LEMOORE — The Lemoore City Council regular meeting started later than usual as members were behind closed doors finishing their closed session portion of the night. Many residents sat in council chambers awaiting any news.
“Council would like to inform the public that council will look to the city’s executive staff to appoint an interim city manager and will continue to review the process for the appointment of a permanent city manager,” said Mayor Ray Madrigal, in the only statement the council has given about the recent resignation of City Manager Andi Welsh.
A separation agreement made public Friday includes a “non-disparagement clause” that prohibits city officials from criticizing Welsh, or Welsh from criticizing city officials. Welsh was put on administrative leave in January and has spent the last four months receiving full pay and benefits and left with a $152,900 “separation benefit.”
Lemoore residents Tom Reed and Connie Wlaschin both stood up during public comment and said that while residents may never know what happened between the city and Welsh, they do know the taxpayer money used over the last four months and for the “separation benefit” Welsh received when she resigned could have been used more wisely for city repairs or other city spending. They urged council to make better and more conservative choices in the future.
During department and city manager reports, Public Works Director Nathan Olson had some good news about water testing. He said the latest round of samples are fully compliant in the levels of trihalomethanes and ammonia in the city’s water system, however, additional steps are needed to bring some rising bromate levels down.
“It’s odorless, colorless, it’s beautiful,” Olson said of the water samples. “You can’t tell [the difference] between that and Dasani.”
During a public hearing held during the meeting, council discussed some amendments to portions of articles within the city’s municipal code's zones and subdivisions. Some changes include allowing outdoor commercial barbecues with a permit in downtown areas and denying manufactured homes, also known as mobile homes, from moving into the city if they are more than 10 years old.
Other changes include requiring devices on shopping carts that prevent them from leaving store parking lots; allowing free-standing signs up to 4-feet tall in downtown; restricting how much homeowners can pave in their front yards; design standards and etiquette for flag placing; standards for big-box store designs; and other wording changes to comply with state laws.
In new business, council discussed the Cimarron Park housing development area west of Highway 41. Olson said existing sewer infrastructure in the area is over 50 years old and has asbestos concrete piping underground for water lines. He said the department looked into either full replacement of the pipes, which would cost over $3 million, or cured-in-place piping because there are “many bad issues” in the pipes.
“Our public works department and the sewer division spend more time in that area of town than anywhere else clearing blockages,” Olson said.
In some video taken in the pipes, Olson said he saw rocks and rodents, areas where there is ground water intrusion and the manhole covers have also eroded, allowing for degradation in the pipes. He said the whole situation will be a big project, but will be made easier with cured-in-place piping.
Cured-in-place piping uses an epoxy resin liner that forms inside the existing pipe and allows for a better transition and increased flow within eight hours of installation. Olson said up to 300 feet a day can be done using this method and it is a much cleaner job without having to tear up any roads.
Olson said the department will let homeowners know when the work is taking place and educate them on what is going on and when they can use their water. He added that every day when the contractor leaves, houses will have flowing water.
Olson said the project, with an estimated cost of $1.34 million, will fix 5,000 linear feet of piping and will also include a removal and replacement of around five sections of piping where water was impassable. He said the cured-in-place piping should last another 50 years.