Fillmore Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Sweeney.
Fillmore Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Sweeney.
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Tuesday’s special joint meeting of the Fillmore City Council and School District aired serious concern about funding the School Resource Officer (SRO) for the high school and middle school. The District has been paying $100,000 of the $135,000-plus cost of the SRO position, with the city picking-up $35,000. The Sheriff’s Department also helps by paying for two months of the SRO’s salary.
This position is recognized as being “absolutely critical” to the effective operation of the school, according to Sergeant Dave Wareham. The grant having expired, Fillmore High School is seeking continued financial support from the city to fund the job. A response, according to School Superintendent Jeff Sweeney is needed within the next couple of weeks.
The Council voiced strong support for the program.
A public hearing was opened by City Planner Kevin McSweeney concerning the appeal of builder Mike Sarahang from a Planning Commission denying a modification of permit 03-5 for construction under way at 341 Central Avenue. The appeal was denied in a 3-1 vote, Councilman Scott Lee dissenting. According to McSweeney, the applicant’s application of unapproved material (rough slump stone) for the lower, outside wall covering was not approved. The applicant had also ignored other plan regulations by painting the building a different color, and using other, unapproved, materials on the roof. After much discussion, Council decided the material in question was dangerously unsupported and posed a threat to pedestrians in the event of an earthquake. It also failed to confirm to the traditional design required in the downtown area.
Council voted to have the applicant remove the siding and to comply with the Downtown Specific Plan.
Oddly, and without explanation, Councilman Scott Lee was the only vote against this outcome. Staff was complimented by Council for having done its job in halting construction for non-compliance.
Council approved an easement for the Pool Complex, also approved the Pool Complex Construction Agreement (materials), and for Recycled Water Sub-Surface Drip Capital Improvements Project Schedule (materials).
Council also gave its approval for School/City Coordination of and Mitigation of Construction Impacts.
Discussion was undertaken concerning the enormous impact upon the city of the recycled water project from the new water treatment plant. Assistant City Manager Bill Bartels described the impact as something like the Northridge earthquake, in terms of disruption of traffic, rescheduling of sports events and other needed city-wide reorganization to facilitate the construction.
City Planner Kevin McSweeney summarized the city’s development activity list. He mentioned the 98-lot SunCal tract for north Fillmore, with its approved EIR and tract map. The project has not started.
Also mentioned were: the 3-acre, 51 unit north Fillmore Reider project, which has a petition circulating for a referendum to halt the plan; the Griffin “Bridges” tract, with 20 of 81 units remaining unsold. A 10-acre school site awaits phase 2.
The KD company’s approved 110 unit tract, south of River Street, will come on line 6 units at a time. Cabrillo’s 29-unit railroad tract is expected to begin construction this year. A two-story building at the old Masonic Temple site, 400 Central Avenue, will have medical offices and lower retail space, with 19 parking spaces.
Construction of the swimming pool complex should be completed in December of 2009. Grass playing fields should be available for the new 22-acre ark in June or July.
A major reorganization and rescheduling of sports programs, city-wide will be necessary as the water treatment plant construction brings water lines to the High School, Middle School, and Sespe School. This construction will severely impact all summer sports, and the traditional fireworks display will not be held at the football field. This will probably be moved to another park.



District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Amy Flores (DOB 07/28/78), a resident of Fillmore, was arrested pursuant to a felony warrant for welfare fraud, housing assistance fraud and social security fraud. The arrest was the result of an extensive investigation by the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation - Government Fraud Unit. Flores is alleged to have received $38,592 in public assistance funds from three separate government programs for which she was not legally entitled.
The three count felony complaint alleges that Flores received the illegal public assistance benefits over a period of three years. Between March 2005 and April 2007, Flores received $13,169 in food stamps and cash aid from the Ventura County Human Services Agency for which she was not entitled. Flores also received $7,909 in housing benefits from the Ventura County Area Housing Authority for which she was not legally entitled. Between January 2006 and August 2007, Flores, as the legal guardian for a minor child who was supposed to be living in her home, diverted $17,514 from the Social Security Administration, which was intended for the benefit of the minor. Under penalty of perjury, Flores reported substantially different information to the three public assistance agencies with respect to her household composition, income and sources of public assistance.
Flores was arrested by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies and booked into the Ventura County jail. In issuing the warrant for her arrest, Superior Court Judge David Long set bail at $10,000. If convicted on the felony charges and special allegations, Flores faces a maximum sentence of four years and four months in state prison.


