The Measure S Oversight Board laid out their final arguments on how the city should spend tax revenues from Measure S — a one cent sales tax to fund improvements to the streets, police and fire departments and the city pool, during a Monday meeting with the Crescent City Council.
At the meeting, City Manager Eric Wier presented an overview of needs in the four categories — police, fire, streets and poo l —to the board members, as well as the city council.
Measure S is projected to bring in $1.3 million each year, totaling $6.8 million over the next five years. Here’s the breakdown on how the city is proposing to use those funds:
The city plans to spend $1,646,885 of Measure S funds over the next five years on the Crescent City Police Department needs:
- Staffing additional police officers, including a detective and a lieutenant, as well as another K-9 officer.
- New vehicles, such as detective and special assignment vehicles.
- Facility needs, including improvements to the existing station in the short term and a new police station as a long-term goal.
- Upgrades in body cameras and new tasers.
Crescent City Police Chief Richard Griffin attended the meeting to speak on behalf of police funding recommendations. In the wake of recent controversial police shootings across the country, Griffin said his top priority is acquiring new body cameras and tasers.
He said the body cameras the police currently use fall off often and have a short battery life, meaning, they can’t last the 12 hour shifts officers work. He said Axon made cameras are the standard in police departments across the U.S.
“I would purchase Axon for myself to go out there, so if it’s something I want for myself, it’s something I want for my officers,” Griffin said.
Griffin’s point became especially pertinent after a Crescent City police officer had to prevent their body camera from falling off during a struggle with a suicidal subject on Monday, Griffin said. The 36-year-old man was attempting to take his own life with a razor blade. Despite the body camera fumble, he was successfully apprehended by officers and transported to Sutter Coast Hospital where he was placed on a mental health hold.
“The importance of this to me...you can put on hold the upgrades to the building, if this gets to my officers...we’re making due with the building… this is something that will save their lives and it will save the city in liability,” said Griffin.
The city plans to spend $1,755,000 of Measure S funds over the next five years on street improvements including:
- Pothole repairs
- Spot sidewalk repairs
- Street striping
- A major overhaul of A Street, occurring in the third or fourth year of Measure S revenues.
Jon Olson, public works director, presented the proposed street improvements to the council and the oversight board. He said the city should use the first two years of revenue to maintain 3rd, 5th, 9th, Harding and H streets. Then, the city can focus on major repairs to A Street.
Regarding streets, Chair of the Measure S Oversight committee, Kelly Schellong said she was looking forward to progress on the projects the city laid out.
“Our streets are in such bad disrepair, I wish we could do more. But, I think you’ve identified some really good projects to move forward with right away,” said Schellong. “People will see that coming to fruition.”
The city plans to spend $1,238,450 of Measure S funds over the next five years on Crescent City Fire Department improvements including:
- Adding three new paid firefighter positions over five years
- Replacing fire engines and other response vehicles.
- Introducing a volunteer sleeper program and maintaining volunteer stipends.
Mayor Pro Tem Blake Inscore said he would support the game plan for the fire department, on the condition the Crescent City Fire and Rescue Volunteer Firefighters’ Association is also on board.
“As long as our volunteers feel like the strategy supports them, supports those who are standing duty,” said Inscore.
The city plans to spend $1,802,000 of Measure S funds over the next five years on Fred Endert Municipal Pool maintenance including:
- Subsidizing the pool for annual deficits, which previously came out of the city’s general fund. The average deficit of the pool is between $300,000-375,000. Costs related to the pool include: payroll, electricity, gas and water bills and others.
Wier said the city pool is an investment in the health and welfare of residents, rather than a lucrative business venture.
Most of the recommendations Wier presented went over well with the oversight board and the council; except for a proposed reserve fund, which would set aside 25% of Measure S revenues annually for a rainy day.
Vice Chair of the Measure S Oversight committee, Heidi Kime, questioned if a reserve account should be funded at all.
“The community voted for this because they want to see action and they want something tangible…I feel like some of those visual components could really be accomplished with each fiscal year you're proposing going into a reserve.”
Committee member Ernie Perry was also worried about how the public would perceive a reserve fund. He recommended changing the name to avoid misperceptions.
Kime was concerned those reserve funds might end up being spent on renovating the proposed new city hall building at 240 H Street. She suggested spending money on downtown improvements instead.
Chair Kelly Schellong acknowledged the need for a new city hall, but she too said Measure S funds should not be used for that project right now.
However, Councilmember Ray Altman said a reserve fund would be crucial should something unexpected happen with the city’s finances.
“If you have a checking account and you have a savings account, and you spend every single dime in your checking account and you don’t have anything in your savings, what happens when your alternator breaks?” Altman asked. “I think it’s very wise to have a 25% reserve fund.”
The debate over a reserve fund continued with Mayor Jason Greenough being in favor, while Inscore was not.
Moving forward, Wier said he would put together a list of recommendations for the Measure S Committee Oversight Board to adopt later in the week, so the city can advance this year’s budget.