serve on the committee. Knutson said the at-large committee member seat was advertised online, in the newspaper and at City Hall.

Mecum questioned the purpose of having City Manager Rich Wilkinson on the Committee. According to the City Charter, the City Manager is “entitled to participate in the deliberations of any City board, committee, commission, agency, authority and corporation, but shall have no vote therein.” Mecum said he would rather use that seat on the five-member committee for another member of the public.

“The spirit of what we are doing is to have more input from the community, not staff members,” Mecum said. “I think we need more community members in lieu of staff.”

City Councilmember Pam Kimball said the committee could have been any number of members, but that the mayor directed the council and staff to form a five-member committee. Under the City Charter, “Boards, commissions and committees established by resolution shall be appointed by the Mayor from nominees presented to him/her by the Council.” Mecum said the item should be tabled because only the Mayor has the power to appoint someone nominated for the position. Lew explained he would be a non-voting member of the committee when it came time for a final decision. After a brief discussion, Lew agreed the item could not be approved without the mayor and recommended tabling the item until the mayor could be present.

“I’d rather do this right than fast,” Mecum said.

The only non-consent calendar item to actually pass was the approval of the site plan for a Sister City monument recognizing 40 years of friendship between Lindsay and Ono City, Japan (See page A7). The Lindsay City Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. For more information, call City Hall at 559-562-7103.

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