Monday, December 19, 2011

Blog # 32 Year in Review- 2011

The Year in Review – 2011

Another year has gone by in our great Town and you may wonder what has the Town accomplished this year? Certainly there are few dull moments in Fairfax. Here is a list of some of the highlights of 2011 in chronological order:


FairBuck Coin Created

Heard a presentation from Polla Pratt and David Bernard regarding FairBuck - a local currency project being sponsored by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Fairfax and the Town of Fairfax. The basic idea is that special coins are minted for use only in a specified area (such as businesses in Fairfax). The coins have a face value of three dollars, and can be used at all participating businesses. Coins kept as souvenirs and not recirculated net slightly less than two dollars in profit which can be used by the sponsors for the local benefit. It is legal and can be a source of much needed funds for the Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Fairfax and the Town.

Short Term Staff Reorganization

The Town Council directed the Town Manager to return on February 2, 2011 with a job specification and salary schedule for a newly created position of Chief Building Inspector/Public Works Manager and a newly created position of Building Inspector/Senior Maintenance Worker. These newly created positions will be filled by existing staff persons to balance the budget. The position of Public Works Director will not be filled. The Town Manager will act as the Public Works Director.

The Council approved resolutions approving an overall financial policy and a reserve policy for the Town.


Michael Peevey, Chair of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has asked in a letter the following of PG&E:

“I have asked PG&E to bring to this commission a proposal or a series of proposals that will allow customers with an aversion to wireless devices the option of being metered without the use of wireless technology,” said CPUC President Michael Peevey in a statement before the CPUC’s meeting March 10 in San Francisco, where dozens of people spoke about the health risks associated with the meters. PG&E's proposal is expected within two weeks.

“This is fantastic news,” said Sandi Maurer, founder of the EMF Safety Network, who had previously filed a motion with the CPUC asking for a moratorium on the installation of the meters.

The wireless digital meters have come under fire over the last year because of concerns about accuracy, security, privacy and health effects. The meters use a combination of radio and microwaves to transmit data from the digital meter attached to your house to a transponder on a nearby telephone pole. That data is then transmitted via a cellular mesh network back to PG&E.

Because of concerns primarily focused on the health questions related to electro-magnetic frequencies and radio frequencies, PG&E has said in the past that it was considering developing alternatives, such as wired meters. PG&E has maintained, however, that the meters are safe and meet FCC standards for such devices.

Peevey also said in his statement that PG&E’s proposal for “some form of opt-out for customers who object to these devices” could be achieved at a “reasonable cost” that will be paid for by the customers that choose to opt-out.

Statewide, PG&E has installed over 7.65 million meters, with the goal of installing 10 million gas and electric meters by mid-2012. In Marin, 88,927 electric SmartMeters have been installed and 66,334 gas – as of March 4. That leaves just over 60,000 gas and electric to still be installed.

But, in towns that have been particularly vocal in their opposition the numbers are much lower.

In Fairfax, where PG&E has voluntarily been delaying installation while community meetings attempted to answer residents’ questions, just 67 electric and 217 gas SmartMeters have been installed. The Fairfax Town Council also passed a moratorium on the meters last year, but it has not yet been challenged in court.


General Plan Implementation Committee Created

Town Council created a General Plan Implementation Committee (GPIC). The GPIC’s charge will be to monitor and facilitate the goals, objectives, policies and programs contained in the 2010 General Plan. The GPIC will meet monthly to review and monitor the proposed timelines contained within the General Plan and to provide or recruit assistance as needed. The GPIC will report to the Town Council quarterly, at least through the first year of implementation after the General Plan is adopted. It is expected that one meeting would be held per month, for approximately two hours in duration.

Volunteers Help Create a Food Bank for the Community

The Fairfax Volunteers have partnered with the Town, the Marin/San Francisco Food Bank and the Fairfax Community Church to provide a Farmers Market style food bank for the community. The Food Bank will provide free groceries including fresh produce, dry goods and USDA surplus foods.

