Pinole Approves Purchase of the Faria House

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July 20, 2016
Ok, the dust has settled, the votes are in and the Pinole City Council, by a vote of 4-0 (Council member Banuelos was absent) has approved the purchase of the Faria House for $30,000.
The Council did agree to pull this Consent Calendar item as I requested so that the community could express their opinions.

After spending the last three years of my life as Chair of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee and arm wrestling with the School District to get information that the public should be entitled to, I am hyper-aware and sensitive to organizations that are reluctant to share Public information with the Public.

The Appraisal link is below.
2100 San Pablo Ave Pinole – (Credit Bid)_Redacted-2

I received the Faria House Appraisal via email yesterday about 3 hours before the meeting.
The Council did not appear to be concerned that the appraisal had not been made available to the public along with the Agenda packet.
I had consulted a Real Estate attorney on the question of appraisals as public documents.
He replied, “an appraisal is normally a private document belonging to the party that hired the appraiser. If the appraiser was hired by the City, then presumably it is a City document subject to public review to the extent available for such City documents.”
The Appraisal is dated June 15, 2016, I believe the Public should have been able to review this document no later than July 14, 2016, when the Agenda was posted.
This transaction does not involve negotiations between two different parties, the City is both the Buyer and the Seller, therefore the document should have been made public in a timely manner.

Assistant City Manager, Hector De La Rosa mentioned during the discussion that the renovation bid of $322,000, was prepared by a contractor, not by the Appraisal firm, he also stated that another estimate for renovation is in the range of $500,000.
I did not see a separate document that backs-up that estimate.
I would like to see the cost estimates before the Council moves into the next phase of this project.

Members of the Faria family were there to express their desire to have the Faria House become the City of Pinole Historical Museum.  There were some touching and comical moments as members of this family and, other, not so young citizens expressed their frustration at the time it has taken to get this far.
Council member Toms explained the Successor Agency process to everyone, it is the same process I have outlined in my original post (below).
Members of the Historical Society were also there to express their desire to designate the property for use as a Museum.

However, Mayor Swearingen correctly pointed out that the agenda item under discussion was not about the use of the Faria House, but rather about the Purchase of the property.
By pulling this item from the Consent Calendar it afforded the Council the opportunity to explain to the public why the property was given a Fair Market Value of $30,000.
A productive discussion before a decision is made should never come under fire.

The use of the Faria House will be taken up at a later date, the Council did not set a date for that discussion.

My suggestion to allocate space in the Faria House for other non-profits that serve the community has been questioned because there are concerns that the floor plan and the square footage of the Faria House will not accommodate anything more than the Historical Society and its artifacts.
I am planning to tour the Faria House to get a better sense of exactly how limited that floor plan is. I am offering my support and my services to the City to work towards a reasonable and responsible solution.

I have no beef with the Pinole Historical Society. I am not at war with anyone, I am simply expressing my point of view, and my concerns as a 45-year resident of Pinole and as a community advocate and a taxpayer.

There is enough acrimony in politics today, isn’t it better to be open, inclusive and think of this City as ours?

July 19, 2016

Sometimes one just have to wonder how things get so distorted and “spun”.
The following email was sent to members of the Pinole Historical Society and others regarding my position on the purchase of the Faria House as stated in this post.
The funny thing is those who received the email are reading my post and asking why has my position on the Faria House been so misrepresented to them?

“Hi all,”

“Ivette Ricco announced on her blog that she will oppose the purchase of the Faria House at Tuesday’s council meeting. Her blog post is here:
https://riccofreako.com/2016/07/18/will-faria-house-be-sold-to-city-for-30000/”

“Please attend the council meeting and speak in favor of the purchase of the Faria House for the purpose of establishing a museum. The council needs to hear that there is public support for this project. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. This will be among the first items on the agenda.”

“Thanks.”

Jeff Rubin
President
Pinole Historical Society

So what did I clearly state below?

I support the establishment of a Museum in the Faria House.
But, the Pinole Historical Society is just one of the local non-profit organizations in Pinole who seek a home that is affordable and offers them a place where the public can easily interact with them; among them the Pinole Chamber of Commerce and the Pinole Artisans. These organizations serve this community and have served the community for many years and if the Faria House is to serve all, then these organization must be included in the plan.
Other potential uses could also be considered.
The Faria House could also serve a great venue for meetings and small private events.

