The Porterville City Council received a presentation on Tuesday night from a Chicago based real estate firm called UPholdings, regarding a possible housing facility that will help the homeless population transition into permanent housing, which they referred to as an “Affordable and Permanent Support Housing Project.” 

If the project is approved by the Council in the future, it would be the first of its kind in the Central Valley, and will provide a portion of the homeless population access to affordable and permanent housing. This item was presented as informational only, which required no approval or action from the Council.

A representative from UPholdings guided the Council through a layout of the facility, which will have 80 units, with roughly 40 of those units dedicated to housing homeless people with special needs. The proposed name for the complex is “Finca Serena” and will sit on a 3-acre site located at 358 South E Street. The complex will feature select services including access to computers for job searching. Public outreach is being conducted to find out what other services are deemed a necessity by the community. With half of the units already dedicated to housing the homeless, the remaining 40 units will be available to the general public, and are said to be “high quality housing” for those who are on a budget. UPholdings is hoping to have the facility open by spring of 2022.

Ricardo Bustamante Jr. was honored by the Council as the city’s Employee of the Month for December. Bustamante works in the public works department as an Inspector I, and has more than 20 years of experience in construction. He and his wife have three children together, and they stay active outdoors as a family. Bustamante said he’s looking forward to many more years working for the city and is hoping to be promoted to Inspector II.

After Bustamante accepted his award, oral communications was opened and Brock Neeley stepped to the podium first. Neeley wished to address the proclamation request forms in the City Council Procedural Handbook, and suggested that instead of signatures, each member of Council who wishes to support the proclamation can check a box designating which district voted in support of the document. He finished by warning the Council of exclusions in the upcoming Census count.

Barry Caplan approached the podium after Neeley to speak about the handbook and the problems the proclamation process may pose in the future. He gave a brief history of the proclamation battle and suggested the Council just “start from scratch.”

When it was time for the Council to approve the consent calendar, Council member Virginia Gurrola requested that item 12 be pulled for discussion later in the meeting. All of the remaining items were approved with a vote of 5-0.

The Council had five scheduled matters slated for the evening, and the first was to appoint a new member to the Library and Literacy Commission. In lieu of a recent resignation by the commission’s chair, Allen Bailey, a single request of appointment was submitted by Leslie Pelon. Pelon, who was in attendance, was quickly appointed to the commission with a term ending in October 2021.

The Council moved forward to the next item of business, which was a discussion regarding the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s (ETGSA) draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Public Works Director Michael Knight outlined the GSP for the Council, and advised the GSP is still open for public comment at this time. He stated the plan must be submitted by December 31, and public comment on the GSP will close on December 16 with a public hearing at 2 p.m. in City Hall. He broke down each section of the GSP before answering all of the Council’s questions. There was no vote required for this item.

Jenni Byers, the Community Development Director, presented the Council with a request to apply for a grant that will help the homeless transition into the workforce. The Workforce Accelerator Fund 8.0 was presented as a partnership with the Workforce Investment Board, and will allocate up to $150,000 to help people exit out of homelessness. The grant offers five different priorities and goals, and will work as an 18 month program broken down into 12 week sessions. This program will work hand-in-hand with the future Navigation Center, set to open next spring on Vine Street. In order to qualify, the Council needed to approve a 1:1 match on the $150,000, and the application is to be submitted no later than December 20. The Council approved this item with a 5-0 vote.

Porterville Fire Chief Dave LaPere requested the Council approve a contribution to the Tulare-Kings County Regional Hazardous Materials Team in the amount of $6,909.68, which is to be taken from the Fire Department’s general budget. The fund total is based of the population size for each city involved. The Council agreed to make the contribution with a vote of 5-0.

The last scheduled item up for discussion was the solidification of wording in the City Council’s Procedural Handbook. All of the revisions were approved 5-0.

Council member Gurrola circled back to the item she pulled off of the consent calendar, which was a request for the Council to take a tour of the Tule River Garden project. Council member Daniel Penaloza requested the item at a previous meeting. Gurrola questioned as to whether staff and others would attend if that would violate the Brown Act. Penaloza clarified he will be going on a tour regardless, and wanted to extend the invite to his fellow Council representative. City Attorney Julia Lew suggested no more than two Council members attend the tour. Penaloza ultimately decided to resend the item, but admitted he will still be going on the tour on December 17.

The next meeting of the Porterville City Council is scheduled for December 17, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers in City Hall located at 291 N. Main Street.

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