Here is the article from the Porterville Recorder. The reporter quoted Bro. Alvarado, Bro. Hall, and myself!
Council decides against annexation
Residents pleased by decision
Residents of 167 parcels along an area west of North Main Street can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they are not a part of Porterville.
In a unanimous vote of four, the City Council decided to “cease” its annexation proceedings. Councilman Greg Shelton was recused from the decision because he owns property in the vicinity of area “B”, one of the islands that was to be annexed.
Many of the residents feared that no matter what was said, the council would move to annex the five islands that made up Annexation 475. When this didn’t happen, people in attendance, like Laura Wyatt, found themselves pleasantly surprised by the turn of events.
“I am thankful for the council finally hearing the voice for the people,” Wyatt said. “I hope that for future decisions, more people come out and express a voice, because it really does change things in government.”
Much of the rhetoric was to remind the council of the fact that the people living in the unincorporated area were entitled to not only be heard by the council, but to have the council act on their opinions. Johnny Alvarado, who attended prior hearings and informational meetings, felt that the council decided to do the right thing, at the present time, because of the people that were there. However, he isn’t sure about what will happen in the future.
“I’m glad they voted the way they did,“ Alvarado said. “I believe that eventually it (the annexation) will happen, I don’t know when. But I believe that the presence of the people heavily influenced the council,” especially Councilmen Cameron Hamilton and Brian Ward.
A very tense group of people filled the council chambers. Vice-Mayor Pete McCracken ran the meeting due to the fact that Mayor Virginia Gurrola could not attend in person, and verbally reprimanded the audience a few times for their outbursts, or comments that were made when council members were speaking. Gurrola listened and participated in the meeting via telephone, and was a part of the final vote.
Most of the people gathered were concerned with the 91.67 acres in the A-1 area, including members of Life Tabernacle Church, which is located on Main Street. Along with the desire to make the council aware of how many were against the annexation, those gathered were concerned that the council member who might best represent their interests would not be a part of the vote.
One audience member, Jessie Hall, stood up to speak on this concern during the oral communications period.
“We feel that all voices are very necessary to represent all of us,” Hall said, asking whether the city could adjust the annexation plan so Shelton could participate.
According to Community Development Director Brad Dunlap, the original notification of the annexation divided it up into multiple proceedings. Because of this, the council could decide to once again divide the area up into two or more sections, and vote on the annexation of those areas independently of each other. Ward pointed out that the reason why the annexation proceeding had been tabled back in May, was, in part, to determine whether multiple annexations would cost more than a single annexation. Staff determined that there would be no extra cost.
“My understanding is that the vast majority of people out there would like Councilman Shelton to participate,” Ward said.
Shelton himself made a movement that could have satisfied the audience’s wish, in the form of voting to rescind the previous decision to handle the annexation in a single motion, which would allow Shelton to take part in the A-1 annexation area vote. City Attorney Julia Lew noted that even if the council voted to reverse its last decision, from a legal standpoint, Shelton’s presence on the final vote on the A-1 annexation would make the council vulnerable to accusations that they’d made an invalid decision.
“I just want to make sure that everything is done procedurally correct,” Lew said. “So whatever the decision of the council is, it will be ultimately enforceable.”
The law, Lew said, requires that everyone who participates in the vote be fully aware of all the available information on the subject, including comments made at earlier public hearings. Shelton said he knew enough to make an informed decision, but Lew said that he could only make this claim if he had read the official minutes of previous meetings, which he had not, because they were not compiled yet.
Roy Macomber took the podium first to present the City Council with petitions that he and members of Faith Tabernacle Church had circulated.
“Life Tabernacle, Ed Graham and myself distributed petitions against annexation into the city,” Macomber said handing City Manager John Lollis copies to distribute to the council. “According to the paper I got from the city, of the 175 parcels, we have a minimum of 109 parcel owners that have signed against going into the city. That is an average of over 90% against.”
Many in the audience approached the podium to voice various concerns after which Ward spoke up to say that he sided with the audience, stating that the city should not force an annexation on people who did not want to be in the city. He also stated his displeasure with the way the Shelton conflict-of-interest matter had been handled by the council.
McCracken then called for a motion to be made, and when none of the other City Council members spoke up, moved to cease the annexation proceedings all together.