During its first meeting under newly selected Mayor Tina Hansen, the Signal Hill City Council approved two staff recommendations that would help the City’s finances: agreeing to receive $340,000 in settlement funds from the Water Replenishment District (WRD) and changing the City’s investment-safekeeping bank from Union Bank to Wells Fargo to save $15,000 annually.
The council also introduced the City’s new librarian, Charles Hughes, and heard an update on new library construction.
The council authorized the city manager to execute an acknowledgement-and-satisfaction agreement with the WRD in order to receive basin-improvement project funding as agreed to in a 2015 settlement. The $340,000 in funding will go toward wellhead treatment improvements for the City’s Well 9.
City Manager Charlie Honeycutt explained that in 2015, Signal Hill, along with the cities of Bellflower, Cerritos and Downey, had entered into a settlement agreement with the WRD to resolve a 2010 dispute over the validity of replenishment-assessment fee increases levied by the WRD over the previous seven years.
The WRD currently charges $324 for every acre-foot of water pumped from the groundwater basin, Honeycutt said. It uses the money to manage the basin, making sure there’s enough water in it so wells don’t pump dry and to protect the basin against seawater intrusion.
Part of the settlement agreement stipulated that the WRD would provide funding toward a basin-improvement project for each of the four cities involved in the lawsuit.
City Attorney Dave Aleshire explained that the cities agreed to split the total amount that WRD agreed to fund according to the amount each spent on litigation. Signal Hill’s share of the $5,000,000 total is thus only $340,000.
“It was a long process, and we worked out a process by which this financial contribution would be made,” he said. “The money is being well-spent.”
The council also approved changing the City’s investment-safekeeping bankers from Union Bank to Wells Fargo in order to save $15,000 in annual fees.
“A safekeeping account is a specialized account […] for the storage of financial assets,” Finance Director Scott Williams explained. “We use this account when we purchase an investment security, and after the trade clears, it is placed in this account.”
Williams said that, although the City had moved most of its banking services to Wells Fargo two years ago, it had kept its investment-safekeeping services with Union Bank. Wells Fargo would not charge the City the $15,000 in fees for this service because of the volume of business it does with the City.
Councilmember Edward Wilson asked why this service was not changed two years ago when the City adopted Wells Fargo as its banker.
“I believe at that time we probably weren’t aware of a safekeeping service that was available to the City,” Williams said. “Union Bank […] is a very common intermediary for this purpose.”
In a non-financial decision, the council authorized the city manager to execute a five-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and the nonprofit Signal Hill Community Foundation (SHCF).
Aly Mancini, community services director, explained that SHCF was established in 2002 and its last five-year MOU with the City has expired.
“The specific and primary purpose of the foundation is to support the City by providing funding through grants, donations, corporate sponsors, […] for charitable, cultural, recreational and educational purposes to benefit the community,” Mancini said.
She added that SHCF’s board of directors consists of members of the city council, Parks and Recreation Commission, businesses in Signal Hill and community members.
Among its projects, she said, are conducting a community yard sale to support senior programs, cohosting the Concerts in the Park series, partnering with the Signal Hill Police Foundation for an annual holiday outreach, sponsoring the Spring Fest and Halloween carnival programs and running the brick programs that support the dog park and library.
The MOU requires the City to contribute facilities, staff support and marketing in exchange for these services. The City is also the fiscal agent for foundation funds, though a third-party accountant provides its monthly financial reports.
“The City is very fortunate to have partnerships with nonprofit organizations that raise money and provide volunteers to support the programs that benefit this community,” Honeycutt said.
Hansen introduced Charles Hughes as the new Signal Hill librarian, replacing a librarian who had retired last August. Hansen explained that after an extensive interview process, she and City staff decided to promote Hughes from his previous position as library assistant, which he had held since January 2012.
“It became very clear to me that extra time was what Charles needed to be ready to move into the position of librarian,” Hansen said. “I love the fact that we have a male librarian. I think that that opens up a whole other track for young males growing up, that maybe they wouldn’t have thought [of] before.”
She added that Hughes had also had 15 years of previous experience in library services, including as a library aide for the Los Angeles Public Library.
Hansen then presented a proclamation to Hughes in recognition of National Library Week.
“Libraries are not just about what they have for people, but what they do for and with people,” she said. “Librarians are leaders […] and provide transformative opportunities for education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and engagement, as well as new services that connect closely with patrons’ needs.”
Public Works Director Kelli Tunnicliff gave the council an update on the new library, showing time-lapse video of its ongoing construction.
“It’s 15,000 square feet that encompasses things like the community room, the learning center, [and] a history room” she said. “It also has a terrace, restrooms and kitchen galley on the upstairs level, [and] there’s a parking lot and solar roof.”
Tunnicliff noted that library construction began in January and, thus far, has consisted of foundational work such as grading and sewer construction. It is scheduled to be completed in March 2019.
During new business, a couple of council members remarked on environmental issues.
Wilson commented that he heard a presentation during a recent committee meeting for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) by representatives of the city of Ventura, whom he would like to invite to present in Signal Hill.
The presentation was on how the county of Ventura wanted to eliminate rodenticides and instead depend on birds of prey, such as owls and hawks, to eliminate rodents.
“They’ve erected perches and built houses for […] birds of prey,” Wilson recounted. “They just set these up for the birds to migrate there. […] It’s eliminating rodenticides, which are poisonous to all animals, […] even pets.”
Vice Mayor Larry Forester also gave an environmental pitch by reminding the council and audience about Earth Day on April 22.
“Let’s look at pollution, the negative health [effects] of plastics,” he said. “Let’s look at the harm wildfires have done to our land surface; let’s look at our drinking water, how we need to keep [its use] at a minimum. […] At least keep in mind that the global day of conversation is the 22nd.”
The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, April 24, at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.