Town Council Meeting Notes — March 1

Again the meeting started with issues; no audio for the first ten months, no Town Clerk, and mid-way through the meeting, more audio issues. I think the Council and staff are purposely having regular issues so they can all justify returning to in-person Town Council meetings. After watching the meeting on Youtube and seeing 78 views on this channel alone, they should all seriously consider the best choice for the community. The good news is that the Consent Calendar item D included a resolution to continue remote teleconference meetings. Now let’s get the IT on board!

Mayor Dunbar read a proclamation in honor of the three women slain at the Veterans Home; Christine Loeber, Dr. Jennifer Golick, and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales. It has been four years since this tragic event.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission re-appointed Carol Schirmang and Alan Tenscher and added new member Kathy Ainsworth.

The meeting was a “housekeeping” meeting with updates on water, financials, arts update, and updating all the various committees and Ad Hoc groups the Council members serve on. We also saw a presentation from two senior high schoolers from Napa County, our future does indeed look bright with these students and their group stepping up.

American Canyon senior Emily Bit and Napa High senior Alisha Karesh spoke on behalf of Napa Schools for Climate Action. Very timely discussion about the deforestation of oak trees and the good things that are having oak trees in our environment does for our climate. They had specific asks of our Council: pledging to decrease emissions to net-zero by or before 2030, pledge support to a tree and woodlands protection ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for county consideration, and fossil-free future related proposals potential new ban and stickers for our gas station. Public Works Director Ferons reminded the Council more charging stations are coming to Yountville. Stay tuned as the Council discusses these items.

Interesting year-end debt report on the status of the Town’s debt obligations. (I can’t believe I just said that a debt report is interesting, as I say, I watched it, so you don’t have to). The Town has two debt obligations, Community Center and seismic retrofit of Town Hall, and both have been “refunded” (refinanced). For the Community Center, 2017 refunding with a $1.6M saving that matures 2039. For the seismic work, 2020 refunding for the 2013 work (including some sewer replacement) with a savings of $51,000, and that debt matures in 2027. The outstanding debt is $9.4M. The current credit rating for the Town is AA, two notches from the highest rating. We were downgraded because of the concern for our revenue during COVID; as that has not been the case, our Town finance team has already reached out to S&P Global ratings for an update.

The Chair of the Yountville Arts Commission, Cindy Kapjan, recapped all the group’s work in 2021. There were five areas of focus: literary, gallery art with six shows, art walk with eight installed pieces, Art Sip and Stroll, and marketing and PR for art for sale. 2022 is looking active with the addition of a Performing Arts subcommittee.

Ad Hoc Subcommittees, commissions, and boards saw all the Council establishing their positions for Yountville, the County, and State boards. It turns out your Council members spend a lot of time beyond the typical Council meetings to make things happen in Yountville. Look at the list, and be sure to reach out to the Council members if you see a topic that’s important to you. (the list is being updated with the Council’s decisions from Tuesday, which will give you an idea of what is out there).

The financial report from Kyle Batista, Financial Analyst, was, in his words, “straightforward.” As has been the standard before discussing TOT, Town staff put forth disclaimers before telling us all that TOT remains well ahead of budget. Sales tax revenue is showing solid numbers for the beginning of the year. General fund expenditures are at or below target. See the numbers.

Another water update with bad news and a bit of good news The state is at 65% of what we would typically get in 24 months, so we are well behind any last-minute storms helping out. The good news is the Town was at a 37.3% reduction from last year (January), and our goal is a 20% reduction. Door hangers are going out again as a friendly reminder of best practices and requirements under our Severe Drought conditions.

The meeting ended with an informational presentation from the Town attorney, Gary Bell, concerning new campaign finance reform. Coming into law for the State is a cap of $4900 for one individual to donate to one candidate. This is the same amount for individuals running for a state position, same for Napa County and currently for Yountville. Councilmember Eric Knight questioned the Town attorney about what it would take to lower that amount for Yountville elections. Councilmember Knight referenced a conversation he had with the Town Clerk when he ran in 2020, “someone came close to spending $2000”. According to Councilmember Knight, “We are a small town, and donating almost up to $5000 is a lot of money.” Also, he stated that In a small town like Yountville, we should be lowering it to where we wouldn’t have the potential for individuals with a lot of money to fund several candidates. Not sure where these dark money issues are stemming from. I think I was more clear when Councilmember Knight tried to change his vote to Present.

The next meeting is on March 15 and let’s see how far this (perceived) issue goes.

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