United States Environmental Protection Agency
United States Environmental Protection Agency

The July 15, 2008 State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) meeting resulted in the approval of a Resolution which might allow Fillmore to borrow money for some water-related projects at a reduced annual rate.
The Fillmore Gazette received a publicity fax from Ventura County Supervisor John K. Flynn stating that the SWRCB had approved extended term financing for El Rio and Piru. His fax indicated that the EPA still had to approve the loans and that the loans were not available yet. He was probably referring to the following Resolution listed on the SWRCB Meeting Agenda as: "Consideration of a Resolution granting authority to the [SWRCB's] Executive Director to apply to the [U.S. EPA] to implement an Extended Term Financing program as part of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) Program." Judie Panneton at the SWRCB verified that the Resolution had been approved without any modifications. This Resolution might apply to the City of Fillmore.
An attachment to the SWRCB Meeting Agenda explains: "The SRF Program is a joint federal/state funded program designed to help California meet the goals of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The SRF Program provides below market rate financing for waste water and water recycling system improvements, correction of non-point source and storm water pollution problems, and implementation of estuary enhancement programs." This language seems to indicate that some of Fillmore’s storm drain and chloride problems might be addressed with SRF funds, but the SRF Fact Sheet specifies, “To be eligible for SRF loans, projects must be on the statewide SRF Priority List.” A preliminary version of this list, available online, includes the following projects in Fillmore: Fillmore Water Recycling Plant Replacement, Recycled Water Treatment Facility, Recycled Water Distribution System, and Desalting Plant Construction Project. The list also includes projects in Piru and El Rio.
According to the Agenda attachment, "Currently the SRF Program only finances projects for a maximum term of twenty years. CWA and the California Water Code (CWC), however, allow the Program to offer financing on longer terms if approved by U.S. EPA. Extended Term Financing (ETF) has been approved by U.S. EPA for several other states nationwide to reduce the debt service for disadvantaged communities." The Executive Director of the SWRCB is expected to submit the application for ETF to the U.S. EPA in late July, according to Panneton. The Agenda attachment notes, "Increasing the term of SRF financing from 20 to 30 years reduces the annual payment by approximately 25 percent."
There is a catch. As the Agenda attachment states, "ETF will only be offered to small, disadvantaged communities." The SWRCB defines small as "a community with a population of 20,000 persons or less." A report from the California Department of Finance indicates that as of January 1, 2008, Fillmore's population was almost 15,650 persons.
It is unclear whether Fillmore would qualify as disadvantaged under the SWRCB's definition, which will be used on its application to the U.S. EPA. There are two ways Fillmore could qualify as disadvantaged; both depend on the calculation of Fillmore's Median Household Income (MHI). According to the U.S. Census, Fillmore's MHI was $45,510 in 2000. The first way is if Fillmore has an MHI "equal to or less than 80 percent of the statewide MHI". City-Data.com estimates that in 2005 Fillmore's MHI was $51,000 and California's was $53,629. Those numbers are inconclusive, but suggest that Fillmore's MHI is closer to 95% of California's. The second way that Fillmore could qualify as disadvantaged would be if Fillmore paid "at least four percent of its MHI toward waste water rates". Without recent data and specific instructions for calculating waste water rates, it is difficult to determine whether Fillmore qualifies. In any case, the attachment stipulates, "Communities with an MHI greater than 80 percent of the statewide MHI applying for ETF solely on the basis that they pay more than four percent of their MHI on waste water rates must receive approval for ETF on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the State Water Board."
According to Fillmore Finance Director Barbara Smith, the City is currently paying back a loan from the SRF. It is a no-interest loan that the City received in 1993 and will finish paying off in 2014. Smith believes that the City might consider borrowing money from the SRF for NPDES and the Water Softening Plant, but stressed that there have not yet been any discussions about how to finance those items. She implied that such discussions would be premature at this point.
Public Works Director Bert Rapp was on vacation and not available for comment.

 


 
Veterans Memorial Building
Veterans Memorial Building
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The Ventura Local Agency Formation Commission announced Wednesday to hold off on the Ventura County Grand Jury’s recommendation that the Fillmore-Piru Memorial District be reorganized into a subsidiary district of the city of Fillmore. LAFCO members voted to approve a response to the Grand Jury that the district be allowed to repair several issues brought to attention by LAFCO and the Grand Jury had discovered. LAFCO recommended that the District hold elections in 2010 instead of appointing board members, and that members should receive ethics training required by law. The District will be re-examined by 2013. The city of Fillmore expressed that the District remain as it is.

 


 
Fillmore Branch of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.
Fillmore Branch of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.
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Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

At approximately 10:15 am on Saturday, July 12th, 2008 (suspect) Phillip Guevara entered the Fillmore Branch of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. Guevara approached a teller at the bank and said he wanted a large sum of money, then passed a demand note for a smaller amount a few moments later. Bank employees placed a 911 call and reported a robbery in progress. Sheriff’s deputies quickly responded to the scene and apprehended Guevara without a struggle. Guevara did not present a weapon during the robbery attempt.

Investigators from the Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Bureau and the FBI responded to coordinate the investigation. Guevara was later booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility for robbery and an outstanding, unrelated, felony warrant.

 


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

On Monday, July 7, 2008, Nathan Oseguera 27 of Fillmore, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for participating in a gang related home invasion robbery. The crime occurred last year in the city of Fillmore.

On 4-28-2007, Oseguera and several other armed Fillmore gang members went to a residence in the 300 block of Guiberson Road, in the city of Fillmore. The suspects knocked on the front door and forced their way into the home when the resident, Bret Godfrey, opened the door. The suspects tied Mr. Godfrey’s hands together with zip ties and took him into a back room of his residence and proceeded to ransack his house.

During the robbery, a friend of Mr. Godfrey’s inadvertently drove up to visit him. Oseguera met Mr. Godfrey’s friend in the driveway, pointed a gun at him, and forced him into the house. The friend was also tied up and placed in the same room as Mr. Godfrey.

The suspects took numerous items of value including several rifles and shotguns. Before leaving the residence, the suspects told the victims that they would come back and kill them if they reported the robbery to the police.

After a series of gang related shootings in the city of Fillmore, Mr. Godfrey eventually reported the home invasion robbery to Fillmore P.D. officials in July of 2007. The Sheriff’s Gang unit took over the investigation and identified several suspects, including Nathan Oseguera. On October 17, 2007, Sheriff’s gang investigators located Oseguera at a residence in the city of Santa Maria and took him into custody when he was seen leaving the residence in a truck.

Sheriff’s Gang investigators proceeded to serve several search warrants associated with this crime. Evidence from these search warrants revealed the identity of the other gang members involved and also arrested, Edward Alvarado 21, Armando Alvarado 27 Martin Gaspar 18, and a 16 year-old juvenile for participating in the robbery.

During the investigation, Sheriff’s Gang Unit members learned some of the weapons might have been sold to Daniel Medrano 30, a known Santa Paula gang member. On 11-21-2007, gang investigators served a search warrant at Medrano’s home in the 100 block of Moultrie Place, Santa Paula. Medrano, who had a prior conviction for robbery, was found in possession of a handgun and he was arrested for being a felon in possession of firearm. In February 2008, Medrano was sentenced to 16 months in State Prison.

On 11-16-2007, victim Bret Godfrey unexpectedly passed away in Santa Barbara County. Due to Mr. Godfrey’s sudden death, the District Attorney’s Office could only file charges against Oseguera due to needing his testimony for the prosecution of the others involved.

The Sheriff’s Gang Unit was created in February 2007, with the goal of addressing a rise in gang related crime in Ventura County. The six- person unit investigates violent crimes involving gang members, actively patrols gang areas, and is often called upon to assist in the prosecution of gang members in gang enhancement trials.

 


 
Home foreclosures have skyrocketed in Fillmore this year, as they have all over the nation.
Home foreclosures have skyrocketed in Fillmore this year, as they have all over the nation.
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The housing market has entered a downward spiral. The circumstances are under nation-wide scrutiny, but the consequences are affecting even those who do not own real estate. Fillmorians are no exception.

Trinka Reynolds, Karin Diaz, and Brian Sipes are real estate mortgage professionals who work here in Fillmore under Market Mortgage, a mortgage brokerage. They volunteered some information regarding the current crisis. Reynolds explained that mortgage brokerages have the ability to submit a standard loan application on behalf of their clients (home buyers) to various banks or lenders. The lenders then draw up the loan terms. This shopping process can result in better rates for home buyers. Karin Diaz mentioned that Market Mortgages prides itself on non-predatory tactics and finding appropriate loans for their clients, so that the loans are affordable long term.

