A split Galt City Council voted on Nov. 2 to delay its decision on Carillion Boulevard traffic measures, requesting staff to add the option of traffic controls at two intersections. The regular meeting also saw Council express interest in voting on a return to in-person meetings and approve contracts related to sidewalk improvements and police officer mental health.

Carillion traffic safety

The 3-2 decision to table the Carillion vote until next meeting followed disagreement over what Council had instructed city staff to bring forward on Nov. 2.

In the action item presented, staff recommended three options: buy radar speed signs to station along Carillion, begin the process to re-stripe and narrow the roadway’s lanes, and continue data collection at the intersections with Vauxhall and Lake Canyon avenues.

Public Works Director Mike Selling said the first two options would help to slow down drivers on the corridor, and the new speed signs would collect traffic data. He noted that staff had also removed nonfunctioning lights embedded in the Lake Canyon pedestrian crossing.

Mayor Shawn Farmer and Vice Mayor Paul Sandhu said these choices did not adequately address their concerns at the two intersections, and they questioned the absence of an option to install traffic controls at Vauxhall and Lake Canyon.

City Manager Lorenzo Hines said that staff’s recommendations responded to directions from Council at the Oct. 19 meeting.

Farmer said Council had told staff to bring additional options but had not specified which options.

“And for you to sit here and tell us that we didn’t discuss stop signs for the better part of probably almost two hours last time I think would be a little bit unfair,” Farmer said.

Stop signs were discussed at length at the October meeting; Sandhu has advocated making the Carillion-Vauxhall intersection a four-way stop, and a petition to that effect received dozens of signatures. However, city staff found that measured traffic conditions at the intersections did not meet thresholds that provide legal justification for stop signs.

At the October meeting, Hines told council members to expect action items related to the re-striping and to potential signage changes that do not rely on those thresholds, called “warrants.” Hines did not list stop signs among the future items.

Speaking at the November meeting, council members Rich Lozano and Kevin Papineau said the items proposed were largely what they had anticipated.

Public Works Director Mike Selling said that installing traffic controls without the proper warrants could expose the city to lawsuits. Selling told Sandhu that he was unaware of lawsuits against the city related to other controlled intersections.

“Putting stop signs in without some sort of defense of meeting a warrant, or being close enough that engineering judgment can push it over the threshold, we are subjecting the city to liability,” Selling said, “and our charge as staff is to protect the city from potential liability.”

Farmer responded that the council members are charged with “looking out for our citizens.”

Since the stop signs had not been included in the agenda, Council could not hold a vote on them at the Nov. 2 meeting, and Farmer made a motion to defer a vote on the Carillion measures to a future meeting, with the additional options of traffic controls at Vauxhall or Lake Canyon.

Hines said staff would add the stop sign options; the item would include an appropriation to have an outside consultant assess the traffic controls because he would not require the city’s engineers to sign off on them. He said that other four-way stops cited by council members had been installed before the tenure of the current city staff.

“Everything we do going forward will have integrity, and it will meet state standard,” Hines said.

The motion passed with Farmer, Sandhu and Council Member Jay Vandenburg in favor, and Lozano and Papineau opposed.

In-person meetings

In considering a resolution that allows the body to continue meeting remotely, Council discussed what would be required for it to return to in-person meetings.

Under the state’s Assembly Bill 361, Council can approve a resolution allowing fully remote meetings during a declared public health emergency. If not renewed, the resolution expires after 30 days, and in-person meetings are required.

Farmer moved the item from the consent calendar for specific discussion to “see if Council is still interested in continuing with Zoom meetings.”

“I’ve been thinking about it, and … I do feel that there is a big difference between meeting live and on Zoom,” the mayor said.

Staff said that, in accordance with county and state rules, every attendee at an in-person meeting would need to wear a face covering. They noted that rejecting the resolution would force the Council to meet in person, but approving it would allow a choice.

The council members each stated their preference for in-person meetings, and they asked questions about the practicalities of a return.

Members expressed concern about enforcement of mask rules. Hines said that a city staff member at the door would remind people to wear a face covering. He assured Council that police officers would not carry out this task, but the police might be called if a staff member were “threatened with bodily harm or verbal abuse.”

“If someone’s going to come in the chambers without a mask on, and we all speak clearly with one voice, I think that would go a long ways to mitigate the problem,” Vandenburg said.

Papineau referenced recent meetings of the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees, at which many attendees defied face covering rules.

“Frankly, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that the general public that’s upset about these items is going to put a mask on and come in,” Papineau said.

During general public comment, Commission on Aging Chair Bob Balliet spoke in favor of in-person meetings, both for his own commission and for Council.

Council unanimously approved the resolution and, to give the public an opportunity to weigh in, directed staff to include an item on in-person meetings in the next meeting’s agenda.

Masks in basketball

Addressing a topic that public commenters broached at both of last month’s Council meetings, Hines said the city is working on a compromise for parents opposed to having children wear masks while playing indoor basketball.

The city-run basketball league may hold games outdoors in the spring and summer, which would probably allow players to participate unmasked.

Other business

Council unanimously approved a $196,000 contract with United Pavement Maintenance to update sidewalks along Fourth Street between B and D streets.

With another 5-0 vote, Council approved nearly $90,000 to fund crisis intervention and peer support services for Galt Police Department officers. The Measure R sales tax will fund $60,000 of the total. Police Chief Brian Kalinowski said the initiative was conceived by officer Kyle Slater as part of the department’s leadership development program.

The planned Caterina Estates development has been added to Community Facilities District No. 2020-1, as part of the city’s continuing effort to address the funding issues caused by the restrictions on existing landscaping and lighting districts.