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SLO to Grand Jury: No ... and yes 

The San Luis Obispo City Council decided to disregard the findings and suggestions of one county grand jury report while agreeing with another.

The council agreed with a grand jury finding that a subcontractor working on a city refurbishment project had paid wages that were below the prevailing federal wage requirements—a big no-no since the project was funded by a federally sponsored community development block grant. The council voted unanimously to make up the difference and see to it that the workers on the project are paid the difference.

The target of the rejected report? Leaf blowers.

The grand jury told the city it had bad policy when it came to the use of the machines. The report said leaf blowers are noisy, create too much pollution—especially models with two-stroke motors—and should be phased out. The grand jury suggested the city ban the use of two-stroke blowers in the city.

Proudly reminding the sparsely populated council chambers that the city has a noise ordinance that already restricts the high-decibel offenders, most of the city council said an ordinance restricting leaf blowers would be too difficult to enforce and create an economic hardship for landscape businesses. They also said it should be the job of the state to deal with polluting and noisy blowers.

“This is not warranted and not feasible,” said an obviously agitated Councilmember Andrew Carter.

Councilmember Jan Marx disagreed. She suggested the council respond to the grand jury by studying the issue for six months and phasing out the use of two-stroke blowers in the city.

“I just don’t think thumbing our nose at the grand jury is a good idea,” Marx said.

The council voted 4-1, with Marx dissenting, to tell the grand jury “the recommendation will not be implanted because it is not warranted or is not feasible.” The council agreed, however, to phase out the city’s use of two-stroke blowers and to send a letter to the state Legislature suggesting it regulate the use of leaf blowers.

The city isn’t required to obey a grand jury finding; it is, however, required to respond.

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