Marie Woodin, director of Environmental Management Division (EMD) for the County of Sacramento gave a presentation on the new legislation on the in-home Cottage Food Industry at the Sept. 17 City Council Meeting at City Hall.
In September 2018, state lawmakers signed into law AB 626, which allows private citizens to operate a Micro-Enterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKOs). A follow-up bill AB 377 is expected to be signed in November by the governor which “cleans up” wording. Woodin explained the details of what the law will allow for those operating a home kitchen business.
Once the law is passed and approved by the governor, counties will have the option to opt in, opt out or make no response. If a county opts in, cities and municipalities within that county may not prohibit individuals from operating an in-home food operation. However, the county may opt out, deciding not to allow these businesses to go forward. Woodin asked for input from city officials and the public on this matter.
Food Safety Supervisor Kelly McCoy and the division chief of the EMD are in charge of the annual inspection of home kitchen operations, including existing Cottage Food Operations. They were quick to point out that the standards for a home kitchen are nowhere near that of a brick and mortar restaurant, such as pets in the kitchen and regular surprise county health inspections. MEHKOs are also exempt from color-coded placard requirements and posting for public disclosure.
“Unlike a restaurant, family, children and pets are not restricted from food prep areas,” Woodin said. “Family members who are ill cannot be excluded from the kitchen.”
Woodin further explained that there would be no unannounced inspections.
“Unlike restaurants. EMD would only conduct one annual inspection,” Woodin said. “This inspection would be scheduled ahead of time and inspectors are limited to inspecting areas that the operator says are used. Even if we suspect food is being stored in the garage or another room, we cannot go look at it.”
According to Woodin’s report, the bill claims to empower underrepresented groups, such as women, immigrants and people of color. It also increases access to the public of healthy and affordable foods. These home kitchens can start up a business with very little seed money. There are already over 250 Cottage Food operations in Sacramento County.
Like Cottage Food operations, MEHKOs must limit their products to “non-potentially hazardous” foods with a stable shelf life. The maximum allowed annual income is $50,000 per year in gross sales, which can be sold to retail food facilities, directly from their homes and at public markets, such as swap meets.
MEHKOs can sell up to 30 meals per day or 60 meals per week. Those meals must be consumed the day of sale; customers may dine in, pick up their food or have it delivered. Only one employee from outside the immediate household will be allowed.
Woodin shared areas of concern about the home-based businesses, such as parking issues and added traffic in residential zones. Added noise, increased levels of grease in sewer lines and daily use of barbecues and outdoor ovens might also cause problems. She also said that these businesses will not be required to use commercial refrigerators or held to other standards required in restaurants.
The concept appeared to not go over well with Galt City Council members, who pointed out that this bill tied the city’s hands for any type of enforcement.
If the county pursues the bill and chooses to opt in, each city would have to comply.
Councilmembers ultimately gave staff direction to bring back a letter of disapproval to be sent to county supervisors. Vice Mayor Shawn Farmer said that he planned to attend a County Board of Supervisors meeting to address the issue.
Public Works Director Michael Selling asked council to authorize $109,000 to extend the firing range block wall.
The city leases the range out for $250,000 per year for use with handguns only. The extended wall would enable the city to accommodate long-range rifle practice and bring in an additional $50,000 per year.
Proceeds go to keep the range operating and to pay back the $1 million cost of building the range. According to Deputy Director Mark Clarkson, the cost of building the extension will be paid back in two years.
Council approved the appropriation for the wall extension 5-0.
City Clerk Donna Settles resigned effective Sept. 4, 2019. This is the elected clerk position, not Settles’ employment as the clerk administrator; however, Settles will be retiring from that position in October.
Council discussed how to fill the elected position with guidelines given by City Attorney Kimberly Hood.
Hood told council they might appoint someone for the position or hold an election. Her research found it could cost up to $234,000 for a special election, which could be held in April. The term only lasts until November 2020 so council opted for an appointment.
Councilman Curt Campion made a motion to forgo the election and appoint the position. His motion passed 5-0.
Mayor Paige Lampson asked if anyone had asked Executive Assistant Tina Hubert if she was available and willing to fill the role.
Hubert laughed and said, “I am available.”
Since it is an elected position, and the only true requirements for that position is to be 18 years old and a registered voter in Galt, four council members wanted the position posted for applicants. Campion expressed his concerns that it would be hard to find a qualified applicant.
Vice Mayor Shawn Farmer made a motion to solicit for applicants for the position of City Clerk. Council passed his motion 4-1 with Campion voting “no.”
Also on the agenda was a request from Selling for $38,133.32 for a back-up motor for the city’s non-deep Carillion and Monterey Bay Wells. A motor failed last year and the city’s back-up motor was used. Selling said it is necessary to have a back-up motor in case of one failing. Council passed the expenditure 5-0.
Council was also asked to appropriate an additional $100,000 to finish the 2019 Street and Pedestrian Safety Improvement Project. Selling said the additional money was needed due to soft soil conditions.
“They will work dry cement into the soil and use a rototiller to mix it in,” said Selling. “This will stabilize the soil.”
The appropriation passed 5-0.