From left to right: Interim City Manager Bill Bartels, Council members Jamey Brooks, Gayle Washburn and Mayor Patti Walker. The three council members glossed over the possible half-million dollar cost of implementing Measure I, which each promoted last November.
From left to right: Interim City Manager Bill Bartels, Council members Jamey Brooks, Gayle Washburn and Mayor Patti Walker. The three council members glossed over the possible half-million dollar cost of implementing Measure I, which each promoted last November.
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Former councilmember Cecilia Cuevas spoke at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Former councilmember Cecilia Cuevas spoke at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The City Council meeting was well-attended on Tuesday, March 24, 2009. Many were there to comment on the implementation of Measure I. The Council decided to move forward on implementing Measure I, re-named River Park, avoided delays in the Business Park development by providing for Well #9, decided not to purchase property to straighten the B St. extension, and came to an agreement with 4H for use of the Equestrian Center. Police Chief Tim Hagel reported on 2008 Crimes Rates.

Crime in Fillmore is down 15% overall from 2007 levels, Hagel reported. There were 2248 arrests and 2493 traffic citations in 2008. Hagel explained that the department's policy of frequent probation searches (targeting violent probationers) is proactively keeping drugs, weapons, and gang members off the streets. The arrest rate for probation searches is 28%. According to Hagel, an unrecorded telephone hotline for reporting gang activity is also reducing crime. He said that the FBI requires reports on significantly serious crimes, and Fillmore's number of crimes reported to the FBI is down 35% compared to 2007. Property crimes are down 11%. Hagel noted that police and fire response times are averaging under 3 minutes, and Fillmore residents seem comfortable calling on and making reports to the police.

The Council's discussion about how to implement Measure I began with Community Development Director Kevin McSweeney's presentation on the changes required as a consequence of Measure I. Then the Council heard public comments before voting on a recommended course of action. CONTINUED »

 


 
Above the diversion channels river water to the spreading grounds, large shallow reservoirs composed of sand and gravel layers that naturally filter water as it seeps back into the ground.
Above the diversion channels river water to the spreading grounds, large shallow reservoirs composed of sand and gravel layers that naturally filter water as it seeps back into the ground.
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Ask any farmer or rancher in Ventura County, “What is the most important issue you face today?”, and the answer will probably be “water.” Without a consistent and adequate supply of water, agriculture cannot exist. The ongoing drought has led to drastic cutbacks in water allotments to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, many of whom depend on water from the State Water Project or the federal Central Valley Project for their survival. So who manages our water here in Ventura County? You may have heard of the United Water Conservation District (UWCD), but are not sure what it does. How about the “Freeman Diversion”—where is that and what does it do? These questions, and more, were answered on a recent Saturday tour to the Freeman Diversion in Saticoy sponsored by the Ventura County Chapter of California Women for Agriculture. Ken Breitag, UWCD Executive Coordinator, explained the history of the UWCD, which is a public agency organized as a special district in Ventura County. Its territory covers the Santa Clara River watershed from the Los Angeles County line to the ocean. What started in 1927 as the Santa Clara River Water Conservation District by residents and landowners to manage the natural water supply and to protect it from outsiders seeking to export it, was restructured as the UWCD in 1954 to not only manage, but also to conserve, protect, and enhance the water supply. A seven-member Board of Directors (local resident Dick Richardson is a member) guides the agency in the management of its facilities in Saticoy and El Rio, as well as the Santa Felicia Dam, Lake Piru, the Freeman Diversion, and the pipeline distribution system which delivers surface water from the Santa Clara River directly to farms on the Oxnard Plain and Pleasant Valley areas. The UWCD also provides potable water to the City of Oxnard, the Port Hueneme Water Agency (including Naval Base Ventura County), and several small mutual water companies. It is funded by groundwater pumping charges, property taxes, water delivery charges, recreational fees, hydroelectric revenues and assessments.

