Wildomar reups city manager’s contract, approves Baxter Village go-ahead

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Wildomar Mayor Dustin Nigg kicked off the Wednesday, Nov. 11, city council meeting with a Veterans Day message.

“Keep in mind veterans when you go out and say ‘thank you’ to them for their service. Recognize that they were young when they joined. They took a giant leap of faith, and they went out and served their country,” he said. “That right there in itself is commendable. The other part I wanted to throw out there is a lot of times it changes them forever, for the rest of their lives. That’s part of their life forever now, and you can’t take it away. In some cases, it’s a huge part of them.”

He reminded viewers of the teleconference meeting that the city presented a Veterans Day video.

“I thought it turned out very, very well,” Nigg said. “We have a lot of veterans from the city give their stories and why they joined what they got out of it. I encourage everyone to, if you haven’t watched it, go ahead and watch. It’s a good video.”

In other news, the council approved the fourth amendment to an agreement for the employment of Gary Nordquist as city manager for another year.

“Thank you, Gary, for sticking around for one more year with what’s going on with COVID-19,” council member Ben Benoit said. “I know you planned to get out of Dodge and I appreciate your tenure, and I appreciate him continuing. I think the continuity is excellent at this juncture.”

The council approved the agreement unanimously.

Tyler Masters, director of Western Community Energy, gave the council an update on the energy program the city adopted earlier this year.

Wildomar joined up with Western Community Energy, a community choice aggregation program that gives local governments the opportunity to buy electricity directly from its source and offers it to the community at a more competitive rate than Southern California Edison.

The way it works is Southern California Edison purchases energy from a provider, distributes that energy and bills the customer. With the plan, WCE will purchase the energy, and SCE will distribute and bill the customer.

“Our participation rate is 93% of our eligible customers participate in and receive the savings in participating,” he said. “We currently serve over 110,000 customers in six cities – Eastvale, Hemet, Jurupa Valley, Norco, Perris and Wildomar.”

Masters said overall, WCE has saved customers more than $3.1 million since launching in May.

Councilmember Joseph Morabito said he’s heard from residents that claimed their bills were higher than when they were with SCE.

“We would be more than happy to have these conversations with residents if they have questions they can call us and we’d be more than happy to do a specialized residential calculator for them,” Masters said. “We have developed templates and analyses and we’ve run these now for dozens of residential customers and we haven’t found a residential customer that we haven’t been able to provide a savings to.”

He said they are working on a few programs that WCE doesn’t offer where SCE does and hoped to have some of them ready in the near future.

Nigg asked about rolling blackouts.

“Unfortunately, no, the blackouts are a statewide,” Masters said. “When it’s really hot out there, the California Independent Service Operator is the one that manages the entire grid and regulates the grid. When they are finding that there’s the demand for electricity across the state is going higher than what the what the electrical supply on the rate is, they will begin to reach out to utilities and CCAs to request CCAs and utilities alike to ask their customers to begin reducing power so that the entire grid can stay resilient.”

The council ultimately approved a revised plot plan and supplemental EIR for the planned Baxter Village medical offices and hotel.

Several speakers spoke in opposition to several aspects of the plan, including council member Joseph Morabito, who recused himself from the decision but spoke as a resident and questioned the due diligence done by the planning commission at a recent meeting.

“I was quite surprised and somewhat disheartened at the apparent lack of curiosity they had as demonstrated (by) very few tough questions or follow ups they seem to have about it at that meeting,” Morabito said. “It wasn’t discussed if Wildomar Trail would be widened or made a two-lane road. Was it in the agenda packet? Maybe but it wasn’t (mentioned) at all, as it wasn’t mentioned tonight either. Neither was the fact that the on- and off-ramps and overpass will not be widened.

“That is going to cause major problems for those that live nearby. Remembering the mantra of local control and that the only council member that actually uses Wildomar Trail regularly where this project is slated for is not in the position to vote nor discuss with the rest of you, I want to hammer home again – local control. Even if all four of you are inclined to love this project, can any of you explain how it benefits Wildomar or more locally the area where this is actually located to allow this project to sidestep the usual planning review process?” he said.

Morabito said the applicant should have to go through the same processes.

Eric Flodine said in a rebuttal that in the conditions for approval for the project includes widened lanes and on- and off-ramps.

“I actually think that will be a beautiful addition to Wildomar. There will still be open space; there will still be country around,” council member Marsha Swanson said. “We need to go to the doctor every now and then, and to have it right there… Lake Elsinore doesn’t really have a good medical center at all.

“I’ve been here 46 years. I was here before there was a grocery store… We need some of these things in our city. We can still have a rural area and have conveniences and jobs for our community,” Swanson said.

All the motions carried 4-0.

In general business, received and filed the city COVID-19 update, approved updates to several positions and approved proposed changes to the existing dental, vision and other related health benefits for employees.

The council also approved Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s request to increase staffing and fund up to 16 hours per week of additional support to enhanced public safety programs unique to Measure AA funding.

The council also approved the consent calendar which included the second reading of ordinance No. 192- ADU Code Amendment, an approval of the COVID-19 Personnel Policy update, approved a revised cooperation agreement for participation in the county of Riverside’s Community Development Block Grant Program, and adopted a joint powers agreement and bylaws for the California Intergovernmental Risk Authority which permits the merger of Public Agency Risk Sharing Authority of California and the Redwood Empire Municipal Insurance Fund.

They also adopted a resolution to declare a public nuisance and abate all weeds growing on private property within the city.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.