The battle for the soon-to-be vacant District 5 City Council seat has been settled, and at Tuesday night’s meeting the Council appointed previous Council member and mayor Virginia Gurrola to fill the vacancy. Gurolla was chosen out of a trio of potential candidates for the seat.

When it came down to voting, the Council unanimously agreed to use the McKracken method to cast their votes. When the votes were counted, Gurrola’s name was voted for across the board. 

Since Council member Brain Ward holds the seat until July 17, Gurrola will be sworn into the Council on July 30.

“Thank you very much,” said Gurrola. “I look forward to working with you all and looking forward to working with the City of Porterville and the residents who live here. I wish to also extend a thank you to Josh (Sulier) and Jerry (Hall).”

The meeting opened with routine AB1224 reports and the first to report was Council member Monte Reyes who provided an update on the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Rees stated the groundwater sustainability plan is in the drafting phases.

Council member Daniel Penaloza gave a report on the Tulare County Economic Development Cooperation. He stated vacancies were filled, and there will be no meeting in July.

When oral communications was opened, Gurrola was the first to step forward to extend her condolences for Ellen Nichols, who passed away over the weekend. Nichols has been an extremely involved member of the community, and frequently attended the City Council meetings. Gurrola provided the date of her services to the Council. 

Barry Caplan was the last to address the Council and he gave his opinions on each of the three candidates. Caplan stated he didn’t believe Gurrola or Hall would be a good selection for the seat, and recommended Sulier be the chosen candidate to fill the seat.

The Council moved into the consent calendar after the closing of oral communications, and quickly approved all 14 items, with a vote of 5-0. Ward wasn’t in attendance, but had joined the meeting via telephone, before losing connection and dropping out of the meeting entirely,

There was one public hearing scheduled for the night, and it concerned contaminants found in some of the city’s water wells. Tetrachloroethene had been detected at a level higher than what the public health goal is, but isn’t at high enough levels to make the water unsafe to drink. 

When the public comment portion of the hearing opened, Caplan stepped forward to ask which wells the contaminants were found in, and how they got there. Mike Knight, the city’s deputy public works director, provided a list of wells in which the tetrachloroethene was found, and stated the levels continuously vary from year to year.

The second reading of Ordinance No. 1858 which addressed an amendment to the Porterville Municipal Code was passed with a vote of 5-0.

The draft resolution to adopt the appropriation limit of $74,449,319 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year was also approved with a vote of 5-0.

A public hearing to the first phase of Transit service modifications was approved 5-0, and set for July 16. The transit system is looking to reduce their service hours in order to move into more modern and personalized modes of transportation in the future. Richard Tree, the transit administrator, is anticipating a six phase plan to evolve the transportation system into something that’s easier and more convenient for the public to use.

The Council also approved an Arts Festival planned and put on by the Porterville Arts Association. The Arts Festival will take place on September 28 at Centennial Park.

Each Council member expressed their condolences for the passing of Nichols before the meeting was adjourned.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m. inside City Hall located at 291 N. Main Street.

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