Hail Mary

The city bungled Chico Scrap Metal’s amortization and has the opportunity to make things right

On Tuesday night, when the Chico City Council was discussing the amortization of Chico Scrap Metal, an important theme evolved. Among those opposed to the business staying put on East 20th Street arose comments of a possible solution that could mollify everyone involved. The answer, some folks said, is to explore ways in which the city could help CSM move to an alternative site, perhaps by taking advantage of a grant of some type, such as one earmarked for contaminated sites.

What also became clear is that the city has bungled CSM’s longtime amortization order in a major way by having done nothing to help facilitate a move. That’s despite its owners repeatedly informing city staff that such a move would be financially crippling.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Mark Sorensen launched a Hail Mary on what he described as a no-win situation. In addition to making a motion to allow CSM to stay put—which the conservatives passed on a 4-to-3 vote—Sorensen directed staff to explore the aforementioned options prior to the next reading of the agreement. That is, staff has about 30 days to come up with a solution to make everyone happy. It’s a tall order.

Thing is, Sorensen’s gesture is simply lip service if there’s no pressure to vigorously pursue such opportunities. That’s why CSM’s detractors need to immediately begin the process of gathering the thousands of signatures required to overturn the council’s decision. Doing so is a way to ensure follow through. That’s because a referendum would cost a significant chunk of change, especially if it would result in a special election. The last such election in Chico—2011’s Measure A, which sought to move municipal elections to June—cost taxpayers about $151,000.

There are a lot of moving parts here, but a compromise may not be out of the question. CSM’s owners are open to discussions and that’s a critical part of the equation. That said, opponents must secure the upper hand. Without organizing a successful petition, the odds of working out a deal are slim to none.