Ken discussed one of the biggest challenges facing the UWCD today—groundwater management and recharging, and salt water intrusion. The aquifer under Ventura County stores groundwater, our primary water source, which is pumped out of the ground from water wells for agriculture and domestic use. Rainfall helps to replenish groundwater, but is not enough to compensate for the water used, resulting in overdrafting of groundwater. When groundwater is overdrafted in areas close to the ocean, salt water can seep in, resulting in contamination of water and soil. In addition, crops have changed substantially over the last twenty years, especially in the Oxnard Plain. Strawberries demand heavy water usage in October when planted, so if enough surface water is not available more groundwater is pumped, increasing the likelihood of salt water intrusion. So what is the solution to this problem? More surface storage of water, and that’s where the Freeman Diversion and the Saticoy spreading grounds come in.

Originally water diversion structures were earthen, which diverted about 43,000 acre-feet of water from the Santa Clara River per year. (One acre-foot of water will supply a family of four for one year). As these were vulnerable to destruction in flood years, the present concrete barrier structure was completed in 1991 at a cost of $31 million; now approximately 81,000 acre-feet of water replenish groundwater each year. The Diversion is 1200 feet long and 60 feet high (to bedrock), with 25 feet of that above the surface of the river. A plaque at the Saticoy site commemorates the “Freeman Diversion Improvement Project, constructed by UWCD, 1988-91, dedicated to the memory and water resources achievements of Vernon M. Freeman, Engineer-Manager from 1927-32.”

The Diversion channels river water to the spreading grounds, large shallow reservoirs composed of sand and gravel layers that naturally filter water as it seeps back into the ground. Water stored in Santa Felicia Dam and Lake Piru is also released periodically down Piru Creek into the Santa Clara River where the Piru, Fillmore, and Santa Paula groundwater basins are recharged before the water meets the Freeman Diversion. Ken said that though our seasonal rainfall totals have improved with recent rainstorms, Lake Piru is at less than 50% capacity now. UWCD was able to keep up with irrigation water demands in the Oxnard Plain last fall, he said, but there is much concern about this fall, so they have established a moratorium on new connections to the Pumping Trough Pipeline, one of UWCD’s two agricultural pipelines, and are working with those growers to improve practices and maximize efficiencies. Ken stated that UWCD also has rights to 3,150 acre-feet of state water annually, but in 2009 is currently due to get only 15% of that.

Invasive species are also a big concern, specifically the quagga mussel. According to Ken, these pests are now found “in basically every reservoir that receives Colorado River water.” They reproduce rapidly, especially in California water that is warmer and has a higher calcium level; one mussel can produce one million eggs per year! They will affix themselves to any surface, and could literally choke off the UWCD pipelines if they established themselves there. Maintaining vigilance and routinely inspecting pipelines and facilities for this creature is a priority.

The tour group then caravanned the two miles to the fish ladder, and Ken introduced Steve Howard, UWCD Fisheries Biologist. An ongoing controversy in California is the rights of fish vs. the rights of people to the limited amount of water in our state. Southern California steelhead trout were listed as an endangered species in 1997. Steelhead are the ocean-going version of rainbow trout. Like salmon, steelhead live in the ocean, but when they migrate upstream to spawn in fresh water they produce young rainbow trout. Some of these young rainbow trout may in turn migrate back to the ocean to become steelhead, but others may live out their lives in fresh water as rainbow trout. It is not yet clear what determines whether young rainbow trout become steelhead or remain rainbow trout, but more is being learned, and UWCD hopes to contribute to this effort.

At the fish ladder (a channel allowing adult fish to swim and leap up a series of low steps to bypass the barrier and continue upstream) a high-tech acoustic camera captures images of steelhead and every other aquatic creature accessing the ladder. Steve reported that relatively few steelhead are seen at the ladder, and it has been a subject of debate among UWCD, federal agencies and environmental groups as to what the natural population of steelhead trout is. All agree that steelhead trout are native to the Santa Clara River, but understanding the extent of that population has been severely hampered by massive plantings over the years of steelhead and rainbow trout from hatcheries. To help understand the current fish population in the Santa Clara River, UWCD hired a part-time historian to research old records and newspapers, and to sort through boxes of papers and pictures that had not been looked at in decades. Among the findings in the 700-page document that resulted is that juvenile steelhead and rainbow trout in the millions were planted from the 1880s into the 1930s.