The Fillmore High School Percussion Ensemble brought home the gold medals and first place trophy for the Scholastic C Division of the American Drum Line Association at Santiago High School in Corona on Saturday April 26, 2008. Show Title: The House - music by Alan Keown and Brian Mudget. Drill design by Alan Keown. Licensed to Marching Show Concepts. David Adams and Colleen Anderson – instructors, Chris Fernandez - Director of Instrumental Music. American Drum Line Association - 26 years of drum line competitions, in 2008 there are over 120 competing drum lines and percussion ensembles, representing approximately 2,000.
The Fillmore High School Percussion Ensemble brought home the gold medals and first place trophy for the Scholastic C Division of the American Drum Line Association at Santiago High School in Corona on Saturday April 26, 2008. Show Title: The House - music by Alan Keown and Brian Mudget. Drill design by Alan Keown. Licensed to Marching Show Concepts. David Adams and Colleen Anderson – instructors, Chris Fernandez - Director of Instrumental Music. American Drum Line Association - 26 years of drum line competitions, in 2008 there are over 120 competing drum lines and percussion ensembles, representing approximately 2,000.
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The Fillmore High School Percussion Ensemble brought home the gold medals and first place trophy for the Scholastic C Division of the American Drum Line Association at Santiago High School in Corona on Saturday April 26, 2008.
Show Title: The House - music by Alan Keown and Brian Mudget. Drill design by Alan Keown. Licensed to Marching Show Concepts. David Adams and Colleen Anderson – instructors, Chris Fernandez - Director of Instrumental Music
American Drum Line Association - 26 years of drum line competitions, in 2008 there are over 120 competing drum lines and percussion ensembles, representing approximately 2,000 young musicians and performers.
2008 American Drum Line Association Competitions: March 1 Artesia High School, Cerritos, March 8 A. B. Miller H.S., Fontana, March 15 Jurupa Valley H.S. at Patriot H.S., Riverside, March 29 Riverside King H.S., Riverside, April 5 Mission Hills H.S., San Marcos, April 12 Whittier H.S., Whittier, April 19 San Gorgonio H.S., San Bernardino, April 26 & 27 Championships at Santiago H.S., Corona.
The Fillmore High School Percussion Ensemble began rehearsals in mid-January, 2008. Fillmore has not had a competitive percussion ensemble or drum line before this year. They are in the Scholastic “C” Division for novice percussion ensembles.
The F.H.S. Percussion Ensemble participated in competitions at: March 1 Artesia High School, Cerritos - 1st place, April 12 Whittier H.S., Whittier - 2nd place – tie, April 19 San Gorgonio H.S., San Bernardino - 1st place, April 26 Championships at Santiago H.S., Corona - 1st place
Fillmore High School Percussion Ensemble Members and Instrumentation 2008
Anchondo, Eleazar - bass drum, Bergkamp, Hans - bells, chimes & vibraphone, Butts, Stephanie – actress, Faith, Claire - bass drum, Ferguson, Lynn - chimes & marimba, Leal Karen – guitar, Marquez, Alicia - cymbal, snare drum, tom Marquez, Ramsey - bass guitar & hi-hat, Martel, Ryan - marimba & vibraphone, Orozco, Erik - bass drum, Pantoja, Ana - bells, chimes & vibraphone, Radley, Justin – synthesizer, Sillas, Jose – toms, Simon, Grace - bells, chimes, marimba & vibraphone, Tarango, Karissa – synthesizer, Vargas, Alex - bass drum, Zellmer, Jacob - snare drum.


On His Way to Afghanistan
Lance Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce.
Lance Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce.

