The COWncil held their first meeting with Kevin Bryant as the new Town Manager on the 24th of January, and the meeting went pretty smoothly. As always, you can watch it on Mootube.
Several Citizens spoke to the COWncil on water issues at the start of the meeting. Issues brought up included wanting more capacity in water lines, more hydrants on streets, and the possibility of moving from Redwood City water service to CalWater. The COWncil promised to look into these issues.
The Acting Branch Librarian of the Woodside Library also came and spoke to the COWncil during the Communications portion of the meeting, reporting that last year the Library had 80,000 visits and 105,000 books or other materials were checked out. 90% of those surveyed had a positive experience in the Library. The COWncil thanked her for coming and reporting on the work the Library is doing – but didn’t take the opportunity to talk to her directly about their recent concerns with the Library building project. Later in the meeting however that issue was touched on during the Work Plan Review – with the Librarian still sitting in the audience listening.
The COWncil approved the Consent Calendar – the May Day Fun Run and the May Day Parade have been approved for May 5th and Caltrans has been petitioned to allow these events on Woodside Road. Additionally, the COWncil did some housekeeping. The Assistant Town Manager previously held the authority to sign checks (along with the Town Manager and the Town Clerk). Since that position has been eliminated a new third signatory was necessary as checks over $5,000 require two signatures.. The position of the Deputy Town Manager / Town Engineer, held by Paul Nagengast, was given that authority.
Next on the agenda was the Mid-year Budget Review and the Town Work Plan was presented by the new Town Manager Kevin Bryant. The COWncil listened intently and pressed him a bit hard on some points which seemed to us to be harder than they would have pressed the previous Town Manager. We tend to think that is a good thing, as the Town Manager is responsible to the COWncil and they have to make sure that everything is running well in the Town Government. Since they are the ones responsible to the Town’s voters, they cannot be a rubber stamp.
The COWncil wanted the Library Fund monies broken out more clearly from the rest of the budget. Some members of the COWncil including Peter Mason and Dave Burow want to see a higher reserve for the Town. They seemed concerned that with the economic situation in the country and region still tough that Woodside should have a bigger backstop against financial problems.
Some highlights from the Work Plan:
• Mr. Bryant is on the board of CERPP which is a Neighbor-to-Neighbor self-help program for activation in the event of a major emergency under the auspices of the Woodside Fire Prevention District (older articles here and also here). He reports that they think they’ve hit a wall in terms of participation and are working on initiatives to get interest back up.
• On the topic of fire access roads and the Town’s Firewise Committee, COWncil member Peter Mason said that there were “steps missing” in the Town’s plans on the issues and that they “shouldn’t go in flatfooted” to speak with the Fire Marshal. The debate over fire safety versus our rural character has been going on for quite a while now, and it seems it will continue!
• Apparently, there’s lots of money left in the Defensible Space Creation matching grant fund, where the Town will help pay for the cutting back of brush to make a property more safe from fire. So, we urge homeowners to contact the Town and inquire.
• The COWncil is still annoyed over how the Library remodel was handled, claiming they “asked for a $900,000 plan” and got a “$2 million plan.”
• There was also talk of future work on upgrading the Town’s bridges – including Mountain Home Road over Bear Creek, Portola Road over Alambique Creek, and Kings Mountain Road over West Union Creek. The Town has gotten a federal grant to work on some of these – which is good, as one of the bridges was built in 1950, and another way back in 1900!
• Peter Mason wants streamlining of permits for “little projects.” He said that the turnaround time of 21 days for both big and little projects is “very annoying” when homeowners have just a small project to take care of. We heartily agree, and hope Town staff listens and implements this idea quickly!
Before adjurning, the COWncil looked over some strategies for implementation of the General Plan and there were some COWncil cow-munications..