Fillmore in Jeopardy of $35,000 per day fine by Regional Water Control Board
Bill Burnett spoke to council concerning proposed business park.
Bill Burnett spoke to council concerning proposed business park.

Mayor Patti Walker thanked the Board of Supervisors for their approved $50,000 to support the transportation of youths from Piru to Fillmore’s Boys & Girl’s Club.

The Budget Workshop has been rescheduled for Tuesday July 13 at the regular City Council meeting at 6:30 pm; the budget will be available on the City website on June 28.

From the podium, Walker presented the plaque she received from Cabrillo town homes on Main Street on behalf of the efforts of past councils, the present council, and staff to bring the housing project to fruition.

City Planner Kevin McSweeney announced the upcoming Friday Farmer’s Market to be held at the northeast corner of Sespe and Central Ave, starting July 13, running from 4pm-9pm. Thirty booths will be available for rent.

The Fourth of July hot rod show put on by Fillmore & Western is expected to run as planned at Central Park.
McSweeney also noted that the City has issued only two block party permits. Though the registration deadline has passed, the City will not turn anyone away this week, but McSweeney warns that it is not possible for authorities to process many permits at the same time. Permit seekers are asked to apply by July 1.

Public Comments
Resident Dave Roegner expressed his concern regarding the standing water in the pools at the entrance of the Bridges housing development and asked that they be looked into, citing mosquito concerns for those living in the area.

Fillmore Chamber of Commerce President David Crockett reported that about 20 community members attended the June 21 Small Business Forum sponsored by the Ventura County Economic Development Collaborative. The brief session, which covered marketing, lasted approximately 1 hr 15 min. The June 28 session, held at 7 am at City Hall, will be on financial planning and management. Crockett invites all business owners and interested parties to attend the free informational event.

Resident Brian Sipes accused former City Manager Roy Payne of “twisting facts” regarding a position Sipes took in a speech he made April 13. Sipes said that the Fillmore Business Park developers should get their own financing rather than seek an I-bank loan using the city’s funds as collateral. He also stated that he supports the Business Park, and as a small business owner, he understands the need for tax revenue and jobs. Sipes asserted that as a real estate finance professional, he understands the distinct zoning classifications. He argued that if it is economically viable, there shouldn’t be anything in the way of the project; “No one is stopping the Business Park.”

On behalf of the Business Park developers, Attorney Lisa Patricio requested a minor modification of the approved entitlements, followed by Ray Harper of Fillmore Riverview LLC, who thanked Mr. Sipes for his support of the Business Park and clarified that they were not asking for funds; “The I-bank was put to death a long time ago.” Harper stated that the minor entitlement modification takes away the ambiguity surrounding the flood ordinance. Jack Maxwell of Sespe Creek Properties LLC explained that FEMA has proposed an expansion of the flood plain land that covers all of the Business Park. The requested minor modification of the E5 section of the condition of approval is to remove the condition that “no certificate of occupancy will be given for any building within 100-year flood plain.” Maxwell stated that the minor modification deals solely with the Business Park, whose commercial and industrial spaces has different occupancy concerns than those of residential areas.

Resident Bill Burnett explained that the developers are currently in the process of going to the banks, and their lender is waiting for the outcome to make their decisions.

Former Mayor Roger Campbell drew attention to the fact that a third of Fillmore’s residential area is affected by the FEMA adjustments. He pointed out that because the levy will have to be corrected anyway to comply with levy standards, this would be an opportune time to make changes without incurring cost to the city; the levy problem will have to be solved on account of the existing residences in the area, leaving no reason why the occupancy condition shouldn’t be removed for the Business Park as the flood plain will be addressed within five years when the FEMA changes are expected to be implemented.

Councilmen Jamey Brooks and Steve Conaway requested Staff to report back on the issue to gather further background for discussion and approval at the July 13 Council meeting.

Two Rivers Park Open to Public July 2
Public Works Director Bert Rapp reported that the second phase of the Two Rivers Park is finished and the Council accepted the construction of Two Rivers Park as complete. Rapp noted the grass has a few brown spots due to a problem with the subterranean sprinklers on the perimeter along the bike path; the contractor’s maintenance period expires July 15, and will be extended until the problem is satisfactorily addressed, at which point the City will take over. Rapp also stated that the City will photo-document the condition of the park before 4th of July to track abuses such as graffiti.

Councilman Jamey Brooks stated that he can’t accept the park as complete in its current state and is “not comfortable” with continually extending the maintenance period for 30 days at a time. However, City Attorney Ted Schneider stated that if the Council doesn’t accept the park as complete, it wouldn’t be able to open the park to the public. He noted the City has “a one-year warranty on everything.”

