Tensions flare over southside Oroville at City Council meeting

OROVILLE — Emotions ran fast and furious at Tuesday’s Oroville City Council meeting.

The meeting started off on a high note, with the presentation of a Harlen Bible gifted to the city of Oroville from the Retired Judges of America, with a pastor speaking to the council about it. Mayor Chuck Reynolds accepted the Bible from the pastor.

“The city accepts this with humbleness,” Reynolds said as he took the Bible. “This was signed by all of the Supreme Court justices since 1906, regardless of political party. And that says something.”

Pastor David Goodson spoke about southside Oroville. Goodson said that area has been neglected for a long time, and he hasn’t heard much about improving that area of Oroville. He said there are abandoned and burnt buildings and there are tennis shoes on power lines. He urged the council to address the needs in south Oroville. He started to walk away from the podium after speaking, but Reynolds called him back.

“Have I been to your church?” Reynolds asked Goodson. Goodson agreed. Reynolds said he has been to several churches in southside.

Reynolds then asked Goodson about the complaint Goodson had made at a previous meeting about the area around Goodson’s church being neglected and full of homeless people and drug dealings.

“Didn’t we respond to that complaint right away?” Reynolds asked Goodson. “I am the mayor of the the whole city and I cleaned up several blighted properties in that area. I didn’t see you or your people helping. (City Administrator Bill) LaGrone and I were out there loading dumpsters. When you complained we took action.”

The audience murmured after Reynolds spoke.

Goodson said that he wasn’t there to argue or debate, but wanted to implore the council to beautify southside. He implored the council to get together to figure out what needed to be cleaned up. Goodson implored everyone to get together and figure it out.

“You, sir, have always been a gentleman, and you and I have always gotten along,” Reynolds said to Goodson. “Please give a fair account and don’t accuse us. I don’t accuse you of things.”

Tempers began to really flare during discussion for potential solutions regarding the operation of the El Medio Fire Protection District, which is located at 3515 Myers St. in Oroville. Councilor David Pittman said that Oroville needs two more fire departments.

The El Medio fire chief, Gary Nystuen, spoke. He said he has been with the department for 50 years. He said the El Medio Fire Protection District is very needed and that the day before Thanksgiving there was a food giveaway at the station in the morning. A man was laying in the road, unresponsive in a gutter. A car came by and told the officers the situation. The chief said to called 911 and no one came. He said to dial 911 again and no one came. Nystuen said he believes this happened because it took place on the southside.

City administrator Bill LaGrone told the chief his comments were offensive, and that this incident did not occur because it took  place in southside.

Reynolds asked Oroville Fire Department Chief Chris Tenns if El Medio is fully functioning, and Tenns said no.

Councilor Janet Goodson gave an emotional speech, saying that many years ago, her husband was bleeding profusely during the night and she called the fire department. She said that El Medio showed up in two and a half minutes. Her husband had to have a quadruple bypass.

“I appreciate you El Medio,” she said, and the audience clapped.

Pittman said southside should be annexed. Councilor Eric Smith said El Medio has been challenged for a long time and told a personal story about El Medio, saying he also had a bad experience with El Medio Fire Protection District.

Nystuen said that they were planning to ask the city to implement a joint powers of agreement with El Medio. A JPA is a joint powers of authority agreement in which another public entity will watch over the station.

The council voted not to implement the Joint Powers of Agreement, with four yeses and three nos.

The meeting ended with Councilor Krysi Riggs complimenting the city for its recent Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The Dec. 21, 2021 Oroville City Council meeting was canceled because of proximity to Christmas, and the council will meet again Jan. 4, 2022.

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