Molly Davis, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/21/2012 03:24:10 PM PST
REDLANDS – Oranges. They’re all over Redlands. In the groves, on the street signs, on the city’s logo, even on the masthead of this newspaper.
And for the past few weeks, oranges have had members of the city baffled as they try to understand who has been managing the city’s groves.
The city owns nearly 200 acres of citrus groves, including oranges and grapefruits, and has an entire commission, the Citrus Preservation Commission, dedicated to advising the City Council on the “acquisition, improvement, preservation and retention of citrus properties within the city,” according to the Municipal Code.
But when it comes to farming these groves, who’s in charge?
That’s the question that took the city and the council weeks to resolve. At its meeting on Jan. 17, the council took a step to decisively answer who will take care of the groves.
After a bid process in November, Larry Jacinto Farms, who had been farming many of the city’s 16 groves, received a four-year contract of $821,585 for care, maintenance and harvest of the city’s groves.
But Jacinto wasn’t the only one farming the groves. Pete Marcum of Redlands Farming has been farming the groves, too. Both businesses have been working without contracts for years.
At the Dec. 20 City Council meeting, the Quality of Life department’s senior project manager Danielle Garcia said that a shift in departmental responsibilities in the last fiscal year led the citrus budget to her department.
In an effort to review the budget, and ultimately save city funds, Garcia found that the farming had not been contracted like other city services. In fact, there were no contracts, just invoices.
“I’m sure you’re all aware that agriculture, specifically citrus grove farming, doesn’t lend itself very easily to arbitrary stop-start times,” she told the council.
After this revelation, the city worked to find a way to effectively budget an area that is unlike other city departments, whose revenues flux by the season.
“The uniqueness and intrinsic value of the city’s citrus preservation program does not lend itself easily to the Request for Bid Process, and in the past, these farming services have not been formally bid,” the Dec. report said. “However, in the current financial climate, staff is attempting to bring financial order to the process of managing the farming service contracts.”
Garcia told the council she couldn’t find a model for Redlands’ citrus groves because other cities don’t own and operate their own groves.
“We’re the only city in the nation that does this,” Councilman Jon Harrison said at the Jan. 17 council meeting. “We do it because it’s something our community believes in. It needs to be approached somewhat differently.”
But how to approach it caused concern among staff, the commission, councilmen and the farmers who have been caring for these groves for years.
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