The city council also approved water and sewer rate changes during its May 11, 2017 regular meeting
The Weed City Council during its May 11 regular meeting unanimously approved an ordinance allowing medical cannabis dispensaries in the city and voted to approve a resolution to change water and sewer rates beginning July 1.
Councilors also voted to discontinue a contract with CAL FIRE.
All council members attended, however Bob Hall was excused early due to illness. About 30 people were in the audience.
Medical cannabis dispensaries
The ad hoc 64 committee recommended an ordinance to regulate and allow medical cannabis dispensaries in the city. It was unanimously approved by the council with the following two changes:
• Councilor Sue Tavalero added to the section regulating signage that a green cross is also not allowed on signs along with marijuana leaves or the name “weed.”
• A section allowing medical dispensaries to automatically convert to selling recreational marijuana in 2018 was removed.
Council member Stacey Green asked where the ordinance states a dispensary can not be located near a school or daycare. Council member Kim Greene said the ordinance is more restrictive than other cities because it only allows a dispensary to be located in a certain area of the city: on Main Street between State Highway 97 (Weed Boulevard) and Division Street, and no schools or daycares are in that area.
Marilyn Blankenship asked about medical dispensaries being allowed to sell recreational marijuana when it becomes legal next year.
Nancy Quigley said she wanted to remind the council there will be a lot of legal aspects with transportation and how marijuana is getting into the dispensary.
Geneva Allman encouraged the council to use taxes to educate youth and adults about the harmful effects of cannabis.
Greene said the California standards state that education has to be provided, and it is illegal to sell marijuana to anyone under 21, just like alcohol.
City manager Ron Stock said he did not recommend they adopt the ordinance with the paragraph allowing a medical cannabis dispensary permit to automatically convert to also selling recreational cannabis because they have no idea what the rules for recreational cannabis will be.
The ordinance requires a permit from the city to open a dispensary and regulates the location and operations.
Water and sewer rate changes
During a public hearing, Paul Reuter from PACE Engineering explained to council members there were two main challenges with the water fund. The first is the $500,000 debt. The second is an existing rate structure that is fairly old and not necessarily based on actual water use, especially for non-residential customers. He said with the rate change, some non-residential users will see a greater increase than others. The goal is to pay down the debt by about half in five years and establish an operating reserve.
The sewer fund is in better shape, according to Reuter. The challenge with the sewer is that a lot of non-residential rates were based on theoretical type parameters. For example, hotels may have been paying a sewer rate based on 100% occupancy. It will be changed to base the sewer rates on water consumption.
Vaunne Dillmann asked whether the administration, city council or city manager is responsible for the $500,000 debt. “Who dropped the ball that we have to pay for that now?” he asked.
Mayor Ken Palfini said the rate increases were created because the council needed to change its approach to rates and should have done it six years ago. The action taken then was not adequate to make up for what was needed.
Also the city is in negotiations for water that requires legal advice, and they entered into a lease agreement with Roseburg which costs money.
Palfini said the rate increases were approved by the public because only 118 votes opposing the rate increase were received. Of the 1,411 ballots that were mailed to all parcel and property owners, 707 were needed to block the rate increase. The changes will be effective July 1, 2017. He said each property owner had a chance to vote, and if ballots were not returned then it was a vote in favor of the rate change.
CAL FIRE contract
Stock told the council that CAL FIRE wages are increasing between 11 and 18%, which would make the cost of contracting with CAL FIRE for one full time employee $192,856.43. He said there is a great benefit to the city to have the expertise of CAL FIRE, but it could be cost prohibitive to continue the contract.
Stock looked at what Mount Shasta and Dunsmuir pay for a fire chief, said it appears Weed could hire a full time fire chief for between $70,000 and 80,000, and with benefits it would be about $108,000.
Green asked if the safety of Weed would be compromised by not having a contract with CAL FIRE. Stock said the firefighters were supportive of hiring a full time staff and do not see this as jeopardizing the safety of Weed.
Stock said retired CAL FIRE Battalion Chief and former Weed Fire Chief Darin Quigley would be willing to work with the city to find a new fire chief beginning July 1.
Stock said he thinks he will be able to put enough in the budget to hire two full time firefighters.
CAL FIRE Siskiyou Chief Phil Anzo said they were going to ask that an additional person be added to the agreement and realize that with the increases in the salaries and benefits that it may be cost prohibitive for the city to continue the relationship.
Tavalero pointed out that two CAL FIRE firefighters would cost about $192,000 each. “We can’t afford that,” she said.
Anzo said CAL FIRE will still be a good neighbor and will still be at their Weed location. They will continue to respond per the mutual aide agreements.
CAL FIRE Captain Matt Hill has taken over for Kent Cunningham and will continue until the contract expires at the end of June.