PIEDMONT -- The city announced at its Tuesday meeting that it has hired a new finance and human resources director to replace Mark Bichsel, who is retiring March 15 after 20 years of service.

Erick Cheung, a certified public accountant who previously worked for the city of Belmont and the Contra Costa Transit Authority, will take up his post on March 6.

His salary and benefit package will be $140,000, which is less than Bichsel was earning. He is also subject to a lower tier retirement of 2 percent at 60.

A consulting firm handled the recruitment, which produced 39 applicants. They were screened down to five finalists reviewed by the consultant, City Administrator Geoff Grote and a council subcommittee, which winnowed the field to three. Those three applicants were interviewed in closed session by the entire City Council, who chose Cheung.

"Mr. Cheung will be a worthy successor, and we welcome him, " Grote said.

The council welcomed news of receipt of $68,068 in a COPS grant (Citizens Option for Public Safety). About $40,841 will go to the Police Department's equipment account, and $27,227 to the overtime account. The appropriation raises the COPS equipment balance to $78,880 and the overtime COPS account to $67,029. Equipment funds are used for one-time purchase of items not covered in the department's regular budget, Police Chief Rikki Goede said. The COPS overtime funds cannot be used to backfill personnel shortages, such as sick leave or vacation, Goede explained. They must be used for community awareness programs or for additional patrol shifts for specific crime problems.


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COPS funds come in a few times during the year, and usually total $100,000 to $120,000.

The council, with Mayor John Chiang absent, approved the first reading of an ordinance regarding cottage food operations, which is an enterprise in a private home where products are prepared or packaged for direct or indirect sales. The ordinance must be amended to comply with Assembly Bill 1616 that went into effect Jan. 1.

Most of its requirements are already in the city's code, City Clerk John Tulloch said. Piedmont requires most businesses operating from homes to obtain a home occupation permit. Other restrictions include the types of food that can be prepared, a cap on gross receipts and registration with the county health department.

The council agreed with recommendations of the recreation commission to adopt the fees and use hours of the swim complex. Recreation Director Mark Delventhal said an assistant manager will be hired to help manage the busy pool.

The council also approved spending $26,700 to have consultants do a benefits study on health care costs, in hopes of saving the city some money by exploring options. The city will use this information going into its sessions with the various bargaining groups this spring.

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