The geological anomaly above Little Sespe Canyon continues to smoke from within the mountain, and the U.S. Geological Survey is stumped. The ground continues to burn, as shown in the photo, scorching the brush.  Authorities speculate that oil or some other hydrocarbon is the cause of the underground blaze. A probe was recently inserted 18-inches into the earth at the hotspot, measuring 940 degrees with a previous reading of 812 degrees.  Smoke can be seen intermittently at the site. A sign has been posted reading “Danger - poison gas may be present - thermal anomaly steam and smoke may be visible - if you see flames call 911 - Keep Out.” Authorities poured a 500 barrel Baker Tank of water on the site but geologists warned that the saturation may result in a landslide, according to a source. Fire Department spokesman Ron Oatman commented that they don’t think it is any type of volcanic activity, but want to rule it out. Bottom line, if you are hiking near the area and see smoke, don’t panic; if you see flames, call the fire department. (All Photos by Jeff Muth)
The geological anomaly above Little Sespe Canyon continues to smoke from within the mountain, and the U.S. Geological Survey is stumped. The ground continues to burn, as shown in the photo, scorching the brush. Authorities speculate that oil or some other hydrocarbon is the cause of the underground blaze. A probe was recently inserted 18-inches into the earth at the hotspot, measuring 940 degrees with a previous reading of 812 degrees. Smoke can be seen intermittently at the site. A sign has been posted reading “Danger - poison gas may be present - thermal anomaly steam and smoke may be visible - if you see flames call 911 - Keep Out.” Authorities poured a 500 barrel Baker Tank of water on the site but geologists warned that the saturation may result in a landslide, according to a source. Fire Department spokesman Ron Oatman commented that they don’t think it is any type of volcanic activity, but want to rule it out. Bottom line, if you are hiking near the area and see smoke, don’t panic; if you see flames, call the fire department. (All Photos by Jeff Muth)
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Thermal Anomaly
Thermal Anomaly
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Thermal Anomaly
Thermal Anomaly
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Thermal Anomaly
Thermal Anomaly
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Thermal Anomaly
Thermal Anomaly
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Thermal Anomaly
Thermal Anomaly
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For many years, a modern, state of the art track and field was just a dream for the athletic youth of our City. Fillmore High School, the site of both the new and old facilities, was rated as the worst athletic facility in the County, in part due to the poor condition of the football field from over usage. Last year, CIF officials gave two visiting teams the option of having Fillmore forfeit their games rather than play on the badly degraded turf. The dream became a reality in April of this year when work commenced on a new field that boasts artificial turf manufactured with the latest anti-microbial materials, all weather track, new, improved lighting, extensive drainage system, refurbished sound system, landscaping and thanks to the Fillmore Lions Club, a brand new scoreboard!

Although still in need of some final touches, including correction of blemishes on the track surfaces and lane line painting (scheduled for early 2009 in between football and soccer season), the facility opened to an ecstatic staff and student body in early August. However, by August 19, due to the high cost of repairs from inappropriate use, vandalism and trespassing, the Board of Education felt compelled to limit field use to the Fillmore Unified School District and for Community Facility Permit access only. Organizations that wish to use the facility must apply in advance, pay a permit fee and show the appropriate insurance naming the School District as “additional insured”. Furthermore, a District staff member will provide on-site supervision at every function. Costs are $125 per hour for non-profit organizations and $300 per hour for semi-pro use, similar to Ventura College, Ventura and Conejo School District rates. There is an additional $95 charge for lights. Previously negotiated season rates will remain in effect throughout their current seasons. Total income this year from permitting fees was not available in time for printing. There is no charge for school related activities day or night, however if nighttime electricity use becomes too costly, it might become necessary to address scheduling changes. Operating costs are paid by the FUSD through the General Fund.

