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Drought, sidewalk repairs lead 1st San Ramon City Hall council meeting

Old Barn renovations, city retirements among other topics

An update on the drought and its effect on local redwoods, a new plan to recoup costs for city sidewalk repairs and $660,000 in renovations to the Old Barn at Forest Home Farms are among the discussion topics for the San Ramon City Council Tuesday night during its first meeting at the new City Hall.

John Coleman, who represents San Ramon on the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) board, will help kick off the proceedings with a presentation on the district's water supply and drought conditions.

EBMUD announced earlier this month that its reservoir storage levels stood at 93% of average because of a relatively wet winter and its customers cut their water use by 24% last year. The district provides potable water service to most of San Ramon, with the exception of the Dougherty Valley.

Later in the meeting, the council will consider contracting with a company to help protect city redwood trees and other landscaping from negative effects of being irrigated with high-salt recycled water during the drought.

"The use of recycled water without adequate annual rainfall causes the loss of organic soil structure, resulting from the effects of high levels of sodium, bicarbonate and carbonate salts. Redwood trees are particularly sensitive to these excessive salts," city operations division manager Jeff Gault wrote in his staff report to the council.

City officials recommend hiring Santa Ana-based EcoFert, Inc., to put to use its fertigation process at Central Park, Iron Horse Middle School, Athan Downs and Richard Fahey Village Green.

"Fertigation is a method of supplying nutrients to the landscape through the irrigation system in micro amounts with each irrigation cycle," Gault said. "Fertigation can be customized for each site and eliminates the need for applying synthetic granular fertilizers."

The contract with EcoFert would be worth $51,820 initially, with a maximum five-year total not to exceed $230,000. It would include equipment installation and maintenance, soil testing, monthly site analysis and supplying prescribed non-toxic organic soil amendments and recycled water program.

The drought-related discussions are among a variety of topics set for Tuesday night's meeting, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the new City Hall, 7000 Bollinger Canyon Road. It will mark the council's first public meeting in its new council chamber, which is more than twice as large as its meeting space at the old City Hall on Camino Ramon.

In other business

* The council will consider introducing an ordinance to allow the city to recoup costs related to sidewalk and driveway repairs required because of damage caused by activities on adjacent properties.

The situations typically arise because of heavy vehicle traffic over commercial or industrial driveways, roots from trees not owned by the city but within the city right-of-way, or vehicles crossing sidewalks inappropriately or otherwise misused, according to engineering division manager Robin Bartlett.

The city has taken on the full cost of repairing such damage, but city officials wanted to look at options to recover costs from adjacent property owners, Bartlett said in a staff report.

The ordinance developed out of discussions to "develop mechanisms that put costs for sidewalk repairs on the property owners that were likely clearly responsible for the damage, and encouraged cooperation with property owners whose trees had created the damage and reduce city liability associated with possible damage of those trees during the repairs," Bartlett said.

The council's Policy Committee recommended a preliminary cost-sharing amount of at least 50%, although the city could go as high as charging property owners 100% for repairs, Bartlett said. The council will have the final say on the cost percentage.

Some cities put onus fully on adjacent property owners, including Danville at 100% for commercial and residential owners, while Dublin and Pleasanton have owners pay all expenses in commercial areas but have the city pick up the tab in residential areas, according to Bartlett.

If endorsed by the council with a cost-sharing percentage Tuesday, the ordinance would return for final adoption next month.

* The council will consider awarding a contract of $575,000, plus a maximum $87,150 contingency, to HM Construction for renovations to the Old Barn at the historic Forest Home Farms off San Ramon Valley Boulevard.

Construction will include foundation work, reconstructing the barn's main structural skeleton, creating a new pest-resistant faux floor, waterproofing, accessibility compliance, new lighting fixtures and adding a fire alarm and security system, according to senior civil engineer Moustefa Kendroud.

The overall Old Barn project price-tag is estimated at $757,000, with the $662,150 for construction, $63,850 for design and bidding and $31,000 for construction administration.

* The councilmen will host presentations to recognize the retirements of planning and community development director Phil Wong and interim parks and community services director Esther Lucas.

* Retirement will also be a topic in closed session as the council will have its first discussion on the appointment of an interim city manager to temporarily replace retiring City Manager Greg Rogers.

* In open session, the councilmen will honor former elected officials, as well as Parks and Community Services Commission student member Sanjana Malireddy and the Teen Council. They will also hear a presentation in advance of this weekend's Art and Wind Festival.

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