Today, while I was involved in my “normal and routine” life I was consumed with the thoughts of all the young men and women I have written about in this article and where they are right now: Army Staff Sergeant Rudy Alcantar now serving in Kosovo; Army PFC Juanita Altamirano in Afghanistan; Air Force Senior Airman Michael Chavez in Italy; USN IT3 Phillip Diaz (my son) deploying for the second time in May for the Mediterranean; Army Sergeant Kevin Edwards soon to be on his second deployment to Iraq; Army Specialist Michael Edwards soon to deploy to Honduras; Army Staff Sergeant Gilbert Zavala on his third deployment, twice to Iraq and now to Afghanistan. While I was doing my “normal and routine” life, and you yours, these young men and women were serving our Country so we could enjoy the freedoms we all now have. All of them so young and all of them seeing so much more than any of us can possibly imagine.
I believe the reason that those thoughts were with me was because of a phone conversation I had with 20 year old United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce as I was preparing this article. Lance Corporal Alvarado-Ponce was about to leave his family, in about four hours, 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.
Lance Corporal Alvarado-Ponce served in Iraq from January 28, 2007 to August 24, 2007 with the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines Weapons Company (2-7 Weapons Company) near Fallujah, Iraq. It was on his first tour to Iraq that he was wounded by shrapnel from a 2,000 pound “suicide vehicle borne Improvised Explosive Device” while he manned a .50 caliber machine gun on a Humvee as a “Turret Gunner”. On Friday, April 4th Lance Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce deployed to Afghanistan.
United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce is a 2005 graduate of Fillmore High School where he participated in football and track. He also attended San Cayetano and Sespe Elementary Schools and Fillmore Middle School before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps on September 12, 2005. Ray is the son of Murillo Alvarado of Texas and Isabelle Diaz of Santa Paula. He is the stepson of Fred Ponce and Yvonne Sandoval of Fillmore and Sam Diaz of Santa Paula. His siblings include; Romie 29, Freddie 24, Joseph 18, Niko Diaz 5, step-siblings Milo Diaz 21, Tashina Diaz 17, Susie Sandoval 24, Veronica Sandoval 17 and Antelmo Sandoval 15. Lance Corporal Alvarado-Ponce’s Maternal Grandmother Terry Marquez lives in Fillmore and his Paternal Grandparents Raymond and Alma Ponce live in Piru.
Lance Corporal Alvarado-Ponce has earned; a Purple Heart Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Medal; National Defense Ribbon; Iraqi Campaign Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon. As a “Turret Gunner” on a Humvee he is constantly exposed to danger as his unit patrols within the combat area.
I hope that all of us, as we are involved in our “normal and routine” lives think of each of these young men and women from our community and appreciate the sacrifices they and their families are making for us. I know all of us here at home wish Lance Corporal Ray Alvarado-Ponce safe travel and look forward to his return home.


City of Fillmore
City of Fillmore

As of Monday, April 7, 2008 Fillmore Fire Chief Peter Egedi went on leave. This is a personnel matter. The City is respecting the privacy rights of its employee. The City is in the process of gathering information and does not wish to speculate at this time. When the City has completed its review it will be in position to make further comment on the matter. [City of Fillmore Press Release.]


