Upcoming vacancy a hot topic at council meeting

Santa Clarita City Hall
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Two days before Thanksgiving, “thank-yous’’ dominated the dialogue Tuesday night as the Santa Clarita City Council bid farewell to two departing members during its only meeting of November.

But while “thank-yous” dominated, recommendations from the public on how to fill the upcoming council vacancy came in a close second.

Though they officially remain in office a bit longer, this was the last formal council meeting for Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta (recently elected to the state Assembly) and Councilman TimBen Boydston (defeated on Election Day in his bid for another four-year term).

They were both on the receiving end of numerous tributes and proclamations of gratitude from an A-List of Santa Clarita-area notables – from fellow council members, to Assemblyman and state Senator-elect Scott Wilk, to an aide of Rep. Steve Knight, to outgoing county Supervisor Michael Antonovich, among others.

But after all the tributes, the vacancy that Acosta’s upcoming move to the Assembly will create drew numerous public comments. Several speakers pushed for the council to appoint Boydston to fill out the two years remaining on Acosta’s term, while one spoke out against that idea.

Boydston, who has clashed with other council members on some issues, including financial oversight and long-term planning, got the third-most number of votes on Election Day, behind Mayor Bob Kellar and Councilman-elect Cameron Smyth.

Acosta will step down on Dec. 4, and the council then must decide the means by which his seat will be filled. The council could either call for a special election, or – as it has done in the past – solicit applicants and then appoint a committee to recommend which applicant should fill the vacant seat.

Planning Board member Diane Trautman, saying Boydston “has served honorably,” was one of those who encouraged the council to appoint him to the upcoming vacancy. It should be noted that Boydston nominated Trautman for her current Planning Commission seat.

City resident Philip Germain was another in the Boydston chorus, saying he has been “a very good voice” and “not a rubber stamp vote.”

Cam Noltemeyer, an activist and frequent speaker at council meetings, also called for Boydston to get the vacancy, saying the next council’s members “should appoint the voters’ choice, not their own.”

For his part, Boydston said there was no orchestration for the calls to appoint him. He called the groundswell “organic” – and added that he would indeed accept an appointment if it should come his way.

But Mark White, who ran for council this year and finished down the list of the 11 candidates, spoke out in opposition to the Boydston chorus, later telling The Signal, “it’s ludicrous” to lean toward the third-place finisher where two seats were up for grabs.

“If there was a third seat available (on Election Day), there’s no guarantee of the same outcome,” said White – who acknowledged he wants to be considered for the Acosta vacancy.

However the council handles the matter, it will be an early piece of business when the new council takes office on Dec. 13.

In other council highlights Tuesday night:

* The proposed new Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s station got one step closer to reality.

The council, by a vote of 5-0, approved four contracts, totaling about $877,000, to four firms connected to the planning phase of the new station, which is ticketed to replace the current, outdated facility on Magic Mountain Parkway and Valencia Boulevard.

The new station would be built on city-owned land at 26201 Golden Valley Road — currently home to the temporary Fire Station 104, which would be permanently moved elsewhere.

The current sheriff’s station was built in 1972 – when Santa Clarita’s population was about 50,000 less than today’s 299,000, according to a memo to the council from the Department of Public Works.

Tuesday’s move was the next step in the evolution of the new station after the council approved an agreement with the county in May to co-fund a new 44,400-square-foot facility, plus a 4,000-square-foot vehicle maintenance facility and helipad.

Eventually, the project will cost an estimated $51 million.

The funding measures will pay for environmental and civil engineering, concept design and geological testing, among other areas.

* The council approved two other funding proposals, totaling $8.5 million, to purchase 13 new buses.

Some $3.9 million would be used for five 45-foot compressed natural gas buses from Motor Coach Industries. Another $4.6 million would go for eight 40-foot natural-gas buses from Gillig Corporation.

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