Asking that this Consent Calendar Item be pulled until the public has had an opportunity to discuss this is a reasonable and responsible request.
These are public funds, the initial purchase of the Faria House and Property was made with Redevelopment Funds, taxes paid by all of us. The General Fund is also taxpayer money.
What’s unreasonable about asking to have this transfer of title tabled for more public discussion?
Bewildering.

July 18, 2016
The Pinole City Council will consider the Purchase of the Faria House for $30,000, from General Funds tomorrow.

Agenda
AG-2016-07-19-2

Resolution
07C – Pinole City Council 7-19-2016 -Faria House-2

What’s happening?

In 2011 the Legislature dissolved Redevelopment Agencies in California.
That action allowed the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Pinole to create a “successor agency”. The City decided to be the “Housing Successor” to the former agency.
That transferred certain housing assets to the City.
Among the properties transferred as a Housing Asset was the Faria House.
The property was transferred for affordable housing and if subsequently sold would have the proceeds, by law, used for affordable housing purposes.

In March 2016 the City sought direction on properties formerly owned by the Housing and Redevelopment Agency, and specifically the Faria House.
The City had three options:
1. Purchase the Properties at Fair Market Value.
2. Continue to Use the Faria House and land as affordable housing (it’s current designation).
3. Preserve the property as open space.

In June 2016 the City received the Fair Market value appraisal on the Faria House.
The Faria House was appraised as a mixed commercial/residential use consistent with the zoning and based on its “highest and best” use.
The appraisal took into consideration the location, amenities, size and parking, and the known factor that the property has been vacant for many years.

The appraised value of the Faria House and its land was estimated at $350,000 with a credit for renovations in the amount of $322,000.
This property has been given a Fair Market Value of $30,000.

If the City is to purchase the Faria House at the Fair Market Value, according to this appraisal (no data has been offered on the Appraiser nor has a copy of the Appraisal been offered as part of this agenda item), the funds for the purchase of the Faria House will be taken from the General Fund and the proceeds from the sale will be deposited in the Housing Fund to be used for Future affordable housing projects/programs.

In a recent article in the Pinole Historical Society Newsletter, several projects in the City were mentioned to point out how the City has helped finance various projects and serve the needs of the community.
It reads in part:

“Do we need a community museum?”

“Did we need a library when we forked up the money to build it?”

“What about the new Pinole Skate Park for those who enjoy that activity?”

“Our Community Playhouse is undergoing an interior rebuilding to better serve its audiences.”

“The Senior Center opened in 1990 to meet senior citizens’ activity needs, and is undergoing a quarter-million-dollar re-roofing project.”

“The money spent on these projects demonstrates how the city addresses the lifestyles and interests of all people who live in Pinole.”

Yes, the City does attempt to address the lifestyles and interests of all the people who live in Pinole, it should.
It’s the role of government to serve its community, all of its community.

The Pinole Historical Society has long wanted to establish a Museum in Pinole.
They have artifacts that need to be stored and preserved.
The roadblock has been the cost of such an endeavor and the difficulty in finding funds to not only purchase a property (Faria House), but to also determine how to fund the renovation of an old structure in need of major and costly renovation.

There is major difference in the use of Public Funds and the use of other, special funds allocated.
As an example, it is my understanding that the Pinole Library is county owned and funded.
The Skate Park used Measure WW funds and Measure S funds.
The renovation of the Community Playhouse used Measure WW funds and Measure S funds.
The Senior Center roof replacement is being funded with 2014 Measure S funds.

I support the establishment of a Museum in the Faria House.
But, the Pinole Historical Society is just one of the local non-profit organizations in Pinole who seek a home that is affordable and offers them a place where the public can easily interact with them; among them the Pinole Chamber of Commerce and the Pinole Artisans. These organizations serve this community and have served the community for many years and if the Faria House is to serve all,  then these organization must be included in the plan.
Other potential uses could also be considered.
The Faria House could also serve a great venue for meetings and small private events.

