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Council considering reallocation of sewer funds

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday May 22, 2001

At its meeting tonight, the City Council will consider a recommendation to transfer funding for the First Source Employment Program from the Sewer Fund to allocations from a variety of capital projects. 

The goal of the employment program is to promote the hiring of qualified Berkeley residents among businesses that contract with the city, especially construction contractors.  

A March audit performed by City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan, concluded that the FSEP was being inappropriately financed by the Sewer Fund, which generates about $14 million a year for repair and maintenance of the city’s damaged and leaking sewer lines. According to Berkeley Municipal Code, it is a violation to use that money for any city program that is not sewer related.  

Hogan said in her report that when the FSEP was first established, it was only promoting local hiring on sewer projects and that over time the program started promoting hiring for other divisions, which created the funding problem.  

According to the report to council, The city manager is proposing individual capital projects fund for FSEP. If adopted by the council, each project would allocate 1 percent of its budget to the program. 


Low-income energy program 

The council will consider accepting a state grant of $97,600 to help low-income residents pay energy bills and fund energy efficient weatherization services for their homes and apartments.  

The state legislature authorized the California State Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program as a response to the energy crisis. 

To be eligible for the program, applicants must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty income. 

Both the bill payment assistance and the weatherization programs will give seniors and disabled residents priority. 


Public Hearings 


Zoning appeal 

The council will hold nine public hearings tonight. Among them will be the appeal of a zoning permit for the construction of a detached dwelling behind an existing structure at 1825 Berkeley Way.  

Neighbors are appealing the permit because the new dwelling would be within four feet and eight inches of the rear property line. Normally, the required setback for a rear property line is 15 feet.  

The city manager’s report recommends that the council deny the appeal and uphold the Use permit. 

The council could deny the appeal, send the project back to the Zoning Adjustments Board or reverse the ZAB’s decision. 


Lighting assessment 

The council will hold its annual street-lighting assessment public hearing. According to the Landscaping and Lighting Act of 1972, the city must hold a public hearing each year prior to accepting the street-lighting assessment budget.  

The city manager estimates the city will spend $1.6 million during fiscal year 2002 for street-light upkeep. The current property owner and business assessment is $1.3 million. 

Businesses are assessed at four times the rate of residential property owners because commercial areas are on average four times brighter than residential areas. 


Consent items 

Some of the consent calendar items, those generally passed unanimously and without discussion, include: 

• An additional $12,000 to the Harrison Park air study to look at certain metals in the air at the park. 

• Repair of broken parking meters. 

• Ask the city manager to report at this meeting (an exception to the rules) on the status of staffing for traffic and pedestrian safety. 


Berkeley Housing Authority 

The Housing Authority will hold a meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers just prior to the regular City Council meeting. 


The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. It is broadcast on KPFB at 89.3 and televised on B-TV, ch-25.