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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