I am in favor of creating a space that serves the community, celebrates its history, its present and its future and affords the various organizations in the community a place to call home.

But It is Always About the Bottom Line
The use of public funds for the purchase of the Faria House (general fund) means that the Faria House must belong to everyone.

So let’s think about this.

The cost of $30,000 is considered by many observers as extremely low, based on the location of this property in Downtown Pinole.
I have heard that other property owners in the area are concerned that this evaluation can affect the value of their similar properties in Pinole.
I’m not a realtor or an appraiser, but I sure would love to see the comps for this appraisal.
Either way it is really just moving the money from one City fund to another.

This is a consent calendar item on tomorrow’s agenda, July 9.
That means that unless this item gets pulled, there will be no in-depth discussion and will simply pass with a majority vote.
The Resolution is to Transfer Title of the Faria House Property in exchange for the Fair Market Value, $30,000 and move this asset out of  Affordable Housing.

I think we are entitled to see the full appraisal, and learn who conducted the appraisal before the Council agrees to the purchase of the Faria House.
In addition if the Council moves ahead with this, they will have set a precedent for the remaining Successor Agency properties, among them the Historic Bank Building.
That’s why it’s important for the community as a whole to know the specifics of the appraisal.
The appraisal should be a public document and be available online just as the agenda is.

If after due deliberation and consideration and feedback from the community, your elected officials deem this is an appropriate use of public funds, the next step should be to create a committee of citizens that includes all the non-profits in Pinole seeking a place to call home.

Thereafter, a plan should be established to determine how funds for the renovation of the Faria House can be raised.
$322,000 is just an estimate, that cost is likely to change and frankly it is certain to rise.
Suggestions for raising funds for renovations should include grants and fund-raising events.

There needs to be a very public conversation about the  use of public funds for renovation of this property and the decisions made should be very carefully scrutinized.
I am not convinced the City can or should use public funds to renovate this property.

I ask the City Council to:
1. Remove this item from the Consent Calendar.
2. Place the full Appraisal on the City Website.
3. Identify and meet with local non-profits to garner their input.
4. Fully vet this purchase before making a decision that impacts the community and use of public funds.

 

 

Funeral Service For Rich Voisey

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Funeral Service Information for Line of Duty Death: Pinole Fire Captain
Richard John Voisey
__________________________________________________
The City of Pinole Fire Department and the United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County Local 1230 are saddened to announce the line of duty death of Pinole Fire Captain Richard Voisey. Richard Voisey served the City of Pinole as a firefighter for 35 years, rising in the ranks from volunteer firefighter to Fire Captain.
Captain Richard Voisey, passed away surrounded by his family on March 4, 2015 at age 54, due to occupational brain cancer. Richard Voisey was a loving husband, father, son, grandfather and brother. He was a great firefighter, leader and citizen. We honor his memory and send our condolences to his wife, Nancy, his daughters Sasia and Sarah, his son, Joshua and granddaughter Autumn.
Funeral Service-
Date: Saturday, March 28, 2015
Time: 1:00PM
Location: St. Josephs Church, 837 Tennant Avenue, Pinole, CA 94564
The public is invited and encouraged to attend, event parking will be available.
Condolences-
Cards and Letters may be sent to:
IAFF Local 1230
C/O Richard Voisey Family
112 Blue Ridge Drive
Martinez, CA 94553
Monetary Donations in Rich’s Name: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the UCSF Foundation. Please make your check payable to the UCSF Foundation with a note indicating you wish to donate towards the Brain Tumor Research Center in memory of Rich Voisey. Checks can be mailed to: UCSF Foundation, P.O. Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145-0339. You can also visit their website and donate online at http://neurosurgery.ucsf.edu
Click on the “Make a Gift” tab on the left side.

Pinole’s Waste Water Rates

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The following Comment and information was submitted by Mr. Tony Gutierrez, Pinole resident.
This forum is an opportunity for members of the public to respectfully voice their opinions and comments.
Mr. Gutierrez has expressed concerns relative to the current and future sewer rates for Pinole residents.
Although the majority of Pinole residents are serviced by Pinole’s sewer system, there is a portion of Pinole that is serviced by the West County Waste Water District.
The City of Pinole published a report in 2013 outlining the Sewer Rates.
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“While visiting my retired aunt, who lives in Tara Hills, she was lamenting that her Sewer Rates were going up. She sad this year she will be paying $381 a year to the West County Wastewater District.

