Nevada City Council hones in on loitering, lunch program |

Nevada City Council hones in on loitering, lunch program

Nevada City police and councilmembers brainstormed new tactics Wednesday to root out an entrenched loitering problem.

People sitting on the sidewalk of Commercial Street with outstretched legs intimidate pedestrians and tourists, business owners have said.

Since the council discussed the issue a few weeks ago, Mayor Robert Bergman attempted to talk with the loiterers about their behavior. That was unsuccessful; he now plans to write out the city’s expectations and hand it out to the loiterers.

Police are limited in how they can control the lingering: Voters handily rejected an anti-loitering ordinance placed on the ballot in 1998, according to City Manager Gene Albaugh.

Bergman commended police officers for holding public workshops with business owners to devise solutions for the problem.

“Through your continued efforts, things are getting better,” Bergman said.

Meals for the homeless

City councilmembers voted to take no action to cut rent for Divine Spark, a nonprofit that provides free meals for the homeless.

Divine Spark rents the Nevada City Veterans Building during lunchtime five days a week to feed about 50 homeless people at a time. The city charges $20 per hour for the rental; Divine Spark asked for a 50 percent reduction.

City staff said such a discount is not possible, even if the cause is noble.

“We’re just breaking even,” said City Attorney Hal DeGraw. “If we go below the break-even point, this becomes a gift of public funds, which is precluded by law.”

City councilmembers in April authorized Divine Spark to serve from the Veterans Building five days a week, up from two days a week.

The relationship between city representatives and Divine Spark Director Tomas Streicher has been tense in recent weeks. Bergman confronted Streicher at Wednesday’s meeting for leaving packages of leftover food behind a cedar tree in Calanan Park.

Streicher said he didn’t want to waste the food and hoped homeless people could pick it up. Albaugh said that was unacceptable, posed a health risk and could inflame a rodent problem.

Councilmembers suggested Streicher fundraise to cover Divine Spark’s costs, or ask other organizations to donate space for the meals. Streicher said three downtown churches declined his requests for space.

“I think we should get the churches more involved,” said councilwoman Reinette Senum, who abstained from the vote. “That’s a central role of the churches.”

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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