“Rule by facebook®,” was how Phelan Pinon Hills Community Services District (CSD) Director Alex Brandon described the decision that was made at the CSD meeting to bring back the hearing and vote on Ordinance No. 2016-01, Establishing Conservation Measures, at a later date.
The Public Hearing on the ordinance was held during the regular Board Meeting on Wednesday, February 17 and lasted nearly 4 ½ hours. Although the hearing was announced by public notice in the Mountaineer Progress and on the CSD website as required by law, many were unaware of the ordinance until one section was singled out for scrutiny in the Victor Valley News, an online news group. A resident of the Water District had submitted an article referencing section 9.1 of the ordinance, which deals with enforcement of the proposed regulations. When the story was posted to facebook®, it went viral. People were outraged to hear what they thought was a guarantee of jail time if they used too much water.
More than 70 CSD Water customers attended the Board meeting and many of them turned in comment cards so that they could voice their opinions during the Public Hearing. At the start of the hearing, CSD Attorney Steve Kennedy explained the background and meaning of the section, 9.1, of the ordinance that details the possible criminal penalties for violation of the proposed ordinance. Mr. Kennedy explained that by California law, conviction of violation of such an ordinance could carry a penalty of six or more months of jail time. He stated that by including the verbiage, “Criminal Penalties for Violation. A person violating any provision of this Ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punishable by imprisonment in the County jail for not more than 30 days, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment as may be allowed by law,” the intention was to allow for a much shorter sentence for the misdemeanor, should it ever be an issue, than that allowed by state law. Kennedy also pointed out that there are many provisions for compliance before a situation would ever escalate to that point, and it is not the intention of the Board to try to throw people in jail.
As the hearing began with public input, comments were heated and customers still worried that they would be jailed for using too much water, incurring court and attorney fees and losing income from their jobs. Following the rules of the hearing, after the public was heard from, the Board members were allowed to discuss the resolution. Directors Roberts and Whalen expressed their concerns with including the criminal penalties in the resolution, and reiterated that they never foresaw anyone actually being put in jail for violations. During further discussion, General Manager Don Bartz explained the extensive measures to which the Water District expects to go, to help customers meet the 32% reduction or 15 units per month usage, and applications for exceptions that would be made on an individual basis.
Although the District has not met its 32% reduction mandate, and conservation measures and penalties have been in place since last summer; to date, no customer has been fined for failing to conserve.
The board agreed to pull the criminal penalties (section 9.1) but still did not vote on the resolution. All three directors present (Al Morrissette is out of the country and Cathy Pace was home ill) agreed that it was unusual and welcome to see so many people come to a Board meeting and share their input. They pointed out that if there was as much interest in the issues and bi-monthly meetings all the time, the public would have much more input and be better informed about the workings within the District. While encouraging participation, Directors Roberts and Whalen offered that it would be prudent to bring the Resolution 2016-01 back for another hearing and a vote at a later meeting, to give customers additional time to read the entire resolution (available at pphcsd.org and at the CSD office). Director Brandon pointed out that the information has been publically available for review for the required number of weeks, and in the required formats. Brandon added that by putting off the vote, the Board is essentially giving in to social media rumor mongering and unnecessarily delaying the vote beyond the February deadline for 32% conservation. As a result of the postponement, Resolution 2016-02 had to be moved to a future agenda as well; it deals with Stage Two Mandatory Restrictions and must wait until a vote is brought to the Board on the first resolution.
Both resolutions are available on the CSD website and in print at the CSD office.
County starts process of the Phelan-Pinon Hills Community Plan
By Al Morrissette
As part of the County’s move forward with sharing information and starting the review process for the developing San Bernardino Countywide Plan, they announced a series of meetings within the communities of Phelan and Pinon Hills.
Prior to this review the plan was referred to as the Phelan Community Plan and it included the community of Pinon Hills. That plan was reviewed by a committee of local leaders and citizens who met monthly for more than a year to bring to the County Planning Commission a document more than 100 pages long, and highly debated and honed by the community. The Plan continued the existing support of a rural lifestyle (2 ½ acres) and designated potential commercial districts such as the area surrounding the Sheep Creek Transfer Station, the corridor along Phelan Road and some other areas. The plan also designated a preference of retaining the natural environment and other designated nature areas that would benefit the community. During the housing boom, the Phelan Community Plan was instrumentally used by the community to fight large housing projects that promoted small lots and bring an increase of transportation and utility infrastructure concerns.
The new review process refers to the document as the Phelan/Pinon Hills Community Plan. Though the name has changed, the first workshop (What We Value) will involve reviewing the current Plan, showing how the local Plan will fit into the Countywide Plan, ranking strengths and weaknesses, and looking at opportunities or potential threats as the community progresses through the 21st Century. The County intends to do this by getting the community involved in discussion, but it appears that unlike the 2006 model, they will not develop a review committee of local leaders.
This first meeting will be held on Thursday, March 3 at Pinon Hills Elementary School between 6:30-8:30pm. Participants will take a survey focused on level of service and maintenance desired by the community for infrastructure and other public facilities and services currently provided by the County.
The second workshop (Our Roadmap) will be held at the Phelan Community Center on Thursday, March 31 between 6:30-8:30pm and will review information from the first workshop as well as consolidate comments and survey input from the prior meeting. They will further develop goals and objectives, discuss and rank priorities and discuss potential changes in land use.
The third workshop (Making It Happen) is scheduled for Tuesday, July 21 in the Pinon Hills Community Center between the hours of 6:30-8:30pm. The County will bring forward the collective community input from the prior meetings, adding input from those who were not able to attend the meeting and instead shared ideas in emails. Such emails can be sent to: PhelanPinonHillsCP@lus.sbcounty.gov.
The first draft will be presented to the communities in fall 2016 with the final plan to be approved sometime in 2018.
NRCS announces new federal funds to improve forest health
By Terri Hill
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced it is accepting applications for a special forest health initiative in Los Angeles County. Federal funding will assist private forestland owners in mountain communities surrounding the Angeles National Forest.
NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez said in a press release, “We are very pleased to partner on this project. Those who manage and care for the landscape in both public and private hands are most successful when we come together on efforts like this to protect the valuable resources of the Angeles National Forest.”
NRCS District Conservationist for Los Angeles County Hudson Minshew added that a focus would be on enhancing areas associated with the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
The Angeles National Forest project area will be centered on private land or tribal land in Pinion Hills, Wrightwood, Lake Hughes, Green Valley, Juniper Hills, and other communities that that are gateways into the National Monument. Forest health work initiated through the 2 Chiefs Initiative will also continue in the San Bernardino National Forest.
According to their webpage on the NRCS site, in its third year, the Two Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership (2 Chiefs Initiative) teams NRCS with the U.S. Forest Service to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public and private lands meet across the nation. NRCS’ funding is made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
For more information or to determine if you are eligible, please contact the NRCS Lancaster Service Center at (661) 942-5503.
Formed in 1935, NRCS provides leadership in a partnership effort to aid in the conservation of soil, water, and other natural resources by landowners and managers.
San Bernardino and Riverside Counties can apply for similar funding opportunities.
A similar project for the Trinity National Forest was approved to improve forest health, reduce the threat of wildfires, and to support Trinity County’s rural community. Additional program information on all the projects can be found on the NRCS website.
Wrightwood Chamber of Commerce Mixer
By Vicky Rinek
The Wrightwood Chamber of Commerce gathered at the Mountain High East Resort for a social mixer and an informal meeting last Tuesday, February 23, 2016. Business owners and community members had the opportunity to socialize while enjoying a spread of delicious assorted of hors d’oeuvres provided by Mountain High.
