After a short Santa Clarita City Council reorganization session that saw Bob Kellar assume his third term as mayor, and Laurene Weste named mayor pro tem, new City Manager Ken Striplin addressed the city’s midyear budget adjustments, McLean suggested residents protest a country fee proposal and council members OK’ed a Quigley Canyon Road lot-split appeal.
The council voted unanimously for both Kellar and Weste.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Kellar said. “There’s always a lot to be done. We’re a very progressive city.”
Striplin, in his first meeting as city manager, addressed revenue projections for the city’s fiscal year, which starts in July and ends in June.
While projections aren’t quite what they have been in past years, the city still has a multimillion-dollar operating reserve and a goal to increase that for next year.
“We’re still about 10 percent below pre-recession (revenue) levels,” Striplin said. He also announced that the city had an operating reserve of $12.2 million, which was about 12.5 percent of the city’s budget.
“We’d like to get that up to 17 percent by next year,” he added.
Among the other issues discussed at the meeting was a proposed stormwater fee increase from Los Angeles County.
City Councilwoman Marsha McLean called the move by the county “double taxation,”
County Supervisor Michael Antonovich warned SCV residents not to ignore the notice, which could be mistaken for junk mail, in a statement last week.
McLean said her home’s fee — a version of which she already pays as a city resident — would have been raised about $82 a year by the tax hike. Those who own multiple properties could end up paying thousands more, she said.
The deadline to mail back in the notice as a protest letter is Jan. 15, when the county board is expected to act on the proposal.
With a 4-0 vote, because Frank Ferry was absent from the session, City Council members also approved the Herrell family’s request to split a 2-acre lot into two 1-acre plots.
The move came on a city staff recommendation. The Planning Commission initially rejected the move over concerns that the split challenged the equestrian nature of the neighborhood and the hydrology of the neighborhood’s floodplain.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Kellar also invited the community to City Hall for a tribute to the armed forces and those who’ve died in service since 9/11.
Kellar faces a number of key challenges as he returns to center stage, including talks of building a 69-million-ton open-pit gravel mine in eastern Canyon Country.
He’s looking to 2013 as a turning point in the city’s decade-long fight to block the Mexican cement giant Cemex from exercising its twin, 10-year federal mining permits.
Kellar recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., with Weste and other city officials who met with Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in search of new legislative solutions to the Cemex matter in the upcoming congressional session.
“This is going to be a very … defining year for the Cemex issue,” Kellar said. “We should be hearing more about that in the first quarter of 2013.”
The new mayor plans to tackle other pivotal environmental issues, as well, including the cleanup of toxic and hazardous materials left behind after decades of munitions manufacturing in the middle of the city.
“We should be able to ramp up and intensify the cleanup operation that is taking place at Whitaker-Bermite,” he said.
And then there’s the matter of removing chloride – salt – from the runoff water that Santa Clarita Valley residents send downstream to the farms of Ventura County. A regional agency has been pushing local officials to erect a treatment plant that could cost SCV citizens hundreds of millions of dollars, and the local officials have been trying to stave it off.
“This chloride issue is another big issue for us as we work with the sanitation district and our regional water quality control board,” Kellar said.
Kellar clinches the mayoral title three months after the opening of the Old Town Newhall Library.
“I attended the Literacy and Arts Festival last week at our new library, and I was so excited to see such an incredible turnout of our citizens,” he said. “I could not help but be enthusiastic and so pleased to see our new library being used at such a satisfactory level, and then some.”
“Things of this kind are quality-of-life issues for our community, and every time we have little improvements – whether it’s median improvements or the beautification of our community with new artwork – these are all great things for our community, and I take a great deal of pride when I see those occurring,” he said.
Kellar noted it’s a time of change as Ken Striplin takes on the responsibilities of city manager. Striplin is Santa Clarita’s first new city manager in 10 years.
“I’m looking forward to working with all of those that have come together to make good things happen in this community,” Kellar said.
Austin Dave of SCVTV contributed to this report.