September 9, 2013

What looked to be a super-quick meeting ended up taking a bit of time on July 9th. COWncil member Gordon was absent.

Under public comment, Elizabeth Ferguson from the Town’s new Arts & Culture Committee surveyed the residents of the Town on what they would like the Committee to be focusing on. She said that they had gotten a strong and for the most part positive response. Residents were interested in the visual arts, music, and in literary readings.

COWncil member Peter Mason pulled an item from the COWnsent calendar – he was objecting to the plan for the installation of NO PARKING signs in front of 1530 and 1540 Portola Road. There were complaints from residents, equestrians, bicyclists, and pedestrians that people were parking in along the unimproved shoulder in the area and alternately blocking the bike lane, a fire hydrant, a maintenance driveway, or the equestrian / pedestrian trail. Staff reviewed this situation and agreed that this was an issue, and that NO PARKING signs were preferable to other solutions like placing logs or boulders in the area, saying that would cause additional hazards.

Mason wanted to know who paid for the parking study. Iit was requested by a resident and paid for by the Town. Mason stated that he would vote no on the proposal – that it was a “waste of money” and wasn’t needed. COWncilmembers also worried about the visual impact of a proliferation of urban-style NO PARKING signs throughout the Town. A longtime resident of the area claimed that there was no problem generally, just once in a while when construction was going on in the area.

This opened a discussion between COWncil members Mason and Tanner on contractors not following staging plans – as these are generally do not approve parking along the roadway but there is no penalty for not following these plans and for clogging up Town roads.

The COWncil, after more discussion, voted down the proposal but stated that they would reconsider it if the staff or residents provided more compelling evidence of a risk to public safety.

COWncil also voted to raise the sewer rates with no one from the public or Council objecting.

Then, the long-running Jackling House saga took up yet more COWncil time, this time on the disposition of so-called historical materials that were saved from the wrecking ball and displayed for a time in the (very small and lacking storage space) Town History Museum. The display will be coming down soon, and the History Committee wanted to parcel out the remaining artifacts as they don’t have the storage space to keep them. It is notable that this has been the plan for some time.

Peter Mason, however, started a COWncil discussion on the topic by saying that this was “totally wrong” to keep the materials for 3 1/2 – 4 years and then get rid of it because there was no storage space. There followed a long COWncil discussion on hypotheticals – would the Museum keep these artifacts if they had the storage space? Could the museum create a traveling display of Jackling House artifacts and display them around the County? – without ever discussing the possibility of voting money for such a project.

The people who run the History Museum gently pushed back on this, stating repeatedly that there wasn’t space or funds to keep the materials safe in storage or on display. In the end, however, the Town Manager confirmed that Staff will meet with the History Committee to try to prioritize items that they consider valuable and try to figure out a way to keep them, to ask other public institutions (that have already had the chance to pick over the Jackling remains once) whether they would like additional items, and the explore the idea of creating a traveling exhibit of items from the Jackling House – thus ensuring that this zombie house will continue to devour Staff and COWncil time for the foreseeable future.

There were no other items on the agenda.

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