Airbnbs, high cannabis fees, $ 419,000 prison driver lit up green at lively meeting in Barstow


Barstow City Council took some short and long-term relevant action for local taxpayers in a meeting that sparked some outbreaks from the podium and the public last week.

The public meeting began at 7 p.m. – and lasted about three and a half hours – on On November 15, city attorney Matthew Summers hosted a training session for city council on California’s town hall laws. Summers pledged training to the county attorney’s office last May to overturn violations allegedly committed by most council members, the daily press previously reported.

The elected five-member panel then approved a number of points with implications for Barstow’s future, including:

A private security driver

The board approved a three-year contract to pay approximately $ 419,000 in salaries and technology to Universal Protection Service LP, based in Conshohocken, Pa. He will buy a pair of private drivers from the city to transport people arrested by Barstow police to prisons and prisons in the high desert, manage reservations and carry out hospital checks.

Additional costs to the city will come from private drivers using a city-owned car in their services, according to the contract, which requires Barstow “to carry motor vehicle liability insurance for vehicles with personal injury and property damage limits of (1 million bucks) . “

Summers said insurance liability in the event of a potential incident would depend on where the fault lies: if a wheel falls while the contractor is driving the city car, Barstow is responsible; if the driver swerves into another car, the company is responsible.

Police chief Andrew Espinoza said the additional costs were too great in an alternative contract for the private company, which operates as Allied Universal Security Services, to use its own car for these services. He said the distance officers employed by the city currently travel to take detainees to places like the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga puts a strain on already low time and morale.

The contract will appoint two drivers who will work 40 hours per week from Monday to Friday. The drivers will take care of all the documents, with the exception of declarations of probable cause when booking people arrested in prison or in prison.

The money for this contract will come from the Police Uniform Division budget of Barstow’s Measure Q funds, which comes from a one-cent sales tax voted in a referendum in 2018 and is used by public security agencies.

City council unanimously approved the contract with Universal Protection last week.

High fees for owners of pottery shops

A pricing structure that the city is now poised to impose on its burgeoning commercial cannabis industry.

Barstow is choose to impose significant costs on budding and existing businesses to apply for and maintain permits. The approved fees will cost cannabis entrepreneurs a minimum of almost $ 20,000 to apply for a permit and just over $ 14,000 to renew each subsequent year.

It is an alternative for the city to raise revenue and fund inspections and law enforcement without creating a special tax on cannabis sales or profits made by businesses in the city.

Some residents criticized the fees as being too high for anyone, except companies with deep pockets, to participate in Barstow’s new industry. “They are necessary,” replied Chris Heldreth, director of the city’s building and security department and its fire marshal.

“Fees lower than that would ensure the city subsidizes commercial cannabis,” he said.

A comparative example from High Desert, Adelanto, shows a mixed approach. Adelanto charges lower fees – application fees of nearly $ 7,400 and annual renewal fees of $ 8,500 – but in addition, monthly business taxes are $ 0.415 per square foot of cannabis grown. or 3% of gross revenue for all other types of business.

Barstow’s fee-only proposal was approved 3-2 last week, with City Councilor Barbara Rose and Pro Mayor Tem James Noble casting dissenting votes.

‘Holiday rents’

An amendment to the city code got final city council approval that allows Airbnb-style “vacation rentals” and other new commercial residences to be established and operated in Barstow.

The amendment updates the types of residences authorized by Barstow by adding “short term rentals” or a “living unit” offered to “paying guests” by a “rental operator” for no more than 30 consecutive nights .

It also authorizes “guest rooms”, which it defines as “small accommodation” with a maximum of four rented rooms, “overnight stays and breakfasts” and a “caretaker or owner” living in the lodge.

The ordinance designates these types of vacation rentals in areas within city limits that contain little or no population density or commercial development.

The developers say the new residential units will make it easier to rent and promote “the development of affordable housing,” the meeting’s agenda said. But vacation rental companies like Airbnb have come under fire for contributing to larger increases in rents and property values ​​in other areas like Barstow.

The city council had already unanimously approved the changes to vacation rentals in a first vote on November 1 and adopted it a second and final time without debate by approving the “consent schedule” for its meeting of the week last.

Some other remarks

City Councilor Tim Silva called the meeting due to an unknown illness which also apparently caused his absence from the meeting two weeks previously. Silva did not respond to a request for clarification of her condition, but said “it is difficult to speak tonight” in the meeting with a clear rasp and obtained prayer offerings from other members of the advice.

One of the multiple contentious moments came during a vote to approve a series of payments from city coffers.

They included bills filed by Mayor Paul Courtney for reimbursement of a total of $ 1,064 of gasoline he says he used in his personal vehicle on behalf of the city for long-distance trips, such as a trip to Sacramento for the California League of Cities conference.

Councilor Barbara Rose disputed the refunds because all but about $ 86 applied to trips made by Courtney more than 30 days before the meeting. She cited a policy that prohibits the approval of such refunds after this period of time, which City Manager Willie Hopkins corroborated.

Courtney pushed back, blaming Rose for the delay due to previous policy questions she had raised regarding city officials using personal vehicles.

In the end, City Council chose to send the 30-day policy to its Rules and Policy Committee for review and passed Mayor’s 3-2 refunds with the approval of Courtney, Noble and the City Councilor. Marilyn Dyer-Kruse, and the dissenting votes of Rose and Silva.

Charlie McGee covers the town of Barstow and its surrounding communities for the Daily Press. He is also a member of the Report for America corps of the GroundTruth Project, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the United States and around the world. McGee can be reached at 760-955-5341 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bycharliemcgee.


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