According to Reynolds, bad decisions and introductory "teaser" rates were major contributing factors but not the only cause of the problem. In Fillmore, the situation was complicated by property taxes. Reynolds explained that the average property tax in Ventura County is 1.25%, but in two new developments—due to bonds for schools, levies and parks—the property tax is 1.95%. She demonstrated that on a $400,000 house, the typical property tax would be $5000 per year. Property taxes in Bridges and River Oaks would be $7800 per year. This difference of over $200 per month (and in some cases the difference is even greater) can stretch a family budget past the breaking point.

Reynolds explained that when a borrower fails to make a payment, the borrower’s credit is affected after 30 days, and continues to worsen with each passing month as more payments are missed,. Reynolds stated that after three missed payments, the bank can send a Notice of Default (NOD). This is the first step towards foreclosure. According to First American Title Company, 39 NODs were filed on housing units in Fillmore between December 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008. When asked if any first time homebuyer loans have gone into default of foreclosure, City Planning Assistant Manuel Minjares responded, “Not that I know of.” A report from the California Department of Finance indicates that as of January 1, 2008, Fillmore has approximately 4,400 housing units.

Reynolds, who has been in the real estate loan business since the mid-80s, believes that the current crisis differs significantly from the real estate crash of the late 80s early 90s. This time a majority of the foreclosures are on owner-occupied housing. She says that there is also a greater "saturation level" of foreclosures. These two factors have increased borrowers’ ability to arrange for modified notes. A foreclosed house is a non-performing asset. Lenders make money by being paid back. It is usually better for a bank to modify the note rather than foreclose. In Fillmore, Market Mortgage alone is averaging two inquiries per day from borrowers wanting to modify their notes. Reynolds explained that lenders can modify notes by lowering interest rates or allowing a temporary forbearance. A forbearance allows borrowers to skip some payments in case of a financial emergency, such as illness, but usually extends the loan so that the payments are caught up at the end of the loan. Reynolds believes that many people who had been living in the newer tracts and can no longer afford to keep their homes are moving into rentals. She says some are leaving Fillmore due to increased costs of living here.

Because banks are foreclosing on many properties, and sometimes losing money in the process, many banks are failing. Bank deposits are only insured by the FDIC for up to $100,000. If an account holder has more than $100,000 in any one bank, then any money beyond that amount may be forfeited if the bank goes under. To avoid losing money, account owners should either divide their money among multiple banks or set up multiple ownerships such as trusts so that no one owner is associated with more than $100,000 in deposits.

When asked whether vacancies due to foreclosures were increasing crime in Fillmore, Detective Macias of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department replied that the department does not track that information. According to Macias, there has been only one recent incident involving a house in the process of foreclosure. The house was vandalized, but search warrants were issued and arrests were made. Macias mentioned that because the foreclosure had not been completed, the home owners in this case were responsible for repairing the damage and were as much victims as the community.

 


 
Foundations for the swimming pool complex were poured this week. The pool and tennis courts are expected to be open for business around the end of the year.
Foundations for the swimming pool complex were poured this week. The pool and tennis courts are expected to be open for business around the end of the year.
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A Fillmore resident was killed Tuesday afternoon on Grimes Canyon Road, between Moorpark and Fillmore, near Egg City. Robert Retzinger, 47, died in a solo motorcycle accident while driving northbound on Highway 23 at 3:50 p.m. Retzinger was transported to Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks where he was pronounced dead at 4:53 p.m. The crash is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

