Fremont to ask employees to take six days unpaid /Council Diary

It’s budget night at the City Council.

The city is facing an $11.4 million deficit in its $133.3 million general fund budget.

To help plug that gap, the city is asking its unions to accept six days unpaid during the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1. It’s unclear if that means City Hall will close for six days like in Newark or if workers would choose days to take off unpaid.

I don’t see any union reps here at the council meeting. The only people wearing purple are Fremont’s economic development director and deputy city manager.

The city is also planning to defer some construction projects, but isn’t proposing any major service reductions on top of last year when it stopped tree maintenance.

6:40 p.m. Jack Rogers and his cousin-in-law David Beretta just walked in. They must be here to talk about proposed changes slated for Centerville. Beretta owns a lot of property along Fremont Boulevard and Rogers heads the nearby neighborhood group.

6:45 p.m. Sue Chan is asking budget questions. A free-flowing Linda Susoev, who’s running for city council again this year, is here for the second week in a row. She brought her shopping cart, which is filled with garbage bags and a broom.

6:47: Anu Natarajan is asking what capital projects is getting deferred. $1 million in road pavement work, but it’ll be offset by federal and state funds, said Budget Director Harriet Commons. The city is also taking out money from funds that would go to maintain parks and city buildings.

6:50 Wieckowski has questions for the fire department. He notes that taxpayers built new fire stations, but wants to know how to improve fire response time given the poor revenue.
Chief says Fremont is closing one fire station a day. That saves money on overtime.
Chief also says Fremont hasn’t met response time goals. (Yes, I’m thinking that the city might have better luck meeting response time goals if it wasn’t paying the average sworn firefighter nearly $160,000)

Station 11 is unstaffed during the day, says the chief. It’s the lowest demand district in Fremont. You know what that means? It means Fremont is building a new fire station that it won’t have the money or personnel to staff. Thanks to Mr. Wieckowski for that nugget. I’m going to have to separate that out.

7:24 p.m. Linda Susoev is addressing the council. She’s been talking to a member of the Kingston Trio. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fazlur Khan was as well.  Linda is owed money for 45 years of taking care of someone.  Linda is bothered by the Hub shopping center. She’s going to meet with Feinstein, Boxer and Pelosi.

7:27 p.m. Now it’s time for the Centerville Plan. City doesn’t have copy of report available at council meeting. It’s very hard to see what they’re talking about. In the city’s defense, I had some printing problems, so I couldn’t print it out myself. A copy of the report is on the city’s website.

7:35 p.m. The consultants think parking in Centerville will become less plentiful when things turn around. The envision nearly 300 percent increase in development in Centerville.

7:55 p.m. Plan outlined for slowing traffic on Fremont Boulevard in Centerville. Two latest proposals include widening lanes for cars and making dedicated bike lanes on both sides.  City needs to get control of the street from Caltrans before any of that can happen.

8:35 p.m. Harrison cautions not to take away too many parking stations because that’ll kill any chance for Centerville’s rebirth.

8:40 p.m. No user identified for old Centerville Fire Station. City might sell it.

8:50 p.m.  Wieckowski says city should focus first on corridor from Peralta leading into Fremont Boulevard.

8:56 p.m. Natarajan isn’t thrilled with this study. She says the study isn’t the action plan for future development she had hoped for. “If a property owner in Centerville looked at this document, I don’t think he or she could know what could and could not be built,” she said.

Natarajan also said the report didn’t talk enough about improving gateways to to Centerville like the corner of Thornton and Fremont where there’s three gas stations. She also said it didn’t discuss whether any of the buildings in Centerville have historic merit.

9 p.m. Natarajan is still talking. She says the guidelines for Centerville are too general. Now she says the consultants used to much urban design jargon and she’s in the business.

She’s been talking for nearly 10 minutes now. I’ve got to go. I’m sorry. I never thought the meeting would last this long, but I’ve got plans.

9:15: I haven’t left yet. City Manager Fred Diaz said the city could raze the Centerville fire station and use it as parking, or rehabilitate it or build something new there. I guess he really didn’t say much. I should have left.

9:16: Sue Chan likes medians. It breaks up the street. But she’s not sure she wants one on Fremont Boulevard in Centerville. Wieckowski would prefer an option that doesn’t have a median. Again, city doesn’t have control of the street yet. It’s Caltrans street, and the city would need a waiver to reduce the width of the lanes.

9:20 p.m.  Before tonight’s council meeting, city staff did a dress rehearsal of its budget presentation to me and the TCV’s Bill Marshak. I unloaded about a dozen questions, and the press briefing went way long. Now I’m getting my comeuppance: Sue Chan still has the floor.

Chan is concerned that Centerville is going to suffer from urban decay because nothing is going on there. She wants the city to engage the property owners more.

9:24: The mayor has the floor. He asks about the Center Theater. Wasn’t it supposed to be the centerpiece of a new Centerville, he asks.  The property owner, who has borrowed quite a bit of money against the property, hasn’t agreed to the city’s asking price, says the city. I added the part about the owner’s borrowing.

9:26: City will push Caltrans to relinquish control of the street.

Christ! The Yankees blew a 5-1 lead to the Red Sox. Rivera took the loss. Who the hell is Jeremy Hermida?

Wasserman says city has done enough studies especially given the city doesn’t control that part of Fremont Boulevard. “We need to focus in. In my mind nothing happens in the street doesn’t happen. When you can come and tell me this is going to happen in one year, I’ll say great let’s start getting everything ready,” the mayor said.

9:32 p.m. Wasserman urges that the next step be for the consultants to meet with business owners. “If the property owners don’t want to do anything your (great) intentions will turn to dust,” he tells city planners.

9:33 p.m. City Manager Diaz intervenes says he’s getting a mixed message. He says some council members are telling him to get moving, but another (Natarajan) wants more studies.  Diaz wants clear direction from council members next time around.

NOTE: Natarajan told me today that she wasn’t looking for more studies. “I did not understand the point of the report and only recommended that the task at hand be completed so it made sense to everyone involved. As much as I value planning and planning consultants, this exercise was meant to be an Action Plan with recommendation on options and trade-offs.”

9:35 p.m. Centerville homeowner is talking to the council. She has concerns, which explains why she’s still here after more than three hours of council discussion.  She says there’s no grocery store in Centerville. True, but there is one nearby in Brookvale.  She doesn’t want the city to reduce lanes on Fremont Boulevard. She says she’s got to drive to get her stuff, and it’ll be hard to get out of dodge if there’s only one lane.

I’m hungry and whiny, but this has been a pretty good meeting with council members doing a good job of drawing out interesting facts from the city folks.

Brad Griggs of Center Street Development, which is going to develop the big vacant lot in Centerville. He says they are working with two equity partners and on a HUD loan. “We’re full speed on this right now,” he said.

Beretta and Rogers didn’t address the council, although they talked to at least a couple of council members before the meeting.

9:42 p.m. meeting adjourned

Matt Artz