March 26, 2014

At the February 25th Town COWncil meeting, Town staff got credit cards and the Town Manager got a raise. All the COWncil members were present for the meeting.

The meeting began with a lovely tribute to longtime Town resident and COWmunity volunteer Gaylynne Mann. Mayor Burow and an official from the Woodside Fire Protection District read a proclamation honoring her 34 years of Town service, noting her involvement with CERPP, the first aid trainings she gave, and her lifelong love of horses. The meeting then paused for ten minutes for an opportunity for Town residents to speak with each other about Gaylynne.

When the meeting started up again, the COWncil passed the back half of the consent calendar. The Town Manager’s report noted a shuffle in Town personnel, including a new hire in the Building Division. The report also noted the sad demise of “The Tree” on Glenwood Avenue, a landmark in the Glens neighborhood for many years – it fell during February rains. Finally, it was reported just how busy the Planning Department continues to be – 202 building inspections were done in January, and a whopping 456 customers were processed at the public counter. Woodside is humming again, and thus it’s even more important for the Town to take care of its residents in a fair and efficient manner.

The Town COWncil also approved an update to the handbook for members of the Planning Commission, ASRB and the Citizen Advisory Committees. This included an updated history of Woodside and revised charters for several committees. The COWncil delayed voting on the first three items on the Calendar until the end of the meeting.

The Town COWncil then listened to a discussion from the Open Space Committee on possible new fence regulations that discussed the needs of wildlife in Town versus private property rights and home security. While no concrete rules were laid out during the discussion, the tone was in favor of increased regulation – with one commenter even suggested that the Town should start “sunsetting” older legal fences – i.e., order them torn down! Outrageous!!!.

Following the discussion, the COWncil approved in principle a plan to help fund the re-creation of a paid CERPP Coordinator position at the Woodside Fire Protection District. The 20-hour-a-week position, which has remained unfilled since the economic downturn, would also be funded by Portola Valley and the WFPD and be filled by the existing Fire Education Specialist from the WFPD. We think this is a fantastic idea – we support CERPP’s mission strongly and think this move to strengthen and revitalize it is well worth the projected $20,000 cost to the Town.

The COWncil moved next to approving the Appointments Subcommittee’s recommendations for citizen volunteers to all nine of the Citizen Advisory Committees, and agendized a future discussion of the future of the Public Safety Committee in light of how infrequently it meets.

The meeting concluded with the remainder of the consent calendar. This included an $8,000 raise for Town Manager Kevin Bryant. His annual base pay is now $203,000 a year. That raise was certainly appropriate since according to the Mercury News list of public salaries Kevin was actually paid less than his Deputy. For a sense of comparison, Redwood City pays its City Manager $210,808 while Redwood City and and Belmont pay just under $219,000.

The COWncil also authorized the creation of Town “procurement cards” – aka credit cards with $10,000 limits – for five members of Town staff – the Town Manager, Town Clerk, Deputy Town Manager/Town Engineer, Planning Director, and Maintenance Supervisor. The reason for the creation of the cards was stated to be that many vendors no longer want to accept checks, having moved to credit card only systems, and that Town staff have “often” had to pay for expenses with personal credit cards and get reimbursed. Additionally, it was suggested that the procurement cards could be used to purchase emergency supplies for Town residents in case of an emergency.

This program seems on balance to be a smart move for the Town, but it needs to have protections built in. The COWncil should review these expenditures monthly and make sure that they are appropriate. The recent conviction of a member of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors and the failure of the County to review and question expenditures underscores the need for regular critical review.

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