Councilman Steve Conaway stated he believes that “the City is adequately protected,” and the precaution to visually document the condition of the park will help ensure proper care of the facilities. The council voted to accept the park as finished 3-1, Brooks opposed.

This phase of the park includes a skate park, nine acres of football/soccer fields, a concession building, a restroom, and a maintenance building and portions of two baseball fields (still in need of backstops and dugouts). As funding becomes available, more amenities such as picnic tables, barbeques, benches, and tress will be added to the park. The addition of a children’s play area, tennis courts, basketball courts, picnic facilities, and additional playing fields are under consideration, as well as expansion into the old Waste Water Treatment Plant land.

The council authorized the final payment of $492,218.76 to the contractor, PIMA Corp. for the 10% retention pending clearance of the 35-day lien period. The cost of the park’s construction totals $4,922,187.63.

Fillmore in Jeopardy of $35,000 per day fine by Regional Water Control Board
Public Works Director Bert Rapp reported on the status of a pending Stormwater Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load for indicator bacteria in the Santa Clara River by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. Rapp recommended that City Council members attend the TMDL public hearing July 8 at the Ventura County Government Center at 9 am in order to request that the RWQCB delay the adoption of the bacteria TMDL. Rapp also advises requesting the exclusion of Reach 3 (Santa Paula and Fillmore) from the TMDL, as it eliminated the river discharges from its sewage treatment plants during the last year, and its bacteria impairment is unknown.
The RWQCB is proposing to adopt the Bacteria TMDL to establish limits on the amount of bacteria that can be discharged into the Santa Clara River, which it has determined has an impairment for bacteria. The Board holds the Cities of Ventura, Santa Paula, Fillmore, and Santa Clarita and the County of Ventura financially responsible.

Rapp said that the TMDL is being rushed “without regard to appropriate science” due to a legal dispute between the RWQCB and environmental groups. In his memo he states, “Until the RWQCB determines the source of the elevated bacteria levels it should not impose requirements costing millions of dollars on the residents of Fillmore which may be unnecessary.”

Fillmore resident Heather Merenda, City of Santa Clarita’s Environmental Project Manager, explained, the problem with the TMDL is that they “don’t understand the sources” to accurately analyze them and the causes of the bacteria levels. She asserted that despite cities doing everything to protect citizens from pollution, “there will be little to no hope of improving water quality” through the rushed TMDL.

The 1993 settlement required about 200 TMDLs to be conducted by 2013. Merenda says there while have been 57 TMDLs conducted in the last 10 years throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, about 100 will be undertaken in the next 18 months in order to meet the conditions of the settlement agreement.

Merenda asserts that there is not enough data to merit the staggering financial implications facing cities; if one of the five samples taken over 30 days exceeds the standard bacteria level, Fillmore could be faced with mandatory minimum penalties of $35,000 per day.

Merenda gives the example of the City of Calabasas, located in the Malibu Creek Watershed. In 2008, there were 105 violations at the beach, 10 miles away from the city. The part of the creek flowing near the town didn’t exceed the water standard, but the Board denied their efforts of spending $20,000 on an attorney to challenge the fine on the basis that the City could not prove the storm drains didn’t discharge or contribute to the violations at the beach. Calabasas faces a $3.6 million fine.

Merenda strongly encourages the City of Fillmore to ask the RWQCB to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to renegotiate a longer timeline with the environmental groups (signatories to the settlement included Natural Resources Defense Council, Heal the Bay, and Santa Monica Bay Keeper).

Rapp notes that Fillmore could be responsible for the bacteria levels at the estuary due to being upstream, and while compliance may mean eliminating all discharge from storm drains in dry weather, “We don’t have a clue” how wet weather compliance standards will be met.” Like Calabasas, Fillmore could be fined for violations downstream.
Rapp encourages all members of the public to attend the public hearing to request more time to gather scientific evidence of the source of the problem before imposing extreme measures that could render the city bankrupt.

Mayor Walker said she found the actions of the RWQCB “extremely frustrating” and expressed “anger and disappointment in their inability.” While Walker herself is unable to attend the hearing, Mayor Pro-tem Gayle Washburn, City Manager Yvonne Quiring, and Rapp, as well as other Public Works staff will be present. Calling the demands of the RWQCB “ astronomical” and “ridiculous,” Walker stressed that “the public needs to be there.” The public hearing is on Thursday July 8 at the Ventura County Government Center at 9 am.

Note: Councilwoman Laurie Hernandez was absent.