The Rohnert Park City Council held another marathon meeting on March 23. The fireworks ban on the sale of safe and sane fireworks occupied over 40 percent of the meeting. This included 40 minutes of public comments, 20 in support and 20 opposed to the ban. In total, 171 comments were submitted with 58 in support and 113 opposed to the ban. A petition with about 3,000 signatures opposed to the ban was also delivered to the council. A petition in support of the ban with a few hundred signatures was likewise submitted to them.
The bottom line – nobody on the council changed their mind. A motion by Council member Susan Adams, which was seconded by Council member Pam Stafford, to place the issue on the ballot for the community to decide, failed to pass on a 2-3 vote with Mayor Gerard Giudice, Vice Mayor Jackie Elward and Council member Willy Linares voting against. Therefore, the previous direction to staff to bring forth the necessary resolution or change to the municipal code to ban fireworks in the City of Rohnert Park is still applicable. City Manager Darrin Jenkins is working with the City Attorney on the legal language to make that happen. He expects to present it at the April 13 meeting with final adoption on April 27.
He is also working on recommendations for some type of celebration to include a firework show. That was part two of the previous decision, if fireworks were to be banned, how would the city and community celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. The third part was making the non-profits whole; to backfill their lost profits because of the ban. Jenkins asked for clarification from the council and is attempting to make some type of recommendation for supporting non-profits at the April 13 meeting.
Giudice said he met with most of the non-profits. He heard them. But he acknowledged “They don’t trust us.” He went on record that he would vote to replace their loss profits “100 percent - year after year.” He said the easy decision would be “to walk away from this issue,” that “I don’t want to give up fireworks!” but then used the analogies of seat belt usage, not texting while driving, or not burning wood fires on Spare the Air Days as things we do for safety and climate concerns even if we didn’t want to do them.
In other council news – the issue of the Best Friends Canine Club and their use of Golis Park for Off-Leash Dog Activity consumed another hour of meeting time. Based on a complaint, at the January 26 council meeting, staff was asked to review the background, fees and use of the park by this club. Further they were to make recommendations. The staff, represented by Cindy Bagley who is Deputy Director of Community Services, did so tonight. In a thorough PowerPoint presentation, she traced the origin of the club, when it first was permitted, what the fees charged were and what options the council could consider. The bottom line on this issue is that the club will continue to be permitted and authorized to use this park for their activities; however, the fees will be adjusted to account for inflation. The original $2 per day will be doubled to $4 per day and then adjusted by an additional $1 every five years. The council concurred with the recommendation, so she’ll bring back the necessary changes for adoption on the April consent calendar.
A public hearing to consider adoption of a resolution that would establish Snyder Lane and Keiser Ave. Intersection as an Underground Utility District was held. This will authorize the city manager to execute certain agreements with PG&E relating to undergrounding of utilities at this location. Keiser Ave. will become a major entry point to the city given the construction going on in the University District. A traffic light on Snyder Lane will be required, and to facilitate that, the utility lines must be moved from overhead to below ground. The project will take 2-3 years to complete. This is a first step in moving the project forward.
The city also approved authorizing the council’s representative to the Water Advisory Committee to vote in the affirmative for their proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget. Assistant General Manager Maintenance Division for Sonoma Water, Mike Thompson made the presentation. There will be a rate increase of approximately 3.47 percent this year or about sixty-five cents per household per month to the City of Rohnert Park. Normal year-to-year increases are usually in the 4-6 percent range. Cities then decide how to pass on their cost of water services to residents and businesses in the community. Jenkins said a rate study is usually done every five years. The current study is expiring, and he expects to bring forward to the council a revised rate structure next fiscal year.
Giudice also made four presentations. One was reading the press release issued by the Sonoma County Mayors and Board Chair condemning racists comments. This was in support of Elward, due to racial comments she received because of her stance on the fireworks ban. In addition, the mayor read a Proclamation: Denouncing Anti-Asian Racism and Violence. He also recognized Sonoma County Conservation Action for their work on local environmental issues. Finally, he presented a Certificate of Recognition to Pamela Abbot Enz for her donations to the Rohnert Park Performing Arts Center. Enz, a professional Costume Designer, served as the “Costumer in Residence” for many years at Spreckels. She is retiring. Enz chose to bestow her entire collection, some 17,000 costume pieces, to Spreckels in Rohnert Park. Not only will they be used as costumes for the Theater Company, but they will also serve as the foundation for a new costume rental program.