City councilmember abandons pool project
Oct. 8, 2013 — Back in late August Susanville City Councilmember Lino Callegari said, “ This city has never stopped wanting a pool, and I want you to know I’m 100 percent behind a pool, and my vote will be for the new pool.”
But when the veteran councilmember heard city staff had recommended using money originally allocated for the failed Sierra Park project as a source for the city’s first $200,000 annual contribution to fund the Joint Powers Agreement between the city and the county to build the pool, he made an abrupt tumble turn and withdrew his support.
During his presentation, City Administrator Jared Hancock said he had continued negotiations with County Administrative Officer Martin Nichols regarding the creation of a JPA between the city and the county and that the board of supervisors had approved their portion of the funding by a 3-2 vote.
Now city staff was trying to come up with the city’s $200,000 contribution to the JPA.
“Probably the most appropriate place would be to transfer $185,000 from the park mitigation fund and $15,000 from the general fund, unallocated cash,” Hancock said.
He said there currently wasn’t $185,000 in the park mitigation fund because $165,000 had been transferred out for the Sierra Park project, but staff intended to use that money because the state had reimbursed the city for most of the costs associated with the failed park project.
After Hancock’s presentation, Callegari said, “I’m going to rescind my commitment to approval of the swimming pool, retract it and vote no on it. I don’t believe the park mitigation money should go to a swimming pool.”
Callegari again lamented the way the city abandoned more than $2 million in grant funds for Sierra Park. He also said the council should not obligate future councils (the JPA for the pool project requires a contribution of up to $200,000 each year for 15 years by both the city and the county). He said he also agreed with Lassen County District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle’s comments regarding the uncertainty of the funding for the pool through the JPA in these trying financial times published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Lassen County Times.
Callegari also said if the city defaults on its obligation to the JPA, city taxpayers would have to pay the bill, so he asked for the matter to go to a vote of the people so they could make the decision about the pool.
“Before we commit $3 million, we should ask the voters in the city of Susanville to vote for a pool,” Callegari said.
According to the councilmember, when the city surveyed residents about their priorities, a pool came in fifth.
Callegari said the Roosevelt Pool facility could be repaired for $1 million or less because the facility was shut down for safety reasons.
“We can get a person to come in and repair the roof and walls just like the high school did (on the gym),” Callegari said. “For a million dollars you could put that pool back in shape and you’d have an indoor pool. So that’s where I’m coming from, and that’s my piece.”
Councilmember Brian Wilson noted the council had not voted on the pool project, and he asked for a vote to approve the funding proposal recommended by staff.
After the meeting, some members of the public questioned the appropriateness and legality of the vote because the matter was agendized as an information item — an update of the pool process.
Wilson said Callegari essentially was asking
Susanville voters to approve a tax, a development that required a two-thirds vote, and that was a goal that was almost impossible to achieve these days.
Mayor Rod De Boer said both Callegari and Wilson made good points, and he thought there were not enough entities involved in the JPA — especially the school districts and the college — and the process needed more participants.
Wilson and councilmembers Nicholas McBride and Cheryl McDonald voted yes, Callegari voted no and De Boer abstained in a 3-1-1 vote.
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