Two major decisions were made during last night’s Oakley City Council meeting which the Council voted 4-1 to terminate its lease with Homeless Animals Lifeline Organization (HALO) while it interviewed and selected replacements for the East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.
Update on Oakley Library
Jenna Skinner provided an update on the library activities where she stated they are fully staffed for the first time. They have implemented a “Family Story Time” which is on Thursdays where they are getting 25 people each time—300 plus each month. The main challenge continues to be space as they have 37,000 items with no room for more. They want to provide e-books, but there are challenges with that. In the future, the library will be implementing a kid’s craft club for older children—sounded like middle school. They also will begin a “kids movie Saturdays” in October.
Cindy Tumin: The Library Commission is asking the council to consider looking into moving the library to the CentroMart building which is more than five times the amount of space of the current location. She made the statement they do not believe the Sheriff’s office is a good location and would prefer to be downtown. “Moving it downtown would allow staff to better serve the community”.
Holly Occhipinti: Expressed support of a Library moved to downtown stating “it would really benefit the community”. She thanked Councilman Jim Frazier for donating half his city council salary to the library.
Michelle Jones: To see the library move to a larger location would be beneficial. “Our city is growing and technology continues to get better. Everyone needs access”.
Angela Lowry: “Perhaps what we need to do is look at the big picture. It’s not library, but it’s a community downtown,” as she urged support for a move to the CentroMart Building. She explained the intangible benefits that this would bring downtown.
Diane Burgis: Announced that creek cleanup will occur this Saturday and thanked staff and the council for the start of a restoration project along Marsh Creek.
The consent calendar was approved, but I want to bring attention to Item 3.10 where this was continued from the last council meeting because Councilman Randy Pope provided incorrect information while challenging Chief Bani Kollo on his decision to purchase the bikes. Most importantly, the Kawasaki bikes are unavailable even if Councilman Pope got his way because the company suspended its shipments.
Interim urgency ordinance placing a moratorium on approval of Computer Gaming and Internet Access Businesses
This item was a no-brainer and was approved 5-0 by the council. This policy was drawn up based off recent Antioch and Pittsburg policies which banned the use of these types of establishments which is essentially “illegal gambling” which has increased crime in the areas around the facilities. You can view the staff report which gives all the background.
HALO Lease Terminated
Note – since the CC Times decided to screw up this story with their recap published today, I’ll spend some additional time on it while yet again attacking Renee Franceschini and throwing a minor under the bus. For the record, that minor has been a family friend for years.
Bryan Montgomery began the discussion by explaining this situation has HALO having a re-organization with two-grounds having two separate views on what happened—probably the best and easiest way to explain the firing of Tamera Reed and the volunteers leaving over the Boards decision. For the full background, the staff report provides a nice description.
Treasure Carlson provided an update of the HALO members who broke away after the firing of Tamera Reed by stating they have begun a new group called Animal Rescue Recon and are in the process of gaining their own non-profit status. They already have had their first adoption.
Lamar Pugh stated he was the teen in question and stated he was under scrutiny by the Board and newspaper which was untrue. He will be supporting the new group.
Marcello Susan Moser stated she believes in Tamera Reed and what the group was doing. Explained she knows Tamera will make this happen again, it’s just a matter of “where”.
Lynn Peterson: Opposes HALO staying at the old firehouse because while they have a good mission, its not a good fit for the neighborhood and area. It’s noisy, the residents can’t use the park because HALO uses it most of the day and the access is not good.
Verlene Leonardo stated she was past HALO president and wanted to correct information about who deserves credit—she went down a laundry list of items which she took credit for and claims she is the reason HALO was successful.
Wayne Sanderson explained his new position as President of HALO and explained the accusations against him breaking laws only lasted about an hour. Went onto attack the Tamera Reed for hiring her sister while stating Renee Franceschini turned HALO into a haircut salon. The council then cut him off stating they are not here for that.
Norma Jean Kone explained that those who left claim they love animals but what they are doing is hurting the animals. She stated it was hard to believe that these were friends doing this. Urged the council to go with the conscious instead of listening to the mudslinging.
Tamera Reed stated she was not going to get into the details, but stated they met all the requirements under the lease and exceeded it. Those requirements are no longer being met after she left.
Note, there were a few more comments of support towards Tamera Reed and the HALO group who left, it would get repetitive. Moving onto Board Comments.
Pat Anderson: “This is difficult. This isn’t about politics but rather about personalities and we do not deal with personalities. We will deal with the lease and intent of the facility.” She explained HALO has an obligation based on its lease. “My concern is what HALO exists under the new group and what is really going on.” Anderson called back up Mr. Sanderson to explain what is going on in search of answers. They went through a laundry list of items which were “yes” or “no” answers—some were not being met.
Carol Rios: Needed more information before I can make a decision. She asked about the rent going up to $500 in March and if that would be a problem. Wayne Sanderson stated that they had $150,000 in the bank and it wouldn’t be a problem.
Jim Frazier: explained the original process of HALO wanting to be housed at the Oakley Recreation Building and decided the old firehouse would be a better location so they worked on a solution.
“I am offended that you put us in the middle of this personality conflict. We can’t win in this situation and it’s not fair because we will offend one side of this. Councilwoman Anderson paid $1,100 of her own money (towards rent), it’s not fair! We have to look at another use, Right now, I just want to put all the seniors in charge of the dogs and cats”. —he stated he was being facetious after a round of applause.
