PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council held off making cuts to City services during Tuesday’s meeting for now.
As directed by Council at the previous meeting, staff brought back recommendations to close projected budget gap without impacting public safety and public works departments in the current fiscal year from revenue losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City is projecting needing to cut between $1 million and $3 million, depending on the outcome of a 1-percent sales tax increase on the November ballot.
Concern Recreation and Library services would be reduced drastically or cut from the budget altogether swirled in the community in the days leading up to the Council meeting.
Several residents called during the discussion of the agenda item asking the Council to keep Recreation and Library services intact.
After much discussion, the Council motioned for City departments outside of public safety to come back to the city manager with budget reductions that can be made in the future in their department.
Council approved the motion 3-2, with Mayor Steven Martin and Councilman Fred Strong both voting no.
Strong and Martin agreed that the City could not make any more reductions as they are already working with minimum staff.
Paso Robles Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta gave the City’s COVID-19 update. Paso Robles remains the top in the total number of cases for San Luis Obispo County.
SLO County remains in the state’s purple tier, the most restricted of the four levels. The County has had 3,293.
On the upside, the County has gone below the purple tier’s daily average and is close to moving into the red tier.
While the County is in a hopeful spot right now, Councilman John Hamon expressed concern.
“I believe these numbers are truly going to be unachievable, this virus is going to be around for a while, and with the bars that are set here, I don’t see how our county is ever going to get back — the weather is perfect right now, but in another month or two we are going to see a change and the outdoor dining is not going to be as easy to do,” Hamon said.
Hamon feels a push needs to be made toward Sacramento to relax the requirements. Martin said he sent a third letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting flexibility to allow businesses to open indoor operations due to the County’s low infection rate, low hospitalization rate, and high recovery rate.
Wildfires have also impacted air quality and outdoor business operations.
If the City were to relax restrictions on their own, they would need to be backed by the state. Otherwise, they risk losing COVID-19 funds.
Many other cities, not only in the state but all over the country, are pushing back on restrictions.
Council again continued the Beechwood Specific Plan because the item was not ready. The item will be back at the Oct. 6 Council meeting.
During general comments, a resident asked for an update on the Borkey Flats homeless encampment. There are currently six to eight campers plus some RV campers using it.
Borkey Flats is in a flood zone, which will become a concern when and if the rain comes later in the year. Because of this, alternative locations are being looked at to have the camp moved by Nov. 1.
Two grants were received and accepted by the Council from FEMA through the Fiscal Year 2019 Assistance to Firefighters Grant. The first grant included the purchase of nine portable and four mobile radios for firefighters.
The second grant reimbursed the City $4,306 for PPE supplies and $16,223 for additional ES supplies.
The grants total $88,976 with the City’s required matching at $8,088, less than 10% of the total.
The final maps for tracts 3155 and 3152 were approved. Both are on the Olsen-South Chandler Ranch property. Tract 3155 includes 243 acres with 13 parcels. Tract 3152 consists of 84 acres with seven parcels.
Councilmembers adjourned the meeting in honor and memory of Ed Steinbeck, a former realtor and councilman in Paso Robles, who recently passed away.