I will pay $681 this year living in Pinole Valley. This is a $300 per year difference. And by July 2017, Pinole Valley rates will rise to $750 annually.
At the April 14th Town Hall Meeting I questioned our City Manager whether or not she received 50% of her entire compensation package from the Sewer Fund in 2013/2014?
Ms. Espinosa responded, “She did not.”
I then asked, “What about the previous fiscal year?”
City attorney Ben Reyes intervened and told me, “That I was not allowed to cross-examine the City Manager.”
I just moved on to my next question.
Just three days later on the 17th, I once again asked the same questions at the Pinole/Hercules Wastewater Subcommittee meeting in reference to Item 8 on the agenda. This time Ms. Espinosa had recovered from her temporary amnesia.

During the last two fiscal years the City Manager’s Compensation has come out of the following funds;
General Fund: 24%, Redevelopment Administrative Fund: 26%, and the Sewer Fund: 50%.

In other words, for the last two fiscal years approximately $115 thousand of the City Manager’s Compensation package came out of the Sewer Fund.

The good news is that for the last two fiscal years the City of Hercules has been paying for 25% of Pinole’s City Manager’s Total Compensation Package, approximately $57,500.

For the upcoming Fiscal year starting on July 1st, Hercules will no longer pay any of our City Manager’s Total Compensation Package.
Well the reason why Hercules is not paying anymore is that they did to feel that it was justified for the City of Pinole to bill the City of Hercules for 25% of our City Manager’s Total Compensation Package for the last two years.

Question:
Since we have control and mange our own Sewer Plant why do Citizens of Pinole who live in Pinole Valley pay 78% higher sewer rates for a single family residence than our brethren who live in Tara Hills that use the West County Sewer District?”

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The red white and blue

 

Recently Jeff Rubin sent a letter to the editor at the WCT citing the Pinole Firefighters, Local 1230,  lawsuit vs. the City of Pinole as “Un-American”.

The City of Pinole is embroiled in a multitude of legal actions, but this lawsuit is the only one Rubin felt was newsworthy.
If you’re keeping score, Rubin has been bashing the fire fighters for some time.

Letter to the editor:
Pinole is right to appeal decision

The city of Pinole is appealing a Public Employees Relations Board judge’s decision awarding Pinole firefighters overtime pay for work they didn’t perform at a fire station that was closed.

The city closed Station 74 because it could not afford to keep it open. The firefighters want to be paid — with interest — for overtime they supposedly lost when Station 74 closed, despite the fact no firefighters were laid off.

Local 1230, representing Pinole firefighters, filed 12 complaints against Pinole in 2011. Ten were dismissed. An administrative law judge decided in Pinole’s favor on one of the two remaining complaints and in Local 1230’s favor on the other, involving overtime pay.

I applaud the city for appealing. People question the city’s expenditure of additional legal fees, but had the union not filed these complaints, there would be no legal fees at all. Local 1230 is also appealing the decision it lost.

Local 1230 feels its firefighters are entitled to be paid for work not performed. I think it’s un-American.

Jeff Rubin

Below is Vince Wells’, Local 1230 President, rebuttal to Rubin’s March 26 letter to the editor.

In the interest of equal time and truth, I am posting it here.

That is, after all, a very American thing to do.

 

