Officials discuss priorities for 2011 at retreat

Budget concerns top the list

which also includes the flood aftermath and public safety issues.

January 13, 2011|By Barbara Diamond,

Money, money, money.

The City Council discussed their goals and priorities for the coming year at their annual retreat, held this year on Saturday at the South Coast Water District offices on West Street. City officials agreed that controlling the city budget while maintaining essential services is a top priority for 2011, although not the only one.

"I am proud that to date the city has been so careful with its dollars," Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly said. "We need to continue to do that."


Council members also listed as short-term priorities the needed repairs to flood-damaged infrastructure, and public and private assistance for disaster victims. For the long term, council members listed public safety, emergency preparedness, viable infrastructure, and the ubiquitous traffic and parking problems.

Many of the issues raised at the meeting are subsets of the budget, Egly said, including the escalating cost of city employee pensions.

"No new services will be recommended," City Manager John Pietig. "It will be a struggle to maintain existing services, and we are holding some positions vacant."

However, the city is looking for an assistant public works director with experience in municipal transportation and an assistant city manager to succeed Pietig, who held the position for almost 10 years.

The retreat concluded with the usual closed session to evaluate the city manager, a first for Pietig, who has been on the job for less than a month.

Each council member voiced particular goals and concerns at the meeting. Pietig was directed to compile a list of the concerns. The list will be on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting, at which the council is expected to prioritize the list after public input.


Disaster recovery and prevention

"The big gorilla in the room is can we make repairs to infrastructure that will lessen the impacts of nature?" Mayor Toni Iseman said.

Drawing down on the city's $5.8 million disaster fund must be done carefully, Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said.

Pietig was asked to reconvene the committee that reviewed expenditures related to the 2005 Bluebird Canyon landslide.

"We have a handshake agreement with contractors, but I would like to have the work reviewed by a construction expert outside the city," Pietig said.

That was how the 2005 landslide recovery was handled.

Pearson proposed holding workshops on emergency preparedness, focusing on Laguna's enemies: fire and flood.

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