It was a long night for Phelan Pinon Hills Community Services District (CSD) Management Staff and Board members, and for the residents who attended the January 20 General Board Meeting. The resulting vote at the end of that long night was in favor of the water rate increase.
Before the General Meeting, the final of six Water Rate Study Workshops had been held at 4pm; it ran until 6pm when the general meeting began, which was not adjourned until almost 10:30.
After Chris Fisher of Willdan Financial Studies presented the Water Rate Study, a hearing on the study took place, and residents were given an opportunity to express objections to the rate increases. Todd Snowdale spoke first and among other comments stated that he had sent his objections, in writing, to Felicia Marquez at the State Water Board. CSD Attorney Steve Kennedy later asked for copies of the letters, which can be used in the CSD’s appeal to the Water Board for more lenient restrictions and mandates in the rural water district.
Gary Webster recounted the events when his pipes burst, more than once, due to the “high pressure” flow in his neighborhood. He expressed exasperation when his inquiries about fixing the issue were met with a conservation notice rather than answers.
The theme of the public comments largely was one of frustration at the tiered format and fines for overuse of water. Many residents are concerned about the allowance of 12 units per month (75 gallons per day, per person) in a 4–person household. Board Director Al Morrissette explained during the Board’s discussion that, within the structure of the conservation plan and implantation of new rates, there will be the opportunity to present special conditions for reconsideration. He assured the audience, “We have a way of working with everyone on conservation and rates individually.”
The issue of Chromium 6 was also part of the night’s discussion, and confusion. CSD General Manager Don Bartz recounted the three engineering designs, previously presented at a July CSD general meeting, and the choice of the least expensive method for decreasing the level of Chromium 6 in the District’s water supply. While the United States deems 100 parts per billion (ppb) an acceptable level of the chemical in water, California recently lowered its standard from 50ppb to just 10ppb. The cost of treating the water or bringing less contaminated water into the district is exorbitant. The board agreed to the process of blending water from the dairy property wells, which has virtually none of the naturally-occurring chemical, with water from the highest producing wells that have an 8-17ppb rating. While this project will cost up to $17 million, it is the least costly answer to the issue, and the District has already begun the process of applying for grants and other funding to aid in the financing of the project. Patrice Copeland, Senior Engineering Geologist for the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Lahontan Region 6, and a resident of Pinon Hills, offered her assistance with finding the funding available for the Chromium 6 project. She also expressed the importance of stressing to the State Water Board the fact that this is a rural area, which requires water for livestock and edible gardens.
Customers of Sheep Creek Water have protested their taxes being used to supplement PPHCSD Water projects. Wishing to remain anonymous, one such customer expressed in an email concerns that tax money from Sheep Creek customers should be spent on parks and street lights rather than fund water projects that serve only CSD customers.
At the end of the Public Hearing, staff presented the Board with the protests written before the hearing (96) and those delivered at the meeting (8, non-authenticated). In order to constitute a Majority Protest and derail the Board’s vote on the Rate Increase, the number of letters of protest would have to be at least 3400. As the number fell short of that, by a large margin, the Board discussed their individual views on the conservation mandate, Chromium 6 issue, and rates, and voted 4-1 in favor of the increase. Board Vice President Cathy Pace cast the only vote against the increase after delivering a statement as to budget cuts she recommended last year without receiving Board support, and their possible advantage they may have had in avoiding the current revenue emergency.
Information on water rates, consumption and fines, and Chromium 6 can be found on the District’s website: pphcsd.org
Residents are reminded to leave infested wood piles alone
By Terri Hill
At the January 19 meeting of the Wrightwood Fire Safe Council, Cal Fire’s Matt Edmiston reported on the dead tree removal along Highway 2 in mid-December. He commented that the cooperation from Caltrans was “awesome.” A total of 37 trees were cut down from both sides of the highway between Sheep Creek and Lone Pine. When asked if people were given permission to take the lumber, Edmiston replied, “We didn’t give away any free wood. Some of the trees had active infestations of bark beetles and the wood had to be specially handled. Because people were coming daily, after the workers had gone or early in the morning before they started, Caltrans and Fenner Camp issued this warning:
Let the community of Wrightwood know that all the trees along HWY 2have been downed and that the 4 Log Decks across from Victorville street are active bug trees. They are under plastic but people are trying to come take it. We are finishing the clean up today and have to keep letting people know that they do not want to take the wood that is wrapped because they have the bugs in them.
The wood must be left undisturbed for a period of at least six months, until the eggs and larva have, in essence, suffocated under the plastic.
USFS Forest Protection Officer (FPO) Dave Woody introduced himself at the meeting. He reported on efforts to issue citations and manage crowds and resulting issues of garbage during the previous weekend’s snow event. Woody said Fenner Camp had walked Big Pines, collecting trash, but the problem was overwhelming. He also reported people playing on the ice at Jackson Lake, and one man drilling a whole through which he hoped to fish.
Woody also reported that the official fire danger warning would be lowered from “Very High” to “High.”
The next meeting of the Council is scheduled for February 16, 7pm at the Wrightwood Museum.
Serrano’s Chris Piercy receives Teacher of the Year honors
By Terri Hill
Chris Piercy, history/Bridge program teacher, Serrano High School was one of five teachers from San Bernardino County among 10 educators from the region who were honored at the annual California League of High Schools’ (CLHS) Educator of the Year event on Jan. 21. According to the League of Schools website, The CLMS and CLHS Educator of the Year award is given annually to 22 educators, representing regions throughout California, who exemplify educational excellence and have made significant efforts to implement elements of educational reform in middle and high schools. Up to 10 finalists from each region will be honored locally. The nominee selected to represent each region will subsequently be honored at the CLS Annual Conference. One of these nominees will be announced as CLMS and CLHS State Educator of the Year at the conference. Nominees may be teachers, administrators, counselors, or other certificated personnel.
The county teachers, along with five more from Riverside County, were recognized at an awards ceremony that was held at the Ontario Airport Hotel, located at 700 N. Haven Ave.
Piercy has the distinction of being the longest-serving teacher in the Snowline District. He is in his 34th year at Serrano and taught three years at Nogales High School in La Puente, CA.
Piercy was hired at Serrano in August of 1982 and has served over the years as the Social Science Dept. Chair, Head Wrestling Coach, Head Baseball Coach, Football Coach, and Senior Class Advisor at Serrano. Piercy’s nomination honors his work with the K16 Bridge program that he, with Serrano faculty started 11 years ago, with Victor Valley College (VVC) and the non-profit Lewis Center for Educational Research.
Bridge boasts participation from 10 Community Colleges and more than 80 schools. “The goal of the program,” says Piercy, “is to help all students successfully transition to a post-secondary institution.” These institutions include four and two-year colleges, trade schools, and military branches. Currently, there are 24 high schools in the High Desert participating in the program. San Bernardino City Unified School District has 57,000 students from 74 schools participating, making it the largest Bridge district.
The K16 Bridge Program works with students as young as five years up to students in Adult Educational programs. Students have access to the My Mentor portal, providing academic and career information and support. Bridge students enjoy priority registration at VVC, and thousands of Serrano graduates have benefitted from the perk.
“The program functions under the simple rule that we only do what is best for kids,” Piercy said in an email. “I greatly appreciate the great superintendents and principals, that I have been blessed to worked for, that have encouraged my work with Bridge and have fully supported the effort to help all students.”
Piercy was born in Victorville; his family moved to the area in 1945. Notably, his grandfather opened the now abandoned Pfizer talc plant on D Street, next to the Narrow’s Bridge.