The City of San Fernando has lost four key members of its management team over recent months leaving key positions vacant.
Most recently, Ismael Aguila, Recreation & Community Services director, left the city to pursue a position with Providence Health & Services. Other key managers left to take positions with other cities, leaving the City of San Fernando understaffed and in need of a city manager.
City Manager Brian Saeki left last year to take a city manager position for the City of Covina, with Finance Director Nick Kimball appointed as interim city manager.
Other key members of the management team that have left the city include Fred Ramirez, Community Development director, and Chris Marcarello, deputy city manager/public works director.
However, a permanent city manager is needed to move forward with multiple city projects as well as to hire additional staff, who have also left to work for other cities.
Kimball, in his city-wide strategic goals and city council priorities review presented to the council on Monday, April, 17, said he will reserve making significant decisions in anticipation of the hiring of a permanent city manager.
Those decisions, he believes, should be left to the new city manager and include: The creation and implementation of a rent-control program, an evaluation of the city’s minimum wage, the exploration of the city's energy efficiency/ saving options, and the implementation of a police motorcycle program.
At the top of the priorities, the new city manager must put a new management team together and oversee the hiring of new department heads for community development, recreation and community service, and public works.
Kimball also advised the council to try to complete all other goals and priorities before creating new ones for 2017-2018 — at least until a new city manager is hired.
“It’s not like we are saying ‘no’ forever,” Kimball said. “It’s more like ‘please give us some time’ to breathe’ for now, and once we’re fully staffed, checking stuff off.”
All members of the city council appeared to agree with the recommendation made by Kimball to stand down in making new requests and they didn't express alarm about vacant management .
When asked for comment, Mayor Silvia Ballin said there is nothing to worry about.
“The city is in a very good place, the managers and employees are doing a great job providing seamless services to our residents,” she said. “We are not defined by one individual manager or department head, we are a team with a winning spirit.”
The goals expressed at the council meeting for the next year are to maintain a balanced budget, be vigilant to continue to oppose the California High Speed Rail going through San Fernando and its neighboring communities, address infrastructure needs, utilize technology to be more efficient and transparent, continue the Healthy San Fernando initiative, pursue more grant funding, review and update the city’s policies and procedures, increase cultural and community programs, and increase water conservation efforts.
Ballin also referenced the dismissal of city council representation on the San Fernando City Chamber of Commerce. Councilmember Joel Fajardo had previously served as the city liason to the chamber with former Mayor Robert Gonzales. Fajardo served as the primary liason until recently.
However, conflict between Fajardo and the city’s chamber was stirred over the format of the candidates forum late last year. Fajardo was one of the candidates up for re-election.
“I think the conflict grew over whether the debate would include community questions and input,” said Fajardo, who added that after he questioned the format, the chamber began to exclude him from communication and emails.
Recently, the chamber requested that a city staff member be appointed to act as a liason but that request has been turned down.
Fajardo said that he would continue to work with local business owners even without the formal designation.
Local developer Fred Partovi was once again at the city council meeting for the third consecutive time, urging the city council to do away with the building moratorium on multiple-family housing projects, which the council has extended until January 2018 .
He gave the council an ultimatum before he takes legal action.
“I’m giving you guys 30 days to respond properly to this address issue property,” he said during public comment. “If not. I am going to start writing you letters and, if I have, to I will take legal action to protect my rights. So you guys do whatever you want and I’ll do whatever I have to protect myself.
“This moratorium needs to come to an end or it must be addressed properly. It cannot just go on and be unlimited.”
The building moratorium was not included as an item on the meeting’s agenda.
Editor Diana Martinez contributed to this story.