September 17, 2021
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Rohnert Park swears in new Public Safety Officers

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
July 30, 2021

Rohnert Park City Council met in-person, masks required, on Tuesday July 27. The council chambers were packed with family and friends of the one officer to be promoted, and the three new officers to be sworn into the Department of Public Safety. Before the meeting started Chief Tim Mattos and Lieutenant Jeff Nicks went row by row meeting and greeting the families of their officers. Nicks instructs at the academy and is the recruiting officer for the department. After Mayor Gerard Giudice gaveled the meeting to order, Chief Mattos called his officers up one by one. 

Leading off was Officer Jon Kempf. Kempf, promoted to Sergeant, has been with the department for 12 years in various roles including serving as a field training officer. Next up was Officer Daniel Espinoza. Espinoza graduated from the Napa Valley Police Academy and started work in Rohnert Park this June. He was followed by Officer Lupita Figueroa. Figueroa from Santa Rosa is a first generation Mexican American. She graduated from Sonoma State University in 2014, was hired in March of this year, and graduated from the SRJC Police Academy on July 21. Officer Gary Ubaldi was the final introduction. Ubaldi isn’t a stranger to fire and police work. He started 21 years ago as a seasonal firefighter with CalFire leading to a career in fire and police services. He lateralled to the department and is continuing his career in Rohnert Park. 

After all were introduced, they raised their right hands and repeated after Chief Mattos the Oath of Office. Once sworn in, designated family had the honor of pinning on their new badges. They received a standing ovation and the council members welcomed them to the community and the team. Council member Willy Linares said, “Thank you for stepping up to serve your community.” The officers and their families then departed to celebrate together.

In other council news, City Manager Darrin Jenkins presented an overview on behalf of Cindy Bagley, Director of Community Services. The topic was the cost recovery policy for recreation programs. Implemented in 2018, the policy has five levels for cost recovery depending on the mix of community and individual benefits. A program with high community benefit and minimum benefit to individuals, would be subsidized by the city at a higher level than a program that primarily benefits a few individuals and had only minimal community benefit. The council accepted the staff recommendation that the fee structure remain the same with just a few edits for clarity. A formal resolution with those changes will be brought back for approval.

Another item was the adoption of a resolution postponing the pending increase to the city’s scheduled sewer rate. This rate increase was previously postponed because of COVID-19 for a year. The city bills every two months. The rate increase was to be effective in June 2021, meaning it would have shown up on August bills. The staff proposed and the council approved a further postponement of the increase until January 2022. Council member Susan Hollingsworth Adams commented that it was because of the city’s good management of these funds that allows this further delay.

Jenkins then led a discussion regarding city-wide Governance Policy or Protocols. At the June 8 meeting, the council requested this discussion. Jenkins is now seeking the direction of the council on the next steps. He reported out on the norms that the council agreed to at the beginning of the year. He raised some specific questions for them to consider for any governance policy. This is primarily driven by the change from at-large elections to by-district elections. For example, does a council member represent just her or his district or the city as a whole? Council member Pam Stafford seemed to speak for the entire council on this example when she said, “We serve everyone in our community, not just our district.” With direction in hand, Jenkins will bring back a governance policy later to be adopted.

Jenkins also provided a COVID-19 update. Driven by the Delta variant, which now accounts for 83 percent of the rising case numbers, the question before the council was how to proceed with council meetings. Currently masks are not mandatory, but they are recommended for in-person, indoor gatherings. The city has options therefore for their meetings. They could go back to online meetings, continue as they did tonight with in-person but masked meetings, or have in-person meetings where vaccinated members of the public did not have to wear a mask. The council strongly felt that in-person meetings should continue and given the rise in cases, masks should be required for all participants. They did give him flexibility to modify this if health guidelines change.