City Manager's Blog

The City Manager's Blog is an online educational tool to provide general information to the community in open communication style. Periodically, the City Manager will post articles of general interest covering topics such as the Town's budget, budget process, capital projects, upcoming meetings, community issues, public safety, and general Town operations.

Articles in the blog are not designed as press releases or Town publications, rather, they are written in more of a conversational style. The Blog does not have a comments feature but readers are free to respond to the Blog and its entries view email directly to the City Manager.

View All Posts

Dec 14

October 2016 City Manager's Monthly Report

Posted on December 14, 2016 at 1:56 PM by grodericks grodericks

City Manager's Monthly Report - October 2016

Monthly-report.pngWelcome to the City Manager's Monthly Report Blog! 

The City Manager's Monthly Report Blog is a consolidation of issues, communications, and Town activity during the prior month that have been reported to the City Council as part of their weekly email from the City Manager. Sometimes information is duplicated over the course of several emails to the City Council to ensure that it is reviewed.

As I review the information to include in the Monthly Report, to the extent possible, I remove duplicate updates (older emails get shorter) in favor of the most recent - although some will be duplicative if there is other relevant information included; I try to remove information regarding events that have already occurred; and I edit information that requires update - hopefully to make it more useful. However, overall, the information is generally the same as it was presented to the City Council in their weekly Council email.

The Report reads with the most recent first. As always, if you have any questions or comments regarding the Monthly Report, please feel free to contact me via email or phone.

My weekly email to the City Council typically goes out every Friday. 


George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
(650) 752-0504

October 28 Weekly Council Notes

Articles of Interest

Below are some links to articles of interest. 

Joint Meeting with the Civic Center Advisory Committee

The Mayor has called a Special Meeting (Joint Meeting) with the CCAC to coincide with their next meeting on November 7, 2016. The CCAC will meet first to cover a few detail items at 4:30 pm (regular meeting time) and then the Joint Meeting will begin at approximately 5:30 pm. The architects/consultants will be there along with staff to go through the big picture issues with the project as well as the sustainability features and detail.

Joint Meeting with the Fire Board

The Joint Meeting of the Fire Board is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13 from 5 pm to 7 pm. The Mayor and I will be meeting with Board President Silano and Fire Chief Schapelhouman on November 14 at 4:30 pm. 

 Atherton Generator @ Admin/PD

In mid-October I released the City Manager’s Monthly Blog that included information provided to the City Council back in September regarding staff efforts to address the Admin/PD Power Back-Up Generator. In an email from Peter Carpenter on October 20, 2016 that he had copied to John Orr from the San Jose Mercury News, he noted at the bottom “...This is a Town that doesn’t even have an legal emergency generator for its Police Department and yet it wants to spend almost as much money as a new Police Department emergency generator would cost to do a study of something over which it has no control… Not long after this email was released, I received a phone call from John Orr interested in what Mr. Carpenter was talking about with respect to the generator. I provided John some background information and referred him to Steve Tyler and Joe Wade for additional detail believing that there really wasn’t much to the story since the Town was clearly addressing the issue and the rationale for not purchasing a $100k generator was that we needed to ensure that it was forward-compatible with the new civic center before doing so. John released a story on October 26 regarding the Town’s generator. That story was in turn picked up by KPIX on October 27 for their 6 o’clock News Round-up

That in-turn prompted a telephone interview with a reporter and various staff press contacts throughout the afternoon as well as follow-up social media postings to clarify for the public that the issue making the news is not an immediate threat to public safety and 9-1-1 services for the Town. 

I posted the following on the Town of Atherton City Manager Facebook Page and Twitter

“...A recent news story on KPIX noted that the Town's Emergency Services Generator for the Police Department is "not up to code" and does not run with an automatic switchover. A few points of clarification to the story, the generator sits outside of the Town's Administrative Building. The Town has two generators for use during emergencies - one, a newer generator, powered by natural gas is outside the Town's Public Works Building and Emergency Operations Center; the second, a 20 year old generator, powered by diesel is outside of the Town's Administration/Police Department building. 

