Cloth, paper towels, baby wipes and flushable wipes could cost the homeowner dearly. Bray cautioned that, with the limited number of plumbers servicing the county, it is an unpleasant disaster that could exasperate the situation.

The last in-person Yreka City Council meeting for the foreseeable future took place on Thursday in the council chambers. With a statewide shutdown of most business and an order to shelter in place, the council decided to move all future meetings to an online platform. The council is currently at work setting up a protocol for the public to view and participate via the internet.

Seated a chair apart to maintain physical distance, council members who had not already self-quarantined heard reports from the Yreka Chamber of Commerce on its hunt for a new executive director, discussed efforts to get a ballot measure to fund a parks and recreation district, and listened to a warning by the director of public works on the threat of flushable wipes.

The most urgent news of the evening came in the form of a warning from Yreka Director of Public Works Matthew Bray.

“Do not flush flushable wipes,” Bray said. “Don’t flush paper towels or other kinds of wipes.”

Wipes and paper towels get tied up in residential sewer pipes (before reaching the city lines).”

Bray explained that cloth, paper towels, baby wipes and flushable wipes could cost the homeowner dearly. He cautioned that, with the limited number of plumbers servicing the county, it is an unpleasant disaster that could exasperate the situation. Because of the acute toilet paper shortage, Redding has even had to deal with what appears to have been shredded t-shirts clogging waste water pumps.

“Everything else (besides toilet paper) goes in the trash,” Bray said.

Aside from his warning against clogging the sewers, Bray dismissed rumors that the Green Horn Park Host position would be terminated.

“We are keeping the park host. I would like to dispel any rumor that the park host program is on the ropes,” Bray said, adding that the program is “important to the community. The city gets a lot of compliments on it. It just works.”

Bray said the park host is a great asset to the area, getting compliments from park-goers and landowners adjacent to the park. The park hosts who have been attending to Greenhorn for 17 months without a break will be taking a leave from their position in the summer to visit family. Bray and other city officials are looking for a replacement to temporarily take over duties from the middle of June through October.

Chamber business

Other items on the council’s agenda included hearing updates from the Yreka Chamber of Commerce. The chamber recently lost its executive director due to staff restructuring.

“We eliminated one position, the administrative assistant for the chamber,” said chamber vice president Brandon Bethea. “Since that recourse, we have also had the executive director resign. We are searching for a new executive director.”

Bethea pointed to a slight budget shortfall and a high percentage of the total budget going toward personnel as reasons to eliminate the administrative assistant position.

“Our target is to shoot for 40% of our expenses going into payroll and payroll taxes,” Bethea said, adding that currently more than 60% of the budget goes to payroll and payroll taxes. “We’d like to reallocate more expenses into special events ... devote more funds toward marketing dollars and putting on better events for the community.”

The council wanted more commitment from Bethea and the chamber on how it was going to deal with the personnel shortage and help the local business community grow.

“What the council wants to see is how you are going to deal with this in the next months so we can decide if the city wants to go forward with this,” said councilmember Norman Shaskey.

Bethea said the council has had 12 applicants for the executive director’s job. The chamber board has interviewed five applicants. Still the search continues. Bethea said the new director would have to expand the scope of the chamber to include other towns in the area in order to stay relevant and attract new business.

“All the chambers that are surviving are ones that consolidate or the ones that re-strategize or re-brand away from chambers. The chamber model is not performing as well as it can,” Bethea said, assuring the council that the chamber would “get through it and fulfill our commitment as always.”

The chamber receives almost half of its operating budget from the city. In 2019, total expenditures exceeded $100,000. As the search for an executive director continues and in the face of COVID-19, Bethea said the chamber would be focusing on promoting and organizing the upcoming Gold Rush Days in Yreka that are currently scheduled for June.

“The income we receive from the city is greatly appreciated,” said Bethea. “Thank you so much for your continued contributions.”

Establishing a recreation and parks district

After listening to how the chamber planned to host public events and draw in business investment, city council members discussed the proposition to have a measure placed on the ballot this fall that would fund the creation of a Yreka Recreation and Parks District through a parcel tax. Currently, a discussion is slated for the April 2 city council meeting, but it remains unclear how the public will participate.

Councilmember Shaskey asked why proponents of a district did not go out and conduct a voter petition to put the item on the ballot. If the measure is approved, it could cost the city around $10,000 to put the measure on the ballot. Despite the new reality of COVID-19, Mayor Pro Tem Duane Kegg said the city needs to move ahead with planning the discussion around the ballot measure.

In the meantime, Kegg said, “Make sure you wash your hands.”

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