Paso Robles City Council Addresses Purple Tier

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles City Manager Tom Frutchey announced at the end of the Nov. 16 City Council meeting that he would be retiring in February of 2021.

Tom Frutchey

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve this city, serve the council, and work with staff,” Frutchey said. “Since I have been here, I do, however, feel that going forward, given how important decisions will be concerning COVID-19 and J-20, and throughout the budget process over the coming months, that the individuals and generations who will be implementing those decisions and will be most impacted by those decisions should be the ones making those decisions at a staff level and recommending the options to the council. So after much reflection has decided that my last day with the city will be Feb. 3, 2021, and I will be stepping down from my position as City Manager at that time.”

Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin responded with kind words of appreciation to Frutchey.

“Thank you, Mr. Frutchey, for your service to our community,” Martin said. “I will never forget the first time we interviewed you. I think you were the only candidate that showed up that actually knew the names of the streets in our community already.”

Martin continued, “You helped recruit and manage what I consider to be the best city staff I have ever worked with. You worked diligently with the council, and the sales tax oversight issue for our streets helped navigate the waters on our specific plans and other major projects in the community. You have been there through floods, fires, pandemics, and protest. Whenever something was happening, the City Manager was on the street with our staff. So I know that every time that he has sworn a new member of our staff in and the little addition to the oath that he placed I get goose pimples and that was that we strive to leave the city better than when found it, as far as I am concerned on Feb. 3 you will do exactly that sir.”

The council shared Mayor Martin’s sentiment.

Council agreed that they would have a special meeting to begin the process of finding a new city manager on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Other topics discussed, Paso Robles Fire Department Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta provided the COVID-19 Community Update.

San Luis Obispo County is now in the Purple Tier and 41 other counties in the state. That is an increase of 28 counties in the Purple Tier compared to last week.

“The County has said in the past that our hospitalization and ICU numbers have remained low due to San Luis Obispo County residents being healthier on average than most,” Stornetta said.

Paso Robles still leads in the total number of cases in the County since March. SLO County now has 5,321 cases, which is an increase of over 900 since the last report. Of those, 731 cases are active, which is an increase of 529 since Stornetta’s previous report.

The City Library is preparing to launch a winter reading program. Readers of all ages can earn a reusable tote by reading 500 minutes of mysteries in December. Sign up at prcity.com/Library.

The Library also announced it would be getting new furnishings, including new tables, book displays, and learning tablets.

Council approved all consent agenda items with a 5-0 vote.

This consent agenda included “Approval of Memorandum of Understanding with the Cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay for Sharing Policy Board, Operations Board, and Community Advisory Committee Seats on Central Coast Community Energy (formerly known as Monterey Bay Community Power).”

Starting in January 2021, Paso Robles will be joining SLO and Morro Bay in switching their power provider to Central Coast Community Energy (3CE).

There was concern from a resident who received a letter from PG&E during general comments, which stated anyone switching to CCCE would see a 4% rate increase from PG&E.

Councilman John Hamon commented, “I’m pretty upset at the fact that PG&E is doing what they’re doing and luckily that’s why we fought to have an opt-out — this is kind of a dirty trick, in my opinion — I’m having second thoughts myself at this point.”

Hamon agreed with community member Jan Alvin, who suggested having a town hall and question-and-answer with 3CE before January to get the public information about the switch.

Council approved 5-0 to introduce by title only the “Ordinance of the City Council of the City of El Paso de Robles Repealing and Replacing Chapters 14.08 and 14.10 of the Paso Robles Municipal Code in their entirety regarding updates to the sewer use provisions, and waive further reading.”

Title 14 includes “local limits” of certain pollutants industrial businesses can discharge into the sewer system.

Staff recommended a revision to all local limits except chromium.

There will be new provisions regarding grease control. This will help prevent sewage spills and protect the public and environmental health. Fewer sewer spillage and grease control maintenance will lead to reducing city costs.

Council approved 5-0 for the City Manager to enter a contract with Motorola to purchase and install new 9-1-1 communication equipment after a thorough report by Paso Robles Police Department Cmdr. Caleb Davis. This includes 10-year maintenance and lifecycle services, not exceeding $4,050,339, and entering a contract with A-Town Audio Visual to purchase and install emergency services radio equipment not to exceed $52,271.

The police department’s current radio system is outdated, and replacement parts are no longer available to repair their existing system, which expired back in 2018.

Council discussed how they will handle the current COVID-19 updates and status going back to the Purple Tier.

“We need to have some way to help restaurants survive in cold and wet weather coming toward us,” said Councilman Steve Gregory.

Councilmember Fred Strong shared that he did not feel that the businesses are putting the community at risk, but he feels the people and their actions could put themselves at risk if they don’t use common sense and good judgment. He has a broad, strong feeling that this has now become politicized.

“I don’t personally think it’s worth the risk of really disrupting our financial stability that we had going into this,” commented Councilman Hamon. “I don’t support any enforcement from the police, nor do I support anything in regard to our administrative violation or citation that we would tend to want to enforce this with upon our businesses.”

Hamon would like to see Paso Robles continue to use Red Tier restrictions and supports looking into Federal micro-grants for struggling businesses.

Councilman Strong agreed with the path Gregory and Hamon suggested.

Councilwoman Maria Elena Garcia stated, “I feel that we should also as a city government have commonsense as well and keep educating our residents and stay safe out there.”

Police Chief Ty Lewis will not be using police enforcement for COVID-19 violations unless an egregious complaint has been made. Complaints will be directed to the city before the police decide what action needs to be taken.

“Once we start directing police resources at all of these various businesses that we have in downtown and beyond, we start taking our police officers away from their traditional law enforcement duties,” said Lewis. “We really have to look at where we want our police resources being directed.”

Ultimately, to address the rise of COVID cases, the council decided to move forward with a motion to take no additional action at this time and proceed with current measures being taken by the city and ask staff to bring back possible micro-grants that can be provided with available funds.

Council also agreed to work directly with partner associations such as Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, Visit Paso, and Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance to check in with the business community.

Council voted 3-2, with Gregory and Martin voting no for lack of specification and clarity.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles