July 11, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
Back in May, the Ojai City Council realized that many banners around town — such as those used by the Ojai Art Center and the Ojai Valley Museum — often violate the city’s 30-day cap in the municipal code. So Tuesday night, they decided to change the code, voting unanimously to allow exemptions for groups “whose principal activity is the presenting or sponsoring of multiple or changing events, shows, programs and activities.”
City staff reported to the Council that nonprofit organizations and local festivals are the groups that most commonly use these types of signs in Ojai. After receiving feedback from community members, Council reduced the signage fee to $25 during its June budget and fee schedule review.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting. Council was briefed by independent auditor Ronald Levy, CPA, on the city’s 2012 audited financial statements.
“Every year, the city has its financial records reviewed by an independent auditor to confirm that they are accurate, and to confirm that we have the proper controls in place,” explained City Manager Rob Clark.
“You have a very good staff, very helpful. We asked a lot of questions, and they were very helpful getting us answers,” said Levy. “The only concern on this was the Redevelopment Agency went away in January, so it was a little hard to compare some of the numbers.”
Levy explained that while he did not examine every city transaction, he looked at sample transactions and confirmed amounts with the applicable banks to verify that “things are being done correctly.” By and large he was pleased with the city’s financial management, finding fault only with the lack of accurate recordkeeping of water bottle sales on Ojai Day, a task performed by volunteers perhaps undertrained in keeping receipts.
“Your staff has a really good feel for what’s going on,” said Levy. “We found accurate information from staff throughout the year.”
In the audit, Levy concluded by granting Ojai a “clean opinion,” the highest ranking available through a similar audit.
During time allotted for public comment at the meeting, Ojai resident Deborah Moe addressed Council regarding the skate park.
“I have gotten a lot of calls lately. I have been made aware that there are a lot of bikes and a lot of scooters in the skate park. And it doesn’t seem like this is being addressed. It’s chipping (the park). We didn’t raise the money for bikes and scooters, and there are rules posted outside the skate park saying ‘no bikes and scooters’,” said Moe. “The kids know me, and they call. The bikes and scooters are more aggressive, and some of the little guys that are skating are being pushed out … I don’t know what the answer is. I do know the rules were made, the rules were posted, but they aren’t being enforced.”
Later at the meeting, Mike Milkovich, Ventura County Fire Department chief, delivered a sobering presentation on fire prevention and the current fire season. Milkovich cited “fuels,” or local greenery, weather and topography as the main factors contributing to dangerous fire conditions locally.
“We have done a very good job protecting the city and fighting fires. With that, there is a trade-off: we have larger fuels, older fuels. And now, with the drought conditions we have, fuels that are more receptive to fire,” said Milkovich. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ we are going to have another fire, but more ‘when’ and ‘where.’”
Milkovich emphasized the importance of public education in reducing the severity of structure damage in the event of a fire. Residents should take preventative measures, such as creating a clearance of plants around the property line, to keep structures as safe as possible. Residents can also obtain flyers on fire preparedness at any local fire station, said Milkovich.
Visit www.ci.ojai.ca.us for information on upcoming Ojai City Council meetings and topics.