The Chamber’s President Mal Youngblood discussed the core fundamentals of the Chamber, which promotes a strong local economy. The Chamber’s top priorities are to bring attention to this mountain community through various programs, to support businesses and build the community.
An important topic discussed covered the various events sponsored by the Chamber. These events are the Taste of Wrightwood, Mountaineer Days, Mountain Classic Car Show, Mountain Chili Cook-off, Mountain Holiday Celebration and the Parade of Lights.
The Chamber has a number of rich and rewarding volunteer opportunities to support these events. “You’ll not only grow personally and professionally when you volunteer, you’ll make a lot of new friends and business associates. Find a committee that addresses your passion and sign on!” enthused Chamber Vice President Renee Merline, owner of Applewood Court, and Volunteer Coordinator.
Visit the Chamber’s website: http://www.wrightwoodchamber.org. Janice Quick is the PR chairperson and has created a new facebook page for the Chamber. Like them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WrightwoodChamber.org
Join the Chamber and receive business-to-business opportunities.
This month’s deal:
Chamber Investors will receive a free Business Advertisement in the Mountaineer Progress. Schedule a four-week ad campaign and pay for only three weeks (that’s a 25% discount). Mention Chamber discount when scheduling your advertisement. Not valid with any other offers.
The Phelan man who claimed he found his wife dead in a chicken coop on their property -- and later publicly offered a reward for information on the killer -- was sentenced today to state prison for killing her.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Tomberlin sentenced 75-year-old Sigfredo Concepcion to 50 years to life in prison for the murder of Linda Mae Concepcion.
The victim’s daughters, Georgina Richardson and Sherry Flamard, both read impact statements prior to the pronouncement of judgement today. The following are excerpts from each statement:
“Those hours on the phone with my mother are no more,” Richardson said. “Those dozens of text notifications between us are no more. Those birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas and “Just Because I Love You” cards are no longer in my mailbox.”
“He (Concepcion) deserves to spend his life in prison for what he did, Flamard said. “I know my mother is in Heaven but I also believe a piece of her heart is in a prison knowing she didn’t get to be around her grandchildren. But my children and I have come to settle in our hearts knowing she has become our guardian angel.”
Last month, a Victorville jury took less than three hours last month to find Concepcion guilty of first-degree murder in the July 8, 2012 shooting death of 68-year-old Linda Concepcion. The jury also found true an allegation that he personally shot the victim.
“The jury did a great job of sifting through a complex case and came to the right conclusion,” said Deputy District Attorney David Foy, who prosecuted the case. “The victim’s family is very happy that justice was done. It has been a long time.”
According to evidence presented in the week-long trial, the defendant called 911 on the evening of July 8 to report he found his wife in a converted chicken coop on their rural property on Cayucos Lane in Phelan, the apparent victim of a heart attack.
When San Bernardino County sheriff’s and coroner’s deputies arrived, they discovered she had been shot in the back. A search of the chicken coop on July 13 turned up a pistol and a holster under a mound of debris, as well as a fired cartridge case that was fired from that weapon.
The month after the murder, Concepcion had offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his wife’s killer.
But according to evidence at trial, Sigfredo Concepcion’s DNA was found on the murder weapon. The victim’s daughter testified that two days after the murder, she saw Concepcion disposing of bags of clothing. She retrieved the clothes and gave them to sheriff’s deputies.
The bags contained clothing that the defendant was wearing the night of the murder, and the pants and jacket tested positive for gunshot residue.
Prosecutors also introduced evidence that the couple were getting divorced, with the dissolution of marriage to be final three days before the murder. As part of the divorce agreement, the two had agreed to split the proceeds of a future sale of their house.
Deputy District Attorney Foy argued to the jury that Sigfredo Concepcion, by killing his soon-to-be ex-wife, was able to pocket the entire proceeds of the sale, which was completed in Sept. 2012 for $50,000, according to records.
Serving Wrightwood, Phelan, Pinon HIlls and West Cajon Valley Since 1961