City of Fillmore
City of Fillmore

Park designer Tim Maloney explained the need for payment on many new changes that had to be made to the new city park. Payment was approved at Tuesday’s special council meeting. The special meeting was needed because a majority of the council would not approve a half-hour extension of the last regular meeting. Redesign of the skateboard part of the park, as well as grading to protect against a 100-year flood, necessitated approval to avoid delay of ground work.
The Fillmore City Council met for an hour in special session Tuesday evening. According to Mayor Steve Conaway, the meeting was necessary to clear up unfinished business from the last regular meeting, namely approval of payment for park plan changes. Had three council members not agreed to extend the regular meeting, the special meeting would have been unnecessary.
Councilwoman Cecilia Cuevas expressed her anger at having to appear at this special meeting due to the fact that three of five council members refused to extend the last regular meeting for a half-hour to finish business. She pointed out the fact that this demonstrated disrespect for member’s private time. Cuevas, with the Mayor, had voted to extend the regular meeting.
Mayor Conaway explained, again, that the special meeting was necessary to complete business relating to the new park which remained unfinished at the last regular Council meeting, which would avoid several weeks delay in bidding.
Former councilman Ken Smedley reminded the Council of the Crown Circus which Rotary Sunrisers has scheduled for four days, April 25 through 28. There are free children’s tickets at the Toy Shop and other locations around town. There will be both English and Spanish sessions.
Smedley also reminded the Council that Sunrisers is putting on a 10-K race Saturday, May 17, beginning at 8:00 a.m. The event will begin and end at Delores Day Park.
Deputy City Manager, Bill Bartels sympathized with the shoppers who are having trouble negotiating the ongoing Central Avenue construction work. The laying of large storm drain pipe necessitates the closure of Central in the middle of the 200 block. He explained that all available pipe was laid Tuesday, utilizing extra work hours at no extra cost, in an effort to finish the job as quickly as possible. According to Bartels, traffic on Central Avenue should be accommodated for the May Festival.
The new skateboard park will be state-of-the-art, according to Director of Public Works, Bert Rapp and Mayor Conaway. Only three or four companies are sufficiently experienced to handle this work. Incorporating revisions to park plans entails many new drawings as areas are rescaled and aligned. The 100-year floodplain threat must also be dealt with, necessitating more grading. Council unanimously approved payment for numerous plan changes and additional grading work.
It was announced that the Fillmore Library is now open 6 days per week. The schedule is as follows: Beginning Monday April 14th, the Fillmore Library will be open: Monday 2-7 Tuesday 2-7 Wednesday 10-5 Thursday 12-5 Friday 12-5 Saturday 12-5
Mayor Conaway asked that an ad hoc committee be formed for the purpose of investigating his 2007 trip to Washington D.C. for a conference. Although his trip was cleared with city legal counsel, and properly, legally, and ethically paid for, political considerations have deliberately kept criticism of this trip alive. The Council finally, after unnecessary delay, and curious reluctance, agreed to place the matter on the agenda, but would not name an ad hoc committee. Councilman Scott Lee voted against the motion because in his words “we don’t have an ethics code.”
The Council moved into executive session to discuss a single personnel issue, believed to concern the recent investigation of allegations against Fillmore Fire Chief Pete Egedi.


Outgoing Chief of Police, Bruce Macedo
Outgoing Chief of Police, Bruce Macedo

Captain Bruce Macedo, born in Merced, California in 1959, grew up on a three-hundred acre dairy farm in the tiny town of Snelling, home to a drug store, Catholic Church and a school. He is the youngest son and middle child of six, receiving his elementary education in a multiple grade classroom at the local rural public school, after milking cows every morning. His parents moved their family briefly to Hanford, then to Chowchilla when he was twelve years old, and ultimately sold the dairy farm just prior to their youngest son’s high-school graduation. Somehow, even as a young child of San Joquin Valley’s rural towns, tucked amongst picturesque rolling hills and tranquil miles of farmlands dotted with cows and cattle, Bruce Macedo was certain of his ambition for a career in law enforcement.
The young graduate enrolled at Merced Jr. College and received his AA degree in Administrative Justice. Afterward, he enrolled at Fresno State University with a major in Criminology. In 1979, recruiters from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department visited the school and enticed the future captain and some friends to take the test. After an extensive process, he was the only one of his friends accepted into the Ventura County Police Academy, from where he graduated in the fall of 1980.

