RP takes on DPS budget at meeting
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By Jud Snyder  April 26, 2013 12:00 am

Rohnert Park’s City Council was closeted indoors on a warm and sunny Tuesday afternoon on April 23, wrestling with the 2013-14 budget. Held in city hall, the council tackled the biggest item of all – the Department of Public Safety budget, for it alone is more than half of the total city budget. 

Later the same day, the council held its regular meeting to discuss a few brief items. Chief among them was a contract with Veale Investment Properties to rebuild the digital Spreckels sign on Commerce Boulevard, where State Farm Drive ends. This was already approved, it just had to wait until a period for public comment was over. A new paragraph was added including a proposal from Veale to rebuild the manual billboard in the Community Center complex listing stage attractions at Spreckels. This addition began a vigorous one-hour discussion by all five city council members. More about this later.

Getting back to the 2013-14 city budget, the figures provided will be subject to trimming, boosting or merely tweaking. The council has until mid-June to put a final wrap on it before approving it for the proper signatures prior to June 30.

As of now, the DPS shows expenditures of $15,240,702, with $12,374,945, or 81 percent of it going to salaries and benefits, the rest, 19 percent, going to services and supplies. This figure is for both police and fire protection duties.

Animal services, including the shelter, are also part of the DPS. Their total figure of $432,046 has 62 percent consigned to salaries and benefits.

Included in the DPS budget package were goals for police and fire services for 2013-14. Director of Public Safety Brian Masterson listed goals for police as continuing to seek grant funding opportunities, enhancing traffic unit capabilities, developing and implementing online citizen crime reporting (CCR) and completing the roofing project on the main station.

For the firefighting goals, he listed re-instituting and enhancing notification and the call-back system, finalizing the urban search and rescue team certification process and explore joint agency partnership, adjusting and modifying fire shift schedule and enhancing inter-agency training.

In the discussion about Veale’s new digital sign alongside the freeway in RP, company spokesmen said they’d contribute $50,000 to  rebuild the manually changed billboard at Snyder Lane and Rohnert Park Expressway. The council, especially Councilwoman Gina Belforte, didn’t want paid advertising on this sign. But City Attorney Michelle Kenyon mentioned if Veale pays for a new sign, they might want it to be usable for advertising. Then the debate turned to franchise advertising, it’s usually national companies, but some franchises are owned by individual entrepreneurs either living in town or elsewhere. Could Veale dictate who can and who can’t advertise, if it’s allowed, on this smaller sign? What about nonprofits in RP? Can they get free space here? Does city hall control the sign? Or does the ComCenter or Spreckels?

Questions like these accumulated until Mayor Pam Stafford made a motion to approve the Veale digital sign next to the freeway, but delay approval of the Community Center sign until more details are worked out. This was approved 5-0.

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