Money would go to small businesses, Cosumnes Community Services District and general city services under a COVID-19 relief plan proposed at the Galt City Council’s Oct. 5 meeting. Council also heard information about traffic safety and asked to revisit the city’s cannabis policies.
American Rescue Plan
City staff presented their recommendations for distributing federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Galt is slated to receive more than $6.3 million over two years from ARPA. It got half of that sum in July, and City Manager Lorenzo Hines said he expected the remainder to be paid out around next July. With certain restrictions, it is up to the city to determine how the money is spent.
Signed into law in March, the $1.9 trillion federal legislation is intended to help individuals, businesses and governments recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, it sent $1,400 payments to individual Americans, expanded various tax credits, provided for small-business grants and designated funding for state and local governments.
In a presentation to Council, staff proposed using the city’s allocation to make up for revenue lost in 2020, provide assistance to small businesses and nonprofits, fund infrastructure maintenance and give one-time payments to essential workers. Additionally, money would go to the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) for its firefighting work during the pandemic.
The results of a community survey informed the priorities. Hines said that 337 Galt residents responded to the survey from Aug. 20 to Sept. 5. Responses from people who do not live in Galt were not considered.
The largest allocation is nearly $1.5 million to make up the revenues that the city lost in 2020, providing funds for general government services. The amount is based on a formula provided by the federal government, Hines said.
After that, $1.3 million would be set aside for a small-business assistance program, $930,000 would go toward water and sewer maintenance, CSD would receive $300,000, essential workers would get $164,000, and a nonprofit assistance program would get $150,000.
Slightly less than a third of the ARPA funds, or $2 million, would not be allocated. Hines said the city may use some of this money to make up revenue loss through 2023. Other uses, which staff would bring to Council for approval, could include broadband upgrades or rehiring city staff.
Galt Mayor Shawn Farmer noted uncertainty around the amount of demand among local businesses for support, and he asked that staff develop a backup plan to put the money into the community in case not all of the small-business funds get spent. If that were to happen, Hines said, staff would work with Council to find an alternative use for the leftover cash.
“That’s the beauty of these funds,” Hines said. “We have the ability to go back and change our minds and redistribute.”
Cosumnes Fire Department Chief Felipe Rodriguez thanked Council for considering funds for CSD, the department’s parent organization. CSD is not eligible to directly receive ARPA money.
The funds “would go to great use to provide service for the community of Galt,” Rodriguez said. “And as with everyone else, we also suffered a shortfall for the last couple of years, and we’re just trying to do what we can to recover some of those funds, so thank you very much.”
Council members wanted to ensure that some of the fund allocations would benefit all Galtonians. Vice Mayor Paul Sandhu said the presented uses would benefit individual residents only indirectly and asked whether there were more-direct options.
Hines replied that he had tried to have an impact on “as many sectors as I could” with the proposal. While the city manager said he could look into direct assistance for residents, he noted the logistics required to disburse money to a population of more than 26,000.
Farmer suggested using funds to create a pilot for a litter abatement program. He said a city employee could work with city departments to remove litter around town.
For the city’s “unofficial Traffic Safety Month,” Public Works Director Mike Selling presented about the considerations that go into the design of a road, as well as into setting of speed limits and placement of stop signs.
The program of presentations at the two October council meetings was organized after council and community members raised concerns about the safety of various intersections, particularly along Carillion Boulevard.
Selling said that the biggest factors are consistency, expectations of drivers, the classification of a roadway and accommodations for various modes of transport.
Speed limits are based on the speed of drivers, Selling said. They are typically set at the 85th percentile of traffic speed.
“What that basically means is that for every 100 cars, roughly, 85 of those cars are going to travel at what is a comfortable speed for that roadway segment.”
Selling said the placement of a stop sign is determined by warrants, which are thresholds of traffic volume and collision numbers. Traffic lights have their own set of warrants. A “good engineering justification” would be necessary when deviating very far from these thresholds, Selling said.
Council Member Rich Lozano said it is “interesting” that many traffic complaints relate to speeding and running stop signs and yet he often hears people ask for a stop sign to be placed at a problem intersection. He suggested looking at solutions besides stop signs.
“I would say, let’s approach it from a different perspective,” Lozano said.
Sandhu disagreed. The vice mayor has advocated for stop signs to be placed at the intersection of Carillion and Vauxhall Avenue, and he said he has seen stop signs work at Carillion’s intersection with Vintage Oak Avenue. While he acknowledged the legal considerations involved, he urged the use of “engineering judgment and common sense.”
“As a council, we really have to have some kind of reason,” Sandhu said, if they decided not to do anything about the Carillion-Vauxhall intersection.
Council Member Jay Vandenburg proposed revisiting the city’s policy on cannabis and received support from Farmer and Council Member Kevin Papineau.
While representing Galt at the California League of Cities convention in Sacramento, Vandenburg attended a meeting discussing cannabis clubs and was impressed by the “professionalism” of a cannabis club he visited.
Vandenburg also said a former mayor of the city of Bellflower, California, spoke about a successful cannabis pilot program in the “traditionally conservative city.”
“I think the city should investigate how the citizens feel about changing the city code and starting a pilot program here in Galt,” Vandenburg said.
With a consensus of a majority of Council, the topic of cannabis will likely appear on a future Council agenda.