Council Risks Emergency Funds to Save Community Groups

The hottest topic at Thursday’s meeting of the Capitola City Council was the $137,500 in community grants that had yet to be approved for local service groups. To this point, the cash-strapped city has considered refraining from doling out this funding to maintain emergency reserve funds.

Nearly 100 percent of those in attendance at the meeting were there to stand up for their service group and defend its necessity for further funding.

The top five moments of the meeting can be found below:

1. In a public hearing, the council heard from 18 different representatives of local service groups fighting for funding for the second half of the year. Groups represented at the meeting included the California Grey Bears, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Meals on Wheels, Lift Line, the Stroke and Disability Learning Center at Cabrillo College, Youth Services, the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, the Shelter Project Community Action Board, Families in Transition – New Horizons, the Seniors Council, Save Our Shores and Second Harvest.

The council passed a motion by a 3-1 vote to fund the groups for the second half of the year, taking all $137,500 from the emergency reserve fund, depleting that pod of money down to $163,000. Emergency reserves are supposed to sit at $1.7 million, but last year’s floods and the lack of FEMA or insurance help has made that impossible. Councilmember Kirby Nicol was the only no vote and Councilmember Sam Storey did not participate.

“We don’t have the money and I don’t think we should spend money that we don’t have,” Nicol said.

2. George Dondero and Kim Schultz of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission announced that the Soquel/Morrissey Auxiliary Lanes Project is currently on schedule and on budget. Dondero said that the next project will be adding lanes between on Highway 1 between Soquel Avenue and 41st Avenue. Construction for that project is planned to begin in Summer 2015.

3. Melvin “Red” Malone spoke to the council during the public comment section about problems facing residents at the senior apartments on Bay Avenue. He said there are fewer parking spaces than residents and that he has been ticketed for parking on the grass in front of his residence. Mayor Mike Termini said he does not know of any regulation making parking on grass on private property illegal. He said he would try to make sure those tickets are no longer given.

4. Termini officially welcomed Rudy Escalante as the new police chief. Escalante came to the meeting with his wife, 9-year-old son and in-laws. City Manager Jamie Goldstein called Escalante a “.400 hitter,” referencing his excellent track record. The whole community is invited to Escalante’s swearing in ceremony on April 2 and 9 a.m. in front of city hall.

5. Natasha Kowalski of the Santa Cruz County Tobacco Education Coalition reported that 40 percent of middle and high schools students in the county have tried cigarettes and called for more to be done to combat this.

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