MINUTES

 

NORTH COAST RAILROAD AUTHORITY (NCRA)

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS SPECIAL MEETING

Friday, February 27th, 2004   2:30 PM

Ukiah Valley Conference Center, Colombard Room  - 200 South School St., Ukiah, California

 

The following locations will be available for telephone participation only:

825 5th St. Room 111 - Eureka, CA (Chair Woolley and Director Sears)

220 Franklin Ave. Willits, CA (Director Burton)

 

 

A.                 CALL TO ORDER

Chair Woolley called the meeting to order at 2:35 PM.

 

B.                 ROLL CALL

The roll was called with the following members were present –Directors Ripple, Hemphill, Simonson, Sears, Burton and Chair Woolley. Absent; Director Ellinger. Also present were Executive Director Mitch Stogner, Legal Counsel Chris Neary, and Recording Secretary, Dina Polkinghorne

 

C.                 AGENDA APPROVAL

There was a general consensus of the board to move Item F “Closed Session” ahead of Item E “Conduct of Business”.

                                                                                                                       Director Ellinger arrived at 2:37 PM

D.            PUBLIC COMMENT

Kaye Strickland   Ms Strickland commented that she received a reply from the Governor’s Office in regards to a letter she sent which referenced the need to make transportation issues, especially rail service, a top priority within the new administration. She further commented that his reply letter did not address transportation at all, but instead referenced affordable housing issues. She stated that this must be some sort of oversight and that she would write another letter seeking clarification.

     

E.                 CLOSED SESSION

1.    Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation

                   Significant Exposure to Litigation (1 case) Government Code 54956.9 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Adjourned to Closed Session at 2:40 PM

                                                                                    Reconvened to Open Session at 3:00 PM.

 

F.                  ANNOUNCEMENT OUT OF CLOSED SESSION    

 

Mr. Neary reported that the board voted 6-1 (Burton dissenting) to extend the Standstill Agreement with Railways, Inc to June 30, 2004.

                                                                                                             

G.                CONDUCT OF BUSINESS

 

1.      Consideration of FEMA Alternate Project Scope-of-Work

 

Executive Director Mitch Stogner reported that FEMA has indicated that it will stop the Preliminary Assessment process and issue a Categorical Exclusion under NEPA, if the NCRA sends a letter to the grantee, which is the Office of Emergency Services (OES), indicating that NCRA will use the entire FEMA/OES grant of approximately $7.9 million for the purchase of materials, equipment, and consulting services only. He requested authorization from the board to work with legal counsel on the preparation of such a letter, which he will sign and send to OES. 

 

Director Sears stated his concern that FEMA has clearly refused to state their position in writing.

 

In regards to Director Sears’s statement, Director Hemphill reported that counsel, staff, and recently, Director Ripple, have met and communicated with OES and FEMA regularly and are actively working towards moving things forward in a way that bypasses the Environmental Assessment (EA) process, which will in turn get the entire project moving faster. He further commented that there are two offers before the NCRA with two potential operators, both of which are willing to repair the railroad with their own money if the NCRA provides them with materials and goods at a favorable rate. He also stated that this course of action is key to eventually opening up the North end of the railroad.

 

Director Ellinger commented on his experiences in dealing with OES and FEMA on storm damage issues as a Senior Civil Engineer for the Mendocino County Department of Transportation. He advised that staff not only outline in the letter what the NCRA planned on spending the grant money on, but specifically what they were not going to spend the money on.

 

Chair Woolley stated that the whole basis of the negotiations with potential operators are contingent upon this strategy (to use the FEMA funds to purchase materials and equipment) and that a representative from Senator Wes Chesbro’s office recently reiterated to him that this course of action had come up initially when the “Alternate” project was originally conceived.

 

Director Burton stated that it is of the utmost importance that all procedures and accounting processes are followed precisely and reminded everyone that the NCRA had issues with commingling of funds in the past.

 

Michelle Fell of Caltrans District 1 inquired on behalf of her supervisor, Cheryl Willis, about a TCRP Delivery and Project Benefits Survey that was submitted by the NCRA to Department of Transportation Headquarters. Specifically, Ms. Fell pointed out that the survey stated that ISTEA dollars were being considered by the NCRA to be used on the reopening project on the South End.

 

Mr. Stogner pointed out that the “Reopening Plan” only envisions the use of FEMA funds and bringing the South End of the line up to Class II standards. The survey did not ask for specific information, just general information for the “South End” – the NCRA hopes to use ISTEA money to bring the track back to Class III standards but reiterated that it has no plans whatsoever to use ISTEA funds for the “Reopening Plan” for the South End.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Simonson, 2nd by Director Ellinger, and carried (7-0), the board directed the Executive Director to work with legal counsel on a letter to OES (Office of Emergency Services) indicating the desire to use the entire grant (approximately $7.9 million) on the purchase of equipment, materials, and consulting services. In addition, the Executive Director will have the authority to sign the letter and submit it to OES on behalf of the NCRA.

 

2.      Consideration of waiver for the pre-qualification requirement of the Waste and

Debris Clean-Up Project           

 

Mr. Stogner stated that the Waste and Debris Clean-Up Project is the central element of the Environmental Consent Decree. The NCRA is using it’s own Agency money to take the steps necessary to put the project out to bid and that one of the contracting requirements of the NCRA on larger construction contracts like this one is that all contractors be pre-qualified. By virtue of the fact that all these contractors would have to have specific licenses to do this type of work, they would all be qualified. In the interest of time, he recommended that the board waive its pre-qualification requirement for the Waste and Debris Clean-Up Project.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Burton, 2nd by Director Sears, and carried (7-0), the Board authorized waiving NCRA’s pre-qualification requirement for the Waste and Debris Clean-Up Project.

 

3.      Consideration of the Invitation-to Bid Process for the Waste and Debris Clean-up Project.  

 

Mr. Stogner reported that since the board took action to waive the pre-qualification requirement for the Waste and Debris Clean-up Project, he is now seeking authorization to start the process to put the project out to bid.

 

ACTION: Upon motion by Director Hemphill, 2nd by Director Ripple, and carried (7-0), the board authorized staff to begin the Invitation to Bid process. 

 

 

H.             MATTERS FROM THE BOARD

None

 

I.            ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEXT MEETING

                                                March 15, 2004 - 10:00 AM

Healdsburg City Council Chambers

                                                                401 Grove St. Healdsburg, Sonoma County, CA

J.             ADJOURNMENT

                2:45 pm