The Hughson City Council opened their Monday meeting with a set of proclamations recognizing the service of the city’s four sheriff’s deputies.
All four will leave the city as a result of the massive budget cuts endured by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department this year, which saw 52 law enforcement personnel lose their jobs.
The four deputies responded to more than 5,000 calls for service, made more than 200 arrests, and issued over 1,000 citations throughout the years.
“They’ve endured unkindness, they’ve endured aggressive people and they’ve kept this city safe,” said Janet Rasmussen, chief of Police Services for the City of Hughson.
Rasmussen was in tears on Monday as she handed out certificates to the men she said made Hughson the safest city in the county.
Deputy Shane Rohn will be reassigned to the main office due to his tenure, having spent three years keeping Hughson safe. Deputy Jason Garner, who couldn’t attend Monday’s meeting as he was just recently released from the hospital following an incident where a drunk driver rear ended his patrol vehicle at 90 miles per hour, will return to his previous post working in the jails.
Deputy Fidel Alonzo, a part-time reserve deputy since 2001 noted for coming in on his off days to help with reports, will be released from the sheriff’s department, like all part-time deputies. He will remain in the city as a part-time code enforcement officer, with hopes of being rehired as a reserve deputy once the “dust settles” at the sheriff’s department.
Deputy Brandon Green will lose his job with nowhere else to go. He hopes to be hired by the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department.
“That sucks,” said an audience member, leading to a standing ovation for the departing deputy.
The deputies will be replaced with other, more highly tenured employees from the sheriff’s department. Those replacements will be recognized at the June 28 Hughson City Council meeting.
But the additional staff doesn’t cushion the loss of skilled deputies, familiar with the City of Hughson, Rasmussen said.
“When people are leaving under these terms and you think so much of them and it’s something you don’t have any control over it’s …” Rasmussen said, trailing off.
“It hurts,” an audience member interjected.
Hughson to cease providing vendor information in public documents
Detailed information related to Hughson’s expenditures will no longer be made public and existing information will be removed from the internet, following a Monday vote over concerns of wasted staff time and potential fraud.
Council policy previously required the city to include copies of all checks, vouchers and related documents in the agenda packets for council, staff, public and city’s Internet site. The documents contain proprietary information such as addresses, names of individuals, signatures of department heads and individuals, and account numbers, all of which are redacted by hand.
The process took nearly 30 hours monthly to prepare, and also potentially opened the city to fraud.
A fraudulent payment for less than $10,000 was recently made from the City of Hughson’s bank account, according to Hughson Finance Director Debbie Paul. Paul caught the fraudulent transaction, used to pay off a Bank of America Visa, and notified the city’s bank, which reversed the charge.
The fraudulent charge cannot be directly attributed to the process of posting city checks online, Paul said, but the cessation of posting such documents online will reduce the opportunities for fraud to occur.
The policy began as council members sought more information on oftentimes vague city expenditures referenced in the council packet. In the future, the list of warrants will include a line of explanation as to the nature of the expenditure, rather than the full packet of supporting documents.
Fee for fire sprinklers ratified
A new fee for fire protection water service in Hughson was approved by a unanimous vote Monday.
The fee will charge a fixed rate of 20 percent of the fee for the equivalent meter size. Metered rates will be $.75 per 1,000 gallons through June 30, increasing to $1 through 2011 and $1.37 through 2012.
The fee will only hit private customers with piping designated exclusively for fire protection on private property and may include private hydrants, standpipes, or sprinkler connections. Those whose fire sprinklers use their normal water line are not subject to the charge.
Cities in the neighboring area do not charge extra for dedicated fire protection water lines, but Hughson was forced to expand its water system just to be able to deal with fire suppression.
General Plan to see air quality update
The Hughson General Plan will be updated to account for new state legislation, following City Council action Monday evening.
Assembly Bill 170 requires cities to amend their general plans — documents which guide the growth of cities — to account for air quality concerns. While the Hughson General Plan already contains some feasible air quality mitigation measures, the discussions of the current air quality attainment status and plans are out of date.
Hughson will pay Pacific Municipal Consultants $6,760 plus a contingency of $3,000 for the update. The cost would have been much higher had the Hughson General Plan not already been in such good shape, city staff said.
The document should be completed by September.
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