To help determine whether the current fish ladder works like it must to accommodate steelhead and other fish natural species, UWCD has assembled an independent panel of fish passage experts. This panel has already made recommendations for some minor temporary improvements and will provide UWCD and the National Marine Fisheries Service with findings that will help to determine whether major modifications, which could cost tens of millions of dollars, are necessary.

In line with the Endangered Species Act, UWCD has also begun work on a Habitat Conservation Plan, which is a comprehensive plan for the Santa Clara River watershed that takes into consideration all species, and the need for river water for homes and farms, too. They are also addressing a lawsuit filed in January by CalTrout (an environmental group) against them and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation concerning UWCD’s operation of the Freeman Diversion and its effect on steelhead trout.

Operating an agency of UWCD’s size (and fighting legal battles) is expensive. Though some project costs may be funded by grants, much of the expense is passed on to water users in the form of rate increases. This is an added burden to local farmers, many of whom are struggling with higher input costs and lower prices for their crops in recent years. Saturday’s group ended their tour with a better understanding of local water issues and the important role UWCD plays in managing that water. UWCD’s website is www.unitedwater.org, and Ken can be contacted at 525-4431 or kenb@unitedwater.org to schedule a tour or make a presentation to a group.

 


 
Taggers caught in Piru
Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Location: Fillmore Police Station, Fillmore
Date & Time: Friday, March 20, 2009. 12:00 pm
Unit Responsible: Fillmore Graffiti Investigations Unit

Suspects, City of Residence, Age,
Juvenile Male, Fillmore, 17
Juvenile Male, Fillmore, 16
Juvenile Male, Fillmore, 16

Fillmore and Piru residents have recently suffered damage to their property as a result of youth gang and graffiti tagging “Krews” who target public and private property.

As a result, Detective Gene Torres is a deputy on a mission. Gene has become our expert in graffiti investigations. On Friday, March 20, 2009, Gene arrested 3 juvenile “tagging” suspects who are Krew leaders and responsible for thousands of dollars of damage.

The three “taggers” were responsible for damaging the Piru Post Office and other private property, over and over again in the Fillmore area. All three juveniles were caught with graffiti tools and evidence. They were released to their parents pending court trials. When prosecuted, they will be required to provide financial restitution to the victims and typically commit to 30- 50 hours of community service. All three were arrested for 182(a)(1) PC / conspiracy, 594(b)(2)(A) PC / Vandalism, and 594.2(a) PC possession of graffiti tools.

Individuals involved in the commission of these graffiti crimes continue to plague our community. We need your help in reporting acts of vandalism and if you have any information related to graffiti crime, please call the Senior Deputy Detective Taurino Almazan at 805-524-2233.

 


 
Two arrested in Piru attempted murder
Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Locations:

1. 400 Block Collins Street, El Rio
2. 1900 Block Socorro Way, Oxnard
3. 2200 Block San Marino Street, Oxnard
4. 300 Block Salem Avenue, El Rio
5. 600 Block Lemon Way, Fillmore
6. 2400 Block Eric Way, Bakersfield
7. 2600 Block Mount Vernon, Bakersfield

Date & Time: 3-19-2009 to 3-20-2009
Unit Responsible: Sheriff’s Gang Unit

(S)uspects, Charge, City of residence, Age

1. Luis Valenzuela, Oxnard, 20
Attempt robbery
Street terrorism

2. Eddie Velasquez, El Rio, 38
Felon in possession of ammunition
Violation of parole CONTINUED »

 


