Nevada City swears in new council members, interim police chief | TheUnion.com

Nevada City swears in new council members, interim police chief

Nevada City's council members played musical chairs Wednesday night after the newest council members — incumbent Duane Strawser and newcomer Erin Minett — were sworn in, and after Strawser relinquished the position of mayor to former Vice Mayor David Parker.

Strawser was re-elected to city council with 717 votes, while Minett edged out incumbent Evans Phelps by 663 to 660 votes.

Parker noted that he has been a Nevada City resident since 1970, adding, "I've had the time of my life in this town, and it's an honor to be mayor in a town I dearly love."

Council member Valerie Moberg was next in line to be appointed as vice mayor, but she deferred to Reinette Senum, who previously served as mayor in 2009.

As part of the changeover, new planning commission appointments were announced, as each incoming council member appoints a commissioner. The planning commission is a citizens group that takes action on discretionary land use and architectural review proposals, and makes recommendations to the council on land use policy changes and design aspects of city projects. This year, the planning commission has been responsible for overseeing permit applications by a number of cannabis businesses.

Minett appointed former Nevada County Supervisor Peter Van Zant, while Strawser announced that current Chair Stuart Lauters (initially appointed by Phelps) was his pick, replacing Dan Thiem.

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City Clerk Niel Locke also swore in Nevada City's new interim police chief, former Newark Police Chief James Leal. Leal officially started Monday and was appointed for six months, with the potential for a three-month extension.

Ongoing plans and issues took up the majority of the time during the council meeting, with many in the audience wanting to have a say in the plans for the old airport property.

Nevada City has been exploring possible public uses for the property, which is zoned for agricultural forestry and which has been used as a temporary transfer station by the city's public works department for large items that are slated to be re-purposed or disposed. In May, city staff hosted a public workshop in which attendees were asked to physically place options such as a solar farm, parking, athletic fields and educational facilities, on a map of the site.

City Planner Amy Wolfson told the council she next wants to create a web-based, broad-level community survey, and asked for their input on survey questions. Council members expressed an interest in securing professional help in developing the site, possibly though a university partnership.

City Manager Catrina Olson discussed the council's six-month strategic objectives. Olson noted Nevada City continues to struggle with the issue of homelessness and the warming shelter, which has been administered by nonprofit group Sierra Roots.

Olson said she has met with Sierra Roots, but wants to include county administration in discussions as well. Nevada City has seen a big influx of transients from Grass Valley seeking shelter, which has stretched its warming shelter beyond its capacity, Senum said.

According to Olson, Sierra Roots has said it will need to put a limit on the number of clients it serves this year.

"This needs to be dealt with, this is not going away," agreed Senum, who said the numbers have gone up from 15 in previous years to 80 shelter guests on some nights. "We need to start dealing with reality. We don't have the staff or tax revenue. … I'd love to see more support from the county."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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