Antioch Council returns to pre-COVID operation of council meetings, no more remote participation

The council voted 3-0 to end remote participation in council and all other city commission and committee meetings Tuesday night, Feb. 28, 2023. Herald file photo

Who’s Zooming who? Not the Antioch City Council any longer!

Postpones approving July 4th Celebration funds; reallocates $550K in housing funds to downtown road repair

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council, with two members absent, voted 3-0 to discontinue remote meeting participation for council members and all other participants. All who want to participate must once again attend the meetings in person as it was pre-COVID. That’s in spite of new state legislation allowing local governments to allow council members to have participate remotely twice each year. But if that was offered to the council members it would have also been required to offer it to members of the public to call in with their comments, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith explained.

When the matter was discussed by the council members, District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica said, “I’m not for this. I do not support this and I haven’t for some time. COVID is over. Council members should be here, in person.”

“I’m all for just going back to normal. I’m with you,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said to Barbanica.

Ogorchock then made motion to discontinue teleconferencing and remote participation in council meetings by council members and residents.

“We are not adopting (the) Assembly Bill,” Barbanica said to confirm.

“We are not adopting it,” Smith responded.

“The meetings are in person,” Thorpe stated.

The council then approved the motion 3-0 to end remote participation in council and all city commission and committee meetings.

Postpones Approving July 4th Celebration Funds

The council postponed approving $110,000 to pay for the costs of this year’s Independence Day Celebration on July 4th which the City plans to take over organizing. (See related article)

According to the staff report on the item, the City used to pay for it until the economic downturn of 2008. Then Celebrate Antioch Foundation took it on beginning in 2012 with volunteers and raising the funds to pay for the annual celebration.

This year the Parks and Recreation Department plans to organize the event. The proposed budget does not include staff time for police or Public Works which is already budgeted, Parks and Recreation Director Brad Helfenberger stated.

Ogorchock was the first council member to speak on the item saying, “I want to thank the Celebrate Antioch Foundation for all of their hard work on the Sesquicentennial, last year. I truly appreciate their work. I’m having a hard time saying ‘yes’ to this because I know we’re short-staffed. I know how much time it took to do the Sesquicentennial events, last year. I’d rather see us fix that fractured relationship with CAF. They know how to do it. I don’t think I can with my heart say ‘yes’ to this. They are good at it. They are professional. It’s not that I don’t want the Fourth of July. But with you being short-staffed I just can’t do it.

“I would ask then that we do a continuance on this because there aren’t enough people to agree or disagree,” Thorpe said.

Barbanica then made a motion to table the item which passed 3-0.

Reallocates $550K from Housing Loan Fund to downtown street repair

The council also approved reallocating $550,000 in Community Development Block Grant monies from the former Housing Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to the City Downtown Street and Accessibility Project, as part of the CDBG Downtown Roadway Pavement Rehabilitation, Phase 9.

The city staff report on the item claims the RLF funds are no longer needed and explains the city will “submit the revised City of Antioch FY 2022-23 Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), outlining the Substantial Amendment to the City’s expenditure of CDBG funds in support of HUD’s national objectives, which includes (1) dissolution of the Housing Revolving Loan Fund, (2) cancellation of the CDBG project allocation to the Antioch Home Ownership Program, and (3) reallocation of $550,000 in former Revolving Loan Fund monies to the City Downtown Street and Accessibility Project.

The funds need to be reallocated by April.

Resident and homeless advocate Andrew Becker speaking as the opponent during the public hearing said, “It’s very, very frustrating to see program dollars reallocated. I understand there are compliance issues. It’s a bit late, now to make these comments. But at least let it be 10 minutes of reflection for us…how we failed the community, again on program application.”

“How will they even know about these stagnant programs?” he asked. “What is the purpose of having all of these different programs and putting money into them? Why do we time and time and time again just move around in circles. As great as capital improvement projects are as blighted and neglected and frustrated our communities have become, it’s still our responsibility to stay the course and support these programs.”

“Our first-time homeowner opportunity dollars move somewhere else,” he complained.

Another speaker asked that the council not reallocate the funds.

“The first-time homeowner program still has a half million dollars in funds,” Terri House, the city’s housing consultant, shared. “The Housing Successor Funds…will more than cover all of the applicants who are eligible and have applied. It’s just a down-payment assistance program. They still have to qualify for a regular mortgage. This program comes in and helps with closing costs.”

The funds are available from Bay Area Affordable Homeownership Alliance (BAAHA) and there’s a website – Antioch Home Ownership Program you should be able to find it on the BAHA website. They have to take an eight-hour class and be in the process with a lender of obtaining a loan.”

“If we don’t use it, we’re going to lose it,” Ogorchock asked.

“If there are two years in a row that the City did not use the funds, HUD will take it,” House responded. “It can’t be used for public services.”

In response to a question from Barbanica she said, “We’re taking applications, now” for the housing program.

“We can’t use these funds for that program, correct?” he asked.

“Correct,” House responded.

“I think what we have here is a failure to communicate,” said resident Melissa Case, a local Realtor. “We should be getting this information to local lenders so they can help our clients get these funds. I’m willing to share it on broker tour.”

“We should not wait until the very last minute to deal with these things. I don’t like that,” Thorpe stated. There are fair points being made. In the future, I would hope these things come and bring them sooner, at an earlier time.”

The council then approved the reallocation of funds on 3-0 votes.



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