As the end of the year draws near, the Eureka City Council is gearing up for some pretty big adjustments — namely saying goodbye to Councilmember Natalie Arroyo after an eight-year stint on the council and welcoming two new faces aboard, G Mario Fernandez and Renee Contreras de Loach. Mayor Susan Seaman will also bid the council adieu and hand the reins over to Mayor-Elect Kim Bergel.
The council mentioned this bittersweet transition several times during this week’s meeting but agreed to save the heartfelt goodbyes and the sappy stuff for the council’s last regular meeting of the year on Dec. 20.
I’ll bet you’re wondering what else happened during Tuesday’s meeting. Let’s take a gander!
The council signed off on a fleet of eight new police patrol vehicles during this week’s regular meeting. The vehicles will augment the Eureka Police Department’s existing fleet and replace patrol vehicles that are over 13 years old with upwards of 100,000 miles accrued.
The item, which was pulled from the agenda’s consent calendar for further discussion, asked the council to allocate an additional $515,000 to the Eureka Police Department for the purchase of eight fully outfitted Chevrolet Tahoe vehicles from CAP Fleet through Northwood Auto Plaza in Eureka for a total cost of $551,717.08.
“We’re struggling a bit because we’re sending officers out in the field every day in cars that were put into the field in 2008, 2009, 2010 and they’re worn out and they’re breaking down all the time,” said Eureka Police Chief Todd Jarvis. “We’re at a critical point where we need to get the equipment to be able to serve the public.”
Public Works Director Brian Gerving acknowledged that the Chevy Tahoe – one of the biggest SUVs on the market – doesn’t exactly fall in line with the City’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but said hybrid and electric vehicles are hard to come by.
“We’ve been asked to look at other options but there are a few points there,” Gerving said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “Availability. Just like any other vehicle, they’re difficult to come by. Suitability [is another issue]. They just don’t have the space and the performance necessary for these response vehicles. Staff has had a practice for the past – as long as we have records – of obtaining pursuit-rated vehicles or special service-rated vehicles for our emergency response, whether that’s fire or police.”
Even still, he said staff would continue to explore options to incorporate more electric vehicles into the city’s fleet.
Jarvis further explained that “pursuit-rated” implies a different level of construction that makes the patrol vehicle “a little more hearty” and a little safer.
“It makes it safer for the officers that are operating it and for the citizens that are around it because it does have better brakes, better suspension [and] it allows us to run all the equipment we have because it has upgraded electrical systems and things like that,” Jarvis said. “We’re not looking at these so that we can chase people all over town.”
Following staff’s brief presentation, Councilmember Leslie Castellano acknowledged the immediate need for new patrol vehicles but suggested staff act more proactively to procure hybrid and electric vehicles in the future.
“To really implement something like that we would need to kind of think ahead probably a few years, in terms of the charging infrastructure and even getting on waitlist for vehicles,” she said. “Are those the kinds of things that council should or could be giving more direction on in terms of that kind of forward-thinking?”
Staff is already looking into it, Gerving said, but they’re still a few years out. “We just don’t see the availability of suitable [electric vehicles] for large portions of our fleet just yet.”
Councilmember Scott Bauer mentioned that a friend of his has been on a waitlist for a fully electric truck for over a year and half because of global supply chain issues.
“We’re stuck in this world post-COVID where we don’t have the things we need to transition to a clean fuel economy,” he said. “I think the city has done a lot with transitioning our municipal fleet to electric … and in this situation, when it comes to first responders, we’re kind of stuck right now. … I only know one municipality that has electric pursuit vehicles and that’s Fremont.”
Bauer made a motion to approve the funding allocation. Councilmember Natalie Arroyo offered a second before acknowledging that “it will disappoint some folks.”
“As far as planning ahead for the greening of our fleet, I think that’s incredibly important,” she said. “The Humboldt Transit Authority, for example, we had high hopes for having all electric, chargeable buses and that just did not work in this community for the range we needed them to have. Now we’re going the hydrogen route. So that’s another thing to consider exploring as we install the infrastructure to have hydrogen fueling.”
