Council rejects JPA, sends it back to TCAG
While Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council was shorter than normal, a couple of hot topics stood out amongst the others, the main one being the matter of amending the Tulare County Association of Government’s Joint Power Agreement to allow TCAG the power to institute and manage a traffic impact fee.
After discussion and a report by the City Attorney Julia Lew, the council voted to unanimously reject the JPA as it is written, propose that the two amendments in the JPA be split so that the council could hear the matter of the Central California Railroad Authority separately, and send it back to TCAG.
The JPA has appeared on past City Council agendas, and was tabled in the past because of concerns on the part of Lew over the wording of the JPA and the legality of it, as well as concerns by the council that by approving the JPA they were also approving a new fee without knowing the exact amount of that fee, or how it would be collected in the future.
The topic of the JPA came up a number of times at the council meeting, the first of which was when Mayor Virginia Gurrola reported on the last Council of Cities meeting, where the JPA was the main topic. Gurrola learned at that time that Woodlake and Farmersville had yet to present the JPA before their city councils and the representative for Visalia did not comment on that city’s decision on the JPA. COC decided to start drafting a letter which would request an extension for the cities in terms of the JPA, but as the Board of Supervisors had already made a decision in regards to the JPA, it was now “a moot issue, as far as they are concerned,” Gurrola said of the Board.
From the point of view of the staff report, which City Manager John Lollis started to report on, the first section of the JPA, which would give TCAG the power to initiate and run a transportation impact fee, is a good idea, as eventually work will be done to improve Highway 190, between Highway 99 and Road 284. Lollis said that the city would more than likely need to provide matching funds for intersections and other improvements to the highway between Westwood and Plano streets, and would need to be a part of the funding for the proposed roundabout which would be placed at the intersection of 190 and Reservation Road.
However, Lollis was cut short by Council Member Brian Ward who pointed out that the topic had been postponed to this meeting to give Lew the opportunity to discuss the language of the JPA with TCAG’s legal council, Arlene Silva, saying that they had talked twice.
“I explained my concerns with the language, told her I had a real issue with the cause collection aspect of the language when we weren’t really sure how they were planning on implementing the procedural aspects, and she said they hadn’t really gotten to that point...” Lew said, adding that Silva had explained that before any procedural decisions could be made, TCAG would need to solidify that they had the right to do such a thing. “You can’t even do this before you’ve established the power. That was the primary purpose behind the language but she acknowledged that there might be some inadvertent issues created by the language the way it was written.”
Lew sent Silva examples of legal language which might help clarify the cause collection section, and said that Silva mentioned they might do away with that section altogether. Either way, Lew reported, the JPA would have to go before the Board again.
Both Gurrola and Council Member Greg Shelton questioned why those cities which had accepted the JPA had done so, when it seemed like the language of it was so open to legal complications. Lew could only guess that amounted to a different attitude in those cities who have been working on this issue with TCAG longer, and who probably just wanted to see the issue move forward