 
Click on the play button above to view video.
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Fillmore Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, shows a map of the city’s 11 storm drains, which flow into the Santa Clara River. A workshop on the new storm water permit and water softener prohibition was held Monday, July 7. Several hundred residents attended.
Fillmore Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp, shows a map of the city’s 11 storm drains, which flow into the Santa Clara River. A workshop on the new storm water permit and water softener prohibition was held Monday, July 7. Several hundred residents attended.
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A City Workshop was held at the Memorial Building on Monday, June 7, 2008 to discuss three major issues facing Fillmore residents. Approximately 300 citizens and City Council members were in attendance to watch the presentations by Public Works Director, Bert Rapp.
The first presentation was on the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit. The new permit will require, among other things, retrofitting 22 miles of public streets with bio-retention areas and that each existing home and business install onsite storm water treatment. Bio-retention areas are grounds that have been landscaped with plants that can absorb pollutants and naturally convert them into non-hazardous materials. The city installations and maintenance would cost residents $900 per year or $75 per month in addition to their cost to install and maintain their own onsite storm water treatment devices. Existing City storm drains must have treatment installed within two years. Automatic mandatory minimum penalties for violations would be $3,000 per offense. This could escalate into $231,000 per day in fines for the city.
The second presentation was on the chloride levels in city water. The city is exceeding the current 100 milligrams per liter of chloride limit by approximately 37 milligrams per liter. The primary cause of this overage is the approximately 450 Fillmore residents who use Brine Discharging Water Softeners. If all in-home Brine Discharging Water Softeners were eliminated, the city would be in compliance and could avoid charging all residents an estimated $35 dollars per month fee.
The third presentation was on the FEMA Flood Insurance Survey. FEMA is in the process of revising the Fillmore Flood Insurance Rate Map. The preliminary map would require any resident with a federally insured home loan to purchase flood insurance as well as restrict the city’s ability to issue building permits for room additions, new homes, and business buildings. Rapp noted there were several errors in the report and he believes once these errors are corrected, these new requirements will be lifted.
Many public comments were heard by Rapp, city council members, and fellow citizens. One resident, referencing the spirit of the founding fathers of this country, stated, “The presentation, as good as it is, and as accurate as it is, seems to be geared toward: this is what we have to do, we’re asking you, ‘how are we going to do it?’ But I take the attitude is, we’re having to deal with an agency that’s out of control; totally out of control, made up of avid environmentalists. Rather than think, ‘how are we to do it?’ I’d rather have the council and the citizens’ figure out how do we not have to do it.” The sentiment received much applause.

Please find below all three power point presentations that were presented at the meeting.

 
CPL Jesus T. Lomeli, United States Army
CPL Jesus T. Lomeli, United States Army
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Here’s a scoop from a life long Fillmore citizen who is currently deployed to Iraq with the US Army. My name is CPL Jesus T. Lomeli, son of Jesus and Elisa Lomeli, and older brother of former Miss Fillmore Yeseni Lomeli. I also have three other sisters, Susie, Briana and Deanna Lomeli, who are currently attending school in Fillmore and actively involved in the community.
I was born at Santa Paula Memorial Hospital and attended San Cayetano and Sespe Elementary schools. I attended Fillmore Middle School during the building process and graduated from Fillmore High School, Class of 2002. I then attended Oxnard College full time and worked at the local Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep dealership in Fillmore. The financial burden of attending school was creating a problem and the first solution I came across was a GI Bill offered by the Army to pay for my schooling.
I enlisted in the Army in October 2003 and attended Basic Training in March 2004 at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Once I completed Basic Training, I attended Advanced Individual training as an Automated Logistical Specialist in Ft Lee, Virginia which I graduated at the top of my class being recognized as the Distinguished Honor Graduate. I was then stationed in Baumholder, Germany and have lived in Europe since. I deployed for the first time in 2005 in support of OIF III in the volatile Anbar Province on a Marine Base called Al Taqqadum. I returned the end of 2006 and was awarded an Army Commendation Medal, Combat Action Badge, Iraqi Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Medal.
I then spent another year in Germany on track to separate from the Army in March 2008 and return to California and finish my schooling. I was involuntarily extended by the infamous stop-loss and am currently deployed in support of OIF V at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Eastern Baghdad. I am currently assigned to the Convoy Security Platoon and provide security in Combat Logistics Patrols through downtown Baghdad. I am on my second tour in Iraq assigned to the 47th Forward Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
I am currently taking on-line college courses, working on completing my BA. Once I am done with this tour I am separating from the Army and pursuing a career in the medical field. I have every intention of returning to Fillmore once I am ready to start a family.
I have seen a lot of the continental states, many European countries and parts of Southwest Asia, and nothing compares to the weather, scenery, and community that Fillmore has to offer. I am proud of my little town and can't wait for this tour to end so I can once again become a permanent resident of Southern California.
CPL Jesus T. Lomeli, 1AD 2BCT 47TH FSB, US Army. P.S.: If any community members would like to contribute any care packages, as hygiene and other items become hard to come by they can mail them to: Convoy Security Platoon, B CO 47TH FSB, 1AD 2BCT, APO, AE 09308.

