City Council gives nod to new handbook
Decision had been postponed twice
Those who have been waiting on the City Council to approve its handbook need wait no more. After a consensus vote by the three council members at Tuesday’s meeting, the new handbook was approved with amendments.
The updated handbook is designed to streamline the way the meeting is conducted and better define the rules council members must adhere to when it comes to trip expenses and public events.
Mayor Virginia Gurrola, Vice Mayor Pete McCracken and Council Member Cam Hamilton approved all but one of the amendments which had been suggested by McCracken at a previous council meeting as it was decided that the handbook had been put off for too long. The three proceeded although Councilmembers Brian Ward and Greg Shelton were both absent.
Gurrola clarified with city manager John Lollis that the amendments in question had been put off twice before. The actual subject of reviewing the handbook first appeared on the Aug. 7 agenda. The main concern of the three council members was that Ward or Shelton might have amendments of their own. However, as documentation on any proposed changes could have been given to the other council members for review at the previous meeting, they moved forward.
“As the mayor said, the others have had ample time to give us others [amendments] for review,” Hamilton said.
The new changes to the handbook have gotten rid of the language stating that the council would adjourn no later than 9:45 p.m. unless the council approved making the meeting longer. Other streamlining measures will see the council addressing any consent calendar items which are pulled from the consent calendar vote after all other scheduled matters have been attended to, as well as following a proscribed progression when a motion is made, a second is received and then discussion follows.
Of the additions to the handbook that provide guidelines for council members expenses, the council approved wording that ensured that travel expenses for family members would be paid for by the council member, not the city, and that only two tickets for city sponsored events would be given to each member; tickets obtained above this cap of two must be paid for by the council member who receives them.
“This handbook, before we go to vote, I believe is very good for anyone who is looking to come into city council. I didn’t have this, but it would have provided me with some good guidelines,” Gurrola said.
She did question why such guidelines like the ticket cap needed to exist in the first place, and was initially concerned that any tickets obtained above the cap of two would have to be approved by the council. McCracken clarified that the amendment was made just to ensure that council members could not, in the future, abuse complimentary tickets for events.
“I have a problem with some of these. I served on the council for eight years and these are not issues we had to deal with then,” Gurrola said. “We had other business to deal with.”
The final amendment, on disciplinary actions to be taken for repeated violations of the City Charter, was withdrawn by McCracken, who said there is a committee studying that issue.
The refinancing of some of the city’s bond debt and of the purchase of new microphones were passed unanimously by the council.
Both Hamilton and McCracken voiced approval for the refinancing bond debt for the city. McCracken pointed out that much of the discussion at the League of Cities involved local funding, and that the main suggestion given to representatives was to seek out their own funding opportunities because cities are simply no longer in a position to expect funding from the state.
Both McCracken and Hamilton felt that the refinancing of the bonds was one such opportunity, and Hamilton pointed out that by taking advantage of improved interest rates, the debt associated with the 2005 Certificates of Participation, issued to finance widening of bridges or streets, could be reduced, leading to a “total gross savings of approximately $8.8 million, with a net savings of approximately $2.5 million, including the seven years of additional debt service in a new issuance.”
Gurrola also addressed the gallery to give an explanation of the scheduled matter concerning microphones, which she requested to be placed on the agenda. Her reasoning was two fold, she said. Firstly, she wanted to ensure that those who attended the meetings would always be able to hear the proceedings and that any recording equipment being utilized to document the meeting would also clearly record everything stated.
She admitted that the current microphones were still up to the task, as long as council members leaned forward to speak into them. She pointed out, however, that to sit for a number of hours on the dais, leaning forward in their seats, eventually created an uncomfortable situation for the council members, and that there was little they could do about the seating arrangements; the choices are either lean back and risk not being heard, or sit in discomfort which would increase the potential for having to take breaks to provide relief for the seating situation.
Lollis gave a small presentation on the quotes and types of microphones that could be purchased, and Hamilton was the first to point out, given his first-hand knowledge with sound equipment, that the wireless headsets would provide the maximum amount of maneuverability while also providing clear quality.
Hamilton made a motion to purchase five wireless headset microphones, at an estimated cost of $5,000, for the council. Further microphones would not be purchased, although other committees used the council chamber and had more members. The vote was unanimous, although there was concern over whether the council members who were not in attendance would be willing to wear the headsets.
The other options, lapel microphones and cabled “gooseneck” microphones, had estimated costs of $3,000 and $2,500, respectively.
The meeting was opened with the presentation of a number of service awards: Fire fighter Cody Clem was recognized as the September employee of the month, Capt. Daniel Haynes was recognized for 15 years of service and Officer Nathan Bray and City Librarian Vikki Cervantes were both recognized for five years.
Edited on Sept. 21, 2012 to correct the estimated costs of the headset microphones purchased by the council.