Council hears Measure C Oversight Report, splits on Assistant City Manager, new Public Works Director positions

By Nick Goodrich

The Antioch City Council met on Tuesday, March 22nd, for its regular meeting. Among the topics discussed were a plan for video cameras in certain Antioch intersections, the proposed spray park and playground at Prewett Water Park, a desalination project to increase Antioch’s water reserves, and the possibility of adding an Assistant City Manager Position to City staff. City Council also received its annual report from the Measure C Sales Tax Citizens’ Oversight Committee.

The Oversight Committee, which was created in 2013 with the adoption of Measure C, is tasked with reviewing the City’s use of Measure C funds in order to ensure that revenue is being properly used. The Committee consists of Antioch citizens who determine whether or not the City has used the funds as it promised to, and report their findings to City Council each year.

Sal Sbranti, a member of the Committee, was on hand Tuesday night to give the report. He reminded the room that Measure C, adopted by Antioch following the announcement of a City fiscal emergency, had three main goals: to increase the size of the Antioch Police Department, reduce emergency response times, and increase code enforcement in Antioch.

Sbranti noted that since Measure C’s adoption, the APD has seen a net increase of five officers, taking into account retirements and other attrition that naturally occurs in police forces. Measure C also provided for the hire of one additional full-time Code Enforcement Officer.

In these functions, Measure C has seen success. However, Sbranti also raised questions about the City Wide Administrative Allocation segment of the ordinance, which has seen disproportionate increases in budgeting each year since the adoption of the Measure.

Antioch resident David Redford spoke during the comments section, stating that he believed the financial reporting of Measure C expenditures was unclear. Redford noted that several expenditures were attributed to hotels, among other things, and worried that not all of the Measure C funds are being used for their specific purposes.

Councilmember Mary Rocha expressed concern over Redford’s statements, and reiterated that Measure C revenue—as stipulated by the City in 2013—must only go toward achieving the ordinance’s enumerated goals.

License Plate Reader Cameras

Police Chief Allan Cantando was on hand during the meeting to present City Council with plans to install video cameras and license plate readers on several Antioch intersections. He asked the Council to consider what type, and how many, cameras should be installed in the problem areas.

The intersections in question are the corners of L Street and Sycamore Drive, and Sycamore Drive and Auto Center Drive. These areas have been hotspots for crime in the past, and Cantando believes that any cameras installed would significantly help the APD solve crimes around the two intersections. He noted that similar cameras at the Contra Loma Estates have been instrumental in helping police investigations.

Cantando offered up several options that the City could choose to pursue in order to monitor the intersections: fixed cameras, rotating view cameras, and license plate readers. Depending on how the City decides to approach the issue, the cameras could cost between $16,000 and $122,000. Mayor Wade Harper suggested that the APD look into the use of portable video cameras, that could installed in crime hotspots and then moved according to the City’s needs. As for Cantando himself, he would prefer that any license plate readers be installed on squad cars rather than intersections, to increase the range of vision the readers would provide.

“Logistically, it makes sense to have those cameras on as many cars as possible,” he said, “because they would assist us in solving stolen vehicle situations and violent crimes.” Councilmember Monica Wilson suggested coordinating with the Pittsburg Police Department camera system, and Harper noted that Pittsburg has asked for cameras on the Antioch side of Auto Center Drive in the past.

Ultimately, whether the Council decides to place the cameras on the intersections or the license plate readers on squad cars, Chief Cantando will be happy. “The more tools we have out there, the better,” he said. City Council voted 5-0 to begin consideration of where and how to install the cameras and readers.

All Abilities Playground at Water Park

Following that vote, City Council voted on the approval of a construction company to build the proposed spray park and playground at Prewett Water Park. The spray park will incorporate 1,500 square feet, and is expected to be a major draw from both Antioch residents and citizens from the surrounding area.

Sierra Valley Construction offered Antioch the lowest bids on both the spray park and playground, $949,672 and $417,998, respectively. They are expected to complete the projects by December of this year. City Council voted unanimously to approve both bids, and will allow Sierra to go ahead with the construction.

Desalination Plant

Also on the agenda Tuesday was discussion of a water desalination project for Antioch, which has been in the works since the City awarded a contract to Carollo Engineers, Inc. last August. The city of Antioch has historically had the right to draw water from the San Joaquin River in times of need, but that water was deemed unsuitable for human use due to its high salt content. Therefore, the city has turned to desalination methods in order to use the San Joaquin as a water source.