The council passed the motion in a 4-0 vote with Councilmember Kati Moulton absent.
Keeping with the law enforcement theme, Mayor Susan Seaman invited Chief Jarvis to discuss the City’s anonymous gun buyback program. The buyback program is intended to promote “responsible, safe, and secure gun ownership” by removing “unwanted guns that could potentially get into the hands of criminals,” according to EPD.
“This is in response to some interest that you showed after the Uvalde school shootings. We’ve had several since then throughout this country and we’re trying to put this [program] together so that we can get this done while you’re still the mayor,” Jarvis said to Seaman. “We’ll have officers there to meet you and secure the firearm. Please, if you do come down, just leave the firearm locked in your vehicle, make contact with the officers and they’ll come down to the vehicle with you and they’ll safely remove the firearm.”
Jarvis emphasized that the process is completely anonymous. “We’re not asking for an ID. We will run each of the firearms once this is over and if there’s anything that’s been reported stolen that’s been turned in to us, we will try to track down the owner and return it if we can.” The firearms will be destroyed after they are accounted for.
Individuals who turn in firearms will receive a Visa gift card – $50 for rifles and shotguns and $100 for handguns and assault weapons – to further incentivize participation in the program. Even if the gun is broken or non-functioning, EPD will still accept it.
“This has been very successful in other communities,” Jarvis added. “[The intent] really is not to take guns away from people, but if people have unwanted firearms that they don’t know what to do with, this is an avenue for them to relinquish them and know that they’re not going somewhere where they will fall into the wrong hands.”
The gun buyback program will take place on Sunday, December 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way, in Eureka.
The council returned to several other items relating to the City’s water and wastewater infrastructure that were discussed during its last meeting on Nov. 17.
The council approved a revision to the City’s Private Sewer Lateral Ordinance. The ordinance, adopted by the city council in 2019, shifted the responsibility of maintenance and repairs of the lower lateral – which is the sewer pipe connecting a property’s plumbing system to the public sewer main under the street – solely to the property owner.
Since the city adopted the ordinance, staff have reported ongoing issues with laterals not being replaced by property owners when they should be, largely due to the cost. To alleviate this issue, staff proposed the implementation of a set fee and a point-of-sale trigger to “significantly accelerate the rate at which aging sewer laterals are replaced.”
The council reviewed the proposed revisions during its Nov. 15 meeting and agreed to move forward. After a brief discussion at this week’s meeting, the council voted 4-0, with Moulton absent, to implement the proposed changes.
The council also unanimously passed a resolution approving the issuance of both water and wastewater bonds as well as an amendment to the City’s municipal code in accordance with the 2022 California Building Standards Code.
And last but certainly not least, the council agreed to give Eureka’s 20/30 Park a new name – “Da’ Yas,” which means “where the cypresses are” in Soulatluk – to go with its incoming improvements, which will include all-new playground equipment, an upgrade to the park’s baseball field and some exciting new amenities.
Humans can be resistant to change and, understandably, some folks weren’t happy to hear that 20/30 Park would be renamed. The park was named after and made possible by the 20/30 Club, an association of young men in their 20s and 30s who did good deeds around town, but the club hasn’t been active for quite some time and the City felt as though it was time to make a change.
The City has been working with the Wiyot Tribe for the last year to come up with a short list of Soulatluk names for the park’s rebranding. After polling the community, they landed on “Da’ Yas” to honor the cypress trees that populate the park.
The council unanimously approved the adoption of the park’s new name in a 4-0 vote, with Moulton absent.
Early on in the meeting, the council also approved a request for up to $592,119 in funding for new playground equipment for the park. The item appeared on the council’s consent calendar and was passed without further discussion.
You can find a recording of Tuesday’s meeting at this link.