There's a lot more than a fire services fiscal review (see related story) on the agenda of the Atherton City Council when it meets on Wednesday, Jan. 17. The agenda also includes Caltrain poles, civic center trees, false alarms, a business tax and safety improvements for the El Camino Real/Selby Lane intersection.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the town's council chambers, 94 Ashfield Road.
Among the items on the agenda are:
● A report on the number of false alarms the Atherton Police Department responds to each year. Chief Steve McCulley has recommended that residents start paying an annual alarm registration fee and a $200 fine for all false alarms beyond the first each year.
The chief's report says that from January 2016 to November 2017 the police department received 4,599 alarm calls --all of them false. The department was able to determine that about half the calls were false alarms without responding. But ones they did respond to took up the equivalent of 13 months of one full-time police officer doing nothing but responding to false alarms, at an approximate cost of over $136,000, the chief's report says.
● More discussion of Caltrain's electrification poles. The town sent a letter in December asking Caltrain to change its plans for some of the poles that will soon be placed to support the electric wires needed to run electric locomotives. But Caltrain responded that the town's request will mean removing a tree on private property and reducing the landscape buffer of three other homes at a cost of at least $200,000.
Caltrain asked the town to use that information to reconsider its request that five planned 45.5-foot poles be replaced with 10 36-foot poles. The council will also consider if it wants green, brown, yellow or galvanized poles in the train station area. All other poles will be green.
● Discussion of, and recommendations on, alternatives for the El Camino Real/Selby Lane intersection. Since mid-2015 the town, San Mateo County and Caltrans have discussed alternatives for the intersection, which has a high accident rate that has risen further since discussions began. While the town currently has no funding for a project at the intersection, it has narrowed the choices for the project down to eliminating all turns at the intersection except for left turns from northbound El Camino onto Selby, or installing a traffic signal.
● A decision on saving several heritage trees now scheduled to be cut down as part of the civic center project. In October, the town's Planning Commission approved a permit to remove 18 of the 85 heritage trees on the civic center site. But City Council member balked, and have tried to figure out how to save more trees. Five trees must go because arborists agree they are unhealthy, and the town has figured out how to work around eight other trees. Saving the remaining trees could add considerable costs to the project and might also delay it, so the council must decide if those trade-offs are worthwhile.
The town will also receive an update from its consultant about the current cost estimates for the civic center project, which is still on schedule to go out to bid in March.
● Consideration of hiring election and polling consultants to help design a business license tax measure that would go on the ballot in November. The council has approved the concept of increasing the town's business license tax, but such an increase must be approved by just over 50 percent of voters.