Menifee City Council hears update on the coronavirus outbreak and police department establishment

0
274

The Menifee City Council met in an April 15 teleconference to receive updates on the city’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and the new municipal police department’s hiring and training project.

Menifee police Chief Pat Walsh presented an update on the new department’s recruiting and training programs with the official department opening coming July 1.

Walsh said the newly recruited officers and supervisors are now undergoing extensive training with experts in many areas with meeting and symposiums that include strength based leadership, combat medical training, customer service, moral injury, risk management, use of force, military aircraft accidents, elderly abuse, emotional survival, patrol tactics, range training, CAD/RMS dispatch, crisis intervention, ethical decision making, public defender and district attorney roles and ring doorbell collaboration.

District 1 Councilmember Greg August questioned the recent budget overruns in the building earthquake retrofit and the dispatch equipment needed that totaled more than $1 million. City manager Armando Villa said that the cost overruns were expected because it is the first time a police department is being formed in the city, but the chief and staff would be reporting line by line what those costs were and why they were needed before the department officially opens.

Walsh said most of the officers coming to the department are from the San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange County sheriff and police departments not from the Riverside County Sheriff. He said he was happy to see that since he and the Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco will be working together in the future.

Samantha Rodriquez from the Menifee Emergency Management team started the meeting off with an update on the what the team, which is now working under a Level 2 response to the coronavirus pandemic, is doing to help the city, county, state and nation level off the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

She said since March 16 when the coronavirus was called a pandemic by the federal government and by the county medical officer, many changes have taken place affecting every resident of the city. Using a video presentation, she showed the council that two days after the pandemic declaration, March 18, the city had no cases of the coronavirus and the city opened the emergency operations center with 10 staff members. As of April 15, the city had 71 cases and no deaths. Under Level 3, the emergency operations center now has 28 city staff. City Hall is closed, along with all of the city parks.

Riverside County now has four COVID-19 testing sites and two new medical field sites opened recently.

Currently, the city’s public information office is in full swing, the food distribution program is operating, code enforcement is active on the streets and the finance department is working to find funding to continue helping residents while nonessential businesses are closing and residents stay home.

City departments are still accepting building plans, permits, taking payments and other business through its virtual city hall. The city council, commissions and committee meetings are all meeting virtually.

Rodriguez said that essential staff members have been issued face masks and laptop computers to conduct most city business remotely. Schools will remain closed through the end of the school year. Face coverings are required of all residents outside of their homes, and mass gatherings are prohibited. The city is conducting regular webinars for businesses and residents.

Rodriquez gave an update on the city’s food distribution efforts, saying the city has served 4,106 meals for seniors in greatest need since March 18, which included 572 five-day meal packs, or 3,483 meals, and 623 one-day meals. On April 15, the program had received 274 new enrollments.

Menifee’s economic development team is actively involved in helping businesses and developers in the community to continue expanding local economic development.

District 3 Councilmember Lesa Sobek praised the city staff for their efforts.

“They are doing an awesome job,” Sobek said.

There was a question about the increasing number of personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, that were being left in parking lots, driveways and roadways and who is responsible for picking them up. Rodriquez said the city code enforcement is working with property owners to pick up the cast-off personal protective equipment.

In other business, the council approved 20 consent items and conducted two public hearings. They approved the city’s Community Development Block Grant Program annual action plan totaling $522,267 for the next year following the first public hearing. They approved the planning commission’s resolution adopting a mitigated negative declaration for the tentative tract map on a development located south of McLaughlin Road, east of Evans Road, north of Rouse Road and west of Bennett Road subject to the approval conditions.

The McLaughlin Villages subdivision includes dividing 46.9 gross acres into 174 single-family residential lots with a minimum lot size of 7,200 square feet and multiple lettered lots including a homeowners association-maintained park, a water quality management plan basin, paseos and interior parkways and exterior parkways. The dwelling units are proposed to be single-family detached homes with proposed residential lot sizes that range from a minimum of 7,200 square feet to 13,507 square feet.

The council discussed an initiative petition to repeal the city’s Measure DD 1% sales tax that was certified by the county registrar of voters. Several other attempts to repeal the sales tax, designed to help offset the costs of public safety in the community were defeated. The council wanted a full report on the costs by May 15. The measure will be submitted to the voters in the regular Nov. 3 general election.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.