■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
The Hemet City Council was all business last Valentine’s Day as decisions were made, positions were appointed, and voices were heard.
The meeting began after a closed-session conference with labor negotiators from Hemet Non-sworn Police Employees Association, Hemet Mid-Managers Association, and Hemet Police Officers Association with legal counsel under the existing litigation of Lana Andre v. City of Hemet.
Present were newly-elected Councilman Russ Brown, Councilwoman Karlee Meyer, Councilwoman Bonnie Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful, and Mayor Linda Krupa, as well as City Manager Alex Meyerhoff and Eric Vail, city attorney.
When the meeting opened up to the public, Mayor Krupa proudly announced that West Valley High School Band made it to California State Band Championships, and were awarded first place in their classification. From there, they moved on to the open state championships, placing eleventh out of 12 top bands in the circuit. The band members came to the front of the conference room to receive a certificate of accomplishment from the city.
“It’s only through very, very, very hard work and many, many hours that these things happen,” said Band Director T.J. Hepburn, “And supportive people, and a supportive city that goes along with this, too. This doesn’t just happen anywhere.”
The public comment portion of the meeting could’ve been more appropriately referred to as public outcry. The mother of murder victim Daniel Ramirez, Corinna Moreno-Ramirez (and family), returned to speak before the City Council about the elevated homicide rate in the city of Hemet. To back her up was Joe Males, father of U.S. Marine Corps veteran Nicholas “Nick” Males, who was stabbed to death on Harvard Street last Father’s Day.
Aby Davila also spoke; she is the girlfriend of Raul “Ruly” Garcia, who was shot to death one night while walking home two years ago. Each of their cases continue to be active homicide investigations, and according to the families, little to no significant progress has been made in any of them.
“They ain’t got no justice, they ain’t got no justice!” cried Corinna Ramirez, whose son Daniel was shot by an unknown assailant Nov. 4. “I said at the last meeting ‘God said humble yourself and I’ll be there.’ Well I humbled myself, and look at how many families I have stepping forward.”
The highly anticipated Measure U Citizen Oversight Committee was also selected during the meeting. Each candidate had three minutes to introduce themselves before the Council, and make their impression, and afterwards the Council ranked each candidate, appointing four members from the city and three members who may be residents of the city of Hemet, the sphere of influence, or business owners with primary offices located within the city. Jeff Retmier, Richard Biber, Marie McDonald, and Robin Rickert were selected as representatives from the city of Hemet. Robert Davis, Eric Gosch, and Suzanne Kozma were selected to represent sphere of influence interests.
“I appreciate all of your involvement; your willingness to serve, all of the work you did in Measure E, and Measure U,” congratulated Mayor Krupa. “This oversight committee will be meeting on a quarterly basis, and the Council gets a financial budget update on a quarterly basis, so it just seems fitting that you guys have to participate with us.”
A presentation on the conditions and improvement resolutions of the Stetson Bridge followed. The removal and replacement of the existing two lanes/two-way bridge, the railing, approach barrier, slope protection, and roadway approach were proposed. The contract with Michael Baker Corp., the acting engineering director and city engineer, was revised for a total amount of $243,800 to complete design and required permitting to replace the existing Stetson Bridge, and authorizing the new budget transfers. Approval for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) engineering is expected to extend through summer 2017, while permitting and request for authorization will lead to final construction in spring of 2018.
Police Chief Dave Brown and Fire Chief Scott Brown were up next with their public safety recruitment plans.
“Our police department’s strategic goal for the next 18 months is to hire 10 exceptional lateral police officers by June 30, 2018,” said Police Chief Brown. Since the passing of Measure U, eight new officers have been authorized, and one new lieutenant was promoted to the newly established Special Operations Bureau. Two lateral officers–one from San Diego Police Department and one from Fort Smith, New Hampshire, have been hired, as well as four entry-level academy trainees.
Nine firefighters/paramedics have been hired since Measure U passed, however two were lost before completion of field training. An additional recruitment began Feb. 22.
Finally, Fire Chief Brown requested a grant from the city’s Fire Suppression Facilities Development Impact funds, to be spent toward reconfiguring Fire Station No. 1 to accommodate the command-level staff battalion chiefs, who are in the finalization process of recruitment. The City Council agreed to grant HFD “not a penny over $95,000.”
The Council briefly addressed their City Council reports and hastily wrapped up the meeting before exiting to finish their closed session.