COWncil Roundup – September 9th, 2008

September 14, 2008

We’re jumping back into the regular swing of things, now that the COWncil is back from its seven-week summer vacation. All the COWncilmembers were present for this first meeting back from their break. As always, you can watch the entire meeting on Mootube right here. We had some minor technical difficulties, but we MOO-stered on to bring you everything except the opening formalities. The consent calendar was passed after a short discussion initiated by COWncilman Tanner advising the COWncil to make sure to get the right kind of wood chipper to replace the 15-year-old chipper the Town currently possesses – apparently new regulations are coming into force banning certain dirty kinds of engines on the devices. This seems prudent, given that the lowest bidder came in around $25,000. The other interesting item in the consent calendar was Town Manager Susan George’s whopping annual raise.

The next two items on the agenda were discussed together – both involved putting the final touches on the agreements surrounding Barkley Fields. The first item involved the creation of the ‘Barkley Fields and Park Operations Oversight Committee.’ Noel Perry – the donor who gifted the land for the Fields stipulated that a three-member oversight committee be created to oversee the Town’s operation of the park, consisting of one member chosen by the COWncil, one member by the donor (or his heir), and one chosen by the other two members. The Committee would make sure the Fields are being adequately maintained and that the Town is following the laundry list of rules drawn up to govern the operations of the park.

There was a measure of discussion on the item, including the question by COWncilmember Peter Mason of how long this agreement would be in force and how long the donor would be allowed to send members to the Committee. After being informed by Staff that the answer was “in perpetuity”, he replied with a disbelieving “Really?” More interesting commentary was offered by COWncilmember Hodges, with a compliment towards Susan George, claiming that the completion of Barkley Fields was a “tribute” to her “negotiating skills.”

She went on to say that the residents of the housing development Woodhill Estates, “certainly were obstructionist.” This seems counter to the Town party line where the COWncil and the residents of the development – which borders the park and has given the COWncil some trouble by not rolling over on several different issues (most recently the Cañada College housing circus) – are now the best of friends after their previous dustups, and are now moving forward in harmony.

One thing you can say about COWncilmember Hodges is that she will definitely give you her opinion – no matter how the rest of the COWncil or Susan George try to pretend everything is fine. Susan George took the bait a little bit, saying that ‘calmer heads prevailed.’ She left it unstated whether the losing, angrier heads were Woodside heads or Woodhill heads.

That item passed, and the COWncil went on to discuss the companion measure, which would create a covenant where a piece of Town property adjacent to Barkley Fields would be kept as open space in perpetuity, with only landscaping and maintenance of the current dirt path and utility line. This sparked a lively discussion over whether the COWncil could choose to improve the path in the future with base rock or widen it to make it more accessible to the Woodside Hills COW-munity – the path through this property leads from that region right into the park, and is a muddy mess in winter. When there was some comment that Woodhill Estates hadn’t agreed to changing those provisions, COWncilmember Mason also went off-message and declared, “We didn’t build [Barkley Fields] for [the benefit of] Woodhill Estates!”

The COWncil went round-and-round on this issue for a bit, and finally decided to change a few words in the covenant and conditional use permits – removing the word ‘dirt’ for instance – to give them a legal leg to stand on should they choose to do improvements to the path in the future. Even these minor changes require that the agreement go back to the attorney for Woodhill Estates, however, so the item was finally postponed until a later COWncil meeting.

The rest of the meeting was spent on the Town Manager’s report to the COWncil, covering what she and the Town have been doing during the COWncil’s long summer nap, and a quick review of what the Town work plan is and what’s to come over the next year. The detailed Monthly Investment Reports provided to the COWncil (and thus the public) will be going away, as Susan George has decided that since they are technically discretionary, the reports are too time-consuming to provide for the COWncil. She claims in her Report that the “net effect will be that the Town Council will have the same level of information available, but that staff will not have to provide reports to the State.” We shall see if that bears out and what information will be easily accessible to the public.

Apparently the Road Rehabilitation project is going well and is ahead of schedule, with the COWncil in general seeming much happier with this year’s contract. Dave Tanner said he bent the contractor’s ear for an hour and a half, informing him that the Town values quality. Hopefully, the whole road situation will end up better than the shoddy work we got last year.

The meeting closed with Carol Anne Hodges announcing out of the blue that she had decided that she wanted to go to Long Beach and represent the COWncil after all to the League of California Cities Conference, finally ending the months-long saga over our Town’s lack of representation at this annual local government conclave. This announcement was greeted with some bemusement, which quickly turned into all parties agreeing to send her – no doubt glad she was taking on what the rest of the COWncil clearly sees as a chore. COWncilwoman Hodges did say that she had looked at the agenda and claimed that there was “nothing of great import to Woodside” going on, which raises some questions about her enthusiasm and effectiveness. Oh well, we suppose even an unenthusiastic representative of our Town’s voice is better than no representative, right…?

The meeting wrapped up shortly thereafter.

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