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Council increases building staff

ANNE GROGAN, Sierra Sun

Town council unanimously approved Thursday a mid-year budget amendment to increase the town’s building division staffing by two full-time positions. The cost for the remainder of the current budget year is estimated at $70,000, Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said.

“To me it’s an obvious choice to upgrade,” Truckee Mayor Maia Schneider said. “It’s been justified for quite some time.”

During the first half of the fiscal year, almost 200 more residential permits were issued than projected. As many as 700 natural gas conversions are expected for residences throughout Truckee this year and another 1,000 may be expected for the following year. Several large commercial projects have been approved and will begin or continue construction this year and inspections are required for all conversions, plan submittals and building construction, Lashbrook said.

The budget increase will be paid by building permit fees already collected, Lashbrook said, and building permit fees will not increase as a result of the budget increase.

Councilmember Josh Susman asked where the new employees’ workspace would be located considering that the town’s office space is currently utilized to its potential. The search for new town offices has been declared a town council priority.

Lashbrook responded that swing shifts are one possible solution to the shortage of space in town offices but that other solutions will also be examined.

Councilmember Bob Drake asked about the rights of the two employees if in the future building activity decreases to the point where the positions are no longer required by the town.

Town Attorney J. Dennis Crabb responded that the positions would either be eliminated or the new employees would be hired on contract with the condition that decreased building activity might result in the termination of employment.

Real estate broker-owner of Prudential California Realty and former town council member Steve Carpenter commented as a member of the general public that the projections of the planning division for the upcoming year seem accurate, but that he predicts development within the town to drop off considerably the following year because of a low inventory of developable land and the traditional instability associated with presidential election years. Carpenter said that the town would be discussing the elimination of the two new positions within little more than a year.

In other business, town council approved 4-to-1 a Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District request for the town to pay the $1,300 road mitigation fees for the new teen center located between Sierra Mountain Middle School and Tahoe-Truckee High School. The $1,300 will be moved from the general fund reserves to the AB 1600 (developers’ impact fee) fund to cover the expense.

Council members agreed unanimously that the teen center provides extraordinary benefit to the Truckee community and that the TDRPD provides at least $1,300 of in-kind services to the town.

However, Councilmember Don McCormack said in principle he opposed approving the request for several reasons. McCormack explained that whether the funds come from the town or from the recreation district, the funds ultimately come from the private sector. The town cannot prioritize budget items for special districts like the TDRPD, yet it was the TDRPD that accepted responsibility for building and maintaining a teen center.

“It’s their responsibility,” McCormack said. “They’re accountable.”

McCormack also expressed concern that approval of the recreation district’s request would set precedent for all other special districts operating within the town.

Council also approved the establishment of a $5,319 budget for the long-completed western underpass project downtown for payment of an invoice submitted late and received in November,1999. The fee will be paid using AB 1600 fees.

Following the vote on all agendized items, Councilmember Bob Drake reported that Caltrans has begun looking at the Highway 89 railroad undercrossing, generally known as the Mousehole. Both Placer County and Nevada County officials have acknowledged that the tunnel is dangerously narrow and Caltrans has now begun the process of determining the best possible means of correcting the situation.

“The positive thing is both counties and the state have looked at the issue and said this is a problem,” Drake said. “I would venture a guess the earliest it could be done is four or five years.”


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