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City of St. Helena

Members of the St. Helena City Council promised Tuesday to take action on a new report analyzing the city’s facilities, including the aging City Hall.

The council acknowledged the work of the St. Helena Asset Planning Engagement (SHAPE) Committee, which produced the report after seven months of study. Mayor Alan Galbraith said the council should “move forward with reasonable alacrity.”

The council didn’t set a timetable at Tuesday’s meeting, but City Manager Mark Prestwich did announce a special joint meeting between the council and the SHAPE Committee at 6 p.m. Monday, June 25, at the firehouse.

Mark Smithers, chair of the SHAPE Committee, urged the council to “discuss, decide and act” based on the 121-page report, which lays out the city’s options for City Hall, the St. Helena Public Library, the Adams Street property, and other city properties.

“It is clear the community wants action, and wants action now – not years from now,” Smithers said.

In response, Galbraith said he has “no desire to sit on this report” and said he looks forward to hearing more public comment on June 25.

Councilmember Mary Koberstein also thanked the committee for its work, and contrasted it with a previous proposal to team up with a hotel developer on the Adams Street property.

“It was about a year ago we were in this room with 40 people lined up along the wall opposing the suggestion that we should jump right into something that we hadn’t really investigated,” she said. “I think this process is excellent.”

The council didn’t delve into the report’s details on Tuesday, but one public comment hinted at the debate that’s sure to result from one of the options identified by the committee: moving City Hall staff into the library.

Maria Criscione Stel, representing the library’s nonprofit Friends & Foundation, said her group wouldn’t oppose the construction of “a new 21st-century library,” but that decision should be part of a master development plan that would involve library trustees, library staff, and a library consultant.

Stel said the library building was funded mostly by community donations that were intended for a library, not a City Hall.

“As advocates for the library, Friends & Foundation opposes any action that would diminish the library’s scope and otherwise damage the institution,” she said.

Other action

In other action, the council:

  • Introduced an ordinance banning the sale, use, possession and discharge of “safe-and-sane” fireworks in St. Helena.

St. Helena used to be the only place in Napa County where “safe-and-sane” fireworks were legal, and the American Legion Post 199 operated a fireworks stand every year leading up to the Fourth of July.

After last fall’s wildfires, the American Legion decided to discontinue its fireworks sale. Shortly after that announcement, Fire Chief John Sorensen said he would ask the council to join the rest of the county in banning all fireworks.

The ban won’t interfere with the professional fireworks show at Crane Park on the Fourth of July.

- Adopted the 2018-2019 city budget with minimal discussion, having reviewed it at length in May. The budget is mostly similar to the 2017-2018 budget, with added funding for two full-time firefighters and one part-time, limited-term senior planner.

  • Authorized an $86,800 contract with Pacific Legacy to complete the work necessary to manage the archeological artifacts unearthed at the flood project site.

Pacific Legacy conducted the dig in consultation with the descendants of the Wappo people who once lived on the site. Findings included tools made of stone and bone, mortars and pestles, layered stone floors, hearths, jewelry made of animal bones and antlers, and human remains that have since been re-interred.

The city owns the remaining artifacts, but Sonoma State University is curating them. The new contract allows the St. Helena Historical Society to borrow the items for display and to take permanent custody of the collection once it has an adequate curatorial facility.

  • Introduced a new sign ordinance that will bring city code into compliance with modern case law concerning free speech.
  • Approved new procedural rules that increase public comment time from three minutes per speaker to four, among other changes.
  • Reappointed Peter Murphy as the city’s representative on the Measure A Financial Oversight Committee.
  • Authorized a $44,500 contract with Ralph Andersen & Associates to conduct a classification and compensation study and organizational review of the Public Works Department.
  • Passed a resolution opposing a potential November ballot measure that would require two-thirds voter approval for all new local taxes. Current state law requires only a simple majority approval of general taxes that are not set aside for a specific purpose.

St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.