Speaking of Lights…

By Patric Hedlund

The deadline is quickly approaching for the lights to go dark on Mt. Pinos Way in Frazier Park.

Before building began on the streetscape improvements to the commercial area of Frazier Park, a handshake agreement was struck between Supervisor Watson and owners of the commercial parcels that would directly benefit from the improvements along Monterey Trail and Mt. Pinos Way. They agreed to create a tax-collecting Community Service Area (CSA) to fund lights, water, landscape maintenance and litter collection along these main streets after the construction was finished. Each parcel had a vote. The cost to maintain the improvements was estimated at $10,500 a year, a little less than $350 per parcel. Unfortunately, when the work was all done and the ballots went out to officially form the CSA, all did not go as agreed.

In a report to the Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) on October 19 this year, Steve Newman said only 23 of the 33 parcel votes were returned. Of those, 17 parcels voted against forming the CSA.

It is believed that Sigmund Lichter cast at least 8 of those “no” votes. In an interview on October 7, 2009 with The Mountain Enterprise, Lichter said he had changed his mind about the CSA agreement because he was unhappy with errors made by the Kern County Roads Department, changing the aesthetics of the walls and walkways, while reducing parking near his property. [Read the full interview below]

A crisis was created. Watson said he would fund the utilities and costs for one year while the community figured out a plan for long-term maintenance.

People gathered on October 19 at a meeting hosted by Watson’s appointed MAC to brainstorm about ways to cover the costs after December 31. Some asked about the Frazier Park Public Utilities District taking on the maintenance and providing the water, assessing everyone in FPPUD’s service area about 58 cents a month (about $7 a year) to keep the lights on and the streetscape lovely. Greg Keenberg, FPPUD manager, said he didn’t think it would be easy to get all the water customers to vote to accept that expense.

He said the utilities board may not wish to put the matter before the customers for a vote.

Richard Sheffield of Antioch Nursery said he and his crew could donate their time next spring and summer to take care of landscaping while a solution is sought. Linda Robredo asked whether Kern County Parks Department’s community service workers could collect the litter bags from the cans along main street. The meeting came back around to finding a permanent solution from the people who financially benefit most from the improvements—the commercial property owners.

MAC Chair Steve Newman and Rob Peterson, Tejon Ranch employee and MAC appointee, asked the residents to wait. They said they wished to go speak with each of the parcel owners once again.

But at the November 16 MAC meeting, Watson’s appointees said they did not have a report to make about their progress.

On December 6, with holidays and the deadline coming quickly, The Mountain Enterprise asked Peterson and Newman for an update about keeping the lights on.

After 7 weeks, while the community had been asked to step aside and wait, Peterson replied, “No update yet.”

Newman wrote in an email: “The committee met this past week and are still working to get the required information from each property owner. We hope to have a significant amount of that information by the next MCMAC meeting, however that may be tempered by the holiday period in which everyone is extremely busy. “

The next MAC meeting would be on Tuesday, Dec. 21, nine days from the deadline.

“We are aware of the deadline and hope that some temporary measures can be instituted to prevent the lights from going out, as the re-balloting process takes 6-10 months,” Newman concluded.

What Happened to the CSA 100 Streetscape Plan? – Sigmund Lichter: I Voted ‘No’

By Patric Hedlund

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009 we spoke with Sigmund Lichter about the CSA 100 vote, and how he feels the streetscape can be maintained, now that the maintenance plan has not been funded. This is a transcript of that conversation, first printed in the October 9, 2009 issue of The Mountain Enterprise.

Sigmund Lichter: I voted no. I had a fight with Supervisor Watson. He called me before the vote and he urged me to vote yes. He asked me to ask others to vote yes. I said I wouldn’t. He was so mad and I followed up with two or three emails.

I said we all agreed that there would be $300 per address. Some of the properties have 3, 5 or even 11 parcels at Alpine Lumber. When the original plan was shown to us, it was beautiful and we all agreed this was what we wanted.

They used the grant to take people out to lunch and paid for design, then they made blunders in the design. That cost money, so they say they couldn’t finish what they said they were going to do.

They haven’t done what they proposed. They left half of it off. I was mad at what they did. They encroached with the sidewalk on my property. Across the street from Alpine Plaza they didn’t finish the block walls with natural stone to match as they said they would. All this was disregarded and wasn’t done. I said, ‘I am not going to support it because you did not follow what you said.’

Now it is not $300 per address. Now they say ‘$300 for maintenance of flowers, and $50 for lighting and if this is not enough it will be adjusted.’

When I talked