Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lake County Grand Jury mulls recommendations

By Denise Rockenstein -- Staff reporter
Updated: 09/29/2010 10:49:17 PM PDT

CLEARLAKE -- Responses to the Grand Jury pertaining to operations within the jurisdiction of the City of Clearlake were recently prepared and accepted by the Clearlake City Council. City Administrator Dale Neiman addressed 19 recommendations, several that relate to the operation of the PEG Channel.

The Grand Jury recommends that a professional fair market evaluation be performed on the space that the city provides for operation of PEG TV8 in lieu of the city's $5,000 cash obligation in fiscal years 2008/09 and 2009/10 and any shortfall be met retroactively and that PEG TV8 pay rent based on the fair market value evaluation and that payment be met retroactively for the same years. In his response, Neiman said that the city owns and operates PEG TV8 and the council decides annually how and to what extent the station is to be funded during adoption of the city's budget.

The Grand Jury recommends that the city not pay any bill without documented approval of the PEG Board. Neiman states that no bills are paid unless approved by Councilmember Joyce Overton, who is the city's member on the PEG Board. Payment also requires Neiman's signature.

The Grand Jury recommends audits on PEG TV8 every second year. Neiman states that audits are included in the city's annual audit process. The panel also recommends that a variety of insurance coverage be extended to PEG TV8 staff and volunteers so that they are covered within and outside of the PEG station while traveling to and from and while taping community events. Neiman states that the station is operated by volunteers who are signed-up with the city as such and are covered by the city's workers' comp insurance. He said the city does not plan to acquire liability insurance or automobile insurance for when volunteers are not at the station. He said the city attorney has prepared an agreement that each volunteer will have to sign that states only workers' comp insurance will be provided in the station and not outside City Hall.

The Grand Jury claims that the 2007 Agreement has been long ignored by the PEG Board. It recommends immediately implementing the Public Utilities Code Section 5870(n) franchise fee available to PEG TV8 for the specific purpose of funding support and allowable expenses for operation of the channel. The Grand Jury recommends until this accomplished, that part of the $400,000 in franchise fees be obtained from each public agency that is a member of the 2007 Agreement. It also recommends that one of the parties of the 2007 Agreement procure legal counsel fully familiar with Public Access Television rules. Neiman said the city will work with the county to determine if the fee should imposed on the rate payers and states that the city's legal firm has expertise to provide the services recommended by the panel.

The Grand Jury recommends that the Redevelopment Agency establish priorities to fix and upgrade the current roads before attracting new business. It also recommends that the city budget money to improve grant writing and management of the Public Works department to attract funds and personnel for maintaining the streets.

"The city has been focusing on upgrading the arterial and collector streets because these are the streets that carry the majority of traffic in the city. The city has been able to obtain $4.9 million in grants in the last three years. This money was used to rehab 11 miles of streets," Neiman states in his response. "Further, the city has had to eliminate approximately 43 percent of the staff since 2007.

The Redevelopment Agency should use its money to generate income for the city so that the resident can be provided better services."

Neiman responded to a number of other recommendations including one that suggests the city should renegotiate with the county to provide animal control services. Neiman said the city has saved $74,424 by way of assuming the responsibilities of animal control. He said costs are expected to decrease in coming years as well.

Contact South County reporter Denise Rockenstein at or call her directly at 994-6444, ext. 11.

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