Carollo Engineers recently completed the initial stage of the desalination plans, which set the groundwork for the rest of the project. As Carollo prepares to move into Phase 2, they asked City Council on Tuesday to approve the additional $150,000 needed for that next step, which involves cost estimates and conceptual facilities designs, among others. City Council expressed its admiration for the work Carollo has done for Antioch so far, and approved the budget increase in a 5-0 vote. Together, Phases 3 and 4 are expected to cost the city somewhere in the range $400,000.

New Assistant City Manager Position

Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, City Council was presented with the possibility of adding an “Assistant City Manager” position to city staff. City Manager Steve Duran pushed hard for the new position, reminding the Councilmembers that his department is understaffed, leaving him—and future City Managers—with far too many things for one Manager to get done in a timely manner. “The City has been discussing an Assistant City Manager for a while, but was never in a good position to have one,” he said.

Duran told Council that adding such an employee would allow his department to better address Antioch’s needs as outlined in the city’s Strategic Plan, and would also help with succession planning. An Assistant City Manager who has accompanied the City Manager to meetings, worked with him on the issues facing the city, and gains a better understanding of how the City Manager position operates, would be much better suited to succeed him as City Manager than an outside hire who must spend time learning the ropes.

Most of the Council agreed with Duran. Council Member Tiscareno stated the value of keeping the city running smoothly with a better-staffed City Manager’s department, and Wilson agreed with the sentiment. However, Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock was wary of adding another management position when Antioch is already short on police services and “feet on the street.”

Ogorchock stated that the proposed salary for the new position would be better used on the labor side of City Services rather than management. She cited police services as an example of where the funds could be better used. “We need more workers,” she said.

Ultimately, City Council decided to join the proposed Assistant City Manager position with another city Department Head, essentially adding more responsibilities to that position and a $60,000 increase in pay to go with it. The resolution passed in a 4-1 vote, with Ogorchock dissenting.

New Public Works Director Position

Ogorchock also split with her fellow council members on the issue of re-categorizing Antioch’s Director of Public Works/City Engineer position. The resolution presented to the Council called for that job to be specified as only Director of Public Works, and was proposed so that the City could draw from a larger pool of applicants when considering candidates for the position.

With the new specification, the city manager could hire an applicant who is not a licensed engineer, but who still has the desired qualifications and would otherwise have been disqualified from consideration. The salary range assigned to the Director of Public Works would, according to city staff, have no real fiscal impact on the city’s budget.

However, in the event the City hires someone to be the Director of Public Works position, a licensed engineer would have to be promoted from within to the City Engineer spot, or recruited from elsewhere. That would bring an increase in pay to a promoted employee, or a new salary in the event of an outside hire.

According to the staff report, “the new class specification of Director of Public Works will be assigned a salary range of $10,952 – $13,313. Currently the City has a Public Works Director/City Engineer so there is not fiscal impact to the budget at this time.” However, if the two positions are filled separately, the annual fiscal impact will be between $131,424 and $159,756 for the salary, plus benefits.

In keeping with her earlier vote, Ogorchock resisted the potential City expenditures for a new or improved management position. The remaining four council members split with her in a 4-1 vote.

4 Comments to “Council hears Measure C Oversight Report, splits on Assistant City Manager, new Public Works Director positions”

  1. Marty Fernandez says:

    Watching this meeting, as I did, was watching our city council at its worst. I still had smoke coming out of my ears for days! After being told they had no money they still spent a half million and that doesn’t count this staffing mess Duran promoted.

    Elections are ahead!

  2. Arne says:

    The City Budget already contains an Assistant City Manager position that is not filled. That is how Mike Ramsey and Linda Pappas Dias were hired and eventually Mike became City Manager and Linda became the Interim City Manager when Mike left. The Assistant City Manager had the dual title of Economic Development Director (which is another vacant position).

  3. Marty Fernandez says:

    I know that Arne. Arlene was our last Asst Manager and we have been in trouble ever since she left. I do not like the way this council spends my money and I will repeat that until I see what a new council does. The shape this city is in makes my blood boil. Just driving over these roads should tell you something.

  4. Marty Fernandez says:

    Arne, give me the balance of the “savings” account the money for all these unfilled positions has been put in. All unfilled positions in the city. There is none because the city has used up every dime. So technically there is no money to fill an asst city manager position as it has and will continued to be spent for something else.

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