Both are in good operating condition. The issue with the Admin/PD building is directly related to the Town's aging facilities. The generator was compliant when installed, but with time, has not kept pace with the changing laws on air quality and ventilation. It sits adjacent to the window area for the Town's Dispatch Center and vents to the roof area of the police building where there are other vents that go back into the building. When in operation, the diesel fumes make their way into the halls and offices of the police department. Those sensitive to diesel fumes can end up with headaches and nausea when exposed for long periods of time. The generator is tested on a monthly basis. 

The Town is well aware of the issue and has been attempting to take steps to seal the ventilation areas, tune-up the generator, and get it registered with the Air Quality Management District for continuous operation when needed. In the interim, the Town has taken the generator out of its automatic cutover mode. The Town's dispatch/9-1-1 services are on UPS backups that provide plenty of time for personnel to step out and flip the cutover switch to the generator. The UPS systems are designed for this function as the generator takes a few seconds to come online even with automatic cutover.  

With the planning for the new Civic Center, the new Emergency Generator will be in the secure Police Parking Lot outside the facility. The Town does not want to purchase a new generator at this time given the temporal possibility of the new building. We do not yet know what the size, location, and connectivity requirements of a new generator would be to power the entire facility and do not want to spend $100k or more on something that is not forward compatible.” 

Staff posted and released similar information to the community via News Flash/Civic Send

National Register of Historic Places - Carriage House & Water Tower

The Park Foundation was successful in submitting the registration request for the Carriage House and Water Tower as historic places on the National Register of Historic Places. Linked here is the response from the National Register - National Register of Historic Places.

Grand Boulevard Task Force Follow-Up

The Grand Boulevard Initiative Task Force met on September 28, 2016. Linked here is a Summary and Update from that meeting

Drone Ordinance - DRAFT

On December 7, 2016 staff will bring introduction of the Town’s DRAFT Drone Ordinance to the Agenda. Linked here is a copy of the DRAFT Ordinance being proposed. There may be small modifications made in relation to public safety exceptions under the ordinance, primarily to accommodate the existing drone program with Menlo Park Fire Protection District. Drones are prohibited in HPP except in the North Meadow - as long as there are no scheduled events occurring. Commercial uses are allowed only via permit. The ordinance outlines these issues with specificity. 

Fire Services Fiscal Review

The Town is in receipt of a letter from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in support of the Fire Services Fiscal Review. 

Public Records Act Request - Lindenwood Homes Emergency District No. 2

On October 26 the Town received a Public Records Act request from a resident requesting the “…total amount of property taxes and parcel taxes that the Town collects from residences in Neighborhood 2 and the description and cost of each specific service provided by the Town to the residences in Neighborhood 2.” Neighborhood 2 is generally defined as central Lindenwood. Theresa, Robert and Judi are gathering up data in response to the Request as a formal request, but I jumped in and sent an advance email to the requestor as italicized below. The spreadsheet I am speaking of has already been shared with the Council separately and once we get the map of TRAs it will be placed, together with the Map on the Town’s Local Municipal Services page as informational.  

“...Theresa copied me on this Public Records Act (PRA) request and I see from below that she, together with Judi and Robert, are working on gathering any documents pursuant to your request. They will continue to do so since the request was a formal PRA request. However, I wanted to jump in and send you the information I had available that might work toward an answer to your queries. 

First, unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Town will be able to provide a direct and detailed answer to your query since, the Town, like many general service public agencies simply does not provide services on a parcel by parcel level/subscription service basis. That said, we’ll do our best to get you whatever data we do have and provide you with connections to other resources that might be out there that will get you close. To get to the detailed answers - specifically cost, the Town would likely have to engage a consultant to analyze the data and the specific geographic area and make the appropriate statistical calculations and correlations. If you would like to fund such an endeavor, we would certainly participate to the maximum extent possible. Absent that study, I am happy to work with you to drill down the available data as much as possible to get you the answers you are seeking. The revenue side is easier to get to. 

Shortcomings - the Town does not have a list of parcels and each's respective Tax Rate Area (TRA); nor does the Town aggregate and maintain property tax data - that’s the County. The proper request for that data request would likely be them. That’s a challenge for us on a number of fronts as we try to get to your data request. To get that data, we’d have to go to the County Tax Collector (website) and enter each parcel and determine exactly which Tax Rate Area it references. This is a publicly accessible database accessible here: 

Since we do not have distributed GIS, I pulled up my hard-copy Atherton map and marked out the area bounded by Area 2 on your Emergency District Map. I counted up 177 parcels. I hope that that matches with your knowledge of the area. I then went to the County Assessor’s website (linked above) and found data (x) at 1 Larch Drive for representative purposes. 

