City Council approves military equipment policy

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday approved the first reading of a military equipment use policy for the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

The creation of a policy is required by Assembly Bill 481 which was passed on Sept. 30, 2021.

SLTPD has several items that are considered military equipment even if it didn’t come directly from the military, including unmanned, remotely piloted, powered ground vehicles, armored vehicles or mine resistant, armor protected vehicles, command and control vehicles, flash-bang grenades and chemical agents and smoke canisters.

Prior to bringing this item to council, Police Chief David Stevenson brought the items to the Police Advisory Committee, despite not being required to do so. The committee didn’t raise issues about the items.

Stevenson also gave an example of a recent use of the mine resistant armor protected vehicle, MRAP. A suspect appeared to have a deadly weapon and responding officers were able to stay safely in the vehicle while convincing the suspect to come outside, while taking in the whole situation. The suspect was apprehended, so the MRAP prevented the officers from being injured and also prevented the officers from needing to use deadly force.

Council approved the policy and, as per California law, SLTPD will need to come back every year to give a report on their military equipment uses and needs.

The council also revisited the on-site cannabis consumption issue but ultimately decided to upload their previous decision to ban it.

The item was listed on the consent agenda for a second reading, but Councilman John Friedrich asked for the item to be removed for discussion.

Cody Bass, speaking as a private citizen and not in his role as Councilman, spoke in favor of on-site consumption and said the city previously allowed on-site consumption and there were no problems at that time.

Other members of the public also spoke in favor of on-site consumption. One point raised was that hotels, motels and many rented housing units don’t allow smoking inside, so people don’t have a place to consume the cannabis that they legally purchased.

“This shouldn’t be a controversial topic in the way it keeps seeming to be,” said Scott Robbins, a member of the public and former council candidate.

Mayor Pro Tem Cristi Creegan said she heard from many constituents that they were happy the council voted not to allow on-site consumption and that she would not be changing her vote.

Councilwoman Tamara Wallace also said she would not be changing her vote and pointed out that there are many ways to consume cannabis, not just smoking.

There were other items in the ordinance, including increased canopy size and allowing for dispensaries to hold multiple licenses.

Mayor Devin Middlebrook and Friedrich both said they’d be in favor of revisiting the issue in the future but in order to move forward with those other items, they would not change their votes.

The city parking garage on Bellamy Way will be getting a facelift, after the council approved a contract with Walker Consultants for $187,230, as well as to move $205,953 into the Parking Garage Revenue Expense Account for the project.

The 20-year-old garage is operated by the police department and is maintained by the public works department with assistance from an outside contractor for custodial services. Based on evaluating existing operational issues related to site circulation, revenue collection system, and the need for EV charging stations. Staff anticipates the whole project costing about $1 million.

The city is moving forward with their dark sky goals and during this meeting, the council will possibly approve a contract with Advanced Lighting Services, Inc. to retrofit lights along U.S. Highway 50 Between Trout Creek and Ski Run Boulevard.

The city will be testing four fixtures (two 2,700k and two 2,200k) for evaluation at two separate locations within the project area. Once the color has been determined, the remaining base bid scope is to retrofit the 126-metal halide light fixtures to the selected color.

The council also approved two additional areas to replace lights. There will be 60 fixtures in the Harrison Avenue business district and 28 fixtures within the El Dorado Beach to Ski Run zone.

With those added areas, the total project will cost $165,459.15.

The council approved a new ordinance that requires people to put out their garbage no earlier than 6 a.m. on the day of trash pickup. This is to help limit the amount of time bears have access to the trash.

The ordinance will be complaint driven, meaning the police won’t be monitoring the trash. However, South Tahoe Refuse will be able to report incidents where bears were able to get into the trash.

There were four public hearings that were heard and approved by the council.

The first will provide financing for a residential rental housing facility known as Sugar Pine Village Phase 1A. The second approved a subdivision map for a housing project at 3708 Lake Tahoe Boulevard and 3709 Osgood Avenue.

During the third hearing, council approved a letter on behalf of Grocery Outlet to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control which would allow the store to sell spirits in addition to beer and wine.

Finally, the council reviewed and approved the Ski Run Business Improvement District annual report.

The next council meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 3.

Employee Recognition

New Regular City Employees:

City Manager – Sara Letton – Sustainability Coordinator

Public Works – Chris Heckathorn – Maintenance Tech III

Police Department – Rosemary Martins – Community Service Officer

Service Awards:

Finance Department – Olga Tikhomirova, Finance Director – 20 years of service

City Attorney – Jean Bauwens, Paralegal – 5 years of service

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