Redding Reaffirms Financial Support for a Sobering Center, Boosts City Attorney’s Pay and Hears High-Speed Internet Pitch

A divided Redding City Council on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to pry $375,000 from its beleaguered general fund to help Shasta County open a sobering center.

In a 3-2 vote, the council stuck to its December 2015 decision to use money from the sale of the former downtown police station to help establish a center that will give police a cheaper and faster alternative to jailing publicly intoxicated people or bringing them to a hospital.

Mayor Brent Weaver and Councilwoman Francie Sullivan cast the dissenting votes. Both said they were not opposed to sobering center itself, but they couldn’t justify using increasingly scarce general fund dollars to pay for the project.

Weaver said the city will be hard-pressed to maintain its current level of service as it is, while Sullivan worried that the sobering center idea has not been adequately vetted. She wondered if the center, as currently envisioned, could even accept agitated or aggressive people.

The $375,000 commitment will come from the $650,000 sale of the police station to Equity Streams LLC and escrow on that sale is expected to close within 90 days. City Manager Kurt Starman said the city will net about $625,000 from the sale after commission fees and closing costs.

When the former station went on the market, the council planned on using the sale proceeds to help pay down debt on the new station on Cypress Avenue. Former Mayor Missy McArthur, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, originally proposed committing $375,000 to the sobering center.

McArthur told the council that police officers responding to calls about publicly intoxicated people could spend 30 to 40 minutes processing suspects at a sobering center instead of the two to three hours required to book them into jail. “This easily could be a win-win for the community,” McArthur said.

Council members Kristen Schreder, Julie Winter and Adam McElvain formed the majority and voted to reaffirm the commitment and directed Starman to begin working with his Shasta County counterparts to draft a request for proposals for a sobering center.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

Public Fiber-optic internet

–Heard a report from Councilman McElvain on his proposal to develop a pilot project that would bring publicly owned, high-speed fiber-optic internet service to downtown Redding. McElvain, whose city council campaign included his interest in fiber internet service, said his plan would not require any taxpayer funding.

Councilman Adam McElvain makes a pitch for high-speed internet.

Councilman Adam McElvain makes a pitch for high-speed internet. Photos by Jon Lewis.

McElvain proposed establishing a group of industry experts and community stakeholders to design the infrastructure, assess demand and identify funding for the project. He proposed returning to the council in six to eight months to present details and seek a vote on whether to proceed.

McElvain said “industrial strength” fiber internet is some 20 times faster than conventional broadband and a publicly owned network, using Redding Electric Utility’s existing distribution network, would be instrumental in downtown Redding’s economic revitalization. It would make Redding “a viable 21st century city,” McElvain said.

McElvain said fiber-optic internet will attract investment and jobs to downtown Redding.

McElvain said fiber-optic internet will attract investment and jobs to downtown Redding.

McElvain’s colleagues on the council were receptive to the idea but detailed a lengthy list of questions and concerns, including the wisdom of competing with private enterprise and the risk associated with linking REU’s transmission lines to a technology that is rapidly changing.

McElvain said he’d work on answering those questions and bring his idea back to the council in two months.

City Attorney salary raise

— The council voted 4-1 — with McElvain the lone dissenter — to grant City Attorney Barry DeWalt a 5 percent raise to take effect on Sunday. DeWalt’s annual salary will increase from $160,000 to $168,000, or from $76 to $80 an hour based on a 40-hour work week.

“I understand we’re in lean times, but good city attorneys are not a dime a dozen,” Councilwoman Winter said, adding that she was sure DeWalt’s counsel “has saved us his salary many times over.”

Two speakers, including former Councilman Gary Cadd and Vernon Price, a homeless advocate, asked the council to decline the raise. “Don’t forget you’ve got a pension problem coming up,” Cadd warned, referring to the unfunded pension liabilities that continue to mount.

Police computer system

–Voted 5-0 to approve the purchase and installation of a $3.46 million computer system that will link Redding and Anderson police departments with the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department and the SHASCOM dispatch center.

The contract with Spillman Technologies wraps up a five-year search for a state-of-the-art system to replace one from the 1980s, Redding Police Chief Rob Paoletti said. “This is a huge leap forward for the Redding Police Department,” Paoletti said.

Redding and the Sheriff’s Department are each responsible for 45 percent of the cost and Anderson will pick up the remaining 10 percent. The three agencies and SHASCOM comprise the Integrated Public Safety System, which was formed in 1991 to consolidate record systems and share information.

Redding’s actual cost will only be $98,000 and the rest will come from money saved up from assorted grants and red-light camera revenues, Paoletti said in a report to the council.

Spillman Technologies was selected from a field of 11 vendors. Once installed, the new system will provide modern records management and jail management system software, mobile data and in-field reporting capabilities and a computer-aided dispatch system. The system also will provide enhanced crime analysis software as well as a public portal, the report says.

