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Winters Express
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Bond money will
not be used to
build new schoo

Staff writer
The two information-packed presentations took focus at the Nov. 18 Winters City Council meeting this past week, with representatives for both asking the council to support proactive future planning.
City Building Official Gene Ashdown presented a slideshow of his experience responding to the Napa earthquake in August, citing his observations of damages and assessments to encourage the council to work toward an earthquake plan for downtown Winters, with Winters Superintendent of Schools Brent Cushenbery following to cite updates on bond money plans for schools.
Bond plans
Cushenbery presented an overview on the state of the school district’s Facilities-Finance Committee planning toward bond-funded campus upgrades.
“There will be no new high school,” he started off with, “The plan is to partially fix what we have, and partially add the shiny new penny.
“What we know we can do with our own bonding capacity is Phase One, which are priority ones, architecture fees, and to get in line for potential future improvements at the high school.”
Cushenbery explained that PG&E will grant some fees, there will be new home and hotel fees, alongside fees from the Solano College learning center partnership and Proposition 39 dollars.
During his presentation, Cushenbery said that many ideas were wrestled by the Facilities-Finance Committee, which is comprised of Winters residents Mike Martin, John Pickerel, Jack Graf, Jill Aguiar, Kate Frasier, Lisa Brown, Patti Wong, John Donlevy, Curt Balasek and Robin Rominger.
Some of the brainstormed ideas that were not considered viable included, reconfiguration of campuses, selling the Wolfskill property, moving students from Waggoner Elementary School to Rominger Intermediate School by expanding the relatively new Rominger campus, or even putting all dollars into just one new school.
“If you only build one shiny new penny, you have neglected the other sites,” Cushenbery said. “On the other side, if you only put money into a maintenance program, voters will not see the changes.
“The only thing that could potentially hurt us would be economic downturn over the next five years,” he later stated, “I want to make one point very clear: There is risk involved. All of the trustees want to be good stewards, to listen to the community, and make a good decision. However, in order to get in line, we run an $800,000 risk. We would need our own funds to cover that even if this doesn’t happen.”
Following the meeting, he explained that the $800,000 are the fees involved with development planning such as architect and other planning fees.
Proactive earthquake plans
Ashdown explained that he spent six days with a team of building inspectors, assessing and tagging thousands of buildings and homes three days after the Napa earthquake.
“There was nearly $1 billion in damages, we assessed more than 5,000 buildings; 200 injured, and one fatality from a TV falling on a person,” Ashdown recounted. “I can tell you, the best thing for our city, if we have an earthquake, we need to have it at the same time — in the middle of the night while everyone is sleeping. Most major injury was cut feet, from glass when parents got up to run to check on kids in the middle of the night.
“We need to have an earthquake plan. Think about insurance, and look at retrofitting for this type of possibility. I would encourage our business owners to have someone with an engineering background and degree to assess their buildings.
“One of the many things we learned, is the main thing is getting the fire trucks out of their stations… police, gotta get businesses open, people need food and water. We also learned that unreinforced masonry doesn’t work. It’s gone, while retrofit seemed to hold up well.”
During his presentation, Ashdown emphasized that volunteers are an integral part of cleaning up after a natural disaster, and having a plan to feed them is important to think about.
Mayor Cecelia Aguiar-Curry expressed great concern for the downtown architecture, as well as concern about the ability to thrive should a quake rattle the business district.
“We all know if our downtown goes in an earthquake, who are we kidding — we would have no economy. If we were to lose our downtown, we are going to be in a heck of a mess.”
Buckhorn owner John Pickerel added to the conversation, expressing his concerns as well.
“If agencies like FEMA get involved afterwards, is it really going to help you? I don’t think so. You have to do something before,” said Pickerel, noting that news of the Berryessa fire in July hurt Winters businesses, and customers stayed away even though the fire was actually far from downtown Winters. He also noted the ability of Napa businesses to recover as compared to Winters.
“The rents in Napa are double, triple, even quadruple more than Winters. The recovery is going to come from private investment, therefore, you might not ever recover like Napa.”
The council agreed that reviving the Winters Historical Society would be a good way to get the ball rolling on assessments of how similar towns have survived and rebuilt post-quakes, and to learn about grants, as well as local private investors to begin retrofitting plans.
Other items
Economic Development Director Dan Maguire explained that a disposition and development agreement (DDA) with Royal Guest LLC has added AKM Railroad LLC as a specific developer for the Winters hotel project.
City Attorney Ethan Walsh further detailed that with this DDA, the city has agreed to sell the developer the property in agreement with the project as specified, so that they may begin their official design and funding projects.
Mayor Aguiar-Curry adjourned the meeting in loving memory of her father, Joe Aguiar, stating, “He was very proud of what we have done in the city.”
The council meets next on Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.