COWncil Roundup – January 26, 2010

February 10, 2010

The second COWncil meeting of the year, covered some substantive business. COWncilmember Gordon was absent for the second meeting in a row. The Council had nothing to report from closed session.

The meeting began with a brief interview with Sandra Thompson, longtime member and current chair of the Planning Commission, in order to reappoint her to a new term. She was asked if she would like to say anything, to which she said no. “I think you have everything you need to know about me.” COWncilmember Tanner suggested a psych evaluation for her willingness to stay on the Commission as long as she has. COWncilmember Boynton thanked her for her long service, and Mayor Burow said that he had actually attended several of her meetings to learn how to run a meeting! That almost sounds like a dig at former Mayor Mason to us! With this lovefest, it was a foregone conclusion that Thompson would be reappointed, and she was.

The consent calendar was approved, including a resolution declaring May 1st to be “May Day” and requesting permission from the State Department of Transportation for Woodside Elementary to hold a parade and for the Woodside Recreation Department to hold a Fun Run on a state highway.

The COWncil then turned back to the New Building definition, an item that the COWncil and staff have been wrestling with for more than a year. The COWncil agreed to put a final ordinance on their agenda for the second meeting in February. Look for our coming story to see what the final New Building definition will be, and how it will impact you!

COWncil member Boynton then spoke about the Ad Hoc Firewise Advisory Committee and an upcoming Firewise Communities Workshop for Town staff. More on this in a future story also.

Most of the rest of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of the Town’s financial position as well as the Work Plan Review. While Town staff did not seem worried, the fact is that Town receipts of taxes and fees are down substantially below previous years. Some diminution was to be expected with the downturn, but approximately $93,000 dollars below projections, is definitely worrisome!

Property taxes have still been healthy, though they may take a hit as well as properties are reassessed by the County Assessor. The state’s grab of property tax monies (which we’ve written about before here) was mostly offset by our Town joining with other cities statewide to sell bonds to cover the shortfall.

Property transfer taxes, however, were way down from last year – only 2/3rds what was projected. Town Manager Susan George, reporting from a “source” in the real estate industry, stated that “primo properties” will be coming on the market in the upcoming warm months. Guess we’ll see if her source is correct and if the properties actually sell in this market.

The Work Plan Review was a fairly standard piece of business, though there was some rare criticism of the Town Manager by the COWncil. The matter they were concerned about was the geology map update and new geology regulations they might be expected to put into place based on that map. This is a longtime hobbyhorse of former COWncilmember Carroll Ann Hodges and a subject that has been covered in two Town meetings in recent months. After being pressed for a firm deadline on when this item might come back to the COWncil, Susan George said uncertainly, “The beginning of March?” When asked why not sooner, she said that the second meeting in February was going to be too full. Council member Mason asked, “Why not the first meeting in February?” and the Town Manager laughed and said that she couldn’t get it done by then. Mayor Burow shook his head and said it was “just a little too slippery”. After all, according to the Town Manager, this item was supposed to be on the agenda for this meeting. Susan said she understood the COWncil’s concerns, and implicitly shifted blame to the Town Geologist by saying that she’s been having a hard time getting together with him as he only works two days a week for the Town. She ended by saying, “We’ve heard you say this and we agree with you.” Pretty racy stuff for our COWncil! It seems like their patience on this issue has just about run out!

The meeting then continued with Mayor Burow making appointments to various Town committees, and then COWncil member’s COWmunications. The meeting concluded with a presentation and question and answer session by Susan on the Town’s e-mail system and policies, as well as a reminder of the requirement to preserve emails. Public records are at the heart of transparency and essential to good government.

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