Controversy erupts as council appoints new member

Controversy launched a special meeting of the Susanville City Council at Jensen Hall at 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 15.

Thomas Herrera

As the council considered the appointment of Thomas Herrera — a matter the council discussed at its March 24 meeting — councilmember Kevin Stafford criticized the process being followed.

Kevin Stafford

At its March 24 meeting Jessica Ryan, the city’s attorney, suggested three possible scenarios, and the council finally decided to appoint candidate Thomas Herrera at its April 15 meeting and gave such direction about how to accomplish that to staff. Herrera, who finished third in the last election, would fill the seat vacated by incumbent councilmember Brian Wilson, who, while elected to another term, decided not to take his seat.

According to the process discussed March 24, Herrera would write a letter of application for the seat and the council would not accept any other applications, Herrera would then be appointed to fill Wilson’s vacant seat at the council’s April 15 meeting. He would hold the seat through the results of the next election.

After a motion and a second to appoint Thomas, Stafford asked to make a comment before the vote.

“Nothing against Thomas, but this whole process is a sham,” Stafford said. “You know, one letter in the paper is all we can do? We don’t follow our procedure, so we’d better get a procedure that we can go by because this whole thing is a sham. But go ahead and appoint Thomas, and we’ll go on with life.”

“OK, are we ready for the vote?” Mayor Mendy Schuster asked.

No one voted no, and Schuster welcomed Herrera to the council and Gwenna MacDonald, city clerk, administered the oath of office.

Here’s a summary of other actions take by the city council at this meeting.

 

Closed session

The council discussed two items in closed session — the approved appointment list and a conference with legal counsel regarding existing litigation with former Susanville police officers Matthew Wood and Michael Bollinger.

Mike Wilson, city administrator, reported the council gave direction to staff.

 

Proclamation

Schuster read a proclamation recognizing Lassen County Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

 

Consent calendar

The council unanimously approved its consent calendar with a single item — to receive and file financial reports from February 2020.

 

New business

The council unanimously approved vendor warrants totaling $1,124,670.28 including $481,383.46 in payroll warrants.

The council unanimously approved Resolution 20-5762 awarding a $29,865 contract to Impact Construction and Excavating for sidewalk repairs and replacement on Main Street and amending the Public Works Streets budget by $32,000 to complete the desired work. The additional funding came from Caltrans.

The council unanimously approved Resolution No. 290563 authorizing the purchase of a backhoe for the Public Works Water Division.

The council unanimously approved Ordinance No. 20-1025 amending Section 2.04.070 of the Susanville Municipal Code changing the Thought of the Day to an Invocation at future city council meetings.

 

Continuing business

The council unanimously passed Ordinance No. 20-1022 amending and adopting Section 17 of the Susanville Municipal Code regarding Emergency Housing/Shelters. The council waived the first reading of the proposed amendment at its April 1 meeting. This item is intended to address the housing needs of Susanville’s homeless population.

According to the staff report by Kelly Mumper, city planner, “The Housing and Community Development Department of the State of California requires that the City of Susanville amend the current zoning ordinance to allow emergency housing by right (instead of by Use Permit) in a P-F (Public Facilities Zoning District).”

According to the staff report, “Housing element law, enacted in 1969, mandates that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community.”

Its adoption would also make the city eligible for additional funding opportunities regarding housing and community development, according to the staff report. The ordinance is for the period of 2019 through 2024.

Permitted uses in a Public Facilities Zoning District now include offices; park and recreation areas; public facilities not listed in Section 17.06.030 that do not emit dust, odor, smoke, bright light, vibration or unacceptable levels of noise or which do not involve dangerous or hazardous materials; schools or colleges; facilities directly related to providing educational services; field stations, experimental stations and institutional research facilities; fire stations; public uses and building, including those owned or managed by federal, state, county, city or districts; recycling facilities as set forth in Section 17.124; emergency shelters; and, all other uses similar to those enumerated above when determined by the planning commission, upon presentation of substantial evidence, to be of the same general character as the above-permitted uses.”

The council unanimously passed a similar item — Ordinance No. 20-1023 — amending and adopting Section17 of the Susanville Municipal Code regarding transitional and supportive housing.

This would allow by right (instead of Use Permit) transitional housing in R-1, R-2, R-3, R-3A, R-4, C-1 and C-2 zoning districts.

The council unanimously continued Resolution No. 20-2758 adopted at its March 25 meeting declaring a state of emergency in the city relative to COVID-19.

James Moore, Susanville’s fire chief, said the continuation of the emergency declaration is required by the government code. He said the city was “still using resources for the Coronavirus, COVID-19 preparedness and response, so I recommend we continue” the local emergency declaration.

Before the vote councilmember Quincy McCourt offered a comment.

He said, “I think our team in Susanville, Lassen County and everywhere around here is really kicking butt, and I think it’s as simple as that. They really are going above and beyond. It’s pretty awesome. I think we all should be pretty thankful for that.”

 

Special meeting

Stafford requested the council hold a workshop on the budget and the city’s CalPers contributions. A special meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 29 at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds.

 

Next meeting

The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 6 at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds.