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:
JANUARY- MARCH 2011
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.
SMART METER BATTLE
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.
APRIL - JUNE 2011
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 email@example.com 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.
JULY - SEPTEMBER 2011
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.
OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2011
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: www.calrecycle.ca.gov/organics
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.