 
Alfredo Martinez-Torres, Fillmore Ca., 25
Alfredo Martinez-Torres, Fillmore Ca., 25
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Suspect is Considered Armed and Dangerous
Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Felony Gang Weapons Arrest Case: 090006941
Location: Muir Street @ Grand Avenue, Fillmore, California
Date & Time: 03/19/2009 @ 1:30 p.m.
Unit Responsible: Fillmore Patrol Station

Suspects, Address, Age:
Female Juvenile, Fillmore Ca. 17
Ruiz, Juan, Fillmore Ca., 20
Martinez-Torres, Alfredo, Fillmore Ca., 25

On 03/19/2009, at about 1:30 p.m., Ventura County Sheriff’s K-9 Deputy, Scott Duffner, took two Fillmore-area gang members into custody for felony possession of a firearm in a vehicle and possession of a dangerous weapon (police baton). A third suspect, gang member /fugitive Alfredo Martinez, fled the area of the traffic stop and escaped arrest. Martinez is considered to be dangerous and he is a wanted fugitive by the Federal Government for weapons charges.

Deputy Duffner attempted to stop the suspects’ Honda four-door sedan for traffic violations when the vehicle failed to yield on Telegraph Road in the City of Fillmore. The suspects continued to drive westbound out of the city and into the unincorporated rural area near Muir Street and Grand Avenue. Deputy Duffner suspected the suspects were organizing an attempt to escape.

Suddenly, while Deputy Duffner was still attempting to stop the vehicle, the rear passenger door opened. Alfredo Martinez-Torres leapt from the vehicle while it was still in motion and fled into a nearby orchard. Moments later, the 17 year-old female gang member then jumped out of the car and tried to run. Despite being outnumbered, Deputy Duffner took her into custody without incident and he was also able to control the vehicle’s driver, Juan Ruiz. Almost immediately, Deputy Duffner located a rifle, ammunition, and police baton hidden in the vehicle.

Additional deputies, including another K-9 unit and two helicopters, responded to the area and conducted an extensive two-hour search of the local orchards and the Sespe River area. Martinez-Torres was able to elude deputies, however, efforts continue to locate him and take him into custody.

This was the fifth illegal gun seized from gang members in less than a week by Fillmore deputies. The Fillmore Police Department maintains a zero tolerance posture toward gangrelated crime and will continue to pursue and arrest gang members for all violations. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and the Fillmore Police Department encourage all citizens to immediately report suspicious and criminal activity and support the effort to make the community free from crime.

Please call 9-1-1 if you see Alfredo Martinez-Torres (see attached photo) or know of his whereabouts.

Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. The caller may remain anonymous. The call is not recorded. Call Crime Stoppers at (805) 524-0970.

 


 
Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Location: 323 A Street, Fillmore
Date & Time/ RB#: Friday, March 20, 2009. 12:10 a.m. / 09-006988
Unit Responsible: Fillmore Patrol

Victim, City of Residence, Age:
Ramon Izarraraz, Fillmore, 23

Fillmore resident Ramon Izarraraz reported that he was the victim of a carjacking on Friday, March 20, 2009. Just after midnight, Izarraraz was sitting alone in his car in front of the Taco Llama restaurant at 323 A Street in Fillmore. As he was preparing to drive off, two male adult suspects approached on foot and began smashing out one of the windows of Izarraraz’s tan colored 1996 Toyota Camry, California license 4WZT410. The male suspects then forced their way into the car and assaulted Izarraraz. During the attack, the two suspects forcibly pulled Izarraraz from the car, and they drove off in his vehicle eastbound on Old Telegraph Road in Fillmore.

Deputies searched Fillmore and the outlying communities for the vehicle but were unsuccessful in locating it. Detectives are actively working towards identifying the suspects. Any tips from the public concerning the identity of the suspects and/or the whereabouts of the victim’s vehicle would be greatly appreciated and held in confidence. The individuals involved in the commission of this crime are considered dangerous and should not be approached. If you have any information related to this crime, please call the Sheriff’s Department at 805-654-9511 or Detective Taurino Almazan at 805-524-2233. In case of emergency, always dial 9-1-1.

