City Hall

Sonora City Hall at 94 N. Washington St.

The Sonora City Council voted 5-0 at a public meeting Monday night to allow Fire Chief Aimee New to serve as a consultant to the Chicken Ranch Tribe of Me-Wuk Indians as it designs and develops a new 24-hour fire station in the Jamestown area.

New will be expected to provide consulting services in connection with the building of the new fire station, acquisition of fire station vehicles, and any other equipment needed at the new fire station. 

City staff say they have met with tribal leadership to discuss the tribe’s needs and believe partnering with the tribe on the new fire station will provide much-needed emergency response resources for the city and for Tuolumne County.

The city government will be paid hourly for the services New provides as a consultant because she’s a city employee. 

Outgoing City Administrator Mary Rose Rutikanga said in a staff report to the council that the tribe will be fully reimbursing the costs of New’s weighted salary on an hourly basis. New earned $124,740 in total wages and $29,292 in health and retirement contributions in 2017.

“This state of California consultancy agreement before you is to get the project off the ground,” Rutikanga told the five-member council Monday evening.

The new fire station will be on property owned by the Chicken Ranch tribe in the Jamestown area and is expected to open in late 2023 or early 2024, before completion of the tribe’s new resort that’s currently under construction. The term of the consultancy agreement is two years.

“Thank you for building this bridge with our Native American community,” Mayor Matt Hawkins told New. “Thank you, Chief New. This is really awesome.”

Councilwoman Colette Such asked New, “When are you going to sleep?”

“When I’m dead,” New deadpanned. “There will be a lot of late nights, but it’s going to be worth it in the long run. They’re open to suggestions, and I’m looking forward to it.”

County Supervisor David Goldemberg, a retired firefighter who represents District 1 that encompasses the city and surrounding areas, told the council he’s in favor of anything that can be done to complement the county fire department and increase overall fire coverage and fire protection for the county as a whole.

Councilman Mark Plummer said he appreciates New’s role as a fire professional.

In other city business, Rutikanga announced Monday evening was her last council meeting before she departs for her new job overseeing U.S. Peace Corps operations in Africa.

“It’s been a privilege to work with the city these past two years,” Rutikanga said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

Rutikanga announced in November that she had accepted an offer from the Peace Corps to be the agency’s director of management and operations for the Africa region. She will be stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon, a west central African nation between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. 

City staff are expected to seek, recruit, and hire a replacement for Rutikanga, who has been with the city since January 2020. Her last day on the job will be Jan. 14.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or (209) 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.