NEWS

Spurlock is Dunsmuir mayor, rate change procedures approved

Lauren Steinheimer

Dunsmuir City Council member Josh Spurlock said he wore pants and shoes to Thursday’s regular meeting instead of the sandals and shorts he typically wears because of the possibility he might be elected mayor. He was, and Bryce Craig was elected vice mayor.

The council also passed two resolutions establishing procedures for a Prop 218 election on rate changes for water and solid waste billing, discussed options for possibly adopting a medical marijuana ordinance, and discussed the future of the engine house during the Dec. 3 meeting.

Marijuana

City attorney Rob Taylor explained the city’s options for adopting a marijuana cultivation ordinance. He said Governor Brown recently passed a law agreeing to statewide regulation of medical marijuana, and it applies not only to dispensaries and collectives but to commercial enterprises.

The state is allowing cities to pass zoning ordinances regulating cultivation and distribution of marijuana, and Taylor said if the city doesn’t have an ordinance in place by March 1, 2016, the state will have sole regulatory control over marijuana cultivation forever.

Councilor Craig said he thinks the state has done “an admirable job considering this issue,” and he doesn’t see any real danger in continuing to allow the state to rule in this way.

Taylor and city manager Randy Johnsen said the state hasn’t announced how they intend to regulate it yet.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that this has nothing whatsoever to do with recreational marijuana,” Johnsen said, “only medical. You have a deadline, but we don’t know what you’re opting into until the state presents that information.”

Johnsen explained the state agency that will dictate rules for regulation hasn’t been formed or staffed yet.

“We don’t know what regulation they’re going to come up with,” he said. “This is a very inconclusive process. Some cities are doing nothing, some are outright banning, and others are doing something in between.”

Johnsen said many cities are opting to ban marijuana cultivation altogether with the understanding they will be able to change that in the future.

Several local cannabis patients spoke against the option to ban cultivation. City treasurer Mario Rubino said he doesn’t like the idea of letting the state have total authority.

Craig said he thinks a full ban on cultivation is completely inappropriate for Dunsmuir and it’s foolish for other cities to ban it even if their intention is to lift that ban. He expressed doubt the city would manage to get an ordinance validated by the March 1 deadline. “We are a tiny city not really equipped to enforce any sort of ban or regulation we may come up with,” Craig said. “I’m much more comfortable with handing that authority to the state.”

Taylor said the only way the city could manage to pass its own ordinance so rapidly would be to draft an urgency ordinance.

After much discussion, councilors decided to direct staff to continue researching how other cities are handling the situation.

Prop 218

Councilors unanimously passed a resolution establishing procedures for two different Prop 218 elections: one for a water rate increase and the other for a garbage fee decrease.

Though called elections, they are not a typical yes-or- no type of election. They are an opportunity for the public to oppose the plan, either by mail or during a scheduled public hearing.

Johnsen said the city attorney finished preparing forms for the water rate increase, and the hearing will be held at least 45 days after notices get sent out to property owners and water customers.

Council voted to remove the lifeline rate from the fee structure because the city attorney advised it was no longer appropriate under Prop 218 legislation.

Johnsen said council will have to set a date for the public hearing that allows for at least a 45 day comment period after the notices get sent out. Notices will be sent out to property owners and renters. Each individual receiving a notice will have a minimum of 45 days to submit a written protest.

Johnsen said the city clerk and deputy city clerk are the only people allowed to handle the protest ballots, which will be counted in public at a council meeting on the date determined.

If there is a protest for more than 50% of the parcels, the proposed change to fees won’t pass. Johnsen said if one renter on a parcel protests and another doesn’t that will count as a “no” vote.

A public hearing will be held, during which council will consider all the protests and then vote to approve or deny the rate changes.

Council members expressed disappointment in not being able to offer a lifeline rate to water customers, but Craig pointed out that it was only a reduction of $2 per month.

Johnsen said a separate Prop 218 election should be held on a different date for the decrease in solid waste fees.

Council unanimously voted to adopt a rate structure decreasing garbage collection fees across the board. For customers using only one garbage container, the proposed monthly fee is $16.44.

Right now, residential customers pay $23 and commercial customers pay $37 for one container.

Engine house

Many public comments were heard requesting that the engine house not be torn down.

Johnsen said the engine house, which was purchased from the railroad by a group representing the city a long time ago, is dilapidated. He said the city has spent several thousand dollars in the past few months cleaning it out.

“Now the city needs to find a use for it or tear it down,” he said. “It needs to make financial sense to the city and not be a burden.”

Public commenters pointed out the engine house is the most historic building in town and should be a historical landmark.

Johnsen said the site boasts the only remaining operational railroad turntable in western America.

Council unanimously voted to direct Johnsen to meet with Gary Benson regarding negotiation of a potential lease of the building.

Other business

Councilors unanimously approved a resolution to re-zone the Best Choice Inn motel as high-density residential to qualify for housing element re-certification.

They unanimously approved a request for proposals to remove dead and drying trees, and agreed to hire PACE Engineering to conduct a traffic study that would be the first step in alowing the city to issue speeding tickets.