Destructive incidents have decreased with limited access, however, gum and stroller wheel marks have been found on the track as well as sunflower seeds in the artificial turf, presenting maintenance and health issues. The track and field requires maintenance in a similar fashion as carpet with every incident. Trespassing is still an issue. However, a sub group of the FUSD and the City Council are meeting to explore options of creating track venues with open access. Suggestions have included installing a crushed brick track at the Middle School and/or a longer path at the new park. CONTINUED »

 


 
Lieutenant Gen. Samuel T. Helland, Commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, administers the oath of enlistment to Cpls. Ray Alvarado-Ponce of Fillmore, Calif., and Ramiro Novoa of Coachella, Calif., who were combat meritoriously promoted to their current ranks at Camp Barber, Aug. 31. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ray Lewis)
Lieutenant Gen. Samuel T. Helland, Commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command, administers the oath of enlistment to Cpls. Ray Alvarado-Ponce of Fillmore, Calif., and Ramiro Novoa of Coachella, Calif., who were combat meritoriously promoted to their current ranks at Camp Barber, Aug. 31. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ray Lewis)
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Update: Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce
Corporal Ray Alvarado, a vehicle commander assigned to Weapons Company, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and a Fillmore, Calif., native, fires a Javelin missile at enemy targets during an assault on a Taliban-held compound August 28, 2008.
Corporal Ray Alvarado, a vehicle commander assigned to Weapons Company, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and a Fillmore, Calif., native, fires a Javelin missile at enemy targets during an assault on a Taliban-held compound August 28, 2008.
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The other day, I received a phone call from the stepfather of United States Marine Corps Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce, Fred Ponce, that his son had been combat meritoriously promoted to his current rank at Camp Barber, Afghanistan on August 31, 2008. As you may recall back in April of this year I had a phone conversation with the then 20 year old United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce as I was preparing an article about his deployment to Afghanistan. Then Lance Corporal Alvarado-Ponce was about to leave his family, in about four hours after we would hang up the phone, to return to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-Nine Palms located near 29 Palms, California for preparations to leave for his second tour to the Middle East.

Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce is assigned to a reinforced infantry battalion of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors, 2/7 deployed from the Marine Air Ground Combat Training Center at Twenty-Nine Palms, to Afghanistan in early April to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The battalion, now considered a task force, is supported by various attachments to include soldiers, airmen, National Guardsmen and civilian contractors who specialize in police operations. The Marine unit is currently conducting full spectrum and counterinsurgency operations with a focus on police mentoring of the Afghan National Police. CONTINUED »

 


 
Fillmore Police Chief Tim Hagel had good news to report to the city council at Tuesday’s regular meeting;
Crime statistics for Fillmore were down signifi cantly.
Fillmore Police Chief Tim Hagel had good news to report to the city council at Tuesday’s regular meeting; Crime statistics for Fillmore were down signifi cantly.

Fillmore City Council held a meeting September 23, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The Council accepted and discussed a status report on the City's 2008 Goals. City staffers also reported on Lemon Way and the FEMA map controversy.

City Manager Tom Ristau provided the quarterly status report on the 18 goals that the Council had adopted in December 2007. Police Captain Tim Hagel pointed out a decline in crime over the past six months. Battery has dramatically decreased. He indicated that Fillmore is statistically safer than similar size cities in Ventura County. Hagel credits the School Resource Officers, the gang unit, and the maintenance of probation searches. City staff is preparing paperwork for the Brine Water Softener Buyback Program. Public Works Director Bert Rapp expects the program to start in October. Council Member Scott Lee criticized the status update on the "Town Theater Success" Goal. He said that the report does not accurately reflect the reality of that situation. Lee noted that the City has had the theater for ten years, the theater is not breaking even, and he wonders how long the City can support the theater in its current situation. Council Member Patti Walker asked, as part of the "Open Accessible, Responsive Government" Goal, that Council meeting minutes be placed online and that online documents be searchable. Lee said that the Senior Center should be included under the "Expand Recreation Programs and Facilities" Goal. Rapp mentioned that the City is replacing a 1920's water main that runs from Sespe to Highway 126. He said that replacing waterlines is expensive, but the old iron pipes are gradually being replaced. Mayor Steve Conaway congratulated the citizens of Fillmore on their soon-to-be-constructed tennis courts, which are costing only $1.25 per parcel per month. He was also pleased with the progress on the pool, park, and storm drain projects. Conaway noted that the goals are good and said, "We are investing in Fillmore's future." The entire Goals 2008 Status Report can be found on the City's website as part of the City Council Meeting Packet for 9-23-08 (http://www.fillmoreca.com/doc_download.htm). CONTINUED »

