“It is undoubtedly going to make a positive impact on our recruitment and employee retention efforts.”- Police Chief Brizzee
LLamas offers farewell remarks
During their regular meeting on Wednesday, Nov.16, 2022, the Los Banos City Council voted to hire two new staff members to work on housing and homeless issues. In addition, the council voted to participate in the Merced County Multi-Jurisdictional Housing Element. Under the Consent calendar the council approved pay raises of 10 to 17.5 percent plus bonuses this year and next for all city employees. At the end of what will be his final meeting on the dais, District 2 Councilman Refugio LLamas offered his farewell remarks.
At the beginning of the meeting the city council presented Certificates of Recognition to Los Banos Fire Captain Daniel Freeman as the city’s Employee of the Month for October 2022, and Mercey Springs Elementary, Los Banos Junior High and Pacheco High for placing first as the Most Patriotic school in each category for during the Veterans Parade.
City Staff Pay Raises & Bonuses
During the Consent portion of the agenda, the council approved on a 5-0 vote all resolutions on the side letters with the various city employee bargaining units giving pay raises from 10 to 17.5 percent. They will also receive bonuses, referred to as Essential Worker Payments, of $2,500 this year and $1,000 to $2,200 bonuses next year, except for part-time employees who will receive smaller bonuses.
The side letters were with the Public Employees’ Union Local One/AFSCME Public Works Unit (LBPW), Los Banos Police Dispatchers/Community Services Officers Association (LBPDCSOA), Los Banos Fire Fighters Association (LBFFA), Los Banos Police Officers Association (LPOA), Los Banos Police Sergeants Association (LPSA), and the full-time Unrepresented/Miscellaneous and part-time employees. (See Council meeting agenda Consent Items 7. F-K.) (See related article)
Chief Brizzee Pleased with Pay Raises
Police Chief Gary Brizzee was very pleased with the council’s actions.
“The pay increases represent a considerable moment in time for our department and this community,” he shared. “It is a well-deserved recognition of the hard work and effort to the men and women of this department, and it is undoubtedly going to make a positive impact on our recruitment and employee retention efforts; and that benefits our community.”
“As a chief, it is rare to find an organization with so much positive momentum happening simultaneously,” Brizzee continued. “Thanks to the City Council’s efforts; the salary increases and the construction of a new home that will serve this community for decades to come, has created a fantastic energy that is going to attract future law enforcement professionals to Los Banos.”
“I know I speak for the entire LBPD family, when I say that we are honored to represent our great community and we are committed to serving you with pride and integrity for years to come,” the chief added.
(See related article)
Housing Program Manager
According to the city staff report, under the supervision of the Community and Economic Development Director, the Housing Program Manager will assist with low- and moderate-income people to secure and maintain quality, affordable housing through a wide range of programs and services, including public housing for families, seniors and the disabled; housing choice vouchers (Section 8); supportive housing services for special needs populations; rental assistance payments; and financial and technical assistance for moderate-income first-time homebuyers and low-income homeowners. Also, the Housing Program Manager will supervise the City’s Homeless Outreach Program.
Homeless Outreach Coordinator
Under the direction of the Housing Program Manager, the Homeless Outreach Coordinator will act as an advocate for individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Banos. The Homeless Outreach Coordinator will assist clients with navigating additional systems of care, including housing, homeless certification, connections to various service providers, and access to the Family Reunification Program.
The Homeless Outreach Coordinator will work in partnership with behavioral health providers, social service agencies, the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), and various levels law enforcement. The Homeless Outreach Coordinator will assist and provide clients with the resources, guides, and information about accessing services and other benefits unique to the homeless population through Street Case Management & Housing Navigation.
More Complaints of Homeless During Public Forum
Residents once, again spoke out about the problem with the city’s homeless encampment during the Public Forum portion of the meeting.
An investigation by CBS47 reported this week validated their concerns as it, “found at least 7 theft reports to the police department and over 70 incidents reported to the fire department since 2020”. Videos of a three-part report about the homeless encampment on the CBS47/KSEE24 YouTube channel are entitled, “Why Los Banos trailer park residents fear for their safety”, “Terrified trailer tenants plea for help; Los Banos officials say hands are tied” and “Terrified trailer tenants want help; Los Banos officials say hands are tied.”
LLamas’ Farewell Remarks
LLamas offered farewell comments thanking city staff, mentioning his actions and pointing out his regrets about the council not doing more on the homelessness issue.
“It’s been a fantastic life, a fantastic privilege to sit here and serve alongside with you, serve our residents in this capacity. It’s been a fantastic opportunity. I thank God for it,” he stated. “I thank the council members who voted me in. I tried to do my duty as I saw fit according to the information…to…my sworn duty to the Constitution.
“I tried to follow precedents. I tried to follow the law,” he continued. “Again, I made decisions not based on political expediency, or if they were going to be favorable, but based on what my understanding of the information at the time it was given to me.”
LLamas spoke at length about the homeless issue, suggesting tiny homes as a possible solution and better than a hotel and asked for financial assistance for the Chamber of Commerce from ARPA (federal) funds.
He also congratulated his opponent in the recent election saying, “I’d like to congratulate Mr. Begonia. I don’t know him. But I met him once. He seems to be a nice man. I think his intentions are good. I look forward to him being seated. I look forward to him being successful because his success is our success. And I hope that people will give him the opportunity to be accustomed to familiarize himself with the position because there is a lot to learn. Please give him your same patience that you gave me because he’s going to need it to make good decisions. Again, I congratulate him.”
He finished with thanking Interim City Manager Greg Wellman and his work on water issues.
Merced County Multi-Jurisdictional Housing Element
In other council action they approved participation in the Merced County Multi-Jurisdictional Housing Element.
According to the city staff report on the item, California Housing Element law requires every jurisdiction to prepare and adopt a Housing Element as part of its General Plan. Staff from the cities of Los Banos, Merced, Atwater, Livingston, Gustine and Dos Palos, as well as Merced County, are discussing embarking on the region’s first Multi-Jurisdictional Housing Element (MJHE) for the sixth round of Housing Element updates.
The approach is currently being done in other Metropolitan Planning Offices (MPO) regions in the San Joaquin Valley. The coordinated effort is expected to provide a savings in the increased costs since the fifth round of Housing Element updates.
Holiday Open House at City Hall Dec. 7
Mayor Pro Tem Ken Lambert announced the City Council invites all to a Holiday Open House Dec. 7, 2022, at City Hall. The meeting was then adjourned at 8:02 p.m.