Friday, July 1, 2016
Point Arena, Mendocino County officials respond to grand jury report
A city of Point Arena staff member disagreed with the allegations made in a recent grand jury report that stated City Council members have been given preferential treatment when it comes to complying with enforcement codes.
Richard Shoemaker, city manager of Point Arena, said members of the City Council aren’t “applying pressure to city staff in attempts to circumvent city procedures and ordinances,” as stated in the report, and that current City Council members aren’t violating city enforcement codes.
The grand jury recommended that the city be more consistent in enforcing land use and zoning codes, and end favoritism.
In the past, a Point Arena City Council member was allegedly allowed to reside in an unpermitted structure that had no sewer hookups, according to the grand jury. In a separate case, the grand jury said another council member was allowed to operate a biofuel diesel business without a license.
The city allegedly cited the owner of a commercial building in 2014, who was not affiliated with local government. According to the grand jury, the owner was cited for allowing an occupant to reside in a structure for commercial purposes.
“I have served as city manager since Oct. 1, 2015,” Shoemaker responded. “During that time I have never experienced any sort of ‘protocol violations’ in regard to any council members providing direction to city staff. I certainly have not felt pressured to do anything preferential or illegal.”
However, Shoemaker agreed with the recommendation that the city contract with the county for code enforcement services.
He said city staff has met with Planning and Building Services staff to “establish a stronger line of communication in regard to building and planning code enforcement.”
City of Point Arena management and its attorney conduct code enforcement within the city on an ad hoc basis, according to the grand jury, which said these services haven’t been applied evenly but preferentially.
County Planning and Building Services are contracted by the city for the purposes of permit processing and inspection, along with a contracted private planner for city planning, the grand jury said. The city itself doesn’t have an in-house code enforcement department or outside contract in place.
Mendocino County has apparently approached the city of Point Arena to provide code enforcement services by contract, and the City Council has also authorized Shoemaker to pursue a contract. The grand jury said that has yet to happen.
In his response, county Planning and Building Services Director Steve Dunnicliff agreed with the grand jury that effective code enforcement could be provided to the city via contract.
Planning staff has contracted with a local expert in code enforcement who also has a background in law enforcement and legal process, and a similar arrangement could be made available to the city of Point Arena, according to Dunnicliff.
David Jensen, director of Mendocino County Environmental Health Services, in his response said he agreed with the grand jury’s findings in that Point Arena has no effective system in place for code enforcement, which he said poses a health and safety risk. Also, Jensen agreed that the county could contract with the city to provide services.
“Environmental Health is prepared to negotiate a services contract with the city of Point Arena upon their request,” Jensen stated.
The full grand jury report and responses can be found online at http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/grandjury/gj15-16.htm.
June 28, 2016
Ukiah Daily Journal
Daily Journal staff report