Deputy Macedo’s career with the Sheriff’s Department commenced at the Poli Street Jail, later performing duties for the new pre-trial detention facility at the Ventura County Government Center. He was transferred to Camarillo, working patrol, and then back to Ventura where he patrolled coastal cities and unincorporated areas of the county. He then performed duties as Court Liaison Deputy following up on cases filed with the District Attorney, and coordinating Neighborhood Watch programs. Promoted to Sr. Deputy, he returned to duties at the jail in the capacity of Supervisor of Deputies. His responsibilities included maintaining the safety and care of inmates, including some well-known celebrities. Throughout his career as Sr. Deputy, he served in the Criminal Intelligence Unit investigating illegal gambling, prostitution, organized crime, motorcycle gangs and intelligence threats. During a budget crunch, he returned to patrol duty, besides working collateral part-time assignments on the off-road motorcycle detail, helicopter crew chief, SWAT team, tactical response team in jails, and as an emergency response team and firearms instructor. Promoted to Sergeant, he served at the pre-trial jail, headquarters patrol, Camarillo patrol and Administrative Sergeant. In December 1999, he transferred to the training academy. His work as Basic Academy Coordinator entailed the coordination of 120 instructors in the training of cadets to become police officers, in over 40 domains (subject matter). The Ventura County Police Academy offers approximately 900 hours of training, far surpassing POST standards (minimum standards for all academies) of 650 hours. The year 2003 found him working with the Professional Standards Unit on Internal Affairs investigations, and in March 2005, he was awarded the position of Watch Commander, and the rank of Captain.

March of 2006 was indeed a lucky time for Fillmore, for Captain Bruce Macedo became Chief of Police of our town. An accomplished peace officer with a wonderful well-rounded ability to coordinate, encourage and inspire his staff, sergeants, deputies, volunteers and cadets alike, enabled his many accomplishments in the two short years he has served this community. Some of the accomplishments on a very small budget have included a 10% decrease in serious crime, efforts to expand the North Fillmore Police storefront, expansion of community programs, addition of our motorcycle cop and stronger relationships with Neighborhood Watch programs and the community. His new assignment will return him to Ventura, where he will be Captain of Professional Standards, working with Internal Affairs at the Government Center.

Captain Bruce Macedo has traveled far from the serene valley where he spent his youth. Since his departure, he has accomplished much as a husband of twenty years, a father of two sons, volunteer activities in Cub Scouts and coaching sports, attaining a BA degree in Organizational Management, University of LaVerne, near completion of an MA degree, Emergency Management, CSU Long Beach, and his excellent twenty-seven years of service in law enforcement. Friday, April 4, was his last working day in Fillmore, but we will always be grateful for the time he has spent helping to keep our town a safe place to live. So, in parting, we all wish him the best and say, “Hail to the Chief, Captain Bruce Macedo”.

Senior Airman Michael Anthony Chavez
Senior Airman Michael Anthony Chavez

Like with most of the articles I write honoring the men and women of the Fillmore and Piru Communities serving our Country, to protect all our freedoms, I usually begin the journey with a phone call from a family member. I received just such a phone call from a very proud grandmother; Dolores “Lola” Chavez of Fillmore. Mrs. Chavez wanted to tell me about her Grandson, Senior Airman Michael Anthony Chavez 24 years now serving in the United States Air Force. Mrs. Chavez told me that Michael was stationed in the northern city of Aviano, Italy at the United States Air Force’s Aviano Air Base with the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (31st AMXS). During the few phone calls we shared and the two visits to her home I found her to be a dedicated and very proud Grandmother of an American Airman. I appreciate her helping me put this article together and for her concern for all the men and women currently serving in the military from the communities of Fillmore and Piru.

Senior Airman Michael Chavez is a 2002 graduate of Fillmore High School and he also attended Lancaster High School. He participated in both varsity football and track while in high school. He and his wife Jessica (Taylor), also a 2002 graduate of Fillmore High School, 2006 graduate of Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks with a B.A. in Liberal Arts, and a 2007 graduate of Pepperdine with a Masters in Education. They live in Aviano, Italy where Jessica is a pre-school teacher and they do not have any children.

Senior Airman Chavez joined the Air Force in January 2004 and has been assigned duty throughout the world: at Cannon AFB Clovis, NM, Kunsan Air Base Korea, Bulgaria, Turkey and currently Aviano Air Base, Italy. His job specialty is as a Weapons Loader and he also maintains all the equipment related to weapons loading of the F-16 aircraft. While in the Air Force he is attending college to continue his education by studying Aeronautical Engineering. In the two phone calls (there is a +9 hours difference in time) with Senior Airman Michael Chavez I found him to be a very dedicated Airman. With still two-years left on his six-year enlistment he is still unsure if he will make the Air Force his career.