 


 
Accoring to police reports, at approximately 1:00 p.m. Thursday March 19, a passenger vehicle was pulled over on Grand Avenue. Before the vehicle came to a stop, a male individual ran from the passenger side and into a nearby orchard. The male driver and a 17 year old female passenger remained in the vehicle. Police began a foot pursuit. A helicopter was quick on scene to assist. The driver was found to have a baton next to him and the female passenger had access to the truck area of the vehicle which contained a hidden bolt action rifle. Both were arrested. The individual that fled is believed to have a federal warrant. More details will be posted as they become available.
Accoring to police reports, at approximately 1:00 p.m. Thursday March 19, a passenger vehicle was pulled over on Grand Avenue. Before the vehicle came to a stop, a male individual ran from the passenger side and into a nearby orchard. The male driver and a 17 year old female passenger remained in the vehicle. Police began a foot pursuit. A helicopter was quick on scene to assist. The driver was found to have a baton next to him and the female passenger had access to the truck area of the vehicle which contained a hidden bolt action rifle. Both were arrested. The individual that fled is believed to have a federal warrant. More details will be posted as they become available.
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Helicopter used to search for suspect
 
Above, one of the weapons confiscated by Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies in the Saturday, March 14 surprise search of numerous gang locations. Sheriff’s Patrol, Gang, and Special Enforcement Units participated.
Above, one of the weapons confiscated by Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies in the Saturday, March 14 surprise search of numerous gang locations. Sheriff’s Patrol, Gang, and Special Enforcement Units participated.
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24 deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Patrol, Gang and Special Enforcement Units conducted searches of known gang locations throughout the Fillmore area.

A 17 year-old male gang member from River Street in Fillmore was arrested with a loaded 9mm semi automatic weapon. He was also arrested for street terrorism. During the searches, deputies also arrested gang member Jose Ruiz, 21, on Santa Clara Street in Fillmore for possession of a loaded .25 caliber semi-auto handgun. He, too, was arrested for street terrorism. Also arrested: Antonio Izarraraz, Felony Possession Stolen Property, Fillmore, 21 year old male, Rosa Aguliar, Under the Influence of Narcotics, Fillmore, 21 year old female, Armando Magallon, Under the Influence of Narcotics, Fillmore, 29 year old male, Jamie Ambriz, Under the Influence of Narcotics, Fillmore, 26 year old male, Male Juvenile, Gang Probation Violation, Fillmore, 17 year old, Jose Aguilar, Gang Probation Violation, Fillmore, 21 year old male, Male Juvenile, Gang Probation Violation, Fillmore,17 year old.

Nine other documented gang members were arrested for a variety of drug charges and possession of stolen property. All persons were booked at the County Jail or Juvenile Detention Center.

 
Construction workers are shown installing concrete reinforcement for 1 MG Recycled Water Storage Tank at Fillmore’s new Water Reclamation Facility.
Construction workers are shown installing concrete reinforcement for 1 MG Recycled Water Storage Tank at Fillmore’s new Water Reclamation Facility.
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Shown is (l to r) John Jenks (Kennedy/Jenks Consultants), Bert Rapp (Public Works Director), and Dave Burkhart (Engineer) from City of Fillmore touring Fillmore’s new Water Reclamation Facility on Thursday, March 12th.
Shown is (l to r) John Jenks (Kennedy/Jenks Consultants), Bert Rapp (Public Works Director), and Dave Burkhart (Engineer) from City of Fillmore touring Fillmore’s new Water Reclamation Facility on Thursday, March 12th.
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story courtesy Rena Chin and Bert Rapp

John Jenks, Senior Principal Engineer at Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, took a tour today of the new Fillmore Water Recycling Plant, currently under construction on city-owned land at River Street and E Street. Jenks’ interest in Fillmore dates back to 1953 when he and his father, Harry Jenks, designed the original trickling filter wastewater treatment plant.

