With a plastic bag ban taking effect for grocers and food vendors in mid-January, South Lake Tahoe City Council agreed Tuesday to not impose any fines for violations in the first three months.
Instead, affected businesses will be given written warnings, educated about the city ban and possibly even helped to comply in some fashion.
Councilwoman JoAnn Conner proposed no fines for three months because the ban “is going to hit our businesses hard.”
Conner also asked for a review of how the ordinance is working by April. The ban takes effect for grocers and food vendors in the city on Jan. 15 and for other retail businesses on Oct. 15.
“I’m afraid our small businesses will panic and do some kind of ordering of paper bags they don’t have the money for or the storage space for and I would like to see us evaluate three months into it and see the effect on our grocers,” Conner said.
The plastic bag ban was passed in October with a 3-2 vote, opposed by Conner and Tom Davis.
Following the three-month grace period, per-day fines for second violations would be $50 as opposed to the $100 initially proposed. Both measures passed with a 4-1 vote, opposed by Davis, who said his appetite is “to not have fines at all.”
Rate increases approved
The City Council unanimously approved a 2.78 percent rate increase for South Tahoe Refuse that takes effect Jan. 1, as well as two increases in the city’s emergency communication system fees.
The fees increase from $1.61 to $2.25 per month Jan. 1 and to $2.65 per month Jan. 1, 2015. The increases are needed to offset dispatch center operating losses that have averaged about $330,000 a year over the last five years, Police Chief Brian Uhler told the City Council.
The fees were authorized in 2004 to cover the costs of providing a 911 system. They were set at $1.55 per month to start and later increased to $1.61 per month in 2006. There are 26,463 phones being assessed 911 fees, according to the city.
New fire truck OK’d
Council members also unanimously approved the unbudgeted purchase of a new type 1 fire engine. The city has three type 1 engines, one for each station, and no spare. The existing engines are 11, 14 and 22 years old.
Ordering the vehicle by year’s end will save 12 to 20 percent in cost increases that take effect next year, Fire Chief Jeff Meston told the City Council.
Proposition 172 funds for public safety can pay the debt service for the new type 1 engine, estimated to cost about $529,000, and the budgeted purchase of a new ladder truck, estimated to cost about $1.1 million, Meston said.
The engine purchase comes as the city continues drafting an asset management plan for vehicles and buildings, but is a needed investment in a core city service, City Manager Nancy Kerry told the City Council.
In other news
• The City Council appointed Councilman Hal Cole mayor and Councilwoman Brooke Laine mayor pro tem for 2014. Councilwoman JoAnn Conner voted against Laine’s appointment, saying she wanted to see Laine, who was appointed to the council, elected to office first.
• Approved a services agreement with Redistricting Partners to review the city’s compliance with the California Voters Rights Act. The work will be done over two years at a cost not to exceed $17,500.
• Approved an amended $349,794 services agreement with C&S Companies to complete a comprehensive master plan for the Lake Tahoe Airport. Federal Aviation Administration funding is paying for 90 percent of the study and the airport fund is paying for the rest. The study will explore facility needs and capacities, demand forecasts, and development alternatives including the feasibility of commercial service.
• Approved amendments to a mobile vending ordinance. The amendments were changed Tuesday to let mobile vendors operate starting at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., a change offered by Conner and supported by other council members.
• Granted an easement needed for El Dorado County to build a bike trail along the west side of Lake Tahoe Boulevard from Sawmill Road to Viking Way. The project is slated for construction in summer 2014.
• Accepted an annual report from Clean Tahoe and approved a $215,273 budget for the nonprofit organization.
• Approved the estimated $1.1 million purchase of a new ladder truck, an estimated $700,000 of financial software and hardware upgrades and the estimated $200,000 purchase of a sign truck for public works.
• Discussed the Live at Lakeview Summer Music Series and opted not to make any permit changes for the upcoming season. The 10 summer concerts each drew between 1,000 and 1,500 people. Council members lauded the series as a success with some challenges to work through. They opted to not contribute more money to the event to reduce its reliance on beer sales.
Some council members asked for tougher enforcement by police of open-container, marijuana and dog laws and better direction of people to proper parking areas. Others raised the idea of more family-friendly events on Fridays or movies on Mondays.
“What Live on Lakeview has proven is we have a suppressed need for affordable community events,” Councilwoman Angela Swanson said.