For 1 Larch Drive, for example, it shows an APN# 061-072-040, Tax Rate Area 01-001. The General Tax for that address for Tax Year 2016 is $3,901.45 (before exemptions). Exemptions reduce the base tax amount to $2,889.24. The Town’s tax rate (pre-ERAF adjustment) for that TRA is 10.55973% of the 1% General Assessment based on Assessed Valuation. So, after exemptions, for 1 Larch Drive, the Town would receive $305.10 a year in property taxes. After ERAF, the Town would receive about 88% of that total or $268.49 per year based on assessed valuation. 

You can also drill down and get the detailed breakdown by agency beyond the basic 1% property tax. These include agencies such as the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Debt Service, Menlo Park City Elementary Bond Measure, Sequoia High Bond Issue, etc. Beyond this, there are special tax amounts - this includes the Atherton Special Tax. For this parcel, the basic tax was $750. This parcel is representative of the size of most of the 177 parcels in Area 2 (except about 1-2 parcels - they are much larger). For 77 Flood Circle - the Atherton Parcel Tax is $960; and 149 Hawthorne Drive - not accessible by address in the County system. 149 Hawthorne looks to be about the same representative size as 77 Flood Circle so that tax is likely about the same. With that, the total Parcel Tax estimate for Area 2 might be close to $133,170 ($750 X 175 parcels 2 parcels X $960). For the entire Town, the revenue from the Atherton Parcel Tax is $1,860,000. 

Putting the two together, for 1 Larch Drive, the Town receives approximately $1,018.49 per year based on assessed valuation. 

However, because we do not have each property’s TRA, we would still have to go to the County Assessor to gather up what the respective income is per parcel. It’s a record we simply do not have. That said - we’re working on it. This weekend, I spent some considerable time doing some data entry. I took the TRA assessed value information for FY 2015/16 - provided recently by the Fire District via consultant MuniServices and married it up to the Town’s data from our property tax consultant, HdL. HdL provides some detail level information, but generalized (it’s available here on the Town’s website as part of the November 2015 Audit/Finance Committee Meeting): I also married it up with the TRA data for each respective taxing agency. That’s also on the Town’s website at: Attached is what I put together - PDF and Excel version. We can now use it as a tool for helping predict/validate property tax revenue based on overall assessed valuation projections. I’m also having our limited GIS consultant connect with the County and obtain a list of each parcel by TRA so that we can put together that visual map of Town by parcel. The data on my attached spreadsheet is more helpful to Atherton residents if they can marry it up with their specific parcel. 

It’s a lot of data entry so there might be a digit or two somewhere in error in there but the totals are very close across the bottom. I will be putting the spreadsheet up on the Town’s website once I finish validating my data entry and we put together that GIS map I mentioned above. The data is not as relevant to a property owner if they cannot, without considerable effort, identify what their specific TRA is and do their calculations. As you can tell from the spreadsheet, most of Atherton is concentrated within 5 or 6 specific TRAs given where the bulk of the Net Assessed Value (NAV) is distributed. There will also need to be an explanatory disclaimer when released since the totals for the agencies is "all in" - i.e. includes ERAF before it gets taken, reduced, and then rebated back. This impacts agencies such as the Town, the Fire District, the Library, the County, etc. Their totals are high by the total ERAF. For example, Atherton’s number of $9 million is high by about $2.1 million from secured receipts BUT, the Town received $1,070,000 back in ERAF at the end of the Fiscal Year, so the real revenue is approximately $7.9 million. 

We’re getting there. We gathering up as much data as possible from each of the agencies that tax our residents. We’ll be putting all of that data together on the Town’s website to help residents understand the complexities of the way property-related taxes work. The Town is intimately involved in the County Library tax distribution model and has begun a “Town and Gown” process to meet with the various school boards that provide services to our residents. The goal is to identify sharing opportunities (financial and otherwise). As you can see from the spreadsheet Sequoia High is the one district that taxes all tax rate areas in Atherton. We’re approaching the District(s) to ask them to pay a share of the cost of the Town’s School Resource Officer dedicated specifically to Atherton schools - we’ve been asking for a while, but more data is helpful. The Town is involved in the Mosquito Abatement District as well by appointing an Atherton resident to serve on the Board of Directors. 

