As part of the cap and trade bill extension, the hotly contested Fire Prevention Fee has been suspended. According to the Sacramento Bee, “The legislation, published in tandem with a separate measure addressing air quality, continues the program (cap-and-trade) through 2030. The cap-and-trade bill includes a suspension of the state’s fire prevention fee, a controversial charge on thousands of property owners who live in rural areas, as of July 1, 2017.” The fee was enacted in 2014. California State is financially responsible for firefighting on 81 million acres, or about one third of the state. Those lands are referred to as the State Responsibility Area, or SRA. Affecting more than 800,000 California residents in the SRA, the fee was part of the State’s 2011 budget. Property owners were required to pay as much as $152.33 per year, per inhabitable structure. Approximately 98% of habitable structures in the SRA are within the boundaries of a local agency that provides fire protective services; the owners of those received a $35 discount per structure. The Tri-Community and surrounding areas are within the SRA boundaries. Supporters lauded the fee as the best way to fill the state’s fire prevention coffers. The fee was immediately contested, by residents in the SRA as well as by tax watchdogs like Howard Jarvis, who saw it as an unconstitutional tax levied on rural residents. From the Fire Prevention Fee website: This fee funds a variety of important fire prevention services in the SRA. Such activities include fuel reduction activities that lessen risk of wildfire to communities and evacuation routes. Other activities include defensible space inspections, fire prevention engineering, emergency evacuation planning, fire prevention education, fire hazard severity mapping, implementation of the State and local Fire Plans and fire-related law enforcement activities such as arson investigation. As early as 2015, millions of dollars from the collection of Fire Prevention fees were being held back. “Given the fact that it’s a relatively new fund, there’s not a long track record on receipts. We do want to maintain a prudent reserve for unforeseen circumstances,” Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said to the Sacramento Bee, in October 2015. It is not clear how the remaining funds will be distributed, refunded, or otherwise handled. Fee payments were due July 1, 2017, and so far, there is no indication of how payments received this, and previous years, will be handled. There are also lawsuits pending regarding the legality of the implementation of the fee, as it is seen as a tax levied without a two-thirds vote.
Retired MP reporter hired as WCSD GM
By Terri Hill
Continuing with special meetings, as the Wrightwood Community Services District (WCSD) tends to the odious task of starting a government agency from scratch, Monday’s agenda concerned the hiring of a General Manager (GM). In the interest of transparency, interviews were conducted, and discussed, by the board in the presence of the public at the meeting. Two candidates were selected from 11 applications for the public interview, Al Morrissette and Charlie Johnson. Morrissette was interviewed first. He was casual, in dress and manner, choosing to sit with the mic while answering questions, a compromise between sitting in front, and standing with his back to the audience. Asked what makes him the person for the job, Morrissette recounted his long-established relationship with Wrightwood. Although he resides in Phelan, he has been a reporter for the Mountaineer Progress (MP) covering Wrightwood’s events, clubs, and the Municipal Advisory Council (MAC). He was a member of the Historical Society and a board member on the Fire Safe Council. Morrissette was also on the original Veteran’s Memorial Park committee. As to his job-specific qualifications, Morrissette cited his previous experience as a business owner, and as a member of the feasibility committee – then elected board member - of the Phelan Pinon Hills CSD (PPHCSD). Mr. Morrissette has served on the California, and San Bernardino Special Districts Associations, county officials in L.A. and San Bernardino, and with state officials in Sacramento, where he has petitioned for Parks and Recreation dollars for his District, and for more reasonable water restrictions and penalties when the State Mandates put a choke hold on water agencies. According to his resume, Morrissette’s membership in the California Parks and Recreation Society, 2008-present, “Enables me to obtain education, work on legislation, and interface with other Parks and Recreation districts.” Board President Wes Zuber cited a key factor in choosing Morrisette, his involvement as consultant to the WCSD feasibility committee. The board faces many challenges as they get the CSD up and running, not the least of which is a $14,000 check from the county, when they were budgeting on $30,000 in start-up funds. Morrissette’s involvement with the committee at the time of the contract with San Bernardino County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) gives him a considerable amount of background knowledge and hopefully a head start in getting those funds into the WCSD bank account. Currently, the funds do not exist to cover Morrisette’s salary, or any other’s. With Charlie Johnson possessing a similar background in local government formation and leadership with the PPHCSD, MACs, and Chamber of Commerce within the Tri-Community, the decision between the two candidates was difficult for the board. Johnson’s resume is thick with financial and systems management, and he too, is more than qualified for the General Manager position. In the quorum of three board members present, Director Lopiccolo and President Zuber represented the ad hoc committee that accepted and vetted the resumes. Director Carroll stated she would therefore defer to their more extensive knowledge of each candidate, as the vote would have to be unanimous. Director Lopiccolo made a motion to hire Morrisette, Director Carroll seconded the motion, and President Zuber and the two directors voted in favor of the appointment.
