Atwater City Council approves changes to Measure H committee

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMarch 11, 2014 

— The City Council voted on Monday to increase the number of members of the Measure H Oversight committee from five to seven, along with other revisions to the ordinance.

The ordinance revisions passed in a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Joe Rivero voting no.

Measure H, a half-percent sales tax increase for all transactions, passed with a 67.1 percent vote in March 2013. Officials said the tax revenue would be used to support public safety services in Atwater.

As part of the tax ordinance, Police Chief and City Manager Frank Pietro established a citizens’ oversight committee and appointed its members. The committee oversees how the money is spent.

Pietro said he received 12 applications from community members. He appointed five people to the committee and selected five alternates. Two of those alternates will be moved into positions on the committee.

Adding two more people ensures a little more input and makes it easier to achieve a quorum, said Councilman Larry Bergman.

“To me, you get a couple extra voices on there so you get a more diverse opinion from the populace,” Bergman said. “When it was written, it was originally supposed to be seven members and then two were accidentally omitted.”

Earlier this year, disagreement arose about whether two individuals should be allowed to serve on the committee because the ordinance stated members “shall not be current city of Atwater employees, officials, contractors or vendors of the city.”

The city attorney revised the ordinance to clarify the definition of a city “official” and those changes were also approved during Monday night’s regular City Council meeting.

In other action, the City Council unanimously approved changing an ordinance that had limited the height of buildings to be constructed in Atwater.

The newly revised ordinance now allows construction of buildings more than 2.5 stories or 35 feet tall.

Atwater Mayor Joan Faul said city officials have talked about updating the ordinance for several months.

The changes will allow Atwater to consider approval of new businesses with multiple stories, as do most other Merced County communities.

“It just brings us up-to-date with the rest of the communities,” Faul said.

“I think it’s a positive step for the city of Atwater, especially now with the hotel industry – all of them are three or four stories – and we have to be able to accommodate them,” she said.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@ mercedsunstar.com.

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