Anyway, my apologies for the long email but I hope the above is useful. We’ll be gathering up what data we do have and getting back to your formal PRA. Let me know if I can help put it all together in some way that would be helpful. Your query is exactly what we hope to get to for Atherton residents so that they can ask the simple questions of “What am I paying and what am I getting for it?" without having to go off to 10 different agencies with 10 different processes, and 10 different levels of frustration. 

I would be happy to meet with you one-on-one if you’d like to go through any of the above or the other issue(s) that we’ve been discussing over the last few months." 

October 21 Weekly Council Notes

Below is the Friday Council Notes. 

Before moving to the Notes, thank you for the October 19 Council Meeting. The Agenda was full and could have been more full given the ongoing works and efforts around Town and in the organization. A lot of tough issues and a lot of next steps. I put a number of things on the Consent Agenda knowing that the issues, while significant, were a part of our daily effort and as a Council you trusted that moving them along was in the best interest of the Town. Despite the full docket, the Council worked through the tougher issues together and addressed the concerns presented in a calm and professional manner. Questions on the routine were addressed as much as possible in advance of the meeting letting the Council at the meeting focus on the more challenging issues - in depth as conversation and dialogue. Well run, well led, and well done. 

It is that collaborative and collegial approach by a Council of leaders that echoes in the community as trust in local government and trust in the decisions that we make and the steps that we take. It returns to us as support for jobs well done and belief that we are doing our best for the community as a whole. This in turn allows us to tackle complicated and controversial issues with confidence. 

Articles of Interest

Below are some links to articles of interest. 

Animal Services Monthly Report

Measure M - Atherton

Police Chief Reception

We will be organizing a reception for retired Police Chief Ed Flint in November. The tentative date/time is November 14 in the early evening. Council Member DeGolia is hosting. 

Quiet Zone Webpage & FAQs

With input from the Rail Committee, staff has put together the Quiet Zone webpage and FAQs. I have reached out to Bob Roeser who made comments at the October 19 Council Meeting regarding the Quiet Zone. 

Street Lamp Fixtures

We have an active Open Town Hall on the Series Street Light Replacement Program

October 14 Weekly Council Notes

Articles of Interest

Below are some links to articles of interest. 

Shoreway Environmental Center - Labor Action (From Joe LaMariana, Executive Director, SBWMA)

South Bay Recycling’s (SBR) General Manager, Dwight Herring, advised that temporary layoffs were implemented on 10/13 for 11 employees due to a lack of work at the site relating to the MRF fire on September 7th, 2016. This action was pursuant to Section 24(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between SBR and Teamsters’ Local Union 350. The affected individuals were notified and this action is effective immediately. Per the terms of the Collective Bargained Agreement, the 11 affected workers will be invited back to work on a seniority basis (last person laid off is the first person called back to work).
Although this action has been anticipated since the plant closure, it sure doesn’t make it any easier hear this news. It’s important to note that all SBR staff have been fully employed with alternate assignments during the five weeks since the fire. Nine SBR employees will be retained throughout this restoration period based on their seniority and the need to perform necessary equipment maintenance and other essential job duties. On a related note, please be assured that the site restoration and equipment repair/replacement work at the plant is all being performed on an extreme, fast-track basis. Thanks to this extraordinary effort, reopening of the plant is anticipated during Q1 of 2017.  

Grant Opportunity - Caltrans (Las Lomitas Detention Basin)

During the process of working with Las Lomitas School District and Callander Associates on the feasibility study, a potential grant opportunity via Caltrans has been identified. Staff is chasing it down with Richard Watson & Associates, Inc. The grant could be significant enough to make the project entirely feasible from a cost-benefit/ROI perspective. I have authorized some work to continue with Richard Watson to determine fact from possibility. 

Climate Action Plan - Hearing

There was some confusion as to a notice in the Almanac about the Climate Action Plan. As required for adoption, staff published a notice of the October 19 Council Meeting in the Almanac on October 5. Staff double-checked the final notice and it stated a meeting date of October 19 and that a review of the draft CAP would be available on the Town’s website by October 7 (it was). A hard-copy of the Notice was posted in the Almanac, at the Post Office, Library, and Town Hall. There is also an informational page created for the CAP on the Town’s website. 

