Arcata City Council: Where, oh where to plant the loo?

The Arcata downtown public bathroom will once again be up for discussion at Wednesday's city council meeting.

In previous meetings, Councilwoman Susan Ornelas requested the item be placed on a future agenda so that the council could reconsider the site of the facility.

"One of my goals is to try to not put anyone in a position of having to be a 'not in my backyard' as much as possible," Ornelas said. "I'm just trying to find the best place. I think we've agreed we want the bathroom, and we just haven't figured out the place."

At its Oct. 2 meeting, the council approved the purchase of the Portland Loo -- a steel, oval-shaped, one-stall toilet from the city of Portland -- in a 3-1 vote with then-councilman, now-Mayor Mark Wheetley voting in opposition and Councilwoman Alex Stillman abstaining after more than a decade of debate.

Since then, the owner of Arcata Exchange, Gene Joyce, and adjacent landowners have expressed concerns about the process, Wheetley said. Attempts to reach Joyce for comment were unsuccessful.

When the council approved the site in October, it chose a new location in an attempt minimize the impact on businesses rather than one of the four sites listed in the staff report.

Ornelas said she is trying to convince the council to put one or two alternative locations, including a spot east of the alley on the 700 block of Eighth Street adjacent to Veterans Memorial Park, on a list for a preliminary California Environmental Quality Act analysis. Once the council has more data, it can think about the effects on the community.

Wheetley said he agreed to bring the item back for discussion because the council always takes the request of fellow council members into consideration.

"In this case, there's a level of controversy around this," he said. "There's not a time sensitive element to this, so I think it's crucial we consider all the ramifications on this from every vantage point before we make a final determination of where to put this, and that is of course, if there is one, and we're in agreement on where."

The previous discussion also raised some CEQA issues, according to Wheetley. As a result, city staff have continued to look at alternative sites.

"I don't know if we will be landing on a site per say, but we will have comments and get some feedback that will inform the CEQA analysis," Wheetley said.

According to the city attorney, a new location would require another CEQA document and initial study, a staff report said. Staff recommend the council hold off on selecting a final site until information from the CEQA process is available for public review and consideration.

The council will also hear a mid-year report on the city's budget, and consider approving a resolution to make adjustments for the remainder of fiscal year 2013-2014.

According to a staff report, the general fund revenue will fall short of what was budgeted by nearly $534,000 because funds from the city's excessive electricity use and property taxes won't meet original estimates.

"The reduction of excessive electricity use tax revenue ($400,000) results from the fact that this tax took longer to implement than originally planned which enabled affected residential households to relocate outside of the city," the report said.

"I anticipated we weren't going to get that much money," said Ornelas, who was the sole council member to vote in opposition to the budget. "The city's stance on it will be that we have to give it more time. We'll get the money back that we put back into it, eventually."

The reduction in property tax stems from staff anticipating additional revenue from the successor agency's payment of funds to the Humboldt County Auditor-Controller, according to the report. The council -- acting as the successor agency -- is working with the California Department of Finance to finalize a payment plan.

Once the plan is finalized and the agency begins remitting the funds owed, the city will realize an increase in property tax revenue, the report said.

If you go:

What: Arcata City Council meeting

Where: City Council chamber, 736 F St.

When: 6 p.m., Wednesday

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez@times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.

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