Proponents argue for Measures I
VC Supervisor Kathy Long addressed Tuesday’s city council. She asked the council to inform Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso of Fillmore’s opposition to the conversion of the present California Youth Authority facility in Camarillo to a 1,500-bed maximum security prison hospital. Such a plan presents significant economic, housing, employment and safety problems for Ventura County.
VC Supervisor Kathy Long addressed Tuesday’s city council. She asked the council to inform Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso of Fillmore’s opposition to the conversion of the present California Youth Authority facility in Camarillo to a 1,500-bed maximum security prison hospital. Such a plan presents significant economic, housing, employment and safety problems for Ventura County.

Fillmore City Council held a meeting September 9, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The Council decided to oppose the proposed conversion of the California Youth Authority Correctional Facility (CYAC) to a Medical and Mental Health Facility (MHF) for adult prisoners. The Council approved an engineering expenditure for preparing a response to the draft FEMA map. The Council heard arguments from the public for Measures H and I. The Council received a report from the Heritage Valley Tourism Bureau.

Supervisor Kathy Long spoke to the council about the disadvantages of converting the CYAC to a MHF for adult prisoners. She said that the proposal resulted from a federal court action requiring a certain number of such facilities in each state, and that California was falling short. Receiver J. Clark Kelso, who is responsible for implementing the court order, has chosen locations for several facilities, including the CYAC between Oxnard and Camarillo. The MHF would house Third and Fourth level inmates, and would create 5000 new jobs in the area. An analysis by the California Hospital Association indicates that the MHF would drain the local hospital workforce because of the current nursing shortage. Medical personnel would move from local healthcare facilities to higher paying jobs with the MHF, which would offer to almost double their salaries. Long mentioned that St. John's Hospital, Santa Paula Hospital, and Los Robles Hospital oppose the conversion, as do law enforcement leaders, who believe that the MHF would change the composition of the community for the worse by bringing in inmate's relatives and visitors. Long claimed that an existing housing shortage and lack of appropriate roads to accommodate the increased population would cause problems. According to Long, Camarillo cannot provide any water to the MHF, and Oxnard's sewer system cannot provide for the increased usage. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors opposes the conversion, and in cooperation with other organizations is lobbying Kelso to choose another site. Long believes that Kelso will listen because other communities would welcome an MHF. The CYAC is underutilized, but the Board and others want to increase usage in a way that would serve the local community without being a drain on resources. The Council voted to oppose the conversion because of the effect it would have on Santa Paula Hospital and Fillmore's Urgent Care facility, which could increase the cost of healthcare.

Public Works Director Bert Rapp reported on the progress against FEMA's draft map, and the Council approved additional expenditures not to exceed $57,000 for research and reports to convince FEMA to change its map. Rapp explained that there are questions as to whether FEMA correctly modeled the flooding possibilities. Rapp and experts have noted that FEMA's map shows the Highway 126 bridge at an inaccurate angle. Councilmember Scott Lee advised Rapp to include a picture of the bridge demonstrating that inaccuracy in his next report to FEMA. As a safety precaution, levees have a freeboard area on top which extends three or four feet beyond the expected flood level. FEMA policies state that if any part of a levee's freeboard is below the expected flood level, then the area should be modeled as if no levee exists there. According to FEMA, floodwaters at the levee at the Highway 126 bridge would encroach upon the freeboard by a few inches. FEMA refuses to acknowledge the aluminum I-beams erected by the Army Corp of Engineers to stop flood waters, and therefore is requiring automated flood gates at the Sespe Creek Levee at the railroad. If a new more accurate hydrology analysis indicates that the water flow is less than FEMA's estimate, then there might be no encroachment. A special report could persuade FEMA to revise the map. FEMA has already agreed to revise their Pole Creek analysis. Fillmore had agreed to collaborate with the Ventura County Watershed Protection District on research, but the collaboration might not allow for enough analysis and might not be completed in time. Some of the $57,000 will be paid by developers and some will come from levee assessments which homeowners have already paid.

Five public speakers argued for Measures H and I. Gayle Washburn pointed out that the financial analysis in the North Fillmore Initiative Report was based on obsolete house prices from a 2006 analysis. She stated that house prices have fallen from an approximate average of $500,000. She said that there are now at least 28 houses in Fillmore valued at approximately $261,000, which is considered a low-income housing price. Washburn claimed that new numbers would show that the City does not stand to lose as much money if Measure I passes as the Report indicates. Clay Westling and Tom Dawson stated that proponents of Measure I do not want to prohibit development, but want North Fillmore to have a similar housing density to the rest of Fillmore. Westling said that low-income housing was not in their plans. He pointed out that State agencies require Fillmore to plan for a mix of housing, not necessarily build low-income housing, and indicated that the amount of low-income housing required might already exist. Westling criticized the Council, City Staff, and their "hired help" for using "scare tactics". Jamey Brooks provided a rebuttal to the argument that passing Measure I would increase the city's liability. He claimed that the Council and City Staff had acted in ways that increased the risk of lawsuits despite that factor, and that passing the Initiative would be less risky than some of their previous actions. He said that the Council had been informed before the initiative was drawn up that citizens would not accept high density housing, so if the City is sued it will be the fault of the Council, not Fillmore's citizens. Tom Dawson and Gary Creagle criticized a letter from Fillmore Special Projects Manager Roy Payne as offensive, unprofessional, and threatening. Dawson mentioned that Payne does not live in Fillmore. Dawson said that the City's consultant should be dismissed. He spoke about the joys of having backyards instead of alleys for children to play in. Creagle criticized the Council and City staff for worrying about litigation due to Measure I instead of other more likely litigation. He criticized them further for entering into a tax scheme and not paying their partner cities.

Steve McClary, President of the Heritage Valley Tourism Bureau (HVTB), reported on the positive changes the organization implemented over the past year. HVTB was formed by Santa Paula, Ventura County, Fillmore, and the Piru Neighborhood Council to promote tourism in the Heritage Valley, which includes the area from Wells Road to the eastern border of Ventura County. In the past year, HVTB acquired a permanent office at 448 Santa Clara St., across from Fillmore City Hall. HVTB hired its first executive director, Della Reyes, and expanded its operating budget. Its marketing budget went from $5000 to $25,000. Its marketing efforts include display areas in various locations, inclusions in various California tourist guides, descriptions in airline and hotel magazines, a booth at the county fair and other events, and a website. HVTB receives funding from the participating cities, but plans to eventually become self-sufficient.

The Council voted to send grant money from the State to a Santa Clarita Watershed project because the time limit for using the money on an environmental project was expiring, and the City, being unable to complete the original project for which the grant had been given, was required by the State to return the money or give it to another approved project. The original project was delayed by the economic downturn, and Fillmore had no other approved projects.

Scott Lee and Mayor Steve Conaway will form a subcommittee of the Council to address Fillmore's lack of a public track. The Council subcommittee will meet later this month with the FUSD School Board subcommittee and members of the general public to discuss solving the problem.