Dog’s best friend

–Issued a certification of appreciation to Kelly Frost for his sizable donation to the Redding Police Department’s K-9 Unit that allowed for the purchase of Nord, a police dog who has been paired up with officer Josh Tracy.

Kelly and Teila Frost with Josh Tracy and Nord the K-9.

Kelly and Teila Frost with Josh Tracy and Nord the K-9.

Frost, a reporter with public radio station NSPR who also hosts a Saturday morning program on KQMS, made the donation on behalf of his daughter, Teila.

Redding police purchased Nord, a 14-month-old German Shepherd, late last year. He brings the number of police dogs with RPD to five.

Bar Mitzvah beneficiary

–Joel Hastings, 13, also was honored for selecting Boulder Creek as the target of the community cleanup day he organized as a Mitzvah project as part of his Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish coming-of-age ritual.

Joel Hastings talks about his Bar Mitzvah project.

Joel Hastings talks about his Bar Mitzvah project.

In the spirit of Tikkun olam, a concept in Judaism often defined as “repairing the world,” Joel focused his project on cleaning the ocean and helping aquatic life. After consulting with Kim Niemer, the community services director, Joel directed his attention toward Boulder Creek since approximately half of the ocean’s pollution originates in creeks and rivers.

Some 30 people, including four classmates and two Colombia School District teachers, participated in the April 7 cleanup day. The crew filled several large garbage bags and only three people, including Niemer, tangled with poison oak, Joel said.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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29 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    Thanks, Jon.  Your reports are always welcome.

  2. kerr, david says:

    A sobering center is where they spend 12-24 hours after being detained by police.  It is nothing like a group recovery home where people live after a month or more in a rehab program.  Alameda county has had a sobering center for over ten years.  It is a less costly alternative to booking them into jail.  The main problem is medical clearance.  Out of control diabetes, stroke, psychosis, meningitis, hepatic coma, the confused state after a seizure,  have been misdiagnosed as intoxication by police.  An intoxicated person can also have severe coexisting medical problems. The mortality rate for delerium tremens in a hospital is over 1%, higher outside.

  3. kerr, david says:

    The financially troubled Redding newspaper has done a poor job explaining what a sobering center is, the history of sobering centers in California, the estimated costs and the difference it would make in  officers’ time to put someone in a sobering center instead of booking them into jail.

     

     

     

  4. Damon Miller says:

    Isn’t it interesting that it has repeatedly shown to be easier for the council to justify pay raises for the big cheeses than to provide services for taxpayers.

    • Russell K. Hunt says:

      That’s what friends are for. And the gals love Kimmy Neimer, so I don’t  know why are they pretending to look for someone else for city manager.

  5. A. Jacoby says:

    Thanks for the report, Jon.

  6. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    The council needs to stop reaffirming its commitment to a sobering center and just do it.

    It’s nice to see public high speed internet on the table again, it could really help in the development of Redding, and fiberglass is definitely the way to go. I wonder what big local internet carriers will do to block it from happening?

  7. Jon Lewis says:

    An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the vote on City Attorney Barry DeWalt’s raise was unanimous. In fact, Councilman Adam McElvain cast the lone ‘no’ vote. The article has been corrected and I apologize for the error.

  8. The half-baked nature of McElvain’s internet proposal heavily troubles me, especially because the desired result could be a hundred million dollar investment into a utility that could fail without proper foresight. Remember the last time we thought “If only our community offered X incentives, businesses would come”? ahem. Stillwater. I am all for a realistic proposal that would provide affordable and fast internet and a profitable revenue stream for REU. I will reserve judgment until I hear more, but I really hope future presentations feature some rubber-to-the-road experts who are more knowledgeable on the construction and ongoing maintenance of an ISP, the costs, the competitive landscape, hard examples of businesses who have left our community due to a lack of internet capabilities, hard examples of businesses that would come to Redding with increased internet performance, and key leaders from REU – the single entity responsible for executing the mission – speaking in favor of the plan. Conversations with media and business buddies, blog posts, headlines, and anecdotal evidence don’t cut it for me. Also, could budget projections for future steps on this project not be presented in a range of a certain amount to double that amount? These aren’t things ya just eyeball.

    Right now all I’m hearing is: “Internet good.”

    Where’s the beef?!

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      If you have DSL downtown, I’ll bet fiber seems like a great idea—but I don’t know anyone with readily available cable who’s chomping at the bit for fiber.

      After about 5 years downtown, I’m in the process of moving my office back to Palo Cedro. It sure ain’t for the better internet out here, where the options range from fraudulent/criminal (Hughes satellite) to God-awful (Frontier DSL) to adequate if you can get it (Shasta Beam line-of-sight radio).

      Four vehicle break-ins in the past six months have a lot to do with the move, though. Work on that, Adam.

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        I thought about you when I read about the proposal for high-speed Internet downtown – whether it would entice you to stay downtown.  Perhaps money would be better spent on high-speed rail to take the riff-raff to a gated community in Stillwater.

      • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

        Four in six months? Damn.

