Antioch Council gets earful from residents, city workers, votes to not spend $800,000 in State funds

By Alia Bickham

The room was buzzing with conversation prior to the call to order at the July 28th City Council meeting and the Council got an earful from residents and city workers. This certain meeting was dedicated to the late Council Member Gary Agopian, and his widow, Robin Agopian was appreciative of the full room as her husband was “passionate for negotiations” and always looking out for the needs of the people.

Mayor Wade Harper remembered Agopian saying he “…led by example.”

Council Member Mary Rocha stated, “he won’t be forgotten.”

Community event announcements included: Sizzling Summer Night Fundraiser at Antioch Senior Center August 14, the Clean Energy Meeting at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center on August 15, and the Second Annual Gary Agopian Boat Race October 17 and 18.

Public Comments get heated

During public comments, Antioch Realtor and resident Mark Jordan expressed concern with what he called the illegal actions of the Council regarding transfers from the water and sewer funds for police and tiered water rates. He asked the Council to take a hard look at restructuring the tiered system.

I will file a complaint with the Chief of Police,” for taxing citizens illegally for water, Jordan stated.

Similarly, Wayne Steffen expressed the way water usage is calculated is flawed.

It is impossible to reduce by 28%” he said. “If the billing periods are fluctuating the billing is based on number of units per billing periods and not gallons per day. Stephen suggested council uses gallons per day to calculate water usage and tiered rates.

City Workers Complain to Council

Antioch city workers who are members of Local One, spoke during public comments, as well. They were concerned about high health care service costs and the lack of recognition by the Council, and the lack of a contract.

Joe Carrera, a 25 year city employee wore his “Proud to be Local One” shirt, as did many others. He spoke of equality.

It makes no sense for the people who make the most money have the best health benefits,” he stated. “Those who are hard workers have to pay more for health benefits. We assist the city in times of need. We the employees endured the pay cut. Some cities gave the furlowed employees a thank you check. The city needs to realize the key to maintain a good work force….you need to retain the employees. This is the city’s chance to get it right and make it right for everyone….if the money is there I just want to know why.”

Wayne Burgess spoke about the parks, and said they’re a safe, inviting places for families.

I’m generally proud of my city,” he stated. Then he mentioned the tough circumstances in 2009 and cuts included seven full-time and two part-time workers.

Most of us remain content…knowing the economy will eventually turn around,” Burgess shared. “You voted in January to put us back to full time. Thank you.”

Then he mentioned cut backs and work increases.

Not only has the city’s bargaining team not come through, but it is not interested in COLA increases or medical benefits. No discussion,”he said, then added that there needs to be shared sacrifice.

Todd Northem, President of Local One spoke about his 15 years in street maintenance.

He spoke of potholes and signage.

We are there when the emergencies happen,” Northem shared. “Working in traffic is one of the most dangerous jobs. We have no labor contract. 2009 furlows we are all in it together at stake was our community “a bankrupt city means” everyone loses.

The workers of Antioch kept this city afloat,” he stated.

Manuel Hicks has been working for the city for over 21 years.

The standard of living should be the same for everyone,” he stated. “We sacrifice for the city. It’s a thankless job. Everybody should get medical the same.”

Johnathan Cordaway said “I was raised here…an Antioch High School grad. Times have been tough. Sacrifice is part of survival. We’re doing all we could to help this city survive.”

Why doesn’t the City of Antioch not appreciate workers?” he asked.

Mike Davis, also a member of Local One, said “Tonight is about relationships. Local One has sacrificed for six years so that the city could keep its lights on. The city is back on it’s feet….but the employees are much worse off. You heard tonight from your residents, why are you treating us this way?”

He spoke of the city’s two budget reserves of 15% and 23%.

About four million dollars the city hoards,” Davis stated. “For this year $19 million for equal access to health care. Four to five percent of available funds is what we are asking for. We need your direct staff to show us you value the relationship between your citizens and employees.”

Willie Mims, representing the East County Branch of the NAACP, complained about pay and affordable living.

I came today to let you know I’m still around, I haven’t gone anywhere.”

