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Local
Cannabis operations division, permit fees established

HANFORD — The city of Hanford will soon have its own division centered around cannabis operations, with its own high-level management position.

Cannabis operations division

On Tuesday, Council discussed annual fees for commercial medical cannabis business permits and establishing a cannabis operations division.

Community Development Director Darlene Mata said until a tax measure is created, permit fees are a way to ensure full cost recovery for regulating the cannabis businesses once they start in the city.

The permit fees are as follows:

• $32,000 each for campus, cultivation, manufacturing and distribution

• $15,000 for lab testing

Mata said lab testing would require less cost per permit because there would most likely be less enforcement required for that area.

Mata said the staffing required to regulate the future industry was also examined and presented a proposed budget amendment for the remainder of the fiscal year to establish a new cannabis operations division.

Mata said the planning division currently has one “senior planner” position, which is vacant. She said the city has done two recruitments and has not been able to find a qualified applicant.

The proposal Mata outlined was to eliminate that position and create a new position in the cannabis operations division with the title “principal planner.” She said the position is a higher-level management position with a salary in the $90,000 range.

Because Mata said she doesn’t expect to fill the principal planner position until the middle of 2018, the salary will be funded in part by the cost savings from the vacant senior planner position and the rest would be covered by the allocated cannabis money from the 2018-19 fiscal year.

When the cannabis businesses are up and running, Mata said there will need to be even more positions and staffing allocated to the cannabis operations division. Police Chief Parker Sever said the operation will be evaluated annually and adjusted as needed.

Council voted unanimously, with Councilman Justin Mendes absent, to establish the medical business permit fees and make the necessary budget amendments to establish a cannabis operations division.

Second chances?

Council also discussed possibly allowing the two companies that applied but were not recommended for cannabis permits at the Nov. 7 meeting to repeat the second and third phases of the application process.

This talk took place because Mendes suggested giving the companies that weren’t recommended a second chance through some sort of appeals process.

During the public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Rand Martin, who was at the meeting on behalf of medical cannabis company Caliva, told council that the state’s foray into the cannabis business needs to be “squeaky-clean.”

Martin commended the city’s rigorous application process, and asked council to only move forward with the permits they already granted and to not give the businesses that were not recommended a second chance.

Jacob Yparrea, co-owner of Bridge the Gap Solutions — one of the cannabis companies that was not recommended to receive a permit from the city — made a public comment encouraging Council to allow for a second chance opportunity. He said a computer error on the application and a poor interview were not an accurate representation of his business and asked Council to allow them to redo the application process.

Mata said because the application process had strict rules and was merit-based, allowing a repeat of the process would change the whole procedure that Council had previously approved as set standards.

She told council that she did not advise letting any company redo the process because she wanted to leave no room for error.

The four members of Council present at the meeting agreed with Mata, saying the application process was fair and shouldn’t be changed at this point in time.

“I don’t see a necessity in changing the whole process,” Councilman Martin Devine said. “It just wouldn’t be worth it — it’s just too much work [that] everybody has put into this.”

The companies who were not recommended for cannabis permits can apply next year when the application period is opened again.


Sentinel File Photo  

Commercial medical marijuana production businesses, such as San Jose-based Caliva, whose product is pictured above, will locate in the city's industrial park.


Business
Kings County business
Dry start to water year

It's been day and night comparing rainfall between northern and southern California through the first week of December.

While Northern California stands at 112 percent of average for this date, the Tulare Basin is only 39 percent of average. The beleaguered city of Ventura stands at just 1.5 percent of average rain for this date says the National Weather Service.

High pressure across the state this month is blocking any storm system in the Pacific from coming in at least until Dec 22.

Steve Haugen, watermaster on the Kings River, says Pine Flat Dam has received only 1.07 inches of precipitation so far compared to an average of 3.31 inches or 32 percent of average.

Just published this week, new research by scientists at Lawrence Livermore and UC Davis are connecting the loss of Arctic sea ice to precipitation-inducing winter storms being steered away from California by a persistent atmospheric ridging system in the North Pacific. The study in the publication Nature says on average over a 20-year period, there would be a 10–15 percent decrease in California’s rainfall, similar to the extended drought we experienced from 2012-2016. It is sobering to think that the loss of ice is related to high-pressure and bone-dry conditions we are seeing this week, to disastrous results for the people of southern California.

Back in our area, Haugen is not panicking knowing "one good storm could take the Kings number to average.”

Further, the storage carryover this year in our Central Sierra reservoirs is about 400,000 area feet due to the wet year we had in 2017. That compares to just 50,000 area feet carryover the year before.

Then there is the groundwater banked in the Valley-based Kings watershed from January through September. Haugen estimates that could add up to an additional 1 million acre-feet available to the county.


Local
City Council holds reorganization

HANFORD — At the end of its regular meeting on Tuesday night, the Hanford City Council held its annual reorganization, but there will be no changes going into 2018.

Councilman Francisco Ramirez nominated incumbent David Ayers as mayor, which was unanimously accepted. Councilman Martin Devine then nominated Sue Sorensen to remain vice mayor, which was also unanimously accepted.

Sorensen said people may not realize the amount of work it takes to be the mayor of a city, so she thanked Ayers for being responsible, professional and respectful steward of the city and Council.

Ayers, who has been a councilman for 15 years, said the Council may disagree at times, but he finds diversity to be a good thing and is glad they have been able to make important decisions together.

“I really enjoy my community, I’m very proud of my community, I’m proud of the staff and citizenry,” Ayers said. “I think at this particular time, we do have a very good team in place and because of that we’re getting things done.”