Soccer Star Megan Rapinoe has her Day, in Absentia, as the Redding Council Discusses Drones, Power Plants and Salaries

Mayor Francie Sullivan congratulates Megan Rapinoe's parents  Jim and Denise Rapinoe as Mike Woodrum, co-owner of Jack's Grill, looks on.

Mayor Francie Sullivan congratulates Megan Rapinoe’s parents Jim and Denise Rapinoe as Mike Woodrum, co-owner of Jack’s Grill, looks on.

Even though she was 420 miles to the north, in Portland, Ore., Women’s World Cup soccer standout and Palo Cedro native Megan Rapinoe starred at Tuesday’s Redding City Council meeting as the mayor proclaimed July 21 Megan Rapinoe Day.

Accepting the proclamation on behalf of their daughter were proud parents Jim and Denise Rapinoe of Redding and Mike Woodrum, the co-owner of Jack’s Grill, where Denise Rapinoe has worked as a waitress for the past 27 years.

“We are very honored to be here accepting this on Megan’s behalf,” Denise Rapinoe said, noting that her daughter was in Portland with her club team, the Seattle Reign, preparing for Wednesday’s match against the Portland Thorns.

Mayor Francie Sullivan said she was sorry Rapinoe couldn’t be present but appreciated the fact she had commitments preventing her from attending.

Shortly after Rapinoe, 30, and her U.S. Women’s national soccer teammates put the finishing touches on a sound thumping of Japan to win the 2015 FIFA World Cup, Sullivan said she considered organizing a ticker-tape parade in Rapinoe’s honor. “And then I thought, oh no, New York would just be jealous of us,” Sullivan said with a laugh.

On a more serious note, Sullivan added, “We are just proud beyond our ability to say that this young woman is out there making the north state to look like the best place in America to raise kids.”

Councilwoman Missy McArthur also addressed Rapinoe’s parents, telling them “thanks for being part of this community and raising such a great young woman.”

Rapinoe, a Foothill High School graduate, also starred on the U.S. Women’s national soccer team that won Olympic gold in 2012.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

— Discussed the relatively new phenomenon of privately owned drones being operated in the vicinity of wildland fires. Both the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the Forest Service have had to ground air attack aircraft after the planes recently encountered drones in the air at four different fires, City Manager Kurt Starman said.

“When I heard that, I thought we can’t be having that at all,” said Councilman Gary Cadd, who requested the matter be placed on the agenda for Tuesday night’s discussion. Drones are small, unmanned aircraft that can be remotely operated to hover and photograph buildings, events, crowds, landscapes and pretty much anything else.

“There’s a distinct threat of a midair collision between a drone and (fire attack) aircraft,” said Redding Fire Chief Gerry Gray. He added that there have been several instances of drones spotted over fires in Redding, but in each case firefighting aircraft were not in use.

A drone was observed while Redding firefighters were tackling a small grass fire near Tarmac Road and Highway 44. The drone’s operator could not be located, Gray said. In another instance, a drone was observed at the June 18 blaze that burned three acres near the Sacramento River across from Caldwell Park. In that case, the operator was identified and cooperated with officials.

Rod Dinger, Redding’s airport director, said recreational or non-commercial drone operators are required to alert the city when flying drones within a five-mile radius of either Redding Municipal Airport or Benton Airpark. Those two zones cover almost all of the city of Redding as well as parts of Anderson.

Commercial drone operators need to obtain a certificate of exemption in order to operate within those airport zones, Dinger said. To date, only one commercial operator (contracted by Verizon Wireless to inspect cell phone towers) has applied for a certificate. At present, the Federal Aviation Administration is focusing on educating drone operators rather than prosecuting them, Dinger said. “This is not a game,” Cadd said. “We need a whole bunch of education in the field.”

— Voted 5-0 to divest from the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired electrical generation plant in New Mexico that the city invested in along with Modesto and Santa Rosa. According to Barry Tippin, the assistant city manager and Redding Electric Utility director, the city has benefitted from its participation in the project for the past 32 years.

Times change, though, and now a host of plant improvements mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (with an estimated cost of $800 million) threaten to turn the power plant into a liability, Tippin said. “It is not a benefit to Redding ratepayers,” he said, noting that if Redding remained involved it would be paying more for San Juan power than it would for power generated by the city’s own gas-fired turbines.

Redding will remain responsible for $26.6 million in bond debt through the year 2037. Pulling out of the power plant is not a cost benefit to the city, Tippin said, but it is the cheapest way to get out of an increasingly expensive proposition.

As an aside, Tippin noted that Redding decided to invest in the coal-fired plant in 1982 after voters passed a referendum banning the city from investing in nuclear power. “If we had invested in nuclear, we’d still be going strong.”

— Voted 5-0 to give a 5 percent raise to whoever is hired to replace outgoing Director of Development Services Bill Nagel. A recruitment for his replacement attracted 18 applicants and both of the top two finalists, citing the city’s pay range, withdrew their applications.

Based on that experience, Personnel Director Sheri DeMaagd recommended increasing the position’s monthly salary from $11,074 to $11,628. She also recommended the council approve a $16,500 contract with CPS HR Consulting, a headhunting firm, to conduct a comprehensive executive recruitment for Nagel’s replacement.

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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