Senior Airman Michael Chavez has been awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Air Force Overseas Ribbon Short, Air Force Longevity Service, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon (Rifle) and the Air Force Training Ribbon.

Senior Airman Chavez’s parents are Andy Chavez of Fillmore and Leanne Gravley (1983 Fillmore High School Graduate) of Reno, Nevada. He has one sister Heather 18 years of Acton, California and brother Andrew 4 years of Fillmore. His Paternal Grandparents are Adon and Delores “Lola” Chavez of Fillmore and his Maternal Grandparents are Joe and Ellen Gravley of Henderson, Nevada. Senior Airman Michael Chavez’s Father-in-law and Mother-in-law are John and Joyce Taylor of Fillmore.

The 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (31st AMXS) is responsible for maintaining the United States Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations. In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point. Plans and directs expeditionary aircraft generation and maintenance operations of 520 personnel in 20 Air Force specialties. The 31st AMXS Maintains 48 F-16C/D aircraft valued at $1.28 billion. Provides repair capabilities for aircraft, avionics, weapons and propulsion systems to support delivery of conventional and precision-guided weapons. The 31st AMXS supports the 31st Fighter Wing, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO contingency and combat aircraft. The vision of the 31st AMXS is to perform safe, expeditionary aircraft maintenance anytime, anywhere!

Since inception, the 31 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron has deployed in support of Operations SOUTHERN WATCH, ENDURING FREEDOM, and IRAQI FREEDOM. Additionally, the squadron supported 24 hour air defense for the 2002 NATO Summit. The squadron's largest deployment challenge was its most recent seamless transition of back-to-back deployments to Balad Air Base, Iraq in support of Air Expeditionary Force 5 and 7 rotations.

Senior Airman Michael Chavez’s contribution to keeping the F-16 in the air and supporting our troops in the Middle East is appreciated by all of us here back at home. We wish Senior Airman Michael Chavez safe travel and to his family we thank them for their sacrifices while Senior Airman Michael Chavez is serving in this supporting role so far from home.

John Reider tells council how he has suffered for 6 years to get the approval for his controvercial project.
John Reider tells council how he has suffered for 6 years to get the approval for his controvercial project.
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On a 4-1 Vote, Mayor Conaway being the single dissenting voice, the Fillmore City Council abandoned the City’s Code of Ethics, which applied to both Council members and staff.
Following months of wrangling, and the stubborn refusal of Councilwoman Patti Walker to sign the Code as presently required, the other members just gave up and refused to continue to deal with the issue. Some argued that too much time was being wasted on the issue, while others were satisfied that county or state ethics codes would suffice.
Mayor Steve Conaway stuck to his conviction that a city ethics code was necessary to hold elected officials and staff responsible for their conduct. He believes that the broader, less specific codes used by larger government bodies are less effective than a code tailored to Fillmore’s own particular challenges.
In other business, the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the John Reider housing tract off Goodenough Road, was adopted, and the plan for his controversial 51-unit project was approved. Mr. Reider told the Council of his 6-year effort to build-out his parcel, located across from the Traditions tract.
The project was rejected by the North Fillmore Neighborhood Commission for what it believes is excessive density, narrow streets and walks, three-story elements, and, alleys. The Planning Commission, however, approved the project, with reservations, in March. The project does not involve apartment units.
Concern was expressed by Councilwoman Patti Walker concerning the new Army Corps. of Engineers 200-year flood protection requirements due soon. The existing levee may be inadequate to protect a large part of the city. The Corp, and FEMA, may cause the levee to be decertified, creating insurance issues. A Home Owner’s Association will be required by Reider.

