CAPITOLA -- The City Council unanimously approved a ban on plastic bags and a 25 cent fee on paper bags on a 3-2 vote Thursday night.
Mayor Stephanie Harlan said she preferred to set the paper bag charge at 10 cents, but after council members Dennis Norton and Ed Bottorff voted for the 25-cent fee, she cast the third yes vote. The county instituted a 10-cent charge that will go up to 25 cents in March.
Council members Mike Termini and Sam Storey dissented, with Termini wanting paper bags to be free and Storey preferring the 10-cent charge.
The ordinance banning plastic bags could go into effect three months after approval at a second reading.
Nearly all the input the council received was in favor of the ban, with many environmental groups including Save Our Shores, Surfrider Foundation and Environment California supporting it to protect marine life.
Rachel Kippen of Save Our Shores came dressed in hundreds of plastic bags, swishing as she walked into the room.
"I personally have found thousands of plastic bags in our sanctuary," said Capitola resident Martel Anderson, a sanctuary steward.
Capitola resident Jan Asbury opposed the ban, emailing council members with her concerns about germs in recycled bags and negative impacts on business.
Aptos resident Richard Wieckowicz was opposed on other grounds.
He contended the plastic bag bans in the county and elsewhere have failed, noting daily samples that found 15 percent of shoppers at Whole Foods in San Francisco brought reusable bags and 34 percent at Safeway in Soquel, with an average of 22 percent for two years.
Storey disagreed, saying, "That's 22 percent using reusable bags is more than it was five years ago."
He suggested the council look at extending the plastic bag ban to restaurants, noting the success of Charlie Hong Kong in Santa Cruz in halting the use of plastic bags.
The council voted 5-0 to approve the staff recommendation for spending funds from Measure O, the quarter cent sales tax passed by voters in November.
The tax is projected to generate $270,000 next year and $1.1 million a year from 2014 to 2017 because of the improving economic climate. That would add up to $4.67 million.
City Manager Jamie Goldstein proposed allocating $2 million to bolster the city's reserves, meeting a recommendation from the finance advisory committee for increasing emergency reserves from 5 percent to 10 percent and contingency reserves from 10 percent to 15 percent.
He proposed spending $2.18 million for street maintenance and improvements, $360,000 for public works crew and $131,000 for a third community service officer.
Police Chief Rudy Escalante plans to train a parking attendant to move into the community service officer's job, which he said was a cost-efficient approach.
Bottorff, Harlan and Storey wanted to see more than $500,000 a year dedicated to street maintenance, but they agreed to wait until February when a mid-year financial report will signal whether additional tax revenues will be available to spend.