 


 

“Sales Tax Revenue Sharing”, the phrase is becoming a common one as things progress concerning the City of Fillmore’s arrangements to split its share of the sales tax revenue rebate with three consultant firms contracted to bring new businesses into town. To recap, California cities are rebated 1% of all sales taxes collected in their cities. MTS Consulting LLC, Inspired Development LLC and Ryan and Co., retain agreements with the City of Fillmore to relocate retail businesses to our town in exchange for 85% of the 1% rebated dollars, generated by those businesses. The consulting firms then share their portion with the individual contracted businesses. Unanimously voted in by a previous City Council including Mayor Evaristo Barajas, Mayor Pro-tem Ernie Villegas, Cecilia Cuevas, Ken Smedley and Patti Walker, the City has benefited from this practice since 2003. It also has the endorsement of the present City Council and Administration officials. Nevertheless, Fillmore is the only city of record in the State to practice Sales Tax Revenue Sharing in this specific manner.

The issue was publicized this summer when the City of Livermore, after researching the cause for a substantial decrease in their sales tax rebates, filed complaints with the State Board of Equalization (BOE), against Fillmore. Livermore is home to one of four warehouse/sales offices in California; of Virginia based Fortune Five Hundred company Owens and Minor, a leading medical/surgical supplier. City of Industry, location of a second warehouse/sales office joined in the complaint. Both cities, declaring that business is going on as usual at their locations, take a position that the agreement between Fillmore, MTS Consulting and Owens and Minor is depriving their cities of their rightful taxes, by diverting sales through Owens and Minor’s office in the Gurolla Building on Sespe Avenue.

On September 8, 2008, the Cities of Livermore and Industry took the issue a step further by filing a claim against the City of Fillmore and all members past and present of the Fillmore City Council beginning in 2000. Various past and present City officials; City Manager Tom Ristau, Finance Director Barbara Smith, Administrative Services Manager Steve McClary, Roy Payne, and others yet to be identified are included as well. The claim accuses the three consultant services and several affiliated businesses registered in Fillmore, of establishing sham sales/purchasing offices in Fillmore with the intention of diverting sales tax revenues from other cities. It should be noted that a claim, though a legal instrument, might or might not be a precursor to a lawsuit.
From its’ inception in 2003 through 2007, the “Sales Tax Revenue Sharing” program alone has grossed $9,994,260 in rebated sales tax. The City’s 15% share of these rebates, nearly $1,500,000, was appropriated to the Reserve General Fund, and earmarked for additional law enforcement services. Additionally, a portion of these funds will offset some construction expenses of the new 22-acre community park. CONTINUED »

 

Fillmore's Planning Commission held a meeting September 17, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Community Development Director Kevin McSweeney updated the Commission on various projects throughout the city.

The Commission approved changes to the plans for the upcoming Longs Drugstore, which will be located in a shopping center to be built on the corner of C Street and Highway 126. Longs will have two drive-thru windows. The inner drive-thru will access a bank-style window in the side of the building and can be used for pharmacy consults as well as prescription pick-ups. The outer drive-thru will access a pneumatic tube that customers can use to drop off prescriptions. Allowing two drive-thru windows, instead of one, will significantly reduce the number of cars waiting in line. The Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Longs to sell alcohol, and adjusted a previously poorly-described lot line so that the store would sit on its own parcel.
The Commission discussed a Right-to-Farm Ordinance, which would protect agricultural businesses from nuisance suits by their neighbors. The Ordinance was modeled after a Ventura County law that applies to neighborhoods on County land. The Ordinance would require that in agricultural areas realtors notify potential purchasers and users of land about potential nuisances resulting from area agriculture. Nuisances could include dust, noise, insects, smells, and chemical exposure. The County Agricultural Commissioner would mediate nuisance disputes between farmers and nearby residents. As City Attorney Ted Schneider wrote in the relevant memo, "right-to-farm ordinances mainly serve to inform and educate residents about the local value of agriculture." The Commission recommended that the City Council approve the Ordinance at the next Council meeting.

