Interim City Manager Tom Haglund asked Council to approve a new draft on AB 2220, the bill that’s planned to replace AB 3773 with its deed restrictions on Parks and Recreation properties at the March 3 meeting at City Hall. After lengthy discussion between council members and a number of public speakers, once again, council members were divided on backing the new bill with Mayor Paul Sandhu and Council member Shawn Farmer asking that the bill not contain verbiage that would allow the city to sell the property.
Haglund said the final draft is due on March 18 to be considered for this year’s legislation.
Vice Mayor Rich Lozano and Council members Paige Lampson and Curt Campion voted to back the new draft of AB 2220 while Sandhu and Farmer voted in opposition.
Economic Development Director Amie Mendes and Community Planning Director Chris Erias presented their report on the “next steps” planned to move forward with the Galt Community Market Plan.
Erias explained that community meetings are planned concerning the Galt Market Plan. The first was held Monday night (see separate story).
“We’ll solicit feedback before we put pencil to paper,” Erias said. “We’ll also have an online survey for those who could not make the first meeting (March 9).”
Mendes said the need for more retail in Galt is thwarted by a lack of available retail property.
“We have a sales tax leakage of $3.25 million annually from residents spending outside of Galt,” said Mendes.
The city hired the Lewis Group for their experience in mixed-use developments, according to Mendes.
Mendes said a market analyst had been hired to research the market to better understand what will work best in Galt retail. The consultant will also look at other vicinities and how their changes made a difference. Also to be considered and reported on by the consultant is what will happen if nothing is done.
Sandhu questioned Erias on the 2017 Civic Center Master Plan project.
“During that time we spent a lot of staff time and nothing came from it,” said Sandhu. “We don’t have a plan, and usually we have a plan and then you move forward.”
Farmer commented on whether the sports complex with softball fields should be redeveloped, which would cause games and tournaments to relocate out to Walker Park.
“Isn’t the complex pretty booked?” asked Farmer of Parks and Recreation Director Armando Solis.
“On the weekends,” answered Solis.
Farmer said that would take tax revenues away, since Walker Park is not close to businesses as they are now.
“Won’t that take tax revenues away?” asked Farmer. “For every positive, there’s a negative.”
Revitalizing the Galt Market should be the main focus, according to Farmer.
Kami Martin had the first public comment. She pointed out that other departments were also in need of millions in funding, yet Parks and Recreation was the only department not funded by the general fund. She also said the plan they presented that night had a focus on community input, yet at the last meeting council members seemed to ignore the public’s concerns.
“We’ve been working on this (plan) for three years, yet we had to rush for amended language,” Martin said. “The bill was so urgent to get to assembly as to break trust with this community, with seemingly no urgency to actually progress with its development given the language that gives it 10 years with an additional 10 year extension.”
Galt resident Harry Winslow spoke next. His first comments were on the meetings he had with council members.
“First of all, you’re spending more money than you’re taking in,” said Winslow. “… Parks and Rec actually do have more revenue than expenses, and then that balance goes to general services – the general fund eats the rest of it.”
Longtime resident Jeff Hood encouraged the council to vote in favor of AB 2220, saying it was necessary for the city. He stated he had worked for eight years as a director of a Parks and Recreation Department in a nearby city (Lodi).
“Minimum wage and paid benefits for part-time employees are up 83 percent in about seven or eight years,” Hood said. “It’s very, very difficult for parks and rec agencies to make ends meet. I’m very concerned there aren’t sufficient funds for capital maintenance for the aquatics center, ball fields … It’s time to do this now. Waiting any longer is going to put the city and the parks and rec in financial danger.”
Farmer asked Hood the budget for Lodi’s Parks and Rec. Hood answered $6.5 million with another 43 percent recovery from programs. Farmer had a follow-up question.
“So where does the 57 percent of operating costs come from?” asked Farmer.
“The general fund,” answered Hood.
“Thank you for your answers,” replied Farmer.
In the fourth hour of the meeting, Farmer and Sandhu let the other council members know they were not comfortable with including the word “sell” in the new verbiage for AB 2220. Council member Campion said that would limit the city’s “flexibility”, and he would not want it taken out.
Farmer said he believed it could be added back in before the Aug. 21 legislative deadline.
Lozano asked Hagland if removing “sell” would actually limit the city’s options.
Hagland said it would.
Mayor Sandhu said it could be added later.
Council member Lampson commented.
“Okay, we have until August so we can put that word in,” Lampson said. “That could make a lot of mistrust with the public.”
Campion weighed in.
“Everything we’ve heard said it would limit us,” Campion said. “I would not like to start in a handicapped position. If, in the end, we decide we don’t want to sell the property, the language can be amended then.”
The discussion between Campion, Sandhu and Farmer continued until the final 3-2 vote.