Fire District October 18 Agenda

LED Street Light Improvement Project

As the Council is aware, we are in the midst of a project designing new lighting circuits for the Lloyden Park and Lindenwood neighborhoods to replace the old high voltage series circuitry that currently power the lights.  The new circuitry will use current technologies and will be more reliable and efficient to maintain. The project includes replacing the existing series circuit light fixtures with new energy efficient LED lights on top of the existing light poles and repainting them. Staff put together a webpage and survey (via Open Town Hall) seeking feedback on which new light fixtures to install based on the opinion of the overall look of the light fixture and the quality of light it exudes.  

Staff has installed samples of each type of light fixture intended to be used as replacements - Post Top and Hanging Pendant types. The goal is to maintain a similar level of illumination and to match the current fixture style and appearance. 

Civic Center Project - Donor Meeting

As you may recall, earlier this week I released an educational/public information email related to the Civic Center Project.  Within the email, I talked about some of the sentiment expressed by the community participants in the Master Plan phase of the project - “a sense of place” - “a gathering space” - “a there there.” These were not well received by one of the more significant donors to the Civic Center Project. The donor believed that the message read as fluff and was not the most important component driving the project. The donor believed that the more important message was that the Town was “…to design and build a functional and attractive building that will comfortably house Atherton’s police, planning department, and town staff. It should also provide an accommodating environment for Atherton residents to conduct town business and hold necessary town meetings.” The donor intimated that unless the building met that objective, donor funds were not guaranteed. Didi Fisher and I met with the donor one-on-one and reviewed the floor plans for City Hall. Taking in the message, I concurred that the messaging of a sense of place and a gathering space were the more “fluffy” messages, and that the development of that message was echoed more in the site (Civic Court, Cafe, deck, pedestrian orientation, open space, etc.) than the buildings. I advised that the building was designed in the most efficient manner to address space needs without excess. 

As the conversation moved along, the donor articulated that he did not question the floor planning and space needs of the administrative and police spaces; however, the new Council Chambers and lobby size were seen as excess. The donor asked why we would be building a new Council Chambers when we have the historic Council Chambers that is being renovated. We talked through Library use of the Council Chambers as its primary user and funding source; the cost to renovate the old ($2m) versus building new ($1.6m); the use by the Town’s historic heritage association; and the use of the new chambers as the EOC and a community space. The donor advised that his suggestion was to eliminate the new Council Chambers; renovate the old with Library funds (or donor funds if necessary) and use the old chambers instead. Further, he advised that the lobby space should double as the Town’s EOC (this was something I presented strong objection to as it simply would not work given the sensitive issues and needs of the EOC - form and function).

The donor left with a greater understanding of the project and a greater level of comfort; however, the donor also left believing that further space could be eliminated via elimination of the council chambers and/or shrinking the lobby. Following this conversation, Didi Fisher and I spoke about reducing the size of the lobby as a “give” to address the concerns of excess space. While it may be possible to reduce the size of the lobby by say, 600 square feet, that reduction would impact the exterior design of the facility - such as reducing the 3-arches on each entry to 2-arches. While this may not be significant, it will cost money to redesign given our current stage of design. Multiple design professionals - technical, engineering, as well as architectural - have already designed all of the necessary plan sets for the current facility. Changes have a ripple affect. Bottom line, at $591 a square foot, the reduction would save approximately $355k. That number would be offset by new design costs and project time/delay costs - unknown at this time. As discussed above, such a change may not have the desired cost savings affect. At this stage, changes to simply reduce the square footage to simply save costs are not as beneficial as they were at earlier stages of the project. That said, necessary changes to address better design are beneficial at any stage of the project if they will have detrimental affect later if not addressed. 

