Wednesday: Atherton weighs scope of fire district funding study

Lots on agenda at Wednesday meeting

The details of a study of Menlo Park Fire Protection District property taxes generated in Atherton and how that money is spent will be discussed by the Atherton City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. with a closed session on "anticipated litigation". The city manager's report says the council will discuss if it should heed its Rail Committee's recommendation to join a lawsuit challenging the use of California High-Speed Rail Authority money to help fund Caltrain's move to electric trains.

The regular meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the town's council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road. The agenda is a long one, with 32 items and a 529-page packet of background information.

Also to be considered is an update on the new civic center's design, with a total cost estimate for the project $4 million less than last October's estimate, and a reduction in the total amount of money that must be raised from donations to below $22 million.

The donor dollar amount was reduced by shrinking the size of the building that will contain the council chambers and offices for police, administration, and building and planning. The cost of the library has gone up slightly, to nearly $15 million, but it will be paid for with library-use-only property tax revenues.

The fire district study recommendations came from a subcommittee made up of Councilman Cary Wiest, City Manager George Rodericks, and Bob Polito, the head of Atherton's Audit/Finance Committee.

The subcommittee suggests a consultant look at four items: property taxes generated in Atherton that go to the fire district, both now and in the future; how much the fire district spends providing all its services to the town; how much would it cost the town to provide its own fire services; and what steps would be needed for the town to provide its own services.

Other agenda items include:

• A public hearing on increased refuse collection rates.

• A state-required climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gases generated in the town. The proposed plan is considerably watered down from the original version submitted by the town's Environmental Programs Committee, but requires a smaller investment by the town.

• A discussion about asking the California Department of Transportation to remove the El Camino Real crosswalk at Stockbridge Avenue. Studies have shown that marked crosswalks without lights or stop signs may actually increase pedestrian risks.

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