From left: Mayor Frank Ferry, City Manager Ken Pulskamp, Assistant City Manager Ken Striplin. Photo: City of Santa Clarita
With the finalization of the Vista Canyon Annexation project, including portions of Sand Canyon, Fair Oaks Ranch, and the Jakes Way area, the City of Santa Clarita has become the third largest city in Los Angeles County. Santa Clarita slips ahead of Glendale, still behind number one Los Angeles and then Long Beach.
“We’re in the third spot. This is a pretty good sized town now folks. But we still have, I think a good, warm close feeling here of kind of a smaller town in Santa Clarita,” said Councilmember Bob Kellar.
The annexation will add nearly four square miles and approximately 15,000 new residents. Mayor Frank Ferry said Jakes Way was “just planned poorly from the very beginning” meaning there were few amenities that families need. Council members, according to Ferry, took ownership of Jakes Way away from county responsibility.
“To sit here and look to the county and say ‘Do something, do something, do something’ when they’re so financially strapped and don’t have the resources. We finally just as a council said let’s invite them, let’s bring them in as a part of Santa Clarita and we can actually improve the quality of life not only for their residents, but all Canyon Country residents.
Now that Santa Clarita just got larger the job also just got bigger for the next city manager. Item #9 on the agenda was the approval of the new city manager’s contract. At a special meeting of the City Council on August 30, Assistant City Manager Ken Striplin was appointed to replace outgoing Ken Pulskamp.
If you thought this was going to simply be a pro forma approval you haven’t been paying attention. Councilman TimBen Boydston called for a closed session in the middle of the City Council meeting.
Before that though there was a chorus of support for Striplin:
“I come before you tonight to congratulate you on your decision to Ken Striplin as our new city manager. Had you spent the 40 or 50 thousand dollars necessary to go through a headhunter organization you most like would have found the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the fence,” said Duane Harte, Commissioner, Parks, Recreation & Community Services
“We’ve had ten years to see his character. And that’s absolutely huge, because if we interview somebody when they show up you can’t see their character because character is something you see when nobody’s looking,” Fred Arnold, Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce.
“Our city’s success has been supported by the leadership of Ken Striplin. And I appreciate the council’s quick and decisive action to select him as the city manager of Santa Clarita,” Don Fleming, Owner, Valencia Acura, Co-chair SCV Economic Development Corporation.
Despite the glowing words, Boydston was clearly unhappy that there was not a nationwide search to fill the position and not to have been on the ad hoc negotiating committee along with or in place of Mayor Ferry and Mayor Pro Tem Kellar.
Earlier Boydston had asked city staff to look into providing contracts to the City Council ahead of time. (He also requested that City Council agendas be provided two weeks ahead of time instead of the Thursday preceding the Tuesday meetings.)
“I’ve had the issue where I have not had the contract that I’m supposed to be voting on. I like to read the stuff I’m going to vote on, but I need them ahead of time because some of them lengthy,” said Boydston.
Mayor Ferry and Mayor Pro-Tem Kellar recommended a proposed salary of $220,000 which they characterized as 5% below the average salaries for city managers at other benchmark cities and ranks eighth lowest out of the 11 cities.
Mayor Ferry framed the decision to hire Ken Striplin as akin to replacing Steve Jobs at Apple.
“If he retires and the number two guy is Bill Gates, I mean do you go looking for the guy that make Atari? And wondering okay where the hell is the Atari guy? No, you’ve got Bill Gates sitting there,” said Ferry.
The council wanted to hire talent they know and respect.
But Boydston still had concerns. He asked City Attorney Joseph Montes to give a detailed breakdown of the contract.
“Forgive me, but if I’d been on the negotiating team of course I wouldn’t be asking all of these questions at this time,” said Boydston.
Despite Montes’ answers or because of them Boydston asked to move the meeting to closed session. Kellar seconded the motion and quickly the City Council moved to the back of the house with Montes.
After approximately 40 the council returned and voted quickly to approve the contract 4-1, with Boydston the only no vote.
Boydston asked to comment, but Councilmember Marsha McLean issue a quick ‘No!” Despite that Mayor Ferry allowed him to speak.
Boydston turned to Striplin who was seated on his left and spoke to him directly.
“I believe that executives at the level that you are sir, and you do a very fine job and I’m sure you will do a fine job, should be based 100 percent on merit. And that is the reason for my no vote. And the only reason for my no vote is I believe all raises should be based on merit at an executive level. I look forward to working with you,” said Boydston.
Councilmember McLean closed out the discussion emphasizing that raises are still the purview of the council.
“I just want to say the City Council has control over protecting all the taxpayers out there with making sure our city manager is doing a good job for all of us,” said McLean.
The following items were passed on Consent Calendar, with New Business item #10 not requiring further discussion:
CARRIZO DRIVE PEDESTRIAN OVER CROSSING REPLACEMENT, PROJECT M1014 – AWARD CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT
This project will replace the existing pedestrian timber bridge crossing at Carrizo Drive near the Valencia Valley Elementary School with a new prefabricated steel truss bridge.
The City Council approved the plans and awarded the construction contract with contingency to C.A. Rasmussen, Inc., in the amount of $401,738 and authorized a contingency in the amount of $60,261, for a total contract amount not to exceed $461,999.
AWARD CONTRACTS FOR PLAN REVIEW, BUILDING INSPECTION, AND PERMIT-RELATED PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FOR THE BUILDING & SAFETY DIVISION
According to the city, the Building & Safety division uses contractual services on an as-needed basis to supplement staff efforts to reduce plan check turn-around time, manage the inspection workload, and provide a timely response for permit-related services.
The City Council awarded contracts to California Code Check, SPS Plan Check Services, Inc., and West Coast Code Consultants, Inc., for plan review, building inspection, and permit-related professional services for the Building & Safety division, in an annual amount not to exceed $175,000 each.
APPROVE THE USE OF A “PIGGYBACK” CONTRACT FOR THE PURCHASE OF A COMPACT EXCAVATOR
The City Council voted to approve the use of a “Piggyback” contract for the purchase of a Compact Excavator and trailer from Bobcat using National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) Contract 060311 in an amount not to exceed $89,740.
OFFICE OF TRAFFIC SAFETY (OTS) SELECTIVE TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT GRANT PROGRAM – FISCAL YEAR 2012-13
Through a competitive process, the City of Santa Clarita has been awarded a grant from the State of California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) in the amount of $40,000. The Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) assists agencies to combat impaired driving, discourage distracted driving, advance pedestrian, motorcycle, and bicycle safety, and enforce traffic laws.
OFFICE OF TRAFFIC SAFETY SOBRIETY CHECKPOINT GRANT PROGRAM – FISCAL YEAR 2012-13
Through a competitive process, the City of Santa Clarita/Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station has been awarded a grant in the amount of $131,500 for the 2013 Sobriety Checkpoint Grant Program from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). This program, administered by the UC Berkeley Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), aims to reduce the number of victims killed and injured in alcohol-impaired crashes.