Meeting with Jim Lewis

On October 13 I met with Jim Lewis from 1:30 pm to 3:45 pm to discuss the current conversation/issues with the Fire District Fiscal Review. Jim had sent me an email with a number of questions regarding the work of the Town’s Ad Hoc Subcommittee and efforts with the Fire District. Instead of responding at length in an email, I invited Mr. Lewis in to sit down and discuss the topics he presented. Mr. Lewis had 10 items (questions) that he wanted to discuss. The first was ensuring that the Mayor and Board President Silano had met. The second was ensuring that the Fire Chief and the City Manager continue to meet. The third was ensuring that the Ad Hoc Subcommittee had met - noting that it would have been more productive had the Fire Chief been able to attend. Fourth, Mr. Lewis suggested that the Town and District ensure that they get a joint meeting on the books. Fifth, Mr. Lewis suggested that the two Finance Directors meet to discuss the issues. Six and seven, Mr. Lewis suggested that the Finance Committee Chairs meet and possibly host a joint meeting. Eight, Mr. Lewis suggested that LAFCo be invited to the joint meeting to discuss issues of detachment versus their normal work. Nine, Mr. Lewis suggested that if the Council moves forward with the Scope of Work on October 19 that he may gather signatures for a Referendum to rescind the decision to do so. And last, Mr. Lewis suggested that a mediator or facilitator be present at any joint meeting to assist with dealing with the issues.

October 7 Weekly Council Notes

Articles of Interest

Below are some links to articles of interest. 

Park Revenue and Events Log

Linked here is the September Park Events Log and the Revenue Log for FY 16-17.

EV Charging Stations at the Park

Staff obtained 3 bids for the installation of the EV Charging Stations at the Park. However, the bids came in higher than the $30,000 purchasing ordinance allowance for informal bids - the low bid is approximately $31k. Staff will now return to the Council for authorization to conduct a formal bid process for installation of the stations. 

Facebook Expansion DEIR

As the Council is aware, we responded to Facebook’s Expansion DEIR in July 2016. Responses are included in this linked section of the DEIR  The final EIR was released on September 15, 2016 and a Planning Commission meeting to consider the project entitlements was scheduled for September 26. The Commission recommended approval of the Final EIR and land use entitlements.  The Menlo Park City Council is scheduled to hear the item at their November 1, 2016 meeting. 

Rail Committee Recommendation - AB 1889

At their October meeting, the Rail Committee recommended that the Council consider joining a lawsuit to challenge application of AB 1889 to fund the Caltrain electrification project. 

This will be considered by the Council in Closed Session on October 19.

Funding Opportunity - Alternative Fuel Vehicles

As the Council is aware, the Town participated in a regional grant application with C/CAG for the funding of 4 alternative fuel vehicles. The grant application was submitted by C/CAG on August 29. The total project cost was $6.6m with 17 jurisdictions participating along with private companies and included 60 PEVs and 70 level 2 charging stations as well as other planning components. We should hear something in January 2017. It is a competitive grant. The grant is through the Department of Energy. 

Holiday Closure - December

For  2013 the Christmas holiday was on a Wednesday. Town Hall was closed from Monday, December 23 through Wednesday, January 1 - 8 days. Only the Post Office was open for the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. In 2014 the Christmas holiday was on a Thursday. Town Hall was closed Wednesday, December 24 through Friday, January 2 - 8 days. For 2015, the Christmas holiday fell on a Friday and the Town closed Thursday, December 24 through Friday, January 1 - 7 days

Except for Christmas and New Years Days, the closures do not affect construction hours and operation. Inspections are limited to critical path inspections. The closures do not affect emergency operations or any necessary field activity for Public Work or the Police Department. 

For 2016, the Christmas holiday falls on a Sunday. Town Hall will be closed on Friday, December 23 at noon through Monday, January 2 - 6.5 days (two are observed holiday closures). When the holiday falls on a Sunday, the holiday is observed on the following Monday. Monday, December 26 and Monday, January 2 would be the observed holidays, the days in between would be days for banked leave time or leave without pay. 

I will provide the same update above as an informational item in the City Manager’s Report on October 19. Please advise if there are any concerns with the above plan and I will write them into the update to the full Council. Absent any changes, I will advise staff. 

HAWK Beacons at Alejandra and Isabella

The contractor working on the Caltrans project has started potholing to positively locate utilities within the limits of the Town. Per the contractor’s 3-week look-ahead schedule, they will continue potholing within Atherton through Tuesday, October 11.  They intend to return the week of October 16 to rockwheel trenches for new conduits and curb/gutters to be installed as a part of this project.  The dates are subject to minor changes due to delays (inclement weather, equipment failures, etc.).
Fire Services Fiscal Review

At the 10/5 City Council Study Session, the Mayor reconfigured the Fire Services Fiscal Review Subcommittee to be Cary Wiest, Council Member & Fire District Liaison and Bob Polito, Chair of the Town’s Finance Committee. In this way, the Mayor can continue to meet with the Board President to address Fire District/Town related issues and the Subcommittee can meet independently. This also allows the Mayoral role to change in December without concern for the state of work product at that time. The first meeting of the subcommittee is Tuesday, October 11 at 8 am. The Committee is not a Brown Act committee so the meetings will be ad hoc and some of the communication will be handled via email. 

