County Meets With Worried Neighbors of Library Project

  • Architect Max Williams shows some of the drain structure being built into the library site.

    Architect Max Williams shows some of the drain structure being built into the library site.

Comment and report by Kim Kirk

On July 29 a representative of Kern County met with about eight worried neighbors concerned about changes to drainage on Kiwanis Trail in Frazier Park. Following is the account of one of the neighbors, Kim Kirk. A report by the county engineer will be printed next week.—Editor

Grading and construction at the new library site, neighbors say, blocked a pipe installed to avoid flooding during torrential rains. In 1980, Joyce Cates recalled to friends last week, a house was destroyed at the juncture of Kiwanis and Encino Trails by “the torrent of water flowing down the mountain.”

So at about noon on Thursday, residents of Kiwanis Trail gathered at the intersection to meet with Warren Pechin, Supervising Engineer for the Construction Services Division of Kern County. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the closing and reopening of the drain under this intersection to prevent flooding of the properties south of the library.

The meeting was tense.

Pechin was shown the location of the drain under the trail and the approximate area where it exits on the north side. He was told that the drain was necessary to prevent flooding and that we wished to have it reopened since the county covered it up.

He said, “The county did not cover it up; we did not know it was there. The water company probably did it.”

Jill Hubert said she had discussed this drain with the county in one of the meetings regarding the library project and that the county did know and was aware of the drain.

Resident Diane Smallwood said that she had discussed the drain with the foreman of the project several months ago and knew that he was aware of the drain and its location.

When asked to explain the purpose of the v-drains, Pechin said they were designed to collect all of the water run-off. When neighbors said the water could not get to the drains and that it would erode away the road first, as it has already done with a small amount of water, Pechin said “that is not the county’s problem.”

We showed Pechin the runoff path and erosion from a fairly small amount of water, none of which got to the drains, Pechin again said it was not the county’s problem. He asked why we did not open the drain last year. We told him it was already covered up, that the end of it was on the county property and that we could not go on their property (which was fenced) to open it.

We explained that is why we want the county to open it on their end. Pechin said they need permission to work on the road anyway and that they couldn’t get that from the county. We advised him that these were not county roads, that they are private roads owned by the property owners, and that we could and would give permission to work on them. He said that we had to get permission from the town or some other entity and that it had to be in writing. We made it clear that there was no other entity, that we own the trails and we would give the permission. We issued and signed a statement, saying that we give permission for the county to work on this intersection if needed.

Mr. Pechin said he was not there to solve problems but to collect information. We said we want to talk to the person who makes the decisions. He said that would be the county legal council.

When asked if the county had looked at the watershed and run-off path from above, he said he had not and did not know how much run-off there could be, but that the drains should accommodate it. He asked for rain and snowfall statistics for the area. We were surprised to learn that it appears no one from the county has studied the run-off statistics. We were uncomfortable to learn that they may be guessing at the run-off volume and hope the drains will accommodate it.

Pechin was given a topographical map showing the runoff and the altitude from which that run-off falls and asked if he had been [uphill of the library site].

In a section deleted here for brevity, Kirk summarized her concern that the county may not be fully aware of the watershed in the area in which they are building.—Editor

We told Pechin that we would be opening the drain as soon as possible if they did not coordinate with the water company to do it as we asked. He stated that we could not legally drain water onto the county’s property.

I asked if the county would prefer the liability of our property flooding because our drainage was closed off or covered up by the county? His answer was that we would have to talk to legal about that (or the “suits” as he kept referring to them). I stated that he needed to talk to legal about this also.

I asked where the water was exiting the v-drains. He said, “Some of it will go under the road into the tank on the other side and the rest will go down the road and either into the drains along Park or down Park to Monterey, just as it always had and that [the county] could not be responsible for all of the water run-off. “

He was asked about grates or covers over the v-drains along Encino Trail. We told him that a hazard had been created because they were uncovered. We said that we were concerned that cars could get stuck in them. When covered with several feet of snow they will not be visible.

He said, “People should park on their own property, not along the road.” It was pointed out to him that people did have guests from time to time and that there was no prohibition against parking along the trail side.

“It will be their problem if they get stuck in the drain and they would be illegally on the county’s property,” he said.

After some angry comments about the County’s lack of concern for the residents of the area as shown by that response, he did finally agree to look into covering the drains.

In short, this was a tense meeting with neighbors walking away because of Mr. Pechin’s attitude, which was as confrontational as that of several of the neighbors.

He did not seem interested in hearing our experiences with the drainage problems. He kept saying this was our problem, not the county’s. We tried to tell him that the county has created this problem, not us.

This report will be continued next week, with comment by Warren Pechin

As we go to press, we are told that negotiations with the county are beginning to yield positive results. We will report about that next week.—Editor

This is part of the August 06, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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