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June 8, 2016

Desert Hot Springs City Council Meeting - June 7, 2016

Quick & dirty summary of the June 7, 2016, City Council meeting.

  • New cop sworn in. Sharon Smith from Beaumont.
  • Rich Malacoff retiring. He's held various titles, but for the past three years or so, he's been the one person staying in the planning department while his bosses came and went.
  • The Walmart initiative was adopted by a 4-1 vote with Joe McKee voting against. The only real question on the table was whether to adopt the initiative or send it to the voters. In either case, Walmart would be approved. But if it had been sent to the voters, it would have cost the city $20,000 plus a loss of at least six months of sales tax revenue from Walmart. The petition had been signed by 2,200 people, which is about two-thirds the number who voted in the last city election. Approval of the initiative by the voters was nearly guaranteed. The question for the council members should have been how to respond when the voting public has clearly expressed a preference for Walmart. Under the California constitution, the will of the public (as expressed via the ballot) is supreme. But only Russell Betts addressed this aspect of the issue. Others, especially Joe McKee, continued to talk about the possible negatives and positives of having a Walmart store. That would have been a good discussion while the petition was being circulated. But those 2,200 signatures put it in an entirely different light. Will a council member choose to defy the public will? Joe McKee thought he should.
  • Desert Valley Disposal's franchise agreement was extended by one year, which means that their annual payment to the city ($100,000) gets increased by $10,000. DVD had already delivered the check for $110,000 to the City Manager, and he had to wait for this vote to deposit it.
  • The council approved putting DVD billings onto the tax bills of residents. This is an annual vote.
  • A conditional use permit was approved for a marijuana cultivation site to be operated by GFarmaLabs. The site is located on Little Morongo Road south of Dillon - that is, down that dirt road, which the applicant will have to pave. Ultimately it will be five buildings with a total area of 102,000 sq.ft. The interesting difference about this proposal is that they intend to erect a temporary structure immediately so that they can get some marijuana grown and sold this year, which will help them pay for the permanent structures. Cultivators are not able to get standard bank loans because of the federal laws against marijuana. There was a bit of discussion about the porta-potties that would be on site before the permanent buildings were erected. They will be the more substantive temporary restrooms that are less likely to blow away. They will not be the standard little single booths that we see at most construction sites. The temporary structures can only be there for 18 months. The temporary structures must have the "exterior appearance of a standard rural nursery."
  • The 2016/17 budget was approved. $1.3 million was put into a genuine reserve fund.
  • A request for $5000 from Health Assessment and Research for Communities was approved.
  • The council voted to accept a bid from Swagit Productions to set up a stationary camera system for the Carl May Center. This will allow all meetings to be video-recorded and it will save the city money. The city has been paying about $23,400/year for the current video contract. Bids for a camera system only were:
    • Swagit - $24,847
    • Digital Integration - $29,973
    • Insight - $48,024
    • GST - $18,627
    For an additional $4,980/year Swagit would provide remote switching (i.e., Swagit would switch between various stationary cameras from a remote location), streaming to the internet (this has got to work better than the current SIRE setup), delivering council meeting videos to mobile devices (I imagine this means, loading it onto the council's iPads), integration with SIRE, and an ability to provide statistics. The stationary camera system would require the city to buy the necessary hardware, an expense it does not have under the current contract. City staff amortized that over seven years and the results look like this:
    • Swagit - $11,530/year
    • GST - $5,061/year
    • the existing service - $23,400/year
    Swagit was the only bidder who could promise this: "Swagit is hands-free. All video uploading, archiving and indexing is done by Swagit engineers, which means no extra work for jurisdictions. Swagit is the only vendor that gives you the option to let our staff do the work for you." IOW, almost no additional work for the already severely overworked city staff.
  • Approved installation of a 4-way stop at Little Morongo and Two Bunch Palms.
  • Approved an ordinance that will permit the city to hire a few (one or two?) qualified people to work around the time of Independence Day and New Year's Day whose sole job would be to locate and cite those using illegal fireworks. The council allocated $5000 for this, and it is unpredictable how much will come back in the form of fines. The police and fire chiefs report that whenever they show up at a location where obviously illegal fireworks are being shot off, there is a total and mysterious absence of people! This makes it hard to issue a citation.
  • Approved accepting a used bus from Sunline. This is one of the smaller buses used by SunDial. The bus is free. It's a 2012 Ford F450 (running on CNG) with 172,809 miles. The engine was replaced at 145,000 miles. SunLine will provide instruction for the driver. The main intended use is to shuttle seniors to the Senior Center, but it may be used for any other appropriate task. There will be ongoing unspecified expenses. Whether the insurance is paid by for the city or the agency contracted for the Senior Center is "negotiable," according to the city attorney.
  • Reports by council members and city staff were dispensed with at this meeting.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | June 8, 2016 at 06:47 PM


Call the Mayor and ask, or show up at a city council meeting and ask during public comments. If you may have to wait until later in the meeting to get an answer to public comments.

Posted by: Ron at Sep 7, 2016 1:45:36 PM

Would be interesting to know who got hired for the illegal firework "locate and cite", because i did not notice any change on the 4th. Who was doing it, how many citations was issued and how many has been collected?

Posted by: Sure at Sep 7, 2016 1:37:34 PM

Yeah, my experience in both California and Massachusetts that those who gather signatures on petitions are happy to lie and misinform people to try to trick them into signing. Same goes for partisan volunteers who come to your door and tell you that you need to re-register to vote.

Posted by: Ron at Jun 10, 2016 10:45:38 AM

" when the voting public has clearly expressed a preference for Walmart"

And that is why I refused to sign, and ordered the kid off my property - he claimed that we needed to sign it so we could vote against it if we wanted to - but clearly, the plan was simply to get around a vote, and avoid opposition.

Posted by: Darr Sandberg at Jun 9, 2016 9:12:23 PM

What'd I say?

Posted by: Ron at Jun 9, 2016 6:46:38 PM

so is Walmart coming or not?

Posted by: Allan at Jun 9, 2016 6:05:48 PM

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