      • Mike says:

        That’s the thing, Charter service is fine for downtown, but step a foot towards the fringes of Redding and internet service drops precipitously.
        How about someone address that? We’re people too!

    • Jim Briggs says:

      Never mind that Google has basically stopped its fiber rollout because they discovered it is difficult and expensive, I’m sure the City of Redding will succeed where Google has not and invest tens of millions of dollars in an expensive fiber deployment just in time for it to be leapfrogged by faster wireless technologies.

    • Common Sense says:

      Adams says no tax payers money will be used or needed for this High Speed Venture……and Mexico is paying for the wall!…..maybe that is why the City Attorney is getting another raise?….to figure out how not to get sued when the City incorporates the High Speed Internet downtown into the ” You must have garbage/water/elec/sewer AND Internet to get services rule”? And it will only cost an Additional $100 a month for the internet!…..late on your Utility Bill?….No Internet for you!

      I am Guessing Charter is going WTH?

      But its only Downtown folks…..don’t worry…..no problems…….oh…and we will get to roads one day soon…..maybe Mexico can pay for those repairs also?

    • Russell K. Hunt says:

      No, no. The City would take over the existing lines downtown and put their own connection next to the railroad (main line is buried there.) There are already big fiber customers there: Mercy Hospital, county offices, county schools, Shasta Regional., to name a few. The idea is to lower costs. Adam’ s business fiber connection cost $1200 a month on Industrial Wy. Charter and ATT have fiber but are gouging customers.

  9. Common Sense says:

    Super High Speed Internet in Redding….Good!…..Fixing all the Roads in Redding….Priceless!!….What’s in your Wallet?

  10. Frank Treadway says:

    My sources tells me that AT&T has a van load of attorneys that will stop a fiber plan in its tracks. Appreciate the forward thinking, but please have all the data lined up before leaping into this potential morass. And thanks to those council members for seeing the value in spending, along with the county, the funds for a Sober Center. Now it’ll face the Nimby Test.  And why can a council member recuse themselves on one agenda item and not another, especially if all three of those agenda items relate to downtown where that council member has vested interest ? Just wondering.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Those AT&T lawyers weren’t too effective at stopping Charter from wiring everyone up with cable service that’s about the same cost as AT&T DSL, 10x faster, and month-to-month.  It was a long time ago, but I fondly remember the day when I called and asked AT&T where they wanted me to stick their modem.

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        When we purchased our getaway bungalow in Redding ten years ago, we subscribed to Charter for both Internet and television. Internet service was SO superior to “Frontear” here in Eastern County that we were delighted to have it.  We now have Com-Pair and have happily ditched “Frontear” here.   Over the years, we added a second television in the bungalow, only to find that with Charter, unlike DISH, two receivers don’t communicate.  If a program is recorded in the living room, it can be watched only in the living room, and if recorded in the bedroom, can be watched only in the bedroom.  What’s with that, for heaven’s sake?  So we have DISH in both our homes.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          That was our pairing in town:  Charter for internet, Dish for TV.  Now that we’re back in Palo Cedro, no more Charter.  So far the best solution for internet out here is Verizon, unless we decide to put up a tower so that we can get Com-Pair or Shasta Beam.

          • Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

            No Warp Two where you are?

             

          • Beverly Stafford says:

            We’ve been really pleased with Com-Pair.  There were trees in the way of our line of sight; so the engineer suggested that we piggy-back on our neighbor’s array.  Friend/neighbor had to have a slightly different set-up because he needed service for both his house and shop; so both his shop and our house are beamed from his rooftop.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Just for fun, this morning I ran an Ookla.com speed test using Verizon and got 32 mbps download speed.  We just switched to an unlimited data plan, so this option is now viable.

            I looked at rates for line-of-sight radio internet on Com-Pair, Shasta Beam, and Warp 2 websites.  Best download speed offered is “up to” 20 mbps for $169 per month.  (I’ve grown deeply cynical about “up to” speeds for rural internet service, based on past experience.)

            I then ran an Ooka speed test for Hughes.net.  After three tries of 5-10 minutes each, trying to connect to their server and run the test, I gave up.  And it’s not that the service is down……I can surf other sites (slowly) via Hughes.net.  It just sucks that hard, all the time.

            Verizon—with no additional cost over our cell phone service and by far the fastest download and upload speeds—is the clear winner.  I may invest in a signal booster and call it good.

    • Russell K. Hunt says:

      Eminent domain. It would be a city utility. The City has taken over many PG and E lines.

  11. kerr, david says:

    Redding dodged a bullet by not going with fiber when wireless is so close.  Surely there are people in REU who read tech sources.

     

  12. Dick says:

    Longtime city motto “See money and spend it” should be on the new flag.

  13. kerr, david says:

    City or county staff should tell us how many people are in jail to sober up at any given time on the average.  If it is usually ten people, that means ten jail spaces which  could be occupied by criminals who have harmed other people. That would translate to a ten bed jail expansion, a reasonable return on investment.  The newspaper or anewscafe should be getting the numbers from local government

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