City Council Votes to Purchase 2 Public Works Trucks

The City Council formally allocated money to correct an accounting error regarding the purchase of public works equipment, but it didn’t do so unanimously.
Councilman Steve Talt cast the lone dissent in a vote at last week’s meeting that capped discussion on whether the city should look at either leasing equipment or contracting out more services in lieu of continuing to purchase its own equipment. The 4-1 vote kept the city on course to buy a new boom truck and dump truck to replace the current ones.
That vote, however, was held up by a debate as to whether it made sense for a city of San Marino’s size to invest in equipment that costs north of six figures. Resident Saul Roe didn’t seem to think it did, and asked that the City Council, at the very least, do “due diligence” when making such financial decisions.
According to Dan Wall, the city’s Parks and Public Works director and engineer, the new boom truck, including the bucket that holds and elevates workers, would be entirely insulated from electricity, whereas the current truck is only insulated in the vehicle’s body. The current one also is approaching the end of its expected cost-effective lifespan.
This truck is used around two days a week, Wall said, to allow city workers to trim tree limbs that obstruct street lights and signs or otherwise pose immediate safety hazards (it also is used for ancillary tasks such as festooning banners on light posts, for example). Answering a Talt question, Wall pointed out San Marino actually owns the majority of its street lights, unlike other cities its size, which necessitates the city maintain them.
“The question of response time comes into play,” Wall said, explaining why contracting the services would not be an effective alternative, while also acknowledging leasing as a possibility.
Roe said his own experience in contacting the city for such work contradicted how expeditious Wall claimed workers to be.
“I think the thing about response time is a specious one,” he said, claiming the San Marino Fire Department was capable of handling such emergencies.
The trucks were only a topic at this point in the fiscal year because an accounting error on the part of the prior finance director, who accidentally logged the $183,000 budgeted for the boom truck with the first digit dropped. Wall said his department auctioned off surplus vehicles and also found a cheaper truck, which shaved the requested adjustment from $100,000 to $60,398.70.
Because the City Council had already approved the expenditure during the budgeting process, Vice Mayor Dr. Richard Sun cut off discussion on changing the course and successfully motioned to move forward with the purchases.
The $121,116.70 boom truck will tentatively come from Ranch Truck Center in Whittier and the $62,881.48 dump truck will come from National Auto Fleet Group in Watsonville. Wall said the current dump truck would be auctioned off to offset the new one’s cost.
Historic Preservation
Although the City Council plans to spend around $4,000 assessing whether a standing home in town is “historic,” it also plans to implement a regulation requiring other parties to fund such research.
The dispute at hand was over the home on 1470 Virginia Road, which is slated to be torn down and replaced. Resident Shirley Jagels, representing the group San Marino Heritage, has requested the city deem the home, designed by late San Marino native Theodore Pletsch, as a historic home and thus spare it from demolition.
Richard McDonald, a lawyer representing the property owner, argued there was no substantial evidence to deem the home “historic.” Jagels said the home’s original owners, the Stathatos family behind the popular Pasadena floral shop, hosted numerous parties with high-profile guests and were generally considered instrumental to the city’s heritage.
Left to consider whether it should invest in a third-party agency to determine the answer with finality, Councilmen Dr. Steven Huang, Richard Ward and Talt voted to spend the money this one time. However, Talt agreed with Sun’s prior point that the city can’t reasonably be expected to pay for studies on whichever home’s status is disputed and vowed to work on a specific ordinance for this procedure.
The study is expected to be finished by December, coinciding with when the property owner plans to return to San Marino from Hong Kong, McDonald said.
No New Ad Hoc
In keeping with past trends, Huang and Talt fell a vote short to create a separate ad hoc committee to take a close look at how the city’s Recreation Department is run.
Instead, with approval from Mayor Dr. Allan Yung, Sun and Ward, the city will await the final report from the current ad hoc committee — which is looking at each city department successively — before making a move specific to the Recreation Department.
The divide regarding the Recreation Department is largely rooted in what to do with Stoneman School, which the city bought from San Marino Unified School District and is now considering undertaking extensive — and expensive — repairs. The facility is in need of updated climate control, seismic retrofits and Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant access points, in addition to hazardous material removal.
The public question is whether to invest in the nearly century-old structure, knock it down and building a new one or simply leave it as it is.

Leave a Reply