Despite the broad range of opinions shared at last Thursday’s Dunsmuir City Council meeting, the one thing everyone seemed to agree on is what an outstanding job the interim city manager has been doing in the past several months.
In between discussions on different topics relating to Dunsmuir’s past, present and future, almost every public commenter or councilor who spoke at the August 20 meeting offered a nod of gratitude to Randy Johnsen for all his efforts.
Councilor Bruce Deutsch referred to Johnsen as, “an incredible asset to the city.”
The council agreed to make it a priority to look into fixing up Veteran’s Fountain, which has been vandalized.
After a request by citizen Leslie Wilde that council have open discussion regarding the city’s termination agreement with Brenda Bains, council voted to remove the item from the consent agenda and add it to the new business section of the agenda.
The council unanimously approved a proposal for Tom Hesseldenz & Associates to provide landscaping and architectural services for Tauhindauli Park and received a report that funds restricted for the maintenance of that park were used to pay a work crew to remove weeds, dead tree limbs and invasive plants.
Julie Titus, wildland fire/fuels specialist with Geo Elements, gave a presentation about updating Dunsmuir’s community wildfire protection plan and the interim city manager was authorized to hire a temporary replacement for the administrative clerk during a period of extended leave.
Bains termination agreement
During the public comment period, Wilde noted that an item on the consent agenda dealt with a termination agreement granting $10,000 to former city manager Bains. Wilde questioned when this matter was initially discussed, saying she had examined the minutes of all closed session agendas and couldn’t find any information on the subject.
“It looks, on the surface, like a Brown Act violation,” Wilde said.
After unanimously voting to move the Bains termination agreement item to the night’s regular agenda, councilor Bryce Craig pointed out that the closed session meeting in which this was discussed occurred on April 2, 2015. The item was titled, “conference with legal counsel–anticipated litigation.”
Johnsen pointed out that two separate settlements took place, each with an amount of around $10,000.
The first was a workers’ compensation claim settled by the workers’ compensation appeals court, and the second was a general separation and release agreement with the city of Dunsmuir.
Wilde voiced her displeasure with the city’s decision to settle a claim and said that she had a problem with the fact that council didn’t reveal the name of the person suing the city on the closed session agenda.
Johnsen responded by saying, “I don’t regret making this decision. I think it was a wise business move.”
He added that, although he wasn’t around in 2014 when Bains was serving as city manager and therefore had missed out on the background story, “I recommended this just so everybody can move on.”
Following the discussion, the council unanimously voted to approve the separation agreement with Bains.
Surplus airport equipment
The council decided to continue until its next meeting consideration and appointment of a screener to review free surplus equipment to be used at Mott Airport.
Dunsmuir’s airport committee learned of a federal program that makes surplus equipment available to local airports free of charge, according to Johnsen’s staff report about the item. A screener would need to be appointed to review the available equipment and decide what could be used at Mott Airport.
His report stated that Sam Lanier of FireWhat? has previous experience working as a screener for CAL FIRE and has volunteered to perform this duty for the city of Dunsmuir at no cost.
Airport committee member Jerry Denham objected to appointing Lanier without first discussing it at a committee meeting.
Councilor Deutsch, the airport committee’s city council representative, argued that it would be wise to make the appointment as soon as possible to get the ball rolling. He pointed out that there may be a possibility of appointing two screeners at some point in the future if another person is interested in the position, and that no equipment would be taken without the committee’s consent.
However, Deutsch ultimately proposed a motion to continue consideration and appointment of a screener until the next council meeting, after the airport committee has had a chance to discuss the matter at their meeting next week.
Regarding Tauhindauli Park, Johnsen explained that the city of Dunsmuir believed it was adequately maintaining the grounds but recently learned otherwise from Tom Hesseldenz, one of the park’s original designers.
Hesseldenz, a landscaper who Johnsen described as, “a very interesting person who has designed a lot of trials throughout Siskiyou County,” submitted a proposal to the city of Dunsmuir containing a master plan for the park which includes a pond, nature center, and permanent restrooms.
Johnsen also learned that funding for this project is available through the Cantara grant, which designated money to be used for various different projects after the chemical spill many years ago.
He explained that one of the beneficiaries included in the grant was the restoration of Tauhindauli Park.
Johnsen said that there are monies available in that fund that the city can request to pursue the master plan for Tauhindauli Park originally initiated by Hesseldenz and managed by Dunsmuir’s garden club, so the work so would not draw on the city’s general funds.
Mari Shanta, treasurer of the Dunsmuir garden club, affirmed that, “we do have a sizeable endowment to maintain the park. It’s in good hands now. We really appreciate what [Johnsen] has done.”
Council unanimously approved Hesseldenz’s proposal to provide landscaping and architectural services for Tauhindauli Park.
Wildfire protection plan
In her presentation about updating Dunsmuir’s community wildfire protection plan, Titus noted that the city of Dunsmuir has received a State Response Area grant from the state of California that will fund development of the plan.
She said developing this wildfire protection plan will help the city in many ways, including making it eligible to apply for other grants.
After receiving notice that city administrator Julie Iskara will be absent for four to six weeks starting in late September, Johnsen requested permission to hire temporary help in her absence.
Johnsen suggested contracting with Sara Anna, with whom he previously worked during her career as administrative secretary, administrative assistant, and deputy city clerk in local government.
He noted that Anna has had experience initiating records retention systems in three different cities, and could possibly apply her skills to setting up such a system in Dunsmuir.
Council unanimously voted to allow the interim city manager to temporarily hire Anna at the rate of $35 per hour with no benefits.
During the public comment period, citizen Peter Arth asked the council to pick up the pace in building a trail to Mossbrae Falls, saying that he wants to see it on the next agenda. He added that, “it’s extremely important to 99.9% of the world that we get this done.”
Mayor Dave Keisler and councilor Deutsch responded to Arth, ensuring him that the process was underway. “We’re in the process right now of getting an assessment done,” Deutsch said.
Keisler held up a letter from the Saint Germain Foundation regarding the Mossbrae Trail project and said, “I am moving forward on that.”
Other public comments included a positive review of the State of Jefferson Brewfest on August 15 by Richard Dinges of the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce and a request from Arth that the while the city is updating the water rate structure it makes sure the water bottling facility pays fair rates.
Reporting on outside meetings, councilor Craig announced that the water ad hoc committee received a presentation of the first draft of the master plan update. He added that there were five community members present at the last meeting, “which is a step up from zero.”
Deutsch reported that the economic development committee is looking into fiber optic installation and the airport committee is scheduled to meet every Tuesday at noon because, “there’s a lot to look at.”
Johnsen reported that the Big Fish/Trophy Trout program has received more than $1,200 in additional funding from community donations, allowing the program to extend into September.
Keisler added that, “We have some awesome prizes to give away, so make sure that you submit a photo of your fish to the Dunsmuir chamber of commerce and include your name.”
Vice Mayor Josh Spurlock was absent from the meeting.