Work continues on the Central Avenue drainage project. Closure of Central Avenue has caused substantial fi nancial loss to shop owners, and a major inconvenience for the driving public. The much-needed new storm drain will be appreciated during the next major rainstorm, as “normal” fl ooding will have been eliminated.
Work continues on the Central Avenue drainage project. Closure of Central Avenue has caused substantial fi nancial loss to shop owners, and a major inconvenience for the driving public. The much-needed new storm drain will be appreciated during the next major rainstorm, as “normal” fl ooding will have been eliminated.
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By now, everyone has surely noticed or been affected by the massive project that has Central Ave., Fillmore’s downtown business district for the past several weeks, in a state of dust, fences, signs, holes, noise, street closings, detours and the general concern of shopkeepers and residents alike. If you have not kept up with the newspapers, you might not know that the City has retained Lash Construction, Inc. to replace the existing 10” water line with a new 20” line, and the leaking, corroded, cast-iron storm drain with a 60” epoxy coated, concrete drain which can have a life of up to two-hundred years. Choosing the Central Ave. location minimized costs to the City for the much-needed work. “Completion of the project is expected to bring flood relief to Downtown and North Fillmore neighborhoods,” says Bert Rapp, Public Works Director.
However, completion of the project is tentatively slated for January 2009. While the construction crew, a fine group of workers, receiving nothing but compliments and praises from merchants and residents for their professional and courteous behavior makes progress, the confusion of access to the mini business area has taken its toll. Most stores and businesses have noted significant decreases in foot traffic and sales.
Nadir Ghafouri, owner of SportsWear, says, “No traffic means no sales, and no sales means no money.” He worries, as he stands in his empty shop amidst racks of affordable, name brand clothing, how he will pay the rent and feed his young family. He has contacted the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County for assistance. Kathy Vargas, owner of the Mail Stop, a copy, shipping and passport photo shop, agrees that business has dropped notably since construction commenced. She feels that signage directing perspective customers to parking could be much better, and considers herself luckier than other shop owners across the street, for continued access to her back entrance. The owner of Vintage Pleasures, Norma Amaro, admits that traffic is slower than usual. Nevertheless, aside from the need for larger signage on State Road 126 directing shoppers into town, she feels the City is doing what it can to lessen the project’s impact. Mrs. Amaro believes it is up to owners and managers to find creative ways to increase business during difficult times, and has helped to organize merchants’ meetings. Her shop, an eclectic display of unusual treasures, is open seven days a week unlike many that close on Sundays and Mondays. The residents of Parkview Senior Court, represented by resident Little Bear Woman, have more complaints with management than with the City. Although notification was prepared one week before construction began by Lash Construction, Inc., many elderly Parkview residents were frightened by vibrations from drilling, assuming tremors, because, they claim, management neglected to pass out the notification letters on time. They also complain of a similar situation when the water was turned off.
Bill Bartels, Deputy City Manager, has worked closely for nearly a year, with Downtown merchants and residents of Parkview, up-dating, addressing problems and offering suggestions to help increase business. The City is acutely aware of the disruption to local businesses and accompanying financial consequences. It has tried to assist by developing a Downtown map, distributed by the Tourism Bureau, installing lighted signage and banners, allowing every business to post signs along the promenade near the train on weekends, and placement of lighted signs on State Road 126 East of Mountain View and West of A Street intersections to direct motorists to the Downtown area. Mr.Bartels says, “The City, as part of the construction contract, will stop all work for the four days of the May Festival, and the immediate goal is for both affected intersections on Central, Santa Clara and Main Streets, to be opened by Friday, April 11th.” It is also the City’s hope to complete the work involving Main Street, across Sespe Ave., including the catch basin, before the end of June. There will be no impact on the July 4th Car Show, however work will commence under the highway on July 7th.
The community has an obligation to support local businesses, for they are the backbone of any town, large or small. However, in light of the negative impact this confusion and inconvenience has on tourism, it is even more essential to shop locally. Take a walk up and down Central Ave., and surprise yourself with the treasures and bargains you will find there. People travel far and wide to experience a town like ours. You can do it today, right here in Downtown Fillmore. “Shop ‘till you drop” while helping our merchants survive “The Big Dig”.