In 1953 trickling filter sewer treatment technology was cutting edge and Harry Jenks held a patent on the technology. The plant designed by John and Harry Jenks has operated continuously and provided wastewater treatment for the community for over half a century. However, it had come to the end of its useful life and ability to meet increasingly stringent water treatment standards.

Fillmore’s Public Works Director Bert Rapp says, “I was thrilled to have John Jenks visit on March 12th. We toured the old plant which brought back lots of memories. It was good to see the old plant still performing.”
When the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a new wastewater discharge permit, the City of Fillmore decided that the soundest way to bring the plant into compliance with the discharge permit was to build a new plant at a new location and to stop discharging treated effluent to the Santa Clara River.

The City is using a Design/Build/Operate (DBO) project approach to complete the new plant. The DBO approach is producing about 15% savings for the City, according to Rapp. American Water Company was selected to lead the DBO team of W.M. Lyles Construction Company and Kennedy/Jenks Consultants (design engineer).

“It has been fascinating watching the Kennedy Jenks engineers work with the American Water Operators and W.M Lyles contractors to find the most efficient and cost effective ways to build the treatment plant,” says Rapp. When construction is completed, American Water will maintain and operate the Water Recycling Plant over the next 20 years.

During Jenk’s visit, he also walked through the new plant that his engineers have designed and is now about 80% constructed. Rapp comments, “John is sharp as a tack, remembering the design flow rates and water quality parameters for the plant. I suppose, once an engineer, always an engineer.”

When it begins operation this summer, the new $26.5 million, zero-discharge plant will treat 2.4 million gallons of wastewater per day. The new plant will use a state-of-the-art membrane bioreactor treatment system that will treat and produce wastewater that is 10 times cleaner than conventional methods. This will allow the city to recycle all its wastewater and use it for irrigation within the city.

Kennedy/Jenks Consultants has provided engineering and scientific solutions for municipal agencies and industries since 1919 and celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. The employee-owned firm has 25 offices serving clients nationwide and providing consulting services to the water environment, transportation, federal, and industrial sectors.

 
Citizens of FIllmore along with employees of Fillmore Unified School District were present at Tuesday night’s school board meeting to hear how the school is going to handle the budget cuts for 2009/2010 school year.
Citizens of FIllmore along with employees of Fillmore Unified School District were present at Tuesday night’s school board meeting to hear how the school is going to handle the budget cuts for 2009/2010 school year.
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The Boardroom at the Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) administration building was filled with people and tension on the evening of Tuesday, March 17, 2009. Assistant Superintendent Mike Bush gave a presentation on why the budget should not be balanced through eliminating the School Resource Officer, implementing furlough days, reducing transportation costs, or planning to increase attendance. The Board heard a report on the Career Technical Education Program, approved a contract for a tumbling coach and choreographer, approved new courses, and approved field trips.

Most of the meeting was taken up with Bush's presentation on budget-related concerns. He presented information on the School Resource Officer (SRO), furlough days, transportation, and attendance rates. Bush mentioned reducing Instructional Assistants' hours, but did not go into detail.

Having an SRO costs approximately $180,000 annually. FUSD provides $100,000, or 75% of those costs, and the rest is paid by the City and Sheriff's Department. Fillmore is the only city in the county whose SRO is subsidized by the Sheriff's Department. Police Chief Tim Hagel noted that the SRO made 229 arrests on campus last year, and 49 arrests this quarter. Last year's arrests consisted of 216 misdemeanors and 13 felonies, which were typically weapons charges. Arrests are usually made for fighting or possessing drugs or weapons. The SRO regularly issues truancy citations which increase attendance. Fillmore High School (FHS) Principal John Wilber, Fillmore Middle School (FMS) Principal Todd Schieferle, and other administrators spoke about the increased level of safety an SRO provides by knowing the relevant laws, being consistent, patrolling to prevent trouble, and responding quickly when arrests need to be made. According to Hagel, there are 150 registered gang members in Fillmore and 50 of them attend school. He said that using private security rather than an SRO would lead to fewer arrests and increased violence on campuses. CONTINUED »