In response to Jeff Rubin’s comments above, I would like to clarify his misrepresentation of the actions taken by Local 1230 against the City of Pinole. We filed several “unfair labor practice” charges against the City of Pinole to the Public Employees Relation Board because they broke the law. Under California Law, a public employer and the employees bargaining unit are both obligated to follow the law and bargain in good faith under the Meyer-Milias Brown Act (MMB). If this law is broken by either party, a complaint can be filed to the PERB. We filed several charges against the city, as is our right; and the Administrating Law Judge agreed with our charges on one of the two that went before him. We did not file charges based on lost overtime or on the act of closing Fire Station 74. We filed a complaint regarding the bargaining process leading up to the Station closure. You can look at this as if we “sued” the City for “bad faith” bargaining. When you get sued and lose there is a cost or a settlement. Is the writer suggesting that Pinole should be able to violate the law and not pay for it? Under the law, the judge is required to figure out away to restore what was ever lost by the unlawful action of the losing party. This is normal in any situation. Overtime pay only comes up because the judge must figure out a way to rectify the impacts of the unlawful act. The City has appealed the decision which is their right. The way to avoid the legal fees that are being paid by Local 1230 and the tax payers of Pinole to litigate this situation, would be for the city to bargain in “good faith” like the law requires. As the representative of Local 1230, it is my job to represent my members at the bargaining table and as an employee group in a lawful manner. The representatives of the City of Pinole are responsible for representing the city and its constituents lawfully as well. If this is not done, there is going to be legal costs. It seems that the writer is ignoring the fact that the judge ruled in our favor on the matter. He seems to be looking at this from a biased position. When MMB is violated, there is a price to pay. Whether overtime is the method the judge chooses to use to figure out the DAMAGES, is a moot point.

Vince Wells
President, Contra Costa Firefighters
Local 1230, (925) 768-5374

 

 

Batten Down the Hatches – It’s Election Time

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March 24, 2014

Ahoy mates, there be a hollie blawin in! That hollie is better known as Election time in Pinole and this year it is shaping up to be a real doozie.

Members of this community who keep their ear to the ground and follow the politics that swirl in and around 2131 Pear Street are either already hiding the children or are preparing for another episode of, “As the Pinole Politics Churn”. The political brouhaha surrounds the effort to oust Phil Green from office.

Green is a not so popular guy around city hall. He has been highly critical of the City Manager and staff has been on the opposite side of issues supported by the CCOP. Every other member of the Council, except Green,  was supported in their campaigns by the CCOP.
Green was elected in 2010, another political veteran (Swearingen is also a political veteran) who came back to lead the city. He returned to the Council stating his concern with how the city was being run, “the tail wagging the dog” as he put it.
Voting records will show that Phil Green has often been the only dissenting vote on many issues. It will also show that our council tends to vote as a block, usually by a 3-2 (Long will sometimes vote with Green) or by a 4-1 vote with Green being the lone ranger, the Green Cheese Stands Alone.
Diversity on a council is a good thing and is a basic tenet of democracy. Of course, cohesion and collaboration are also needed. A full discussion of issues is indicative of a properly functioning council.

But in the world of politics, power is the key to moving your agenda, your policies and ideas forward. If there is block voting on virtually every issue, are we getting full representation? Is this why a council member was heard to say, “Now they know who runs the City”?

Certainly the voters will get the last word, and that is as it should be. But information is strength and it is my goal to give my readers another perspective.

Recently I was asked, how much influence does the CCOP have in Pinole politics?
I have been told by a member of the CCOP, whose name I will not disclose, that the CCOP has a lot of influence. This person told me that the CCOP had pointed out to certain current councilmembers things they didn’t like and wanted corrected.
Specifically one member was told to stop making jokes from the dais, another was told to stop micro-managing, yet another was told to be more vocal and to be on time, the fourth council members was deemed to be “perfect”. Further I was told that these council members heeded their advise. Do you have a problem with that? Where are the independent voices?
Small towns and their politics are ruthless. Very often there is someone who wants to be the big fish in the small pond or the shark in an ocean full of guppies.

In 2013 Jeff Rubin began a public campaign to unseat Phil Green. He stood at the podium and leveled accusations of criminal activity at Green. When we look back at that personal attack it becomes clear that the CCOP had already decided they wanted Green out and wanted to replace him with another council member, one they support. Will that be Norma Martinez-Rubin, or perhaps, yikes, Mary Horton?

There has been some talk about Mary Horton making another run. Yes, that’s right, former Mayor Mary Horton, who resigned from the Council without warning, leaving her fellow council members stunned and unprepared. Yes, the same Mary Horton who was caught red-handed stealing campaign signs. So now we are coming full circle? Scary stuff.

In 2014, Rubin has toned down his rhetoric somewhat, signalling a strategy to separate Jeff Rubin’s persona, from his wife, Norma Martinez-Rubin and her possible run for office. (January 2014 video below)
That does not, however, preclude him from gathering his loyalists and setting forth on a campaign to unseat Phil Green. The games are fully underway.

