Signal Hill City Council approves labor agreement with police department

The council also approved a natural-hazard mitigation plan for Signal Hill

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
The Jazz Angels perform prior to receiving a proclamation at the Oct. 10 Signal Hill City Council meeting. Pictured from left are: director Barry Cogert, R.J. Root, Rahul Chavan and C.J. Waterman.

After hearing tunes performed by local group The Jazz Angels, which received a proclamation, the Signal Hill City Council turned its attention to several municipal issues at its Oct. 10 meeting.

Chief among these was approving a memorandum of understanding with the Signal Hill Police Officers Association. It also approved a 2017 hazard mitigation plan and revised fire code regulations.

The council postponed voting on a change to the municipal election date pursuant to SB 415 and SB 568 but did determine a Proposition 64 subcommittee to help make informed decisions regarding marijuana regulation.

Police agreement
The council approved a three-year successor memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and the Signal Hill Police Officers Association (POA), following successful labor negotiations.

“The City of Signal Hill is fortunate to have a police department that is responsive and interactive with the community,” said City Manager Charlie Honeycutt. “[The] labor agreement […] will help retain and attract the high caliber of officers the department and the community desire.”

Deputy City Manager Hannah Shin-Heydorn thanked members of the negotiation teams on both sides for their smooth handling of the process. She also said the agreement reflected the City’s conservative approach to employee compensation while addressing its strategic objectives.

The new total-compensation package is equitable and competitive in today’s market, Shin-Heydorn said, based on a compensation survey done prior to the negotiations.

“The [survey] data demonstrated that, although base salaries were at median, total compensation, which includes benefits, education incentives and special-assignment pay, was below median,” she said. “The MOU allows for an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) over the three-year term.”

Members of the POA will receive a 2.5-percent COLA adjustment in the first year, followed by a 1.5-percent increase in the second and third years, or an increase equivalent to the consumer price index (CPI), up to three percent.

The package also increases the POA base allowance for health insurance by $300 over the three-year term, implements education program incentives and creates special-assignment pay for two new assignments– a school-resources officer and a community-impact officer.

The City will commission an actuary to study retirement health benefits that concern the POA.

Steve Noble, president of the POA, expressed his appreciation that the City negotiated in good faith.

“I’d also like to thank our chief of police and the city manager for their support. They have to be supportive of us on both sides,” Noble said. “And also to the mayor and the councilmembers for approving such a generous contract that benefits all.”

Mayor Edward Wilson affirmed the success of the negotiations.

“It does take some effort, because it is a negotiation,” Wilson said. “But the great thing about it is that we did come up with an agreement that is very fair to the officers, very fair to the department and very fair to the City.”

Hazard plan
The council also approved a resolution adopting the City’s 2017 Hazard Mitigation Plan, which will remain in effect for five years.

Honeycutt explained that the City’s updated hazard mitigation plan had been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Sept. 7 and could now be approved by the City.

“The Federal Disaster Management Act of 2000 requires every local, county and state government to have an approved hazard mitigation plan,” added Police Chief Christopher Nunley. “Completion of the plan also maintains eligibility for future hazard mitigation funding following any significant disasters.”

Nunley further stated that, without a plan, the City would be ineligible for FEMA mitigation programs that offer assistance following a disaster.

The plan took one year to complete, with input from emergency-planning consultants and various City departments.

“The plan includes a risk assessment that details the types of natural hazards that can affect the City, as well as information on previous occurrences of hazards and probability of future events,” Nunley said.

The council also approved a resolution requiring emergency operators to use the state’s Incident Command System (ICS) and State Emergency Management System (SEMS), as well as the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

“To qualify for federal and state reimbursement for local expenditures for emergency response and recovery, a jurisdiction must now show that they are using those platforms as core operational doctrine for local emergency management,” Nunley explained.

The plan is available for public review at City Hall and the police station, said Richard Johnson, emergency operations coordinator with the police department, and will soon be available on the City’s website.

“It will be institutionalized in the City’s business practices,” Johnson said. “Every department has mitigation goals listed in the plan. So I encourage everyone to read it, after a strong cup of coffee.”

Fire code
The council approved an ordinance amending the 2013 California Fire Code and replacing it with the 2017 County of Los Angeles Fire Code, thereby adopting by reference the 2016 California Fire Code and portions of the 2015 International Fire Code.

