There are two big items on the Pacifica City Council agenda tonight.
First, there's going to be a discussion about Pacifica's bid to take over Half Moon Bay's police services. It's a move that both Police Chief Jim Saunders and City Manager Stephen Rhodes hope will cut Pacifica's overhead costs on policeing. The challenge, said Rhodes, will be delivering quality service to a somewhat distant location.
That bid has not yet been made available to the public because, as City Clerk Kathy O'Connell explained, with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office still planning on submitting a bid, Pacifica doesn't want to show its hand.
There is a little taste of what the bid might look like if its approved by city council in the attached staff report, however:
"If our proposal is accepted the Pacifica Police Department will be able to maintain its current staffing and Half Moon Bay will have a Captain assigned to their city 75 percent of duty time. This provides Half Moon Bay the ability to have direct communication with the command police staff and it provides career development for the captain that is assigned the position. The proposal is designed to provide Half Moon Bay with more coverage than they requested and Pacifica is able to designate training days to save overtime costs."
Staff believes an approved proposal could save Pacifica Police between $250,000 and $400,000 annually.
Second, there's an unexpected resolution to the civil suit Lionel Emde v. City of Pacifica and Recology of the Coast.
Staff is recommending that council approve a settlement agreement with Emde that would mandate voter notice and approval of garbage rate increases, a limit and potentially a reduction in revenue from those fees.
When Pacifica signed a contract granting Recology of the Coast exclusive garbage collection privileges in city limits, a series of fees to be paid to the city were agreed upon. Those fees were to be used for state-mandared recycling activities, setting up a fund for the potentiality that the city needs to pay for "outstanding issues regarding solid waste" and future costs pertaining to the state required closed landfill in Frontierland Park.
Emde filed the lawsuit because he claimed the imposition of these fees, which would eventually raise customers' rates, was in violation of state Proposition 218, which ensures "that all taxes and most charges on property owners are subject to voter approval."
Although the city still asserts that these fees are not subject to the requirements of Prop. 218 because the fees originate from Recology, a private compnay, it has agreed to meets the demands due to "escalating legal fees" associated with the lawsuit.
This means that the city must give notice to rate payers of any increase to those fees and seek voter approval (via a write-in protest format, meaning a majority of rate payers must write in a letter opposing the increase in order for it to fail). The city has also agreed to cap the revenue it might gain from those fees at $805,000 per year through 2017, eliminate $10,000 per year contingency fee and limit the amount of revenue it can gain from the fee related to state-mandated recycling requirements to $30,000 per year. The city will also pay Emde's attorney $55,500.
"I think this is a very good deal," said Emde. "I think it’s a major victory for the rate payers--the certainty that the city can't treat the contract like a cash cow."
The city asserts that it did not seek a settlement agreement because it believes that Prop. 218 should apply to these fees, but to save taxpayer money. It estimates that the imposition of Prop. 218 standards on these fees could result in a loss of city revenue of $350,000 by 2017.
"The city does not agree that our relationship with Recology qualifies as a 218 and our contract attorney has won these cases," said Pacifica Mayor Mary Ann Nihart in an email. "However as of Nov. we had already spent $90,000 in legal fees on this case. The council chose to settle because the legal fees to win could spiral into the Million dollar range - we simply can not afford to spend one more dime on this. Best estimate the case will cost us (you the taxpayer) $200,000 as is."
Check for an update on these issues and more after tonight's city council meeting.
For the full agenda and staff reports, see the attached PDF.