McSweeney notified the Commission that the pool and skate-park are on schedule. The Groves wants to change its zoning so that it can harbor a fast-food place instead of a restaurant. Many retail and residential projects are moving forward.

 
Last week the screw press was lifted into place in the new Water Recycling Plant. The screw press separates the solids from the waste water after treatment in the plant. The screw press presses the water out of the solids then the solids will be trucked to Toland Road landfill where they will be dried with landfill gas. After drying they can be used as a soil amendment.
Last week the screw press was lifted into place in the new Water Recycling Plant. The screw press separates the solids from the waste water after treatment in the plant. The screw press presses the water out of the solids then the solids will be trucked to Toland Road landfill where they will be dried with landfill gas. After drying they can be used as a soil amendment.
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Workers at the plant number 70 to 80 a day, according to Public Works Director Bert Rapp. “It’s just like a beehive out there.”
Workers at the plant number 70 to 80 a day, according to Public Works Director Bert Rapp. “It’s just like a beehive out there.”
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Last week Mayor Steve Conaway and Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Cuevas achieved significant progress with FEMA over proposed new floodplain regulations that may have required most Fillmore homeowners to purchase costly flood insurance.

In a conference call held September 18 that included Fillmore, County and other local officials, FEMA agreed to the removal of a new flood zone designation that would have covered most of Fillmore. On May 30 FEMA published a draft Flood Insurance Rate Map that if adopted next year would have required most Fillmore homeowners to purchase flood insurance at a cost of about $100 per month.

FEMA had two reasons for the proposed flood zone designations. First, FEMA asserted that an automatic, mechanical flood gate was needed in the Sespe Creek Levee gap for the railroad cut-through. Second, FEMA proposed to negate the entire two miles of the Sespe Creek levee due to floodwaters expected to encroach onto the levee’s freeboard in a major flood.

In the conference call, Mayor Conaway and Mayor Pro Tem Cuevas gained concessions from newly appointed FEMA Region 9 Engineering Director Kathleen Schaefer to allow the continued use of the aluminum stop logs in the railroad cut-through of the Sespe Creek Levee instead of requiring installation of an automatic flood gate, provided that documentation and analysis be provided to FEMA to support that adequate and timely installation procedures are in place for installation of the stop logs.

With regard to FEMA negating the entire two miles of the Sespe Creek Levee due to encroaching floodwaters at the Hwy. 126 bridge, Director Schaefer indicated that she would allow the Ventura County Watershed Protection District to apply to provisionally accredit the Sespe Creek Levee. This will allow another year for submitting an engineering analysis to determine more accurately how much of the levee may be accredited and what portions, if any, will not be accredited until a retrofit is completed.

With these new concessions from FEMA, Mayor Conaway says he “is optimistic that when the revised FEMA maps are released the number of homes required to obtain flood insurance will be reduced by 80 percent or more”. Mayor Pro Tem Cuevas indicated that the “draft floodway through the western half of Fillmore should now be removed because FEMA has agreed to acknowledge the stop logs in the railroad gap and the sufficiency of the upper portions of the Sespe Creek Levee.” If the floodway had been adopted, homeowners in western portions of Fillmore could not have been allowed to make room additions, finance their homes, or be issued building permits on empty lots.