•When: Every Saturday 9-11 AM
•Where: Fairfax Community Church, 2398 Sir Francis Drake Blvd
•How you can help: Contact or call 456-5652

Smoking Restrictions Tightened, Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance Adopted

The Town Council at its regular meeting on June 1, 2011 adopted an ordinance that tightens smoking restrictions in Fairfax. The key change to the ordinance is that a minimum of 75% of units in a multi-unit residence must be permanently designated as non-smoking, including exclusive areas of the units such as private balconies, porches, decks, or patios. All units may be designated as non-smoking. The non-smoking units must be grouped together and physically separated from the smoking units to the maximum extent possible.

The other key change is that smoking is prohibited within a reasonable distance from any entrance, opening or exit of any enclosed area within which smoking is prohibited, except while passing on the way to another destination. Smoking is also now prohibited in Town parks, including, but not limited to, Contratti Field, Fairfax Park and Peri Park and Playground and at public events such as the Farmer’s Market and the Fairfax Festival.

The Town Council also passed an Ordinance that regulates the location, number and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries. The key points are that there will not be more than three dispensaries in the Town. The other key point is that dispensaries shall be located only within the Central Commercial (CC), Highway Commercial (CH), and Light Commercial (CL) area as designated in the General Plan and Zoning Map. In addition, a dispensary cannot be located within 600 feet of a school or directly abutting a residential property unless there is a fence or an intervening natural landform between the commercial property and the residential property such as a creek or significant undeveloped parcel of land.

Pedestrian Bridge Replaced, Creek Bank Stabilized, Tennis Courts Resurfaced

After a long period of planning and construction the pedestrian bridge that fell into Fairfax Creek during the great New Year's Eve flood of 2005 has finally been replaced. A concurrent project to the pedestrian bridge was stabilizing the bank so that the tennis courts do not slip into the creek. After the bridge was replaced and the bank stabilized the tennis courts were resurfaced.

Good Earth Project Approved

The Town Council adopted a resolution approving the initial study, draft mitigated negative declaration and traffic impact permit for a project encompassing remodeling the existing commercial building and adding exterior improvements and landscaping and resurfacing the parking lot at Center Blvd. and Pastori Ave where the old Albertson’s grocery store operated many years ago. Twenty-four speakers addressed the Council, virtually all in support of the project. The Town staff, the applicant and the neighbors living across the street from the future Good Earth grocery store all worked together on several mitigation measures aimed at reducing noise and traffic. One change already made is the removal of a “no turn on red” sign from Pastori to eastbound Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

The new Good Earth store will be about twice the size as the current store at Sir Francis Drake and Claus Drive. The natural foods store is planning to open at their new location in mid to late January 2012.


Local Sales Tax Measure for Fairfax

On July 27, 2011 the Town Council, on a unanimous vote, adopted a resolution and the accompanying ordinance to place a local one half cent sales tax on the November 8, 2011 ballot. Fairfax voters will decide on a majority vote whether to approve the local sales tax that is estimated to generate about $200,000 per year. All revenues generated will remain in Fairfax and cannot be taken by the State to balance their budget.

Town Budget and Labor Agreements Adopted

The Town Council, after many public hearings and months of discussing the Town budget, adopted the Fiscal Year 2011/12 budget on August 17, 2011 at their regular meeting. The budget is balanced but required a number of painful cuts to the operating budget; leaving four full time positions vacant, requiring major sacrifices from all employees in the form of a loss of compensation by requiring employees to pay for part of their retirement benefits out of pocket, and the borrowing of $226,836 from the Town’s “Dry Period Fund” also technically known as the unrestricted reserve of the General Fund.

All employee groups signed a two-year labor agreement, which the Town Council also approved at the same council meeting. The second year of these agreements requires employees to pay 5% of the 8% toward the employee paid portion of their retirement. This will save the Town more than $80,000 per year moving forward helping to stem the tide of rising health care and retirement costs. The deficit is caused by four straight years of declining property and sales tax revenues and increasing costs for health care and retirement.

Chamber hosts meeting on the proposed Terrapin Crossroads Project

The Fairfax Chamber of Commerce with assistance from Town staff held an informational meeting on September 1, 2011 to discuss the Terrapin Crossroads project. More than 200 community members were in attendance. The project manager, Bruce Berman discussed the vision of Terrapin Crossroads and had drawings of the floor plan and site drawings as well. The meeting was productive in that community members were able to gain valuable information and also ask questions. In early November Phil Lesh decided not to move forward with Terrapin Crossroads in Fairfax.


Resource Recovery Agreement

The Town Council approved a ten year franchise agreement with Marin Sanitary Service (MSS) on November 2, 2011. The Agreement covers all aspects of resource recovery, getting to zero waste, and other special programs such as household hazardous waste, medical waste, paper shredding and many other programs. The current Solid Waste, Recycling and Resource Recovery Agreement was written and approved on April 19, 1993 and was with a different garbage hauler. MSS took over this Agreement without any changes. Much has changed in the solid waste, recycling and resource recovery world since 1993 and the Town Council and MSS felt it was time to create an Agreement that better reflects the services that are being provided and can be provided today that were not possible in 1993 such as the pilot food waste recycling program started in Fairfax last year.

This Agreement offers the following new services:

Brush Clearing/Fuel Reduction Program: This involves removing, chipping and redirecting heavy brush that may pose a fire threat to the Town. Town will determine, based on need for creating defensible space, which areas of Town will receive the brush clearing each year, as there is limited funding

Free Compost for Residents: Marin sanitary Service (MSS) shall distribute 15 tons of compost three times per year, spring, summer, and fall. Town will come up with designated location and will provide bunker. A list of compost bin suppliers may be found at:

Food Waste Pilot Program: MSS will develop a food waste pilot program at three multi-family complexes in Town. Locations will be mutually agreed upon by Town and MSS.

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) On Call Pick-Up Program: MSS shall provide residential customers (businesses are excluded from this program) HHW on-call pickup each calendar year at no additional charge by prearranged appointment on their regularly scheduled collection day. There will be no charge for the following items: household batteries; latex paint in sealed containers (limit of 3 gallons); motor oil in sealed or capped containers (limit of 2 gallons); oil filters; pesticides (limit of 3 gallons); fluorescent lights or tubes; aerosol cans partially filled (empty cans may be placed in dual sort cart); computers and monitors; printers; televisions; and cell phones. No flammable, toxic, or hazardous material will be accepted. All items must be contained in boxes or bags. Customers must call Monday-Friday during normal business hours at least 24 hours in advance to schedule an appointment. MSS shall implement the program no later than January 1, 2012.

Larry Bragman Re-Elected, Ryan O'Neil elected for first time to Town Council

Larry Bragman was re-elected for a third term of four years last night. He received 1408 votes or 43.88% of the vote. Ryan O'Neil received 1342 votes or 41.82%. Congratulations to both candidates on their successful election. Chris Lange received 432 votes or 13.46%.

Local Sales Tax Measure D Passes

Measure D - a local one half cent sales tax passed last night with 1250 voters approving the Measure or 64.53%. This was a majority vote and will generate approximately $200,000 a year in new revenue for the Town for the next five years.

Thank you Fairfax voters for approving Measure D and allowing the Town to continue to provide quality services to you. All of the Town staff are very appreciative of the passage of this measure. And thanks to all five Town Council Members for supporting this measure and to the Yes on Measure D Campaign who gave so much of their personal time and energy to pass this Measure.

Town Clerk and Town Treasurer Elected

Judy Anderson was re-elected (unopposed) Town Clerk and Barbara Petty, appointed to the Town Treasurer position by the Town Council nearly two years ago was also elected unopposed. Both positions will serve four year terms.

Town Council Commends Lew Tremaine; Appoints new Mayor and Vice Mayor

At a special Town Council meeting on November 30, 2011 the Town Council certified the election of November 8, 2011 and passed a resolution commending Lew Tremaine for twelve years of service to the Town Council.

The Council then reorganized by appointing Pam Hartwell-Herrero as the next Mayor and John Reed as the Vice Mayor. Both will serve one year as Mayor and Vice Mayor. Both votes were unanimous.

Police Dispatch Services for Town of Ross

The Town Council approved a five-year agreement with the Town of Ross to provide police dispatch services. The Town of Fairfax, without adding any additional staff, will be able to provide this service to Ross for a fee of $21,000 per year for the first three years and $31,000 each year thereafter. This agreement also saves Ross some money as they currently are being dispatched through the Marin County Sheriff’s department. The Council also approved an agreement to share police supervisory services (vacation relief) with the Town of Ross at no cost to either Town.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Blog #31 - Town Council Actions - December 7, 2011 Meeting

Fairfax Town Council Approves Providing Police Dispatch Services to Ross, Approves Rate Increase for Solid Waste

Police Dispatch Services for Town of Ross

The Town Council approved a five-year agreement with the Town of Ross to provide police dispatch services. The Town of Fairfax, without adding any additional staff, will be able to provide this service to Ross for a fee of $21,000 per year for the first three years and $31,000 each year thereafter. This agreement also saves Ross some money as they currently are being dispatched through the Marin County Sheriff’s department. The Council also approved an agreement to share police supervisory services (vacation relief) with the Town of Ross at no cost to either Town.

Solid Waste and Recycling Rate Increase Approved

The Council approved a 17.41% rate increase for solid waste, recycling, and yard and food waste programs to become effective January 6, 2012.

Marin Sanitary Service (MSS) assumed a Solid Waste and Recycling Agreement in 2006 from Fairfax Disposal Service. From 1993 to 2009 Fairfax did not see any rate increases directly related to the cost of providing the garbage and recycling service because Marin Sanitary did not petition for increases it was entitled to receive to cover its cost. Beginning in 2009, Fairfax and MSS have worked together to get rates set at a level that covered MSS costs without causing undue hardship to customers. According to the independent consultants, even with our last rate adjustment of 10%, Marin Sanitary is not receiving sufficient revenue to cover its operating costs. Thus, the proposed increase is intended to get rates caught up to a break-even point and to a lesser extent cover some new and exciting services included in the new franchise agreement.

The rate adjustment analysis produced by Hilton Farnkopf and Hobson (HF&H) Consultants in March 2011 recommended a 24.23% rate increase for garbage and recycling services in Fairfax.

At the April 2011 Town Council meeting the Council increased the garbage and recycling rate by 10% with the understanding that the Council would be reviewing the rates as soon as the new Franchise Agreement was approved. The Town Council approved a new Franchise Agreement with MSS at the November 2, 2011 Council meeting that includes new waste reduction and recycling programs. Thus, there remains 14.23% of the recommended rate increase from the HF&H study for consideration in addition to determining compensation for MSS’s additional obligations under the new Franchise Agreement.

Listed below are the garbage hauling, waste reduction and recycling programs that make up the recommended rate increase of 17.41%:

HF&H Study 14.23%

Brush Clearing Program 1.06%
Delivering of Compost 3x/year 0.13%
Paper Shredding/E-Waste/Prescription Medication 1x/year 0.30%
Household Hazardous Waste Pick-Up by Appointment 0.49%
Special Events-Waste Reduction/Recycling/Reuse 0.60%
Education and Promotion of all programs 0.60%

TOTAL 17.41%

In addition to the benefits to residential customers there are many services available only to commercial customers as outlined below:

1. Container sizes from 32 gallon to 6 cubic yard to accommodate varying levels of service.

2. No distance charges for commercial customers. MSS retrieves carts and returns them; curbside service is preferred, but not mandatory for commercial.

3. Under the new contract MSS will collect 6 days per week from Town owned solid waste containers placed throughout the downtown area to ensure areas are clean and containers empty at the beginning of the business day.

4. Availability of Waste Audit. MSS Commercial Recycling Coordinators will arrange for a series of free waste audits to characterize material for recycling.

5. Unlimited Commercial Recycling. All MSS commercial customers are eligible for unlimited recycling services up to 6 days per week regardless of garbage cart size included free in their rates. A commercial customer may have only 1-32 garbage carts picked up once per week, but are able to set out unlimited amounts of recycling material up to 6 days per week.

6. The services of a dedicated commercial cardboard truck scanning the Town 6 days per week. This service includes on-call collection and container sizes up to 2 cubic yards and is not available to residential customers

7. Bulky item collection is available to all commercial customers Monday-Friday and not subject to the Off-Day collection requirements for residential customers.

8. Unlike other jurisdictions MSS serves, the Quarterly Residential Newsletter has always been sent
to commercial customers in Fairfax to ensure they are knowledgeable of available services. The new Commercial Newsletter is being sent to all commercial customers explaining the full range of service available to them.

Other actions taken at the Town Council October 5, 2011 meeting:

• Approved the creation of a Cittaslow Committee and directed staff to advertise for committee members

• Discussed the concept of combining the Design Review Board with the Planning Commission. After a fairly lengthy discussion the Council agreed to bring this item back to the Council on January 11, 2012 for further discussion. Currently the Planning Commission and the Design Review Board are two separate bodies that applicants must receive decisions from and combining the two functions would allow for a more efficient and synergistic review of applications.

• Gave direction to staff on refinancing the General Obligation Bonds (Measure K). The Council elected to use the refunded monies on additional Measure K capital projects.

• Approved the release of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for banking services. The Town has been banking with Bank of America for many years and the Council felt it was time to seek proposals from all banks in the area. The Council is seeking a bank that is local and active and vested in the community.

• Reviewed the Council committee assignments for the upcoming year and all council members decided on which council member will serve on each committee. Some of the committees are the Ross Valley Fire Board, Transportation Authority of Marin, Marin Telecommunications Committee, Marin Energy Authority, Zero Waste Committee, Flood Zone 9, and Ross Valley Paramedic Authority.

• Other notes and announcements:

• Fairfax Food Pantry – Saturdays 9-11AM at the Fairfax Community Church,1000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd-Volunteers needed!!

• Vacancy on the Fairfax Youth Commission for Ross Valley youth between 14 and 19 years of age

• Vacancy for a Fairfax Representative to the Marin Commission on Aging to June 30, 2012

• Vacancy on the Volunteer Board to complete an unexpired term to 12-31-12

• JACKED! An original play, based on a fairy tale, to poke fun at politicians and current affairs, December 29, 30 and 31, at the Fairfax Pavilion, created and presented by Fairfax Artists-in-Residence Sam and Shoshanna Parry

• Town Offices are closed from December 27th to January 3rd. All emergency services will be provided during this time. Police and Fire will work their normal schedule.

The next Town Council meeting will be January 11, 2012 at 7:00 PM at the Women’s Club.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Blog #30 - Mayor and Vice Mayor Appointed

Town Council appoints new Mayor and Vice Mayor

At a special Town Council meeting on November 30, 2011 the Town Council certified the election of November 8, 2011 and passed a resolution commending Lew Tremaine for twelve years of service to the Town Council.

The next item on the agenda was the oath of office for re-elected Council Member Larry Bragman and newly elected Council Member Ryan O'Neal. They were sworn in at the same time.

The Council then reorganized by appointing Pam Hartwell-Herrero as the next Mayor and John Reed as the Vice Mayor. Both will serve one year as Mayor and Vice Mayor.

The next regular meeting of the Town Council will be December 7, 2011.