Council agreed to move forward with a sewer rate increase in a 5-0 vote

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council met on Tuesday, Feb. 17, for their regularly scheduled meeting. 

Prior to the meeting, the Board met in closed session to discuss three items, one public employment regarding the City Manager position and conference with Real Property Negotiators regarding 1345 Park Street and 1955 Theater Drive. According to interim City Attorney Kimberly Hood, council gave direction, but there is no reportable action.   

Batalon Cheif Randy Harris presented the COVID-19 Community update, which included information regarding vaccinations and SLO County remaining in the Purple Tier of the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy (info at emergencyslo.org at this time. Following Harris, Shonna Howenstine, Civic Engagement Coordinator, gave an update on the Multi-lingual COVID Outreach program.    

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

The meeting continued by the Council unanimously approving the development of a 79 unit, low-income senior housing.

The new senior housing will be located on a 4.21-acre parcel in the Woodland Plaza II shopping center south of Niblick and west of River Road (next to the former JCPenny).

The housing development will be dedicated to low-income, active seniors aged 62 years and older.

From the agenda report:

“The project is a single building proposed to be designed with varying heights ranging from 1-story to 3-stories tall. Project amenities include a residents’ center, laundry facilities, central courtyard, community garden, barbecue area, and pedestrian pathways throughout with connectivity to the commercial shopping center. Additionally, the project includes a revised parking area and a new ADA pathway for access to the Salinas River trail.”

Councilman John Hamon raised questions on the site’s security in its location.

The development owner assured Council there would be two key entrances and security cameras throughout the building and parking lot.

Council unanimously agreed to move forward with a sewer rate increase and approved the following resolution:

“Approve Resolution 21-XXX to formally receive the January 2021 Wastewater Rate Study by Bartle Wells & Associates; direct staff to commence the Proposition 218 notification, public hearing, and protest process for sewer rates for the next five years; and declare that a public hearing shall be held on Apr. 20, 2021.”

During council comment, councilman Fred Strong reiterated his remarks from the Feb. 2 meeting where sewer rate increases were first discussed. 

“After 60 years of not improving our sewer plant, because no one wanted to pay more in sewer rates, we haven’t had any choice. We are in serious violation of state pollution laws. We were fined for those violations at the rate of $3,000 a day until the amount got to nearly one million dollars,” said Strong. “At that point, we were informed they were being nice to us. They would stop being nice to us if we didn’t immediately upgrade the plant, then the rate would go up to $10,000 a day in fines or over three million dollars a year.”

Strong concluded his comments by saying, “Either we have a good sewer system, or we suffer greatly.”

Councilman Steve Gregory added, “I think it’s fair and reasonable.”

Next, Council unanimously approved an “Agreement with Wallace Group to prepare bid documents for Phase 1 of the Union Road Safety and Training Center and final site plan.”

On Oct. 1, 2019, City Council approved the purchase of an eight-acre parcel located at 2930 Union Road for the amount of $3,425,000.

The location is intended to be used for the Union Road Public Safety site, including a third fire station, police substation, and training areas for both departments.  

After a recent Insurance Services Offices (ISO) assessment, it was determined a third station was desperately needed for the city.

The agreement with Wallace Group includes:

  • Phase One:
    • Master site planning
    • Community and Council feedback 
    • Interim fire station design and bid documents 
    • Geologic assessment and testing
    • Stormwater control plan
  • Anticipated Future Phases
    • Future PD and FD station(s)
    • Training Facilities
    • Backup emergency operations center

The total cost from Wallace Group is $393,862, with 95 percent of these fees going towards the ultimate design and site plan. Once a draft version of the final site plan is completed, it will be brought to Council for further review.

Construction for the site is expected to begin in Summer 2021. 

A Business Success Center (BSC) is coming to 1345 Park Street in Downtown Paso.

From the agenda report:

“The BSC is designed to provide coworking space, training, seminars, individualized mentoring, pitch contests, and other resources that will lead to business attraction, expansion, incubation, acceleration, and development. Additionally, it will be a hub for entrepreneurs, startups, collaboration, and community building, and for unique events.”

The BSC was set to open with tenents in March 2020. Due to the pandemic, the project was put on hold.

In light of pandemic complications, City staff has been working with BSC on proposed adjustments to sublease rent terms, which include:

  • Rent payments waived for the period of Mar. 13 through Jun. 12, 2020 with the remaining March rent used to count for the rest of June rent, meaning that rent is not due until Jul. 1, 2020. If the business is not able to re-open by Jun. 12, 2020, the parties can mutually agree to extend the rental waiver on a month-by-month basis.
  • Delay the rental rate escalation clause during the period rent is waived was moved back by the same amount of time that the rent is waived.
  • The lease term was extended by the same amount of time that the rent was waived to the extent possible. If the master lease term will not accommodate the ultimate time extension, then the time will not be extended (at the end of the second option period).

When BSC initiated the center, the City provided a ten-year loan of $399,500 at three percent interest to the BSC operator, commonly referred to as SANDBOX.

There was much controversy with the new terms as the City did not receive anticipated payments of $64,600 in rent and $20,300 in loan repayments from the BSC due to the pandemic.

“It’s pretty important to me that our taxpayers get reimbursed,” said Hamon, who requested staff to renegotiate the three percent interest for the loan to incorporate the City’s losses from the general fund.

“In the spirit of business survival, I think it’s important that here is a business that is bringing business to town-its a place for businesses to start–we will do the best we can in recuperating all the funding we may have lost with COVID,” said Gregory.

In the end, Council motioned for staff to renegotiate the agreement with BSC operators, to meet on terms that will keep the businesses afloat and not be as much of a loss of funds for the City.

Council approved with a 4-1 vote, Garcia voting no.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 2, at 6:30 p.m.