PIEDMONT -- The city is forgiving $113,533 that was owed by Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization over costs related to the now-defunct Blair Park project.

The announcement of the settlement was made by Mayor John Chiang outside of the closed session at Monday night's City Council meeting. Four council members approved the deal, with Councilman Garrett Keating dissenting.

"It was in our best interest not to resort to litigation," Chiang said. "While the settlement has not given any party all of what it wanted, the city and PRFO acknowledge that each party has expended substantial energy and sums of money ..."

Per the indemnification agreement struck at the time of the sports field project, PRFO deposited a total of $213,000 with the city to cover any litigation costs and other fees. The city settled with Friends of Moraga Canyon attorneys for $15,000; another $15,000 was allocated for a landscape study at Blair Park. The remaining $183,000 partially reimbursed the city for its costs associated with administering the project. The PRFO board will identify worthy recreational projects in the future and raise $125,000 over the next five years for development, they said.

The council also moved to put on the Feb. 4 ballot a measure seeking approval by voters to issue bonds or refinance the Public Employees' Retirement System "side fund." The side fund was created in 2003 by PERS for Piedmont because it has less than 100 active members. As of June 30, PERS estimated side fund obligations as $2.3 million for miscellaneous employees and $5.5 million for public safety employees.

The approximate $8 million refinance is estimated to save the city $95,000 to $125,000. The measure would need two-thirds voter approval to pass.

Budget Advisory Committee member Tim Rood pointed out that if approved, the refinance would allow employees to not pay toward their CalPERS pensions because it would be below the sharing cap agreement with the city. Negotiating pension caps downward would solve the problem.

In other business, Eagle Scout Cole Becker received approval from the council to proceed with his plan to build a footbridge in Dracena Park with private money. The city is holding $40,000 in a special account, with $15,000 more expected shortly to cover the cost of the bridge. The Lakeside Foundation donated $40,000; Piedmont Beautification Foundation $10,000, Highland Partners $2,500 and $2,500 from PIedmont Historical Society.

The "Becker Team," led by Cole's father Mark Becker, must obtain a $75,000 bond. The city will absorb the first 60 hours of inspection costs. The Beckers will pay for any inspection costs over that amount.

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