At the March 18 City Council meeting another CCOP member, Mary Drazba, joined the fray. She accused Mr. Green of being a felon and an embarrassment to the city. She asked that he not be allowed to participate in the BBQ for the Troops on April 6th.  (video below)

These are the talking points for the campaign to unseat Green. The letters to the Times campaign is also in full swing. You will see the same players taking part in both the letter writing campaign and the speeches at the council meetings. It is a strategy that has served them well in spite of being fraught with misinformation and false accusations.

Where has the CCOP been recently?
During the whole cell tower fiasco the CCOP was conspicuously absent.
When the City Manager and Council’s actions were disclosed and the missteps brought to light, where was the CCOP?
The cell tower issue and the park and Fire Station conversion will cost this city dearly.
Where’s the concern for the taxpayers and their money?
They have termed the actions of the City Manager and the Council in this flubbed process, as “a little mistake”.
This “little mistake” has already been very costly and will continue to be very costly. It is the taxpayer who will foot the bill for this “little mistake”. Concerned citizens should care that their leaders have erred and that those mistakes are costing the community dearly. But that’s not the case when they are “one of yours”.
But when it comes to political theatre and the advancement of the CCOP brand and ideas, the CCOP becomes fully engaged.
Election time is when they will show up at every council meeting and set into motion their campaign strategy.
In the following months you will be party to the ugly side of Pinole Politics.
It promises to be no holds barred, UFC, match, CCOP vs. Green.

The rules in politics, as I once was told by a former Pinole Mayor, is that there are no rules.
Indeed. Batten down the hatches.

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

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January 30, 2014

I was asked to take a look at the December 17, 2013 Pinole City Council meeting. Specifically I was to look at the comments made at approximately 11:20 pm, by Pinole residents David Ruport and Sal Spataro.

Mr. Ruport and Mr. Spataro presented the City with a gift, information they discovered that could possibly give the city an “out” regarding the conversion of Station 74. Station 74 was caught in the Tsunami known as the Tower Horror. Unfortunately, Station 74 became collateral damage when the Grant deeds for Pinole Valley Park were discovered.
The State informed the City that it could not convert Pinole Valley Park land for a use other than “recreational outdoor use”. This effectively put a stop to the cell tower in the park.
But it also, shockingly, resulted in the discovery that Station 74 was out of compliance and had been built without going through the State’s mandated conversion process.
Being out of compliance places financial sanctions on the city. This turn of events also may have put the last nail in the coffin for those clinging to the hope that Station 74 would re-open someday.

Mindful of this and determined to leave no stone unturned Mr. Ruport and Mr. Spataro researched case history, online records and data from the State and the City and came across some information that could potentially put a crimp in the State’s case.

On December 17, 2013, Mr. Ruport, stood before our Council at nearly midnight, armed with copies of documents that seemed to indicate that in the 1990’s the City had made an effort to follow the conversion process and that the State had knowledge of the City’s intent but failed to follow through. Mr. Ruport presented them with his gift.

What followed is an interesting exchange between members of the City Council, staff and Mr. Ruport.
Rather than thank Mr. Ruport for bringing this information to their attention he was peppered with comments that would make any citizen think twice about stepping forward to help our City out of a jam.

Mr. Spataro, in his comments is much more direct and to the point.
He says, “we’re finding all the answers”. “We found it why couldn’t you?”

The City has stated that they are working on the conversion and that they must:
1. Research legal questions.
2. Allocate staff time and resources.
3. Research the records and files from the early 1990’s to the date of construction in 2002.
4. Identify an equivalent piece of exchange property.

The research to accomplish these tasks comes with a price tag to the city and therefore to the taxpayer.

Mr. Ruport handed the City information that may or may not assist them and possibly reduce legal costs and staff time.
Irrespective of how the information is used or how accurate or helpful it is, our elected officials and staff should have embraced and voiced their appreciation for the time and effort Mr. Ruport put into his research.
Take a look at the videos below. You can decide for yourselves if our elected officials and staff looked a gift horse in the mouth.

if you would like to provide your feedback please complete the form below.