“We adopted the other codes earlier in the year, but […] L.A. County had not finished their code yet,” explained Building Inspector John Hartley. “The L.A. County Fire Code is based on the International Fire Code and the California Fire Code. Then we also take some Signal Hill amendments from there too.”

Hartley said changes since the previous code were minimal.

“There are a few minor things, like kitchens that have electric grills don’t have to have hoods above them,” he said.

In answer to councilmember questions, Hartley said there were no changes related to solar power or hydroponic cultivation of plants.

The council also authorized staff to submit the ordinance to various state departments and to notice the amendment for a public hearing and second reading of the ordinance at the next council meeting on Oct. 24.

Marijuana subcommittee
In light of its Sept. 12 workshop related to Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act) and the subsequent passing of SB 94 (the Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act), which allows local control over marijuana-related facilities, the council agreed to form a subcommittee to learn more about the emerging marijuana industry.

The subcommittee will consist of two councilmembers– Wilson and Lori Woods– plus Honeycutt, Nunley and Director of Community Development Scott Charney.
By working with industry experts, the subcommittee will help the City determine whether to develop a regulatory framework. In the meantime, Signal Hill currently bans all marijuana-related business activities allowed under Prop 64.

The subcommittee was originally envisioned to include members of the Planning Commission as well, and possibly a member of the public, but City Attorney Dave Aleshire advised the council that forming a subcommittee that crossed City agencies would require more complex meeting requirements, as per the Brown Act.

Since this group is intended to be informational only, the council decided to limit its membership to councilmembers and City staff to avoid such complications.

Resident Maria Harris addressed the council to advocate that the subcommittee meetings be open to the public.

“This is an area that is new for local government. This is an area that is new to Signal Hill residents. And this is an area that has, frankly, a bad reputation. So there is going to be bias involved,” she said. “We need to be informed in order to understand what our bias is.”

Honeycutt acknowledged that the City intends to solicit public input in their decision-making process.

“Our intent is to do our best to educate the community throughout this process, in order for us get a good feel of where the community is on this subject matter,” Honeycutt said.

Smart meters
The council authorized a contract services agreement with Thirkettle Corp., doing business as Aqua Metric Sales Company, to provide equipment and install the City’s pilot advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) project.

These “smart” water meters will be piloted in four different parts of Signal Hill. The total estimated cost of the project is approximately $125,000, including a 10-percent contingency, according to Sarah Russo, management analyst with the Public Works Department, compared to the budget of $200,000.
The City plans to install 260 smart meters by the end of 2017, with the cost-saving measure of using the City of Long Beach’s radio tower to transmit signals.

Election date
Honeycutt updated the council on a new law, SB 568, signed on Sept. 27, which changes the state’s primary-election date from June to March.

SB 415, which the council had discussed at its Aug. 22 meeting, had already required the City to consolidate its March municipal election date with the November 2020 statewide general election. Now with SB 568, the City has the choice to consolidate with the March statewide primary elections instead.

“We no longer are allowed the luxury of our own election. It will always be a consolidated election. That’s the whole purpose of the bill,” said Wilson. “The one thing about March is that that’s consistent with what our history has been.”

While most of the four councilmembers present at the meeting seemed to favor consolidating to the March election option offered by SB 568, the council ultimately decided to postpone the decision until an absent fifth councilmember, Vice Mayor Tina Hansen, could be present as well.

The council further reasoned that postponing the decision would allow the public to be noticed about the impending decision.

As a member of the public concerned with voter participation, Harris objected to the March election-date consolidation option offered by SB 568 because it would create too long a time between the 2019 and 2022 elections.

Honeycutt stated that a decision would have to be made by the first council meeting in December, in order to have a voter participation plan in place by the end of 2017, as required by state law.

Source: City of Signal Hill
Previous election consolidation dates (top) had been agreed to prior to SB 568 being signed into law Sept. 27, providing other date options (bottom).

Jazz Angels
Wilson presented a proclamation recognizing local group The Jazz Angels, a nonprofit youth education organization founded in 2007 that provides opportunities for young people to engage in music.

The organization had also received Senator Ricardo Lara’s 2017 “Excellence in the 33rd District” award.

“The Jazz Angels create an environment for preserving jazz and empowers young musicians to develop self-confidence, leadership and group interaction skills,” Wilson read from the proclamation.

Program director Barry Cogert, accepting the award on behalf of the group, expressed his appreciation.

“This is really an honor to receive this. We’ve never received anything like this before,” he said. “We want to thank the mayor and the council and everybody here today for this, and letting us share our music in the City.”

The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.

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