The first task on the table is preparing a scope of work. I intend to bring the scope of work to the City Council for approval and authorization to release a Request for Proposal at the October 19 meeting. I do not intend to prepare the entire boiler-plate RFP, only the scope of work itself for approval and authorization. The basic questions being asked are:

1) Has the Town’s property value’s increased to the point that the funds received by the Fire District via property taxes far exceed the cost to provide basic fire services to the community? 
2) If so, what are the options for addressing the issue?
3) What options do Atherton taxpayers have to address it if they choose to?

As I have expressed before, to get the answer to those questions, I suspect a study would need to be able to answer the following as part of a scope of work:

a) What revenue does the Fire District receive from Atherton residents via property taxes in support of fire services?

For this item, the Fire District has provided a recent analysis by Tax Rate Area for Atherton. The role of the consultant would be to validate the information and provide an analysis of data for FY 2016/17 as well as a predictive model for the future. 

b) What is the cost of providing basic fire protection services within the jurisdictional boundaries of the Town of Atherton from the Fire District? Beyond basic services, what other special services does the District provide to Atherton residents (i.e., hazmat, CERT, urban search/rescue, etc.)? In total, what do these add to the cost of basic fire services? 

For this item, the consultant would be tasked to prepare a summary of costs for basic fire protection and emergency response for the Town of Atherton from the Fire District. The consultant would then be tasked with adding the cost for any specialized services or programs applicable to the Town of Atherton to that basic cost - such as hazardous material response, CERT programs, urban search and resource programs, fire prevention, sharps drop off, disaster preparedness, etc. 

c) If there were not a Fire District and the Town were responsible for providing fire services independently, what would the cost of those services look like? What are the options? Would an additional fire station need to be built and staffed? If so, where would it be? What would it cost? What is the annual cost? What are the long-term cost models? What are the added liabilities? Are there any added benefits?

For this item, the consultant would be tasked with preparing a fire service model for the Town if the Town were responsible for providing fire services itself. The consultant would need to take into consideration programs and services currently provided, programs and services necessary for a Town-service model (inclusive of overhead), and long-term debt/liability. The consultant would also need to project initial capital required to build a 2nd fire station (if needed - consultant determined) and other issues related to initial versus ongoing versus long-term costs. 

d) If Atherton taxpayers want to address the issues raised, how would they do so and what are the mechanisms for doing so?

The consultant would need to analyze and provide a summary of process issues related to addressing any fiscal issues - LAFCo as well as legislative. The consultant should identify any impediments to doing so as well. 

I would envision that the above could be done in phases with (a) and (b) being done first, presented to the Council and then, if desired, undertake (c) and (d). As I have advised before, my professional opinion is that the District’s cost to provide basic fire and emergency response services to the Town of Atherton is less than the revenue collected via property taxes. How much less is dependent on the cost of other services and benefits provided to the Town. I also believe that the cost to provide services independently of the District is more than the cost of services through the District. A consultant would need to validate these assumptions. The issue for Atherton taxpayers is whether the revenue based on property values has significantly outpaced the cost of both District or independent costs for services, and if so, by how much, and if so, whether they wish to address that issue in some way. The intent is to gather the information to allow the District and Town to have a joint conversation and better understand the complexities of the service delivery, service model, and costs for service.   

We will not be doing this analysis or undertaking this effort in a vacuum or in secrecy. The Fire Chief is invited to all meetings of the subcommittee and will be included on all email exchanges. This also satisfies the District’s concern that the Fire Chief and City Manager continue to meet. The full Council will be kept abreast of the work effort via my Friday Council Notes to the City Council. I will also provide periodic updates to the Council at public meetings. The public will be kept involved via release of information via the Town’s website. If the Study is authorized by the Council, I intend to create a project page on the Town’s website for data and analysis.