The Galt City Council agreed Dec. 22 to allocate about $500,000 in COVID-19 relief funds for repairs to a city pool, and set aside additional money to potentially designate a litter abatement employee. Council also voted to lease license plate readers and considered changing some policies for city commissions and committees.

ARPA for pool, litter abatement

In the first of what will be a series of items doling out money received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Council authorized staff to spend $506,000 to buy new water heaters for the Gora Aquatic Center and replaster the facility’s competition pool.

Parks and Recreation Director Armando Solis said air-quality regulators have flagged the current heaters and that the plaster, which is well beyond its seven- to 10-year lifespan, may not pass its next inspection. He said either issue could prevent the pool from opening next year.

In total, the repairs are projected to cost $700,000; the roughly $200,000 not covered by the city allocation will come from state grants.

In addition, the council members voted to earmark $40,000 for a litter abatement program advocated by Mayor Shawn Farmer. Staff will develop specifics of the initiative, which would involve a city employee monitoring thoroughfares and medians for trash.

The mayor said he has seen litter become a bigger problem during the pandemic as people leave behind used masks. He said the litter abatement employee would visit different areas of the city during the week, focusing on major streets and public parks.

“I think we need to be leading by example,” Farmer said, expressing interest in forming partnerships with the city’s code enforcement staff and Cal-Waste Recovery Systems.

Responding to a question from Council Member Jay Vandenburg, Farmer clarified that the employee would not pick up litter on private property but could alert code enforcement if, for example, they noticed excessive trash at a business.

“I’m glad to see it,” Vandenburg said of the program. “I think it’s very similar to eliminating graffiti in our town, and the way we treat is the way everyone else will treat it. It’s that simple.”

Council Member Rich Lozano suggested asking a hardware store or other business to donate the supplies for the position, which staff predicted could cost up to $5,000 per year. He also proposed recruiting a current part-time city employee to do the litter abatement work in addition to their existing duties.

Farmer called the supply donation concept a “great idea.” While Solis said it might be hard to use an existing employee for the program, he agreed to check the feasibility.

During public comment, Commission on Aging Chair Bob Balliet asked that the commission receive $4,000 of the ARPA funding to hold social events for older adults. He argued that the events would help counteract the isolation many older adults have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hines said he wanted to provide the requested funds out of the existing city budget, which he said would be a more immediate solution.

Galt is slated to receive more than $6.3 million in ARPA funding over two years to aid in pandemic recovery. The money must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. Hines said staff would bring forward proposals to spend the funds one at a time.

License plate readers

Michael Little, a Galt Police Department officer and president of the Galt police union, presented to Council in favor of leasing cameras to monitor license plates of cars entering the city. He said an automatic license plate reader system (ALPR) would notify officers of vehicles that have been stolen or that are associated with other crimes.

The cameras and operating system come from the company Flock Group Inc.; Little and a Flock representative emphasized privacy features, such as the fact that footage is deleted after 30 days and that an officer must log a reason for accessing the footage. Little told council members that the cameras are not used for immigration or traffic enforcement.

“I wouldn’t be suggesting this if I thought there was a breach of privacy,” Little said.

The program would initially comprise 15 cameras positioned to monitor incoming traffic because, Little said, “narcotics, stolen vehicles, weapons generally do not originate from inside of our city, so we’d like to catch them as they’re coming in.”

Little concluded that an ALPR would make Galt “a city that criminals want to avoid.”

Council members spoke favorably about the proposal.

“This is going to be good for the city, for the citizens’ safety and also for the businesses,” Vice Mayor Paul Sandhu said. He asked for elaboration on the privacy policy.

Little answered that the system collects information only about vehicles, rather than about people.

Little previously presented his proposal to the Public Safety Committee in October. He envisioned building out the ALPR infrastructure and creating a centralized location to monitor the feeds. The project is part of the department’s leadership development program.

Council voted 5-0 to approve the $78,750 two-year lease agreement. The Flock representative said cameras usually go up in six to eight weeks.

Commission, committee changes

The policies on social media use by city commissions and committees, and on council member involvement in them, formed the focus of discussion during an annual review of the advisory bodies.

Farmer suggested allowing interested commissions and committees to designate a public information officer responsible for the group’s social media presence. Currently, the groups must request postings through the city clerk’s office.

Council Member Rich Lozano questioned the role of council members on the commissions and committees. Most have no council members on their rosters, but the Youth Commission has one, Farmer; and the Public Safety Commission has two, Farmer and Sandhu.

Consensus developed around making council members nonvoting liaisons on the commissions. Staff will draft city code changes for a future Council meeting.

Other business

Council approved $80,295 in Walker Community Park contingency funds after heavy rains caused unexpected expenses.

Council also authorized $75,000 to purchase a new police vehicle; $27,400 of the amount is reimbursed by insurance. The car will replace the one that was totaled in the crash that killed officer Harminder Grewal and injured officer Kapri Herrera.

In its capacity winding down the Galt Redevelopment Agency, Council voted to automate payments on the agency’s debt through 2034.

The Jan. 4 regular City Council meeting has been canceled. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18.