 
The new 2008 Ventura County Fair poster was presented to Mayor Steve Conaway during Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting.
The new 2008 Ventura County Fair poster was presented to Mayor Steve Conaway during Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting.
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Fillmore City Council held its regular monthly meeting July 8, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Councilmember Laurie Hernandez was welcomed back. The City of Fillmore Redevelopment Agency also met during the Council meeting.
The North Fillmore Area General Plan Amendment Initiative was thoroughly discussed. City Attorney Ted Schneider explained that because the initiative has received verified voters’ signatures for over ten percent of the City’s voters, the Council must either adopt the initiative or place it on a regular election ballot. The initiative must be placed on the ballot at least 88 days before the election. The Council also had the option of ordering an impact report. The Council ordered an impact report, including an analysis of the initiative’s impact on affordable housing, circulation, and its potential economic impact on jobs. The report will be ready by August 7th, and is estimated to cost less than $20,000. The Council voted to put the initiative itself on the November 4, 2008 ballot.
The Council approved the “Fillmore Realities” position paper in response to the FEMA flood map problem and its impact on the proposed annexation of certain areas to the City. The Council adopted the June 27th Addendum to Initial Study and Negative Declaration Fillmore Business Park Master Plan Final Environmental Impact Report. The Addendum and position paper will be conveyed to the Local Agency Formation Commission of Ventura County (LAFCO). The Council approved sending the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem to Washington D.C. to lobby against the FEMA flood map. The Council approved a Memo of Understanding with Ventura County Watershed Protection District for preparing a response to FEMA flood map revisions.
Marcus Hernandez alleged that a volunteer firefighter has been carrying a taser and harassing and intimidating people in Fillmore. Hernandez pointed out that there were no city guidelines regarding the use of tasers by city employees, and asked the council to look into whether the use of tasers was appropriate and authorized in this case. Mayor Steve Conaway stated that this was a personnel matter, but added, “City policies stipulate that harassment is not tolerated.” The council respectfully considered Hernandez’s comments, requested that any victims come forward to provide the council with more information in writing or in person, and assured the public that complaints like those are confidential. This matter was placed on the agenda for the next Council meeting.
The Council adopted resolutions regarding a change in the Traffic Level of Service for the intersection of Highway 126 and A Street. The standard was lowered from D to E. This accurately reflects the number of lanes and turn lanes there. The City’s General Plan was amended accordingly. No physical development is involved. The change was reflected in the Fillmore Business Park Master Plan Final Environmental Impact Report.
The Council approved a response to the Ventura County Grand Jury report titled “Fillmore-Piru Memorial District Reorganization.” The Grand Jury’s report called for the special district responsible for operating and maintaining the Memorial Building to be dissolved. The Council is urging the LAFCO board not to dissolve the District because it provides and maintains an essential service to the community.
The Council approved a letter from Mayor Steve Conaway to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors regarding the truck traffic going through Ojai from the Ozena Valley Ranch Gravel Mine. The strongly-worded letter effectively argues that the trucks should not be re-routed through Fillmore.
There was discussion about which position the Council should take on Proposition 7. According to a representative from Southern California Edison, the proposition would “mandate utilities by the year 2025 have 50% of the energy that we procure on behalf of all of our customers be renewable.” He argued that the proposition does not take into account the costs to do so, is poorly written, and does not provide enough time. Brian Sipes made a public comment that the proposition is 42 pages long, and should be thoroughly considered before the Council determines its position. The matter will be discussed further at the next City Council meeting.
A representative from the Ventura County Fair presented this year’s Fair poster. The Ventura County Fair will be from July 30th to August 10th. The entertainment schedule has been determined, and the Beach Boys will be performing.
Upon the recommendation of Public Works Director Bert Rapp, the Council approved the contract plans and specifications for the construction of the Santa Clara River Permeable Weirs. The Council also authorized advertising for bids on the project.
A loan agreement was made between the Council and the Fillmore Redevelopment Agency. The City is providing a short-term loan of $142,500 for the Central City Project Area Fund.
The Council designated Mayor Steve Conaway as the voting delegate to the League of California Cities Annual Conference in Long Beach in late September. Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Cuevas and Patti Walker are alternates.
The contract for Fire Department and Public Works Yard Improvements is going back out for bids because the generator was not included in the original advertisement.
Construction on River Park is proceeding. The contract was awarded to PIMA Corporation. If the contract’s contingency money is not spent, then the City will add tennis courts, more bathrooms, and/or basketball courts to the contract later. The skate park will be finished in December.
The Council approved a change order enlarging the drainage pipes for the Fillmore Recycling Plant. The cost increase will be paid for by the two developers involved. The exact amount of the cost increase is not yet determined.
The Council discussed the deplorable state of the Shiells Park restrooms and is considering remedies.
At the August 26th City Council meeting, the policy of publicizing city employee salaries will be discussed. Jamey Brooks had commented earlier that he did not believe city salaries should be secret.