Karaoke resounds at The Apple Farm
Lipstick Red musicians included Joe Ferraro on lead electric guitar, Dave Shubin playing rhythm guitar, Brittan Egnozzi on guitar and lead vocals, Tony Egnozzi on drums and Eric Arellano on bass guitar.
Brittan Egnozzi on guitar
Casual Encounters Live Band Karaoke with Eric Volfango on electric guitar, MC Manny DeCoria, Gino DeLeva on drums, and Graeme Hinde on electric bass guitar
Chole singing “House of the Rising Sun.”
Music in the Pines dance floor
MC Greg Jones welcoming in the crowd.
Leslie Mihalko singing “Me and Bobby McGee.”
The ladies of Music in the Pines include Joan McCandless , Claudia Campbell, Alex Peterson and Lynn Crawford.
John Garner singing Springsteen’s “Fire.”
Suzanne Gregory singing “Margaritaville,”
Sister and brother Mina and Dashi singing “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, without missing a note.
Story and photos by Michael Palecki
Taken by surprise last Thursday night at Music in the Pines, audience members were impressed with the presentation of Casual Encounters Live Band Karaoke at The Apple Farm venue in Wrightwood. With more than 300 songs to choose from, more than 25 participants found the perfect tune for their vocal chords. Not only were band members supportive with the music and vocal harmonies, it seemed more like there had been several rehearsals instead of one casual encounter. Opening the concert, Master of Ceremonies Greg Jones welcomed the audience and then introduced the Wrightwood band known as Lipstick Red. Musicians included Brittan Egnozzi on guitar and lead vocals, Joe Ferraro on lead electric guitar, Eric Arellano on bass guitar, Dave Shubin playing rhythm guitar, with Tony Egnozzi on drums. Performing a set of 14 songs, five were covers and the remainders were songs written by Brittan. Highlights of the performance included the first song Brittan wrote, at the age of 18, “So Far Away,” and several involving true stories of romance with some love gone bad situations, which included “Beautiful Disaster,” “You’re My Favorite Mistake,” and “Feeling Lucky.” For the cover songs, Eric Clapton’s “Strange Brew” had Brittan singing high and somewhat metallic, with Arellano adding vocal harmonies and Ferraro performing a dazzling guitar solo that was the best of the night. Later on for a pair of Amy Winehouse songs, Brittan traveled from melancholy on “Valerie” to upbeat and campy for the power anthem “Rehab,” which won the 2008 Grammy Song of the Year award. Concluding the set, Brittan first thanked everyone who had volunteered their time to make Music in the Pines a great success. And then with a heavy bass introduction followed by wild guitars, Brittan and Arellano broke into animated vocals for the Jefferson Airplane song “Volunteers.” During intermission, Casual Encounters Master of Ceremonies and Host Manny DeCoria announced that sign-ups for Karaoke would take place next to the stage. The process involved taking a song booklet, selecting a tune and then signing up. After that, DeCoria programmed a soundboard cueing the selection and participant’s name to band members onstage, with the song lyrics easy to read on a TV screen. Band members included Eric Volfango on electric guitar, Graeme Hinde playing electric bass guitar and singing vocal harmonies, with Gino DiLeva playing drums. After multiple appearances at the House of Blues Anaheim and Hard Rock Café Hollywood, the band was well versed in making each singer feel comfortable and as if they had been on the same page for some time. The response was tremendous as community leaders, children, and many familiar faces took the stage for their moment of Karaoke fame. Starting things off, Weatherman Phil Barone ripped through an animated version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” Toby Williams followed singing “Let’s Stay Together,” and then Snowline School Principal John Garner sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” The real surprise coming from small children Mia & Dashi, was the perfect delivery of Bob Marley’s song “Three Little Birds.” Other notable performances included Leslie Mihalko singing “Me And Bobby McGee,” Suzanne singing “Margaritaville,” in a raspy voice, Matt performing “Great Balls of Fire,” and Claudia Campbell belting out lyrics for “Proud Mary.” On a night to remember, the aforementioned Karaoke singers were just a few of the highlights, when actually everyone was a star under the pines.
Serving Wrightwood, Phelan, Pinon HIlls and West Cajon Valley Since 1961