Fillmore Public Works Director Bert Rapp said he is “pleased with progress made by Conaway and Cuevas, but there is still at least a year or two of hard work ahead of us with FEMA to resolve the possible flooding issues ”I am confident all of the areas of Flood Zone A can be eliminated so no one will have to purchase flood insurance,” Rapp said.

 
Fillmore Pastor-Farmer Bob Hammond poses before the wind machine he is attempting to convert to electric generation. He has had very little assistance from the numerous government agencies through which he seeks approval.
Fillmore Pastor-Farmer Bob Hammond poses before the wind machine he is attempting to convert to electric generation. He has had very little assistance from the numerous government agencies through which he seeks approval.
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Ventura County is no stranger to wind machines. The 30 to 40 foot structures resembling windmills have been part of our farming landscape for many decades. They were designed and installed, primarily to prevent crops from freezing, warming the air during cold snaps in wintertime. Bob Hammond, retired educator, Anglican minister and third generation owner of Hammond Family Ranch, inherited one of these ancient structures along with his nine-acre citrus ranch located on Chambersburg Road in Bardsdale.

Early last July, Hammond read an article in Central Coast Farm Bureau Magazine concerning wind turbines. Specifically designed to harness energy from wind, they are similarly structured with towers and propellers, resembling wind machines. He began thinking about utilizing his existing tower and converting his wind machine into a productive, clean energy maker, to help power his farming operation, cut ever rising costs, and help preserve the environment all at the same time. After contacting Prevailing Wind Power Inc., a Redondo Beach firm, specializing in state-of-the-art, turnkey, turbine solutions, Bob Hayes, a representative of the company visited him. Hayes explained that wind power is the fastest growing energy sector, and how wind turbines help to reduce costs and traditional energy usage from gas and electric driven generators, recharging stations for battery-powered farm equipment, and in rural locations, homes, barns and out buildings. Both men toured the property and Hayes determined that the prevailing winds were sufficient to power his company’s smaller model. That model is 12 feet in diameter and sits atop a 40-foot tower, generates 500-700 kilowatt-hours per month and carries a price tag of $14,500. Hammond was convinced, especially after Hayes informed him of the State’s substantial rebate of $4,200.

The next phase should have been easy. Hayes phoned the Ventura County Planning Department for information on the permitting process and fees for wind turbine installation. He was advised by the planning office, that wind turbines require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), carrying a fee of $1500. He personally visited the Planning Department, and was shocked to find that Ventura County not only required Planning fees, but Administrative, Environmental, Public Works and Building and Safety fees as well, initially totaling $5,651. However, that was not all. He was also informed that the Planning and Public Works fees were merely deposits, and upon completion of the project, the final, total fees could be closer to $10,000, with no certainty that approval would be granted. Before he left, he learned the process could take months or even years. This is a far cry from Hayes’ claim that State guidelines, practiced in other California counties such as San Diego County, require a permit fee of $42 for wind turbines, installed on any parcel, one acre or more, and are issued over the counter. (Still other counties charge several hundred dollars for CUP fees and may take several weeks for application.) Hayes also says, “State law says that a non-urban lot of an acre or more is allowed to put up a small wind turbine, but Ventura County zoning does not abide by that law.” CONTINUED »

 

Five passengers in a sedan driven by Fillmore resident Gerardo Villa, 32, were killed in a collision with a power pole Tuesday about 5 a.m.

The California Highway Patrol identified the deceased as Guillermo Aguiniga, 29; Juan Carlos Gallardo, 34; his brother Miguel Gallardo, 23; Horacio Sanchez, 23; and Raul Fletes, 43.

All 5 passengers were ejected from the vehicle at the time of impact. Only the driver was wearing a seat belt.
An Edison Company crew found the accident scene about 6:00 a.m. when responding to a power outage. Guiberson Road was closed to traffic for approximately 5 hours.

According to CHP reports, Villa, the only survivor of the accident, was treated at the Ventura County Medical Center for undisclosed injuries. He was later arrested for felony drunk driving, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and vehicular manslaughter. He is reported held at Ventura County Jail with bail set at $500,000.