News

Heights works to fill committee

The city of La Habra Heights is struggling to build a committee to look at the city’s roads.

By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal

Efforts by La Habra Heights city officials to gather applicants for a proposed roads committee are so far falling short.Seal_La Habra Heights
La Habra Heights officials at the January 14 city council meeting voted unanimously to form a 10-12 person roads committee to oversee financing and other discussions about possible roads assessments.
And so far, according to LH Heights City Manager Shauna Clark, only six people have applied for the committee.
“I anticipate that by [the] March meeting we will have the 10-12 [applicants], however, Council may also choose to lower the number if response isn’t what they thought it would be,” Clark said in an email.
The needs for a roads committee aligns with the city’s attempt at structuring a roads assessment. The city is on the clock, and it needs to vote by March or April to include a roads assessment on the June Ballot.
This assessment, if approved by public voters, could be on the December 2016 tax assessments, a deadline La Habra Heights Mayor Michael Higgins said he wanted to meet.
Details about the roads committee’s role were discussed at the regular January 14 city council meeting, ranging from the amount of people to the level of expertise required to join.
“I think we do need to have a roads committee,” LH Heights City Councilman Brian Bergman said. “But I think we need a lot more than just the technical expertise.”
Bergman noted that the roads committee should have members with financial and marketing expertise.
“I want the engineers to do the engineering and the residents to talk about what they’re willing to put up with,” said LH Heights Councilwoman Jane Williams. “So that somebody besides the council will take responsibility for the roads fund management.”
She stressed that she wants a committee to continue after the roads assessment passes in order to quarterly review the expenses.
Officials at the meeting noted that because the council will be selecting the members for the committee, they will be subject to the state’s open meeting law or the Brown Act.
The law requires, among other things, that city council meetings be open to the public.
“One of the things that will help make this successful […] that you have a standing committee that goes on as long as this assessment district lasts,” Clark said at the January 14 meeting.
This would be appointed by the council and it would be subject to the Brown Act, Clark said.
In an effort to further communicate with the residents, the meeting will be televised, and there will be a chance for the public to participate with comments.
The downside of the need to adhere to the open meeting law is that it limits the committees opportunities to speak about its business. This would require them to only speak about committee issues at committee meetings that are open to the public.
“And over the period of five years for the district this could actually amount to a lot of expense,” Higgins said.
The cost was noted to be $125,000, according to Clark at the meeting.
“It needs to be Brown Act. Yes there are some costs involved, but once we get the project going […] there shouldn’t be a whole lot of meetings,” Bergman said.
The applicant must be a resident, property owner and a registered voter, according to city officials at the meeting.
And the committee chair will be selected by the committee, rather than the city council choosing who will run the meetings.
There is no limit on the number of applicants to be accepted by the city.
The committee will hold meetings at the city chambers and sit normally where the city council sits.
As officials began to prepare for the unanimous vote to form a roads committee, some council members reminisced on what happened during the last attempt at passing a roads assessment.
“People were in a bad mood. Nobody was working. People were losing their homes. Everything was going wrong,” Higgins said.
However, he went on to explain, now that the bond is paid off, it is a much more reasonable time to ask for a road assessment.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.