The Arcata City Council revoted on a decision Wednesday after it appeared they violated an open meeting law in December. The council also supported alternatives to the Pacific Gas and Electric wireless meters.
The council took a second look at the assignments it made for its members last month to serve on regional boards, commissions and committees for 2011. Council members Shane Brinton and Alex Stillman requested the followup for separate reasons. Brinton was concerned a serial meeting may have taken place among more than two council members in regard to the assignment to the board of directors for the Humboldt Waste Management Authority, resulting in a violation of the Brown Act.
Brinton said that he contacted Stillman to talk about the appointment before the meeting, and he found out after the meeting that she also had talked with Councilman Michael Winkler about the same appointment.
”Unbeknownst to me, a serial meeting had occurred,” Brinton said.
Brinton served on the authority board for 2010 and at the last meeting requested he be allowed to continue serving in 2011. However, the rest of the council voted to support Winkler instead.
He was also concerned about the Arcata Community Recycling Center representatives contacting council members about the appointment, as the ACRC is a bidder in the request for proposals with the management authority. By recommending Winkler to be on the board, the ACRC seemed to be
Winkler said he would represent the council on the management board, not just himself, and act as a neutral party. He added that the ACRC was allowed to lobby council members, like any member of the public is. The council revoted on the appointment with the same result -- approving Winkler as the representative and Brinton as the alternate.
Stillman also requested the council rediscuss the item after she realized she was given no primary appointments to any regional group. It was determined she would serve on the Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission.
PG&E's SmartMeter rollout was also on the docket Wednesday. Many residents have raised concerns at this and previous meetings with what they considered potentially hazardous radio frequencies emitted by the meters. At its last meeting, the council deferred to the Arcata Energy Committee for a recommendation and requested PG&E not install SmartMeters on the homes of those who have posted notices at their homes against it.
It is PG&E's legal opinion that local municipalities have no authority to stop SmartMeter installations and that only the California Public Utilites Commission does. PG&E had been temporarily honoring local moratoriums, stating they were putting those areas at the back of the line for installations. But recently in Marin County, PG&E representatives indicated they would proceed with installations despite that county's moratorium, according to The Associated Press.
After discussing the issue at its December meeting, the energy committee recommended the council take a position to support allowing PG&E customers to opt out of the wireless meters for an alternative meter, which is currently not an option. But due to a lack of information, the committee did not recommend the council put its support behind Assembly Bill 37, which would require the state utilities commission to come up with alternate options by 2012 and may involve a temporary halt to the installations.
Energy committee member Joe Zoellick said during public comment that it is likely that a majority of Arcata residents are not against the SmartMeters. Some health reports regarding the meters and radio frequency emission appeared to be cause for concern, but “the further I look into it, a lot of that has been debunked,” Zoellick said.
Committee Chairman Andrew Kulchin also came forward, stating the committee was not equipped to take on the health and safety concerns of emissions, as that is not its focus.
After some deliberation, the council opted to send a letter to PG&E, the CPUC and elected state representatives in supporting alternative meters for those who would not want them on their home. Some residents felt that wasn't enough, as they would still be impacted by their neighbors' meters. But Winkler said that would not be realistic, as residents can opt to have a number of other radio frequency-emitting devices.
”You can't tell your neighbor not to have Wi-Fi or not to have a cell phone,” Winkler said.
Brinton moved to support Assembly Bill 37, but the motion failed as most of the council did not support the moratorium aspect of the bill.
The council also held a public hearing and reviewed a proposed ordinance and permit that would allow the Campbell Creek Technology Center development at the site of the former Nazarene Church property at 1340 A St.
Planwest Partners consulting proposes to split the site in phases to include residential, a business incubator and commercial office space. The area is zoned for low-density residential, and the former church built in 1966 was actually nonconforming to current building zones. There was also some question whether the site should be historically “noteworthy.” Due to the complex aspects of the project, the council opted to continue the discussion to a later meeting.
The council also considered their stipend at the meeting. Winkler suggested increasing council salary by the maximum 5 percent, citing the city was financially healthy, but Mayor Susan Ornelas said she would like to lead by example when going into negotiations with city employees. The council salaries are considered every two years, and the percentage is based on the current salary of about $440 per month.
After some discussion, the council voted 4-1 on the increase, with Ornelas dissenting.
Staff writer Allison White can be reached at 441-0506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.