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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Council tables study on pay -- for now


Last updated 12/21/2020 at 5:51am | View PDF

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Councilmember Cathy Prout voices her stance against spending on a study in this environment.

The Shafter City Council voted unanimously to table a compensation study that would determine what other comparable cities pay the employees in their different departments, such as Public Works.

Recommended by City Manager Gabriel Gonzales, the study would be performed by Koff & Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in such studies. It would help with classification of different positions, as well as determining what the market value of those positions are, Gonzalez said.

The project would have a cost of approximately $30,000, which would be funded by monies in the various departmental accounts.

Councilmember Cathy Prout said that she did not think that it was wise for the city to spend the money on the study at this time, when the city is dealing with the virus situation. City Manager Gabriel Gonzales said, "Even in this unique situation, the city still has business to conduct, which will assist us in dealing with the negotiations."

Councilmember Chad Givens concurred with Prout, saying that it was not the right time to have a study done, given the possibility that there may be major changes months from now that might make the study obsolete. "I just don't think that this is the right time to be spending the money on a study," commented Givens.

The 5-0 vote in favor of tabling the recommendation makes it possible to revisit the issue.

In another unanimous vote, the council approved a recommendation from Caltrans to move forward with studies that will result in a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 43 and Santa Fe Way. The roundabout would alleviate traffic congestion and reduce the safety risks that the current intersection presents, Caltrans said.

The plan is that the city covers the preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisitions, estimated at about $4 million. Caltrans has committed to fund the construction, which, based on similar roundabout projects they have built, will cost between $6 and $8 million.

The council had recently authorized a project that will commit $1.5 million in local Federal Transportation Improvement Program funding toward preliminary engineering work to performed by Caltrans.

In the early stages of project planning with Caltrans, the roundabout was laid out as a "five-legged" intersection, meaning that all five existing street alignments that currently connect the intersection (Beech Avenue, Santa Fe Way, Los Angeles Avenue, Highway 43 North,43 South) could access the roundabout. In recent months, Caltrans has suggested that a downgraded four-legged intersection, without a Beech Avenue connection, would be a better alternative.

Keeping Beech Avenue open would mean maintaining an at-grade rail crossing at the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, which subjects the project to requirements issued by the California Public Utility Commission, which has jurisdiction over at-grade crossings. Caltrans said that if the five-legged roundabout was considered, there would be a need for signals in all directions to ensure that vehicles trying to exit the at-grade Beech Avenue crossing are not held up by cross traffic.

Caltrans and Public Works both agreed that traffic signalization defeats the purpose of having a roundabout, which is to alleviate the traffic congestion and impacts of the BNSF Railway. It was also pointed out that when the High Speed Rail project has completed its section in the area, it would mean the elimination of Beech Avenue anyway.

After discussion, the council decided to approve the four-legged intersection without the Beech Avenue connection. This allows the studies and engineering plans to move forward..


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