Council considers revised economic development partnership MOU with SIR at its Wednesday, March 1 meeting

A revised proposed memorandum of understanding between the city of Susanville and the Susanville Indian Rancheria returns for consideration at the Susanville City Council’s next meeting scheduled at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1 at City Hall.

The council tabled approval of a previous version of the MOU at its Wednesday, Feb. 15 meeting, after councilmembers Mendy Schuster and Russ Brown expressed concerns about the MOU that, if approved, will cost city taxpayers as much as $185,000 per year through June 30, 2027. According to the MOU, the Susanville Indian Rancheria would also contribute as much as $185,000 per year. According to the staff report, the estimated fiscal impact is $370,000 per year.

While Susanville Mayor Quincy McCourt said at the Feb. 15 council meeting that there have been many meetings and discussions between city officials, city staff and the representatives of the SIR over a long period of time and this MOU is nothing new, the SIR has not publicly commented on either the original or the revised proposal or even its interest in moving the MOU forward. It’s also unknown what role the Rancheria played in drafting the MOU. SIR Tribal Business Council meetings are not open to the public because the Rancheria is considered a sovereign nation, and only tribal members may attend those meetings. Shuster complained she and the other councilmembers have been left in the dark during this entire process and she said she couldn’t vote to approve an MOU when she knew nothing about it and felt it was incomplete.

According to the staff report included with the revised MOU agenda item, “The Susanville Indian Rancheria and the city of Susanville are interested in working collaboratively on economic development efforts. The attached Memorandum of Understanding describes the benefits of the proposed partnership to the region. When one agency provides opportunity for industrial growth, job creation, enhancing community amenities, better education, provision of public safety service and other essential community services, our community as a whole benefits.”

While McCourt stressed at the council’s Feb. 15 meeting the importance and urgency of approving the MOU in order to show the SIR the city is serious about the proposed partnership, Schuster and Brown expressed a number of concerns about the MOU and the process that’s been followed so far. They questioned the process followed by the ad-hoc committee that came up with the proposal and noted there was no participation by any other members of the Susanville City Council in drafting the proposed MOU until the mayor sought its approval. McCourt and councilmember Kevin Stafford were the ad-hoc committee members. She said the MOU didn’t even include a job description or a job title. And due to the high salary proposed for the new city employee, Shuster said she believed city residents do not want to spend their money this way. She also expressed concerns there was no way for the city to escape from this contract if it so desired. There were also concerns that the hiring practices included in the original MOU that allowed SIR members to have a vote in approving the hiring of a city employee. Shuster said the city council hires city employees, not some committee.

The revised MOU, attachments address some of those concerns
According to the revised MOU, the city would hire an economic development director as a city employee serving at the will of the city administrator. This new management level employee would be responsible for creating “an Economic Development Implementation Plan, coordinating with local, state and federal entities, marketing the region within a variety of economic development impact areas and coordinating and delivering projects.”

The new director’s salary would be set by the city’s existing department head bargaining unit, and the salary shall not exceed $133,000 per year plus benefits not to exceed $76,000 per year or $209,000 per year, $104,500 from each party.

The city will follow its normal hiring process, but two members of the SIR would be “invited to participate in the interview panel.”

The parties also agree to jointly share the cost of consultant services not to exceed $50,00 per year (included in the total contribution by both parties). Both parties will “meet and confer and mutually agree on the scope of the services to be solicited.” The city will pay for the cost of the consultant, and “request reimbursement from SIR quarterly.”

The parties jointly agree to share the cost of a part-time administrative staff assistant, not to exceed $35,000 annually.

The city administrator will establish a steering committee for economic development comprised of SIR and city representatives. According to the MOU, “This committee shall routinely engage the collaborator manager on matters related to economic development.”

New Economic Development Director job description, salary range 168-172
Included in the board packet regarding the MOU is a draft job description.

According to that description: “Under the direction of the city administrator, the economic development director is responsible for providing strategic leadership and direction in the role of collaborator/manager advocating for economic development in the implementation of the city’s economic development program. Incumbent will work closely with the economic and business community, including the Susanville Indian Rancheria, other government agencies, non-profit organizations, academic and business institutions as well as private entrepreneurial and civic groups. The incumbent is responsible for negotiating with developers, land use attorneys and financiers to facilitate and expedite economic development projects and real property land use, including lease agreements for the city of Susanville, often involving complex, highly specialized or difficult real property acquisition and lease maintenance issues. The incumbent will develop and market Susanville’s Economic Development Implementation Plan, serve in the role of collaborator/manager, coordinate marketing activities, assist in annexations, assist in the development of tax sharing agreements and influence and train city staff in all matters pertaining to economic development. The incumbent will provide overall management of the Susanville’s Economic Development Implementation Plan and will be responsible for formulating recommendations as well as formulating the plan’s objectives and work plan and conducting outreach with the business community.

“The incumbent in working in the capacity of the economic development director performs additional highly responsible administrative work assisting the city administrator in planning, coordinating and directing the activities of the city of Susanville.”

The minimum qualifications are: “Possession of a valid Class C California driver’s license is required at the time of appointment and for the duration of employment.”

Preferred qualifications are: “Any education or experience equivalent to: Graduation from an accredited college or university with a bachelor’s degree in public or business administration, planning, economics, finance or a closely related field; five years of extensive and progressively responsible experience in community development, economic development, redevelopment, planning, real property or finance, preferably in the public sector; at least two years of management experience working with senior administrators on significant economic development projects; and a master’s degree in business or public administration, economics, finance, planning or a closely related field is highly desirable.”

Other items on the agenda
Other items on the agenda include a 4:30 p.m. closed session conference with labor negotiators (the administrative unit, the fire unit, the miscellaneous unit, the professional technical unit and the public works unit; and an evaluation of the city administrator.

The public portion of the meeting begins at 5 p.m. with business from the floor; the consent calendar; a public hearing to assess a $10,000 penalty against the Knights Inn Motel for violations of a nuisance abatement order; a discussion of supportive housing in Susanville; a fee waiver for the rental of Memorial Park and a donation of police and public works overtime for the annual Walk a Mile event; a resolution amending the city’s 2022-2023 budget; department reports; a report on the city’s K-9 program; and consideration of future council items.

The Susanville City Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 15.