City Council discusses harbor appointees, budgets for new city positions – Fort Bragg Advocate-News

FORT BRAGG — The Fort Bragg City Council meeting started under a bit of sad news Monday evening, as Mayor Will Lee announced his intent to resign at the end of this year just a few hours before.

“After much reflection and prayer,” Lee said during the meeting, “I have decided to take a job out of town. It was not an easy decision for me.”

Lee will be moving with his partner to San Jose to pursue a new job opportunity at a larger hospital, he said.

Council, supervisors interview Noyo Harbor Commission applicants

Mendocino County Supervisors Dan Gjerde and Ted Williams joined the council to interview applicants for the Noyo Harbor Commission. Applicants included Douglas Albin, Bill Forkner, Jim Hurst, Tara Larson and Gabriel Maroney. The appointees terms will begin immediately after being sworn in and will continue until October 2024.

Fort Bragg City Councilor Tess Albin-Smith disclosed that she is married to Douglas Albin, and so she recused herself from the vote, but not the interviews.

Councilor Lindy Peters suggested at the first november meeting, the council acknowledge the many years that outgoing Harbor Commission Chair Joe Caito with a mayoral proclamation, to which Lee agreed enthusiastically.

The Noyo Harbor Commission is the governing body for the Noyo Harbor District. A seat on the board, as well as the Chair position, are coming vacant. The City of Fort Bragg can appoint one chair, and the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors must jointly appoint the chair — which is why Gjerde and Williams were in attendance at the council meeting Monday evening and why Mayor Lee moved the item up the agenda to directly after the public comment section.

“To me, Noyo Harbor is the heart of the Mendocino Coast,” Albin told the council and supervisors during his interview. “In past year, the Harbor District has been subject to economic challenges and difficulties with some laws and permits. But now it’s improving. The district has a dedicated team of commissioners and staff and I would very much like to work with them.”

Forkner, who has already served four years on the commission, said he’s spent much of his life “working or playing” on a boat in Noyo Harbor. “My whole life’s been with the harbor or the fishing industry. It’s not getting easier, as you know,” he said. “I just want to stay involved and keep things moving and going on.”

Hurst, who is also a current commissioner, introduced himself as a Fort Bragg resident of 43 years, and said that one of his first jobs in the city was working with the Harbor Commission on its disposal sites. “During the last 43 years I’ve seen a lot of improvements in the harbor and seen how it’s become and important part of the community,” he said.

Larson, who is a fifth-generation Fort Bragger and currently an English teacher and track coach at Fort Bragg High School, said she “grew up running up and down the docks.” Larson said she was particularly focused on “safety first” and wanted to help take care of the shallow basin, and to start removing derelict and abandoned boats before they sink.

Maroney, unfortunately, had technical problems, and so with the consent of the council and the visiting supervisors, the mayor decided to call a special meeting before the terms expire on Oct. 31 so that it could hear from Maroney. That meeting will likely be held the evening of Thursday, Oct. 29.

At that special meeting, city council (along with Gjerde and Williams) will decide on its appointees to the commission.

City manager’s report good news

Fort Bragg City Manager Tabatha Miller gave her bi-monthly report to the council, stopping first to congratulate Lee on his announcement.

“I have to just commend you for all the hours you’ve put in, al the hard work,” Miller said. “You are innovative and ambitious and it’s really pushed the city forward.”

Miller announced there has been a setback on sewer project on N. Main Street. According to her, the bypass pumping crew had a “COVID-related emergency” and since they are currently short-staffed, they are now due to start work Monday, Nov. 2.

Miller also mentioned that there will be a drive-thru Trick or Treat event from 1 to 4 p.m. on Halloween. The cars will head east on Oak Street, turn onto Dana Street, through the Fort Bragg High and Dana Gray Elementary schools parking lots and wind up at the C.V. Starr Community Center. She invited the city’s elected officials to help pass out candy at the city booth’s at the community center.

The city’s drought emergency is holding steady at Stage 1, Miller said, with no reason to believe water flows will be impacted. However, more high, “king” tides are expected between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, and then again in mid-November.

City Clerk June Lemos gave a short report on recent ballot counts: As of Monday evening, Lemos said, Fort Bragg has sent 3,501 ballots to the county elections office.

There are 3,938 registered voters in Fort Bragg — that’s up more than 450 voters from 2018’s total registered voters.

“Ballots are coming from all over the coastal area,” Lemos said, including some from as far away as San Diego, San Bernardino and San Francisco. Ballots are now being picked up every day by county election officials.

Matters from councilors

Councilor Jessica Morsell Haye gave a quick update on the Citizen’s Name Change Commission. Morsell Haye said she was “feeling more optimistic.”

“We have started to get a little bit of a foothold here as we move forward,” she said. She credited Vice Mayor Bernie Norvell with stepping into the conversation and “lending balance to the commission.”

Moving on, Councilor Albin-Smith pulled item 5B from the consent calendar for discussion, but otherwise the consent calendar was adopted unanimously. Item 5B dealt with the adoption of a city council resolution adopting the recommendations of the Elections Review Committee.

Albin-Smith wanted to pull the item to clarify some more information about the future of ranked-choice voting in California, due to a comment from a member of the public. She explained that in the future, ranked-choice voting may become available to non-chartered cities (Fort Bragg is not currently one) but that the Elections Review Committee decided it did not want to be the ones to suggest the chartering process, and that’s the reason why it did not appear in their recommendations to council. Item 5B then also passed unanimously.

Budget adjustments and city hires

At the last city council meeting, the council reviewed and approved its fifth budget amendment for the fiscal year 2020-21. In the staff report supporting that amendment, was the suggestion that City Council consider adding funding for two additional staff positions — an administrative services/finance director, and a Fort Bragg Police Department captain.

Both positions provide for a level of succession planning that does not exist with the current staffing levels, according to the city staff’s report. An administrative services/finance director would replace two open, but currently unbudgeted, director-level positions with one and is a position that could serve as acting city manager and potentially as a replacement city manager, if needed. City Manager Tabatha Miller said she is currently doing the work this position would take over.

The captain position provides a higher level of support to Interim Police Chief John Naulty, and could provide an in-house candidate when it becomes necessary to permanently fill the police chief position upon Naulty’s departure.

If the Council decided to hire a Finance/Administrative Services Director and to add a new Police Captain position, the annual impact to the General Fund budget is just under $414,000.

Frozen and eliminated positions in the city’s staff over the last two and a half years include: A fifth sergeant position, that had been added to cover extended medical leave; a community safety officer, upon promotion to police officer; a finance director, upon resignation; a systems analyst lead, upon resignation; a community development director; an assistant Public Works director; an administrative services director; one police department lieutenant; a police department administrative supervisor; two maintenance worker positions and all seasonal positions.

“These are needed people in City Hall,” said Vice Mayor Norvell. I think this is a big step for us to get our numbers up and become more efficient.”

The council will be voting on the final amounts to budget at its next meeting.

The next Fort Bragg City Council meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Nov. 9 via a virtual web host. For more information, visit the city’s website at

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