Gathering for a roundtable dialogue with Mountain Community residents July 27 at the Pine Mountain Clubhouse were (l-r) Station 58 contractor Jeff Foy, Sgt. Mark Brown, Fire Chief Brian Marshall, Sheriff Donny Youngblood, Supvsr. David Couch, District Attorney Lisa Green, Dir. of Engineering and Permit Services Chuck Lackey and Treasurer-Tax Collector Jackie Denney (whose husband enjoyed playing in the golf tournament during the meeting). [photo by Patric Hedlund]
By Patric Hedlund
What is the old saying about attracting more flies with honey than vinegar? The Pine Mountain Club Property Owners Association took it to heart on July 27 and made barbecue sauce. They threw a party for the community and Kern County government heads. Guess what? They came. They listened. And they appeared to have a great time while responding to questions about urgent issues for this region before breaking for burgers—cooked by the PMCPOA board—and music.
Some brought their families to the picnic. Treasurer and Tax Collector Jackie Denney’s husband played in the golf tournament. Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall picnicked with his wife and three children.
Marshall said he has already spoken to State Senator Jean Fuller about the need for reducing threat of wildfires starting along the Grapevine.
“We need to get a meeting with Caltrans, CalFire and Kern County” about the fire hazard posed by dry summer weeds in the Caltrans right-of-way on the Grapevine, where 77,000 overheated cars and trucks pose a major fire hazard each day. In July three costly wildfires in 17 days began at the side of the freeway and threatened to sweep across the ridges of Lebec toward the homes of mountain residents.
“I’m frustrated too and we need to get all the stakeholders together to determine the best course of action and then implement it,” Marshall said in a follow-up interview on July 31.
The chief mentioned that the practice of creating fire breaks along the freeway was stopped when firefighters came down with Valley Fever.
He said his department works with homeowners on hazard reduction to create defensible space around structures, but he needs to check state and county statutes to confirm KCFD’s jurisdiction related to Caltrans land.
Other Kern County officials who joined in the Saturday morning roundtable and barbecue included District 4 County Supervisor David Couch, Sheriff Donny Youngblood, Frazier Park KCSO substation Sergeant Mark Brown, District Attorney Lisa Green, Kern County Treasurer-Tax Collector Jackie Denney, Director of Kern County Engineering, Surveying and Permit Services “Chuck” Lackey, Roads Department Director Craig Pope and Director of Facilities Planning for S.C. Anderson, Jeff Foy. SC Anderson is the Bakersfield-based company that was awarded the bid to build Fire Station 58 in the Pine Mountain Community.
Pine Mountain resident Sandy Browne asked that residents be provided with greater detail about changes the state is making for maintenance of septic systems. Lackey said that in areas with high groundwater, pumps and aerators might need to be added to the systems. There was general apprehension that those at the state level making the changes might be unaware of the impacts the costs could have on individuals in the rural areas, especially areas where the economy has still not recovered from the recession. Lackey said that some state clean water grant-funding had been discussed, but that new buyers and new builders needed to be aware as they pull building permits.
Roads Director Craig Pope said that he agreed that better turnouts along Mil Potrero Highway need to be built for safety during the snowy season. A disabled car on the ‘S’ curves can back up traffic for hours, and poses a hazard. Pope also said he realizes that mountain commuters often leave at 4:30 a.m. “We’ll try to get out earlier with the cinders,” he said, again addressing safety for icy roads. He also said that there is enough money in the CSA fund to repair the guardrails along the ‘S’ curves.
Bill Gurtner asked if there was any way to track convicted individuals being released from state prisons back to the county or to the community because of AB109 ‘Realignment.’
Sheriff Donny Youngblood (and District Attorney Lisa Green) looked miserable for a moment. “There is no good news about AB109,” Youngblood
said. “Once the individual is off parole and probation we can’t track them.” He also said there was no reserve officer who was in residence in this area.
Supervisor Couch fielded a question about fracking by saying, “We have different geology than they do back east.”
D.A. Lisa Green and Sgt. Mark Brown said no results have been secured yet from DNA evidence taken from the Pine Mountain Post Office burglary and break-in. A comment was fielded about the goal for the U.S. Forest Service to be approached again about exploring the feasibility of making Camp Oswego into a forest management educational center, with a cultural and snow play center, in alignment with the ecotourism economic goals of the Mountain Communities.
Doug Wilde asked whether there is a longterm plan in the case of a persistent drought. Couch said, “it doesn’t exist.”
Lackey said “No county department oversees water, that is a state function.”
Bill Gurtner said there had been no mapping of the aquifer in this area. Later, we discussed with Couch and his staff the “let no crisis go unexploited” opportunity presented by the Lake of the Woods water emergency.
The U.S. Geological Service has just completed a comprehensive aquifer study for the Cuyama Valley. Couch said he is interested in seeing whether that could be done for this region, and whether there might be some federal and state grant money to help get that done.
Brian Marshall mentioned that he would like to see a dip tank for firefighting be built in Pine Mountain. He said he would be moving forward with that in coordination with the Mil Potrero Mutual Water Company.
This is a partial sample of issues covered at the event. The consensus is that it was a highly beneficial approach to developing fact-focused dialogue between the Mountain Communities and Kern County governmental departments. In addition, the polling is in. The board of directors of the PMCPOA are very adequate burger flippers.
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This is part of the August 2, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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