You may have noticed the flag was being flown at half-mast in Rohnert Park last week; but you may not know why. The reason was the passing of Chief Jerry Bick. He was the first Fire Services Commander in the City’s Department of Public Safety. According to current Mayor Joseph Callinan, Bick fell at his retirement home and had a stroke on October 7 in Surprise, Arizona.
According to former Mayor Pete Callinan, the city’s first mayor, long-time city manager and Joseph Callinan’s father; Bick was a “man’s man.” He came over from the Roseland Fire District to head up fire services under the Director of Public Safety. Rohnert Park is one of two cities in California that combine police and fire services into a Public Safety Department. Peter Callinan also said that Bick was “liked by everybody.” According to the senior Callinan, Bick was the “type of guy to show people how to do things hands-on.” Well into his 50’s he would climb the tall ladders to demonstrate techniques for newly hired fire fighters. At the October 13 city council meeting, current Mayor Callinan recognized Chief Bick for his 19 years of service to the city. Bick was originally hired in January 1974 and retired in August 1993. Born in 1924, Bick was 96 at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife Betty.
In other council news:
Another marathon council meeting lasting almost four hours. The mayor presented a proclamation recognizing the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. The shelter is an “open-admissions shelter” that receives animals found stray, or from owners who can no longer care for them, as well as injured or abused animals. He recognized their monthly Fix-it Clinics that offer free cat spays/neuters and very low-cost dog altering. He highlighted the shelter’s “No More Lost Pets” program. Funded by the Animal Shelter League of Rohnert Park, it offers residents free ID tags and microchips to reunite lost pets with their owners.
There were technical sound difficulties, but it appears that the council authorized the staff to waive building permit fees for a generator installed by Neighbors Organized Against Hunger (NOAH). Founded in 2004, they are a volunteer non-profit agency. They provide “hungry people, families with children, and the elderly, with free healthy food in a safe and clean environment.” Located in the Cross & Crown parking lot across from Rancho Cotate High School at 5475 Snyder Lane. With the recent fires and power shut offs, they were concerned for the loss of refrigerated food items and the impact that would have on serving these meals. A grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation covered the purchase but not the permit and inspection fees. Thus, they requested this waiver.
A public hearing was held on the appeal of a Planning Commission decision to deny an Administrative Use Permit for the conversion of a garage at 1530 Marcel Place. This residence has been rented to college students. It has had numerous neighborhood complaints about noise, foul language and parties. Described as a “party house” by neighbors, the residence was recently reported to the city for an unpermitted garage conversion. After the report, the owner applied for an Administrative Use Permit but presented it as a workout space. However, it appears it was converted to an additional bedroom according to public comments. The assumption was this allowed the owner of the property to rent an additional room and increase their revenue. The previous rowdy tenants moved in September and the current tenants were described as respecting their neighbors. The appeal was denied, so the owner will have to rip out and restore the space to its previous intended use as a “garage.”
The City Manager, Darrin Jenkins, gave his monthly COVID-19 report. He highlighted red flag warnings with high winds, hotter temperatures and low humidity for this week. Rohnert Park is not currently scheduled for planned power shut offs, but other parts of Sonoma County might experience them. He advised folks to be prepared. His COVID report was short and to the point. The “news is not good!” Cases are going up, not down. Roseland area is the epicenter; but Rohnert Park is close behind. Since September 15, the cases per day have doubled in the county. It appears we won’t be getting out of the most restricted status any time soon.
Finally! The council appointed an Ad Hoc Covid-19 committee consisting of the Mayor and the Vice Mayor’s position. They will work with staff in trying to interpret State and County guidelines, especially in lobbying our representatives for clarifications about what is allowed and what isn’t. As the mayor said, we want our businesses to “be here next year” too. The long night continued with an hour and half General Plan Work Session Staff was looking for general guidance on what the council desired for the upcoming plan. This is the beginning of a long process. The updated plan may be ready for public review and council approval sometime in late 2021.