Cotati council mulls fiscal concepts
Special Strategic Planning Study Session touches on proposals for revamping staff
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By Dave Williams  August 7, 2014 11:22 am

The Cotati City Council spent nearly three hours in Tuesday night’s Strategic Planning Study Session discussing concepts about the city’s fiscal future.

Each of the city’s department heads addressed the council about what their priorities are for Fiscal Year 2014-15 in the wake of the passage of Measure G in June, which raised the city’s sales tax a half-cent from 8.75 to 9.25. Generalities ruled the special council meeting, meaning specifics were in short supply. But, as Mayor John Dell’Osso and City Manager Dianne Thompson emphasized, they were only discussing concepts.

Two times where the discussion got a little animated were when Councilwoman Susan Harvey questioned the proposed restructuring of the Cotati Police Department’s management plans and when an audience member chided the proposal to repair city streets.

The proposed revamping of the police department calls for the creation of two positions of corporal and the addition of a new officer within the year. Currently, the Cotati Police Dept., headed by Chief Mike Parish, has six officers, five dispatchers, two sergeants, a community services officer, a lieutenant and the chief of police. Also, there are 1.5 shifts for reserves.

Under the proposal for 2014-15, the city would create two positions of corporal and there will be a half shift for a police services aid.

The corporal positions, according to Parish, are necessary so there will be a supervisor for every shift.

Harvey said the way the new model appears in its current state, it seems as if there are more people supervising than officers on the street.

“The way the chart looks, it depicts as if we’ve added another level of management,” Harvey said. “The way it looks, it’s like we have people watching other people instead of adding people to get things done.” 

She questioned whether the two corporal positions would be considered management. Parish assured her they would not be management positions. He said the only two in management would be himself and Lt. Bill French. The corporal positions would be supervisorial but would not rise to the level of management, which in the long run he says would save the city money.

“The corporals are officers, they’ll be first responders and they’ll be on the street,” Parish said.

The only time in the evening when dollars and cents were mentioned came when the discussion turned to street paving and maintenance. Newly appointed Assistant City Manager Damien O’Bid said the city will spend $600,000 repaving and fixing some of the roads in Cotati.

What raised the hackles of audience member Eric Kirchmann was how the money to pave the streets would be used. O’Bid, who also is the city engineer, said there are a number of streets that need work but don’t fall into the category of bad roads. O’Bid plans to first fix those roads to prevent them from falling into the bad road category and then get to the roads that are bad down the road.

Kirchmann said O’Bid has it all backwards.

“We need to pave the streets that need it the most…fix what needs fixing and not just what’s easy to patch,” Kirchmann said.

Each department head listed their priorities in order of importance. For Thompson, the city manager’s office placed finalizing the five-year Fiscal Sustainability Strategy at the top of her list, followed by organizational/succession planning and the oversight board to the successor agency, which handles the remaining business from the now defunct redevelopment agency.

Interim Director of Finance, David Spilman, placed improving accounting policies and procedures at the top of the priority list for the Administrative Services Dept. Second was continuing to improve and streamline position recruitments, employee benefits and payroll systems. No. 3 was producing a Fiscal Year 2014-15 document that achieves California Society of Municipal Finance Officers standards.

Vicki Parker, Cotati’s Community Development Dept. Director, placed completion of the General Plan update at the top of her priority list, followed by the retaining and managing consultants to perform economic development activities and the completion and management of the business retention program.

Increasing traffic violation enforcement tops Parish’s list for the police department with seeking grant opportunities second. He also wants to upgrade the dispatch system to where functions are integrated into one console rather than it being in what he says is a current state of “hodge podge.” Inspection of massage therapy businesses and the vetting of those applying for massage therapy business licenses also made his list.

O’Bid, head of public works, placed the rehabilitation of the Old Redwood Highway (Gateway) Project at the top of his list.

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