“You were a force to be reckoned with. I highly suggest you talk and mend fences. I don’t like the position you have put the council in”.
Randy Pope Asked Montgomery about the lease and what it could bring in market value. Montgomery stated due to the location, probably 50 cents per square foot which would equate to $2,500. Pope stated that we have a responsibility to the taxpayer to utilize the facility to its full potential and wanted the building to go to an RFP process.
Kevin Romick stated that he agreed with the rest of the council in picking between two groups who broke apart is unfair and agreed with Frazier and Pope to put it out to bid.
Frazier suggested a 30-day delay to allow the two groups to talk and see if they can work out their differences.
Carol Rios suggested the City hold off until March because she would hate to put an organization in a position to relocate during the holidays.
Pat Anderson stated she disagreed with Rios because 120 days they can still talk and work things out or move on. She stated she is not confortable leaving this open because they are in default of the lease agreement and they need to decide what to do.
Council voted 4-1 (Rios the lone no vote)to terminate the lease and give 120-day notice.
After the vote, Frazier asked about a conditional use permit on Wayne Sanderson. I believe the city will be looking into this.
Wayne Sanderson clearly has some additional explaining to do. He stated HALO has $150k in the bank, yet a group that basically cried poor at the start of the process and is paying just $100 a month (jumps to $500 in March). More to the point, Councilman Anderson paid $1,100 of her own money—she should be refunded, not that she asked.
Sanderson also admitted on record (without realizing it) that he did hold three positions at one time (even if he says it was for about an hour). The point is, he held three positions which is a no-no under California Law and when the video is released later this week online, you can view it for yourself. He also has animals at his home and its unknown by the public whether or not he has a conditional use permit to even have the animals there for the purpose of HALO.
As for Ms. Leonardo, kudos to your volunteerism but this was not the time or place to go through your accomplishments and self-proclaimed success. HALO is a group and it takes more than one person for an organization to be successful. To take that much credit is arrogant and delusional.
With this going to an RFP, Bryan Montgomery should not have given the assumption rent would be just 50 cents per square foot or $2,500—it should at least be $1 per square foot at the very worst. He basically said he would expect a group like AMR to pay $2,500 per month as he just tipped Oakley’s hand in what the rent should be.
As for Carol Rios giving the reason for not making the decision until after the Holidays, that highlights how out of touch this woman is. She is advocating for this situation that has turned into a disaster to continue for another six months. Kudos to Anderson, Frazier, Romick and Pope for making the tough decision to end it now and put it towards an RFP.
It’s a shame that HALO made a mockery of the City Council meeting. Unfortunately, the best thing for Oakley is to vote the way it did and hopefully HALO or Animal Rescue Recon can find another location. It shouldn’t be a problem for HALO considering their deep pockets.
Interviews for ECCFPD Board
I am not going to spend a lot of time going through each person’s interview because each candidate was given about 15-minutes to answer a series of questions. You can view each finalist resume on the staff report and can watch their interviews when the video is put online later this week. Note, all the candidates gave similar answers in a variety of different ways.
Here is the scoring for the five finalists with the lowest score is best. Pat Anderson excused herself as she had to leave because of her back.
- Kevin Bouillon – 10 pts
- Ronald Johansen -11 pts
- Jonathan Michaelson – 11 pts
- Alan Hartford – 13 pts
- Meghan Bell – 15 pts
Kevin Bouillon and Ronald Johansen will begin serving on the ECCFPD immediately while Jonathan Michaelson will take over for Kevin Romick next spring.
A couple of thoughts as I really think the council had a difficult decision to make when it came time to rank. You really couldn’t have gone wrong with any of the candidates.
I actually liked Jonathan Michaelson the best, maybe it was his nerves, but it was his personality that likely won me over. He has a very strong resume and he gave very solid answers once he got comfortable.
Kevin Bouillion is very solid and direct. He nailed his interview and will do well on the Board. He did state that he wanted to use the Board to expand his skills having served on the other side as a Fire Chief. He has a lot of knowledge and should be an asset to the District. My only beef with him was he referred to Oakley to much rather in his answers instead of “the district”.
With Meghan Bell being the only finalist who does not have the background in fire, I thought she gave the best overall interview. She was real, knew the answers, and communicated her positions the best. I felt like she is someone who could help change the perception of the ECCFPD to the residents going forward. I had her ranked 3 and the person to take over for Romick in the spring after the implementation of the grant begins.
I had Ronald Johansen ranked just behind Ms. Bell due to the fact he was answering questions from an academic standpoint and serving on the board should not be a college classroom atmosphere. Now don’t get me wrong, he is a fabulous choice and gave the best answers out of everyone, but it just took him a while to explain it and get to the point. Maybe I am being picky, but this is how close the interviews were.
On paper, I had Alan Hartford ranked No. 1 and probably still the best qualified to serve on the board based on his position with CONFIRE. Unfortunately, he shot himself in the foot during the interview by stating he only wanted the job if there were no better candidates and he would prefer he not be picked if that was the case. He also talked about his potential conflict of interest during negotiations with Local 1230 due to his position at CONFIRE.
The dynamics of the ECCFPD has just changed as Oakley has now loaded up the Board with Board Members with actual fire experience and will be interesting to see how that plays out on Board decisions with members who have no background in fire services.