He asked the council to introduce body cameras for the police, as it “serves two functions. It protects good police and [exposes] verify bad officers.”

eBART Update

BART Director Joel Keller walked the Council through the planned eBART project, to Antioch. The benefits BART brings to the community include the increase of home, renting values as well as the ever important decrease to commute time, Keller shared.

BART will be a great addition to the city,” he stated. “Better BART means a better Bay Area.”

The extension to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch is projected to be completed by May, 2018.

The new pedestrian bridge is “a landmark saying BART is coming to Antioch,” Keller added.

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock asked if BART would provide the police officers for the station.

Keller said BART will work with the Antioch Police Department to structure a response plan and an adequate security plan.

Highway 4 Update

Randy Iwasaki, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) provided an update on State Route 4 widening projec. Highway 4 is two-thirds of the way done with the overall widening, he shared.

The CCTA is working with BART to get it into the Highway 4 median faster. Iwasaki also said improvements to the State Route 160/4 Connector Ramps are expected to be completed in early 2016.

Future planning will rely on 65% local dollars, 22% State and 13% in Federal funds.

A strong economy is the key to transportation funding,” he added.

General Plan Update

The Council then heard from consultant Dick Loweke on the General Plan for Land Use Element and Zoning Ordinance update- updating the Land Use Element and Zoning Ordinance and the 19 Focus Areas.

Harper asked about an employment area. “I like the sound of that,” he said. “What does that mean?”

Loweke responded, “Look at policies that will encourage that to happen so it’s efficiently set up to fit in the market place.

The Council then approved the authorization to execute contracts with three potential additional planning consultants, Dudek, Rincon, and M-Group each amounting less than $100,000 for a term of 3 years.

Pay as you go?” asked Ogorchock. “Yes,” was staff’s reply.

City Gets Unexpected State Funds

City staff asked the council to provide direction on the use of prior unfunded State mandates received by the city and adopt a resolution amending the fiscal 2014-2015 budget amount of $793,767 in “one time monies” from the state, as City Finance Director Dawn Merchant referred to the funds. She suggested possibilities for the funds, including applying some to the police supplementary retirement plan, a build up to the General Fund reserves or use some or all funds for a capital fund project.

Ogorchock wanted to pay down the city’s unfunded liability. Harper supported that but proposed using the funds about solar programs for energy savings.

If we could outfit community buildings with solar there would be an ongoing savings for the community,” he said.

Ogorchock made a motion to put the money in the General Fund and not spend it. Rocha seconded the motion and it passed, unanimously on a 4-0 vote, because Council Member Monica Wilson absent during the meeting.

New park playground equipment

The Council award a contract of $127,681 for playground equipment for Contra Loma Park. First 5 has been active in ranking our parks. This is the number one priority park by them. From last year, the funds are there. The installation will be completed in 16-20 weeks, but possibly even less in an 8-10 week timeframe. However, improvements such as cameras and lighting are not included in the contract.

We believe it’s time to take… our parks back,” said resident Debra Polk. “We need lighting, surveillance, and the basketball court to make a major change in the lives of families.”

It is on our radar,” Harper responded. “Thank you for being our partner on this. This is a good start.”

Road Improvements

The council voted to approve road improvements in downtown.

They amended the 2014-2015 Capital Improvement Budget to increase Gas Tax funding for the Downtown Roadway Pavement Rehabilitation project in the amount of $50,000 and increase the existing contract with MCK Services, Inc. for $73,389.50 totaling $684,514.50

The council also authorized the expenditure of a alittle more than $77,000 for the completion on additional road work.

They [residents] really appreciate all the work going on,” said Harper.

Rocha encouraged the continuation of beautifying the community.

Hopefully these streets will last us ten to twenty years,” said Public Works Director/City Engineer Ron Bernal.

The council also approved improvements to Ninth Street, increasing the existing contract with MCK Services, Inc. in the amount of $135,902.82 and also authorized a final payment of $98,236.24.

From A to H Street this completes that entire road way,” said Bernal. “This project had additional costs such as additional concrete and excavation, water main leakage repair which estimated an amount of $135,000.

The extra costs and investment are “part of a trust factor with the council,” he added.

The next meeting of the Antioch City Council will be on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers on Second Street in downtown. Meetings can also be viewed on Comcast TV Channel 24 or via livestream on the city’s website at

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