The Galt City Council decided on Nov. 16 to hold in-person meetings, setting its return to the Council Chambers for Dec. 7. Additionally, Council began the process of implementing some traffic measures on Carillion Boulevard, but the potential for stop signs is in doubt.

In-person meetings

The consensus to hold Council meetings in person comes nearly four months after Council first tried to leave Zoom behind. After it held one in-person meeting on July 20, the delta variant of the coronavirus began its rapid spread, and teleconference meetings resumed.

In accordance with Sacramento County rules, City Manager Lorenzo Hines told the members that all meeting participants would be required to wear masks.

“Regarding the enforcement, at each of the city department lobby areas, staff takes an educational approach to remind patrons to wear their mask indoors,” Hines said. The city manager also presented the options of going to hybrid meetings or remaining online. He said that fully in-person meetings could begin by Dec. 7 but a hybrid format would take until Dec. 21 to implement.

All five council members spoke in favor of in-person meetings.

“I’m leaning toward the in-person meeting,” Vice Mayor Paul Sandhu said. He asked why hybrid meetings would take longer to get started, and Hines explained that this was because of the technical requirements of the setup.

“I’d like to go back to in-person,” Council Member Rich Lozano said, adding that he wanted to ensure remote access for people who aren’t capable of or feel uncomfortable attending live.

Mayor Shawn Farmer asked whether the ability for public commenters to call in would be retained, and Hines confirmed that it would.

And, as long as Council renews findings that allow for teleconference meetings, a member who is unable to attend in person could attend remotely, Interim City Attorney Frank Splendorio said.

Once Council has held the Dec. 7 meeting, all other city commissions and committees will have the option of gathering in person. Hines said City Clerk Tina Hubert would reach out to the members to determine what each group chooses do.

Public commenters Annette Kunze, Kristi Ward and Emily Sanders, who also spoke against mask and vaccine mandates, thanked Council for the decision.

Carillion

traffic safety

At its previous meeting, Council was split over action on Carillion Boulevard but ultimately voted to delay action on the thoroughfare and have city staff bring an option for stop signs at the intersections with Lake Canyon and Vauxhall avenues.

But, as Public Works Director Mike Selling said on Nov. 16, Galt’s municipal code grants the city engineer final authority over placement of traffic control devices. He asked Council to approve “detailed intersection evaluation and data collection” before staff recommends any traffic controls.

Staff’s other recommendations, carried over from the previous meeting, were to approve the purchase of radar speed signs and to hire a consultant to design a proposed re-striping of the roadway.

Council Member Jay Vandenburg made a motion to approve the speed signs and re-striping, but, instead of data collection, he requested that stop signs be installed at the two intersections.

While agenda recommendations can be modified to a degree, Interim City Attorney Frank Splendorio said this change was outside the scope of the item and might violate the Brown Act.

Farmer said the city engineer’s authority had not been adequately communicated to Council when it voted last meeting, on Nov. 2.

“If you knew, sir, that the municipal code was going to prohibit that particular item from being on here, it would have been a courtesy to the Council prior to this meeting to say, ‘By the way, I know this is what you gave me direction to do … However, we can’t have that particular item as an action item,’” Farmer said.

Hines responded that he had sent the members a message “about a month ago” with that information and had not brought it up on Nov. 2 because the memo was “confidential.”

“When the issue came up and we indicated that the city engineer needed to sign off on it, it’s my hope that there would have been some sort of recollection of that memo,” Hines said.

Sandhu asked whether Council has the power to amend the city code, though he did not specify any change he had in mind.

Splendorio confirmed that Council could modify the code with an ordinance. Afterward, Hines spoke in defense of the current rules.

“That Galt municipal code was put in place by a prior council to ensure that these controls always went in under the auspices of the city engineer,” Hines said. “Otherwise, we’d have a certain level of chaos.”

Vandenburg’s motion remained active. Splendorio noted that going against the Brown Act could invalidate Council’s decision. Further, because the final approval rests with the city engineer, Splendorio predicted that the motion would still result in data collection and traffic control proposals by staff.

Eventually, Farmer introduced an alternate motion restoring staff’s original recommendation while requesting staff bring “any and all possible options” to improve safety at the intersections.

Farmer’s motion passed 3-2, with Farmer and council members Lozano and Kevin Papineau in favor, and Vandenburg and Sandhu opposed. The passage superseded Vandenburg’s motion.

Other business

Vandenburg volunteered and was selected to be Galt’s main representative on the Cosumnes Groundwater Authority Board of Directors, which will implement measures to promote sustainable groundwater usage in the Cosumnes Subbasin. Selling was chosen as the alternate representative.

Treasurer Shawn Farrell reported on the city’s finances, saying the city is well positioned to take advantage of rising interest rates. He noted that Galt’s unemployment rate has fallen over the past six months, from 9-10% to 5.5%.

“So that’s good. We’re getting people in the city back to work,” Farrell said.

Jasanpreet Kaur was appointed as a student member for the Galt Youth Commission.

“She’s a very good public communicator, she’s a team player and she will be (an) asset to the Galt Youth Commission,” Sandhu said of the Liberty Ranch high school student. The commission still has one vacancy for a student member.