Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blog #73 - Year in Review for 2010 - Town Accomplishments

Another year has gone by in our great Town and you may wonder what has the Town accomplished this year? Here is a list of some of the highlights of 2010 in chronological order:


Ross Valley School Bond: This year started with the the Ross Valley School District holding community meetings to discuss the siting of a new K-5 school in several possible locations in Fairfax. The Deer Park residents and others came to the Town Council asking for assistance from the Town Council. The Deer Park and Town and Country Club proposed sites garnered much discussion at many community meetings, including two well organized charrettes in Fairfax. After all of these meetings the Town Council worked with the school district and the community to get a bond measure passed in November 2010 that did not include a new school site in Fairfax.

Marin Energy Authority: The Town Council unanimously chose the “Dark Green” option with the Marin Clean Energy (MCE) program. The “Dark Green” option uses 100% renewable energy. The other option with MCE was a “Light Green” option which uses about 50% renewable energy. The Town’s solar panels on the Pavilion are powering most of the Town’s energy needs thus the “dark green” option will essentially be cost neutral for the Town.


Hazardous Fuel Reduction Grant
: The Town was granted $168,831 in funding from the USDA Forest Service! Our Fire Hazardous Fuel Reduction grant proposal was one of 397 grant proposals this year requesting a total of $70 million. The grant covers environmental consultation, photo monitoring, and contract administration. One major item of the grant requires the hiring of qualified contractors to perform primarily brush clearing and tree trimming services.

Camp Fairfax
: Expanded Camp Fairfax from one week to three weeks in 2010 due to the popularity of the one week offer on 2009, the first year of the Camp. The FOCUS program will consider even more Camp Fairfax weeks in 2011! Thanks to all the residents and staff in Fairfax and beyond who made this a great day camp experience for our youth.

The General Plan: In May the Council began the process of reviewing the first of many general plan elements - the Safety Element. Over the next seven months the Council reviewed all the elements of the General Plan culminating in the acceptance of the draft General Plan in December 2010. The next step is to have the environmental review of the plan started in January 2011.

: The Fairfax Town Council wrote a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission requesting that they investigate SMART Meters for a variety of issues related to the accuracy of the meters, possible health hazards, and privacy issues.

Ross Valley Fire JPA: The Town Council unanimously voted to amend the Ross Valley Fire Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Agreement to include Sleepy Hollow as a full voting member of the JPA at a Special Town Council meeting on Saturday, June 5, 2010

Second Unit Amnesty Program: Adopted Ordinance 751 amending the second unit amnesty program to eliminate the requirement for fire suppression sprinklers for existing second units qualifying for legalization.


FOCAS Program: Approved an Agreement with Camille Esposito to provide Youth Services as part of the FOCAS (Fairfax Open Circle Arts). The Youth Services budget ($18,000 per year) is part of the Measure I funds voters approved in November 2009.

More SMART Meter Actions: Agreed to intervene in the City and County of San Francisco motion at the California Public Utilities Commission to suspend deployment of Smart Meters and agreed to have staff bring back a draft ordinance at the next meeting banning the installation of Smart Meters in Fairfax

Town Hires New Police Chief: The Town Council, in a unanimous vote, hired Chris Morin as the new Police Chief. Ken Hughes retired after nearly 40 years of service to the Town. Chief Morin brings more than 20 years of experience to the job.

Smart Meter Moratorium: The Town Council unanimously passed an urgency ordinance on August 4, 2010 that places a one year moratorium on the deployment of smart meters in Fairfax. PG&E representatives were also present at the Council meeting and told the Council that they would voluntarily halt the deployment of the controversial smart meters in Fairfax immediately. PG&E also promised to hold several community meetings so that they could hear the concerns and questions from residents and businesses and then respond to those questions and concerns. To date there have been three Special Council meetings with PG&E to hear the concerns of the residents and to receive answers from PG&E on privacy, health and accuracy of the meters.


Town Budget Adopted: The Town Council adopted the Fiscal Year 2010/11 Operating and Capital Budgets on October 6, 2010. The budget adoption was later than usual in part because the Council had to balance the $205,000 deficit. The General Fund Operating budget is $6.901 million down from $6.988 million the prior year. Estimated revenues for property taxes are 2% less than last year and have been flat or lower than previous years for the last three years. This loss coupled with sales tax losses amounts to a loss of about $125,000 in revenue just over last fiscal year.

To balance the FY 2010/11 several vacant positions were left unfilled for several extra months to save money. For the second straight year, employees throughout the Town did not receive any cost of living adjustments. Most employees have lost compensation as they are paying a portion of their retirement costs out of their pocket which started over a year ago. All operating budgets (materials and supplies) in the Town have been cut 4% over the last two years as another necessary measure to balance the budget.

New Master Fees Adopted: The Town Council adopted a resolution revising the Master Fee schedule on October 6, 2010. New fees will take effect on November 8, 2010. New Fees are posted at the Town’s website www.townoffairfax.org in the agenda packet for the October 6th meeting as Item 17.

New Start Time for Council Meetings: The Council adopted Ordinance 755 changing the regular time of the Town Council meetings from 7:30 PM to 7:00 PM.

Fiscal Sustainability Workshop Held: The Town Council held a Fiscal Sustainability Workshop on November 17, 2010 to discuss eliminating the structural deficit in the budget which will include further cuts to the budget through a reorganization of the Town staff. This Council Workshop included a discussion of escalating retirement and health care costs and the possibility of a further partnership with employees to share the burden with the Town to pay for these escalating costs. A discussion of new revenue sources will also factor into the five year fiscal sustainability plan. This workshop was informational only and no policy decisions were made by the Council.

Good Earth Signs Lease Agreement to move to Old Albertson's building: After many years of speculation and wishful thinking from Fairfax residents, the closed Albertson's at Fair-Anselm Plaza is finally getting a new tenant. Good Earth announced on November 30, 2010, it is signing a long-term lease with LRG Capital to occupy the 23,000 square foot space that has stood empty since Albertson's shut a number of its Northern California stores in 2006.

The long-term lease and move to Fair-Anselm includes an expansive remodel, something Good Earth partners Mark Squire and Baylacq both say includes environmentally-friendly renovations to cut down on energy use and make the building more sustainable.

Renovations include large windows to capitalize on natural light, construction of a clerestory, a grey water system, permeable asphalt, and solar panels. Both the Good Earth partners and LRG Capital will work with design teams on the total overhaul of the building. Baylacq said they've been working on designs for the last four months, which have to be approved by the Town of Fairfax. The renovations are expected to be complete and the new store opened in October 2011.

New Mayor and Vice Mayor selected
: Larry Bragman as the next Mayor and Pam Hartwell-Herrero as the next Vice Mayor. Both will serve one year terms and both were unanimous votes of the Town Council. Newly appointed Mayor Bragman commented on some major themes that the Council will have to tackle in the next year. The contracting economy continues and it is affecting the public sector more than any other. Mayor Bragman stated we need a vital public sector, and we need to continue to improve efficiencies and maintain humanity and civility as the challenge of balancing the Town budget continues. Volunteer Boards and Commissions will play a key role in assisting the Town with all of the activities it needs to accomplish.