Selma: Training center to move

Selma Fire Department’s training center on Pacific Avenue in the city’s industrial park will be relocated to the city’s maintenance yard to make way for a new Fresno County Rural Transit Agency’s maintenance facility.

SELMA – Selma is partnering with the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency to bring a bussing maintenance facility to the city’s industrial park. The approval for agreement and corresponding land purchase and lease was unanimously approved at a special Aug. 29 Selma City Council meeting.

FCRTA operates 25 transit subsystems with 80 vehicles that operate in 13 rural incorporated cities throughout the Central Valley. The transit agency provides services to the elderly, disabled, low-income, junior college students and general public patrons within each of the 13 rural incorporated cities in Fresno County.

A proposal to build a new maintenance facility for the transit agency has been in the works for months now. Several neighboring communities, including Kingsburg, sought to have FCRTA build in their town.

FCRTA General Manager Moses Stites said he chose Selma for its location and future growth potential, but also in part because of his long-standing working relationship with the city.

“We could have gone to any one of the 13 incorporated cities in Fresno County. There were a lot of reasons we choose this community. Historically, we’ve had a very good working relationship.”

FCRTA has been providing transit services since 1979. Stites has also worked with Selma when he was a Caltrans employee and when he worked with the Public Utilities Commission. He was instrumental in bringing solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations to both Selma and Kingsburg and other Fresno County towns. And recently, he helped arranged transportation for youth at the Selma Boys & Girls Club so they could take advantage of swim lessons at Selma High this summer.

This new maintenance facility agreement comes with a few words of caution though, as Stites feels the process in finalizing the joint powers agreement was not as smooth as it could have been.

“There was back and forth over legal jargon with your legal counsel and our legal counsel,” Stites said. “Based on our history, the JPA and our relationship, I think it could have gone smoother. I would hope that if we were to entertain future agreements, it will be a smoother process. We have a lot of projects planned for the City of Selma. I would not want to have them deterred.”

Bianca Sparks Rojas, Selma’s attorney, disagreed and characterized her phone conversations with their attorneys as “amicable.”

In reviewing the joint powers agreement, Rojas said she brought up concerns over insurance, indemnification and the clarity on the scope of work. Phone calls were made to the transit agency’s private counsel in Sacramento and to Fresno County’s legal advisers.

“We went back and forth with two phone calls, but we were able to resolve the things in the agreement. In my experience, I don’t see this as taking a long time. In fact, I think it was a very quick turnaround. I think the agreements are better now that we made certain additions to them to provide protection to the city. It also protects the JPA, as well.”

Rojas said while Selma is a member of this partnership, any lawsuits against the service would likely name the city, not the JPA.

“They may perhaps name both parties, but we need to make sure we have the proper language in the agreement to protect us.”

FCRTA is purchasing an acre of land on the 1800 block of Pacific Avenue from the city for $150,000. They’ll lease back a portion and develop their fleet maintenance facility there. Currently, Selma’s Fire Department uses the site for training and various structures will need to be relocated to Selma’s maintenance yard.

Selma will provide employees to work at the fleet maintenance facility and thus several positions were added to the city’s ranks during the Council meeting. A transit manager, fleet maintenance manager, custodian, equipment mechanic, maintenance workers, transit mechanic and shuttle driver will staff the facility.

A temporary maintenance site will be at 1870 Dockery Ave. until a permanent structure is built at 1821 Pacific Ave.

The joint powers agreement is for three years with the option to extend it for four more years. While the City will maintain the fleet, FCRTA will operate the routes. MV Transportation has been contracted to handle the route and dispatching services.

Selma will bill FCRTA to pay for those new employees and other services. Compensation is not to exceed $791,893 for its first year, $816,082 in the second year and $840,936 in the third year.

Stites said their agency will install various infrastructure needs at the site without charging the City and added that MV Transportation has also rented office space on Arrants Street. With this and other transportation projects in mind, Stites said having this business relationship will pay off in economic development as local residents are hired, new employees dine in local restaurants and improvements are made at the sites.

“When I went to [MV Transportation’s] office, there were shrubs, but no concrete and no ADA accessibility. Later, they’d poured concrete for ADA, they had their sign up and it was all local businesses they hired to do the work. One of the dispatchers is a local person who was just hired Monday and they will hire more local people. [Our agreement] adds vitality and economic return for your city.”

Assistant City Manager Isaac Moreno said while there was conversation back and forth between the attorneys, he’s sees the current arrangement as a benefit to Selma.

“We’ll go forward with this process and look to the future and continue our working relationship with the transit agency and Moses. This is a great addition to our city.”

Mayor Jim Avalos said thanked Stites for using his connections to bring more business to town.

“When people like you make those contacts with other people and step up to the plate, it helps. We want that and you created that by stepping up for us.”

Councilman Scott Robertson said he wasn’t aware there were any legal discussions back and forth and was glad Selma was able to secure the facility.

“Maybe it’s a perception thing because we are partners with the FCRTA. Selma prevailed and I think it’s because our location makes sense, but also because we have the goodwill of the FCRTA director, which we want to maintain.”

Rojas added that legal protections written into the JPA just needed to be clarified and since she’s obligated to protect the City, she wanted to make sure those provisions were included.

“God forbid if something were to happen with one of these buses. I want to keep the city protected.”

Councilwoman Yvette Montijo recused herself from this decision as she is a property owner of a nearby business.

In other matters, the Council postponed a decision to allow a 1.65 megawatt solar power generation facility to be built on nine acres of a 20-acre parcel north of town, on the west side of McCall Avenue. The facility would be built about 1,915 south of Manning Avenue. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors heard the matter on Aug. 21 and sent the issue back to Selma’s City Council.

Montijo said she objected to Mayor Jim Avalos speaking at that meeting since he represented himself as the City’s mayor without having prior direction from the city manager or the council.

“My concern is a legal one,” Montijo said.

The solar power plant will be discussed at the next Council meeting on Sept. 4.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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