City also supports library expansion, appoints new mayor
By Tiobe Barron
After two public meetings and much discussion, the Ojai City Council voted to increase the Ojai Trolley fare at Tuesday night’s meeting. The rate increase was deemed necessary because the Ojai Trolley is required to maintain a 10 percent operating expense-to-fare intake in order to continue receiving state funding to cover its operating costs. The new rates will be $1 for general fare, 50 cents for senior citizens and children ages 2 to 5, and 25 cents for those with disabilities and children under the age of 2. The new fares will be implemented in February 2012.
Ojai resident Kyleen Sagowski said cannot drive due to an eye impairment; yet, as she works in both Ojai and Ventura, she said “the trolley and Gold Coast are my lifeline.” She urged City Council members to remember riders like her, who are completely dependent upon public transportation.
Jay Simons, a trolley driver for three years and a longtime Ojai resident, said, “It’s important to build on this momentum,” speaking about the Ad Hoc Transit Committee’s work. He proposed the Council make the committee ongoing, and perhaps consider modifications to the trolley route seasonally — for example, a summertime route that would carry riders to Lake Casitas. He believes there are many more issues that were tabled by the committee that still need addressing. Steve Brown, of the Gold Coast Transit Committee, said Tuesday that they are working currently with the Ventura County Transportation Department. He said that in an ideal world, the end result would be a transit district in western Ventura County, for which the funding would be pooled, would provide the coverage that’s most needed, and would give the area transportation more permanence.
Councilman Paul Blatz explained, “The city is on the lower end of the totem pole, so when it comes to funding (from the state), when they say they’re going to take it, they just take it. We share (Ojai residents’) frustration.”
Also at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the Council “re-organized,” as the one-year term allotments dictate, and Mayor Carol Smith was replaced by incoming Mayor Betsy Clapp. Blatz replaced Clapp as mayor pro tem.
In keeping with the re-organizing theme, Cynthia Burrell submitted her resignation as City Clerk, and suggested her Deputy City Clerk, Rhonda Basore, as her replacement.
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel said, “I want to thank Cynthia for her 20-plus years of service, for all she taught me, for her compassion and dedication to the job.”
Blatz reminded those in attendance that, “The City Clerk is here to represent the people, and make sure the government does what the government is supposed to do. As a public records custodian, it is important that person be impartial, not just a member of staff.”
Ojai resident Pat McPherson offered that he has worked directly with Basore, and said, “She is an excellent choice for city clerk, unbiased, totally for getting the truth.”
Basore accepted the nomination to the position, and thanked Council members for their support and confidence.
When it came to supporting the Ojai Friends of the Library’s request that City Council use some of the library funds to help in the future with the maintenance of the proposed meeting room, Councilwoman Strobel still had many questions. “Is the project approved by the county? If so, is it the county’s position that they would pay for the annex building, but not the electricity, etc.? Does it require more staff? How will that be paid for? These things have a tendency to snowball, and I want to make sure we go into this with our eyes wide open.”
Councilwoman Smith indicated that the revised plan of support, which would limit the city’s yearly and total financial contributions, was “A good deal, and these things always have unintended consequences.” The motion to support the project passed.
Jenny Newman of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board also spoke at the meeting, in regards to a legally required assessment of the Ventura River watershed total maximum daily load. The assessment needs to be completed by March 2012. So far, it has been found that the Ventura River area has increased nutrient loading — meaning nitrogen and phosphorous, primarily from agricultural runoff and animal waste, which has led to excessive algae. Excessive algae in the watershed can create myriad problems, including killing off local fish populations and harboring bacteria harmful to humans, such as E. Coli. Newman emphasized that the study is not self-implementing, and that provisions will have to be made in future to lower the nutrient content. The TMDL report will be released for public review and comment in May 2012.