Columnists The View from Harbor Street

Good Info

Eighteen months ago, over a great lunch at the Dutchman, the owner/publisher of the Bay News invited me to write a bi-weekly column for this, our hometown newspaper. I am thankful for his interest in serving the community by giving the City an excellent outlet for good info.

Over the ensuing 40 columns, we have worked hard to ensure we are providing beneficial, accurate, public information. This column is not news, not investigative reporting and not opinion. It strives to be factual and useful public information.

Consistent with a column last month describing the Council-Manager form of government our City employs and enjoys, it is also important to note this column is non-political and administratively focused. We use this column to inform the public on various issues in the community, including policy items coming to the City Council, and policy decisions made by the Council.

So, thanks to the good folks at The Bay News and Tolosa Press for providing this great source of good info for the Morro Bay community.

While we don’t normally comment on news stories printed in The Bay News, it is important to provide our residents some good info regarding a story in the last issue under the headline “Special Deals for City Employees.”

That column stated the City Council made special accommodations for our Interim Police Chief to rent an RV space for over 30 days, causing the City to lose some transient occupancy tax (“TOT”) revenue. The article further stated the Council approved a special deal for a City employee to rent the City-owned house on Dunes Street at a reduced rent. Following are a few facts, and a little analysis:

The City Council was not part of either of those administrative decisions. Staff worked both of those items as part of our normal day-to-day duties and, as the City Manager, I was aware of, reviewed and approved both actions.

Using normal City administrative processes, the City approved a Temporary Use Permit for our Interim Police Chief to rent a local RV space at the advertised market rate for longer than the normal 30-day limit. Issuance of such a permit requires a judgment of public benefit and staff determined there is strong public benefit for two reasons.

First, it is good for the Interim Police Chief to reside within the City limits, as evidenced by the fact he personally responded to the scene of a major crime last week in a matter of minutes – at 2:30 in the morning.

Second, the agreement with Chief Larry Todd also saved taxpayers a significant amount of money. In 2012, the City of Morro Bay paid $18,900 over 6 months to provide free housing for the interim police chief at that time, that was in addition to his salary.

The City’s contract with Chief Todd stipulates he pay for his own housing and to make this work he is living in his personal RV inside City limits. Considering the City could lose up to $450 of TOT revenue over the next 6 months, (since TOT is not collected for stays over 30 days) we are saving well over $18,000 compared to the deal struck last time the City required the professional services of an interim chief.

Next we address the City-owned house on Dunes Street. In 2012, the City Administration rented that house to a City employee for $900 per month. When that employee departed this year, the City engaged a local real estate agent to formally establish fair market value for a 791 square foot, two bedroom, one bathroom house.

While general fair market value was determined to be about $1,450 per month, considering the very poor general condition of the house, significant problems with the sewer backing up, and interior rodent infestation, the realtor and staff determined reasonable rental value to be lower. The City thus rented the house for $1350 a month, still a 44-percent increase over what the City had charged in 2012.

As noted above, the City is very appreciative of the Bay News for providing this column space to promote complete reliable public info. For additional information about your community check out the Hot Topics section of our website at: http://morrobayca.gov, the City’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/CityofMorroBay and keep reading and supporting the Bay News.

You can also contact me directly at: dbuckingham@morrobayca.gov.

David Buckingham is the city manager of Morro Bay. His “A View From Harbor Street” column is a regular feature of The Bay News. Send Letters to the Editor to: neil@tolosapress.com.