Monday's City of California Board of Aldermen meeting was the end of an era.
It was the last regular board meeting outgoing mayor Norris Gerhart will preside over in his 20 years of public service. Before the evening was finished, board members made their appreciation known; alderman Lanny Ash presented Gerhart with a plaque commemorating his service to the city.
The gravity of the evening was not lost on the city's outgoing mayor of two decades.
"Before we get started this evening, I just wanted to thank you all," Gerhart said to open the meeting. "It's my last regular council meeting. It's been a pleasure to serve the city of California. I've been the mayor for 20 years; I (only) failed to make it to one meeting in 20 years. It's a bittersweet day today, but it's a good day."
Gerhart thanked the city's boards, past and present, and everyone else who's helped to make the city run during his time in the mayor's seat.
The occasion was coupled with a busy evening for the board of aldermen, which handled a wide variety of business before the meeting's close.
At the top of the agenda was a lengthy list of new business; representatives with California Progress, Inc. were first up, with CPI president Pam Green presenting the city with a $500 check to help purchase new plants for Smith-Burke Park. CPI also presented the board with its plan for the playground at Latham Memorial Family Park, for which the board ultimately gave its approval.
Other items approved during new business included a response letter to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the renewal of a contract with Moniteau County to collect the California City Tax, and a $6,000 bid from Premier Pyrotechincs for the city's Fourth of July fireworks display. Items tabled or denied included approval of the Moniteau County Collector's 2020 delinquent tax list, which was tabled until the board's May meeting, and a citizen request to put up a prayer tent a few days each week for people entering or exiting the Moniteau County courthouse for court appearances, which the board denied due to logistics concerns.
Another item approved Monday night was a $1,000 signing bonus for new hires at the California Police Department, to be paid back to the city if an officer chooses to leave voluntarily within their first year of employment. The signing bonus, as well as the $1 across-the-board raise the aldermen agreed upon at their recent budget session, was codified in an ordinance.
Other ordinances passed Monday night included a trio of parade and festival roadway closures: for the city's Fourth of July parade, on July 3; for the Moniteau County Fair parade, set for the first Saturday in August; and for the Ozark Ham & Turkey Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 18. The city's tax collection agreement with Moniteau County was also codified in an ordinance.
In department reports, city supervisors gave brief recaps of some of the highlights of their budget requests for the new fiscal year.
Projects highlighted ranged from the electric department's building work at Putnam substation beginning this year to roofing repairs to the gazebo at Smith-Burke Park for the park department.
The city's water and sewer department and wastewater department each have a number of projects on the docket — water tower cleans, new chlorine analyzers, sewer lining and engineering and an extra pump for one of the city's lift stations for water and sewer, and $75,000 for an new electronic infrastructure system for wastewater. The pair of departments also stressed to the board a water rate increase should be considered in the near future; the city of California currently has the 12th-lowest water rate in the state. A group will bring back a recommendation to the board at a future meeting.
The street department is another area where a rate increase may be necessary, street supervisor Victor Maurer said Monday. That department's budget highlights include new dumpsters budgeted for $9,000 and storm water projects on Rice Boulevard and Francis Street. Outside of budget highlights, about 144 of the 316 tons of trash picked up during the past month was gathered during the city's three-day spring street cleanup at the end of March, Maurer said.
For the California Fire Department, acquisition of its new truck from Columbia's department is still on the horizon, as the vehicle is currently undergoing repairs.
In recreation, the city's youth soccer season is now two weeks in, with baseball slated to begin once the season is over. Park supervisor Leslie Scheidt said 330 children are signed up for baseball for this summer. Lifeguard training is set for later this month, and swim lessons at the city pool are slated to continue as normal later this year. The board also discussed a request from CPI to serve alcohol at the ball fields for an upcoming fundraiser for its park project. The board agreed that it would be okay with working with CPI to make this happen, pending formal application and approval at a later date. CPI would also need an independent liquor license for its event.
Finally, the board agreed that the $1.25 fee for each payment made via the city's new online billing system will continue. City Clerk Aimee Hill also informed the board that the city is preparing for an audit in the near future.
The City of California Board of Aldermen's next meeting is set for 7 p.m. May 3.