By Raiza Giorgi

The newly elected City Council members for Buellton were installed at the council’s regular meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10. 

The voters in Buellton decided to give incumbent Mayor Holly Sierra another term, which will also be her last term as she is now at term limits. Sierra, who retired from the U.S. Postal Service as the Buellton postmaster, prevailed over Councilman Ed Andrisek and Isaac Oltmans in the November General Election. 

For the two open city council seats, incumbent John Sanchez filled one seat and newcomer Elysia Lewis was elected to the other. Sanchez was also appointed vice mayor by the council. 

Outgoing councilmember Art Mercado was given several gifts from the city as well as a number of kind words about his character and ethics. 

“I have truly enjoyed serving with you and thank you for putting up with me,” said Sierra. 

Before the new council was officially installed, the city entered into an agreement with ENGIE Services US (ENGIE) to provide energy related improvements to city facilities with a 4-1 vote with Councilman Dave King dissenting. The agreement will create a solar structure over the library/post office parking lots and at the wastewater treatment plant, as well as ground-mounted solar panels at the pump station on McMurray Road. 

The solar energy generated will power streetlights along Industrial Way and Central Avenue, and decorative LED streetlights installed along Highway 246 and Avenue of Flags. Additional energy savings will occur due to energy efficient upgrades to lighting and HVAC systems at City Hall, the Planning Department building, the library, post office, police station and the wastewater treatment plant, according to the staff report. 

“In short the benefits to this project include a net savings over a 30-year life of $3.7 million after all the improvements are installed and financing paid off,” said City Manager Scott Wolfe. “The city would be protected against rising electric cost where solar panels are at and other facilities with energy efficiency and the added benefit of shaded parking at library and post office. This is showing the city if moving forward with alternative energy sources.” 

The contract will also include the replacement of the city’s remaining manual water meters with more energy- and water-efficient water meters, with transmitters that will facilitate the remote reading of the meters.

The cost of the improvements will be $4,547,947, with $400,000 being paid by the city out of funds currently budgeted for work that will no longer be necessary after this project is completed. The remaining $4,147,947 will be financed through a lease purchase agreement with a 20-year term. At the end of the financing period (20 years), the title to the equipment transfers to the city, which will own the equipment for that point forward. An early purchase option is available should the City decide to terminate the agreement before the end of the 20-year period.

The council also appointed two Planning Commission members. Patty Hammel and Mercado, to the two open positions. Hammel was appointed to a remaining three-year term previously and Mercado has served as a past planning commissioner. 

Councilmembers were also appointed to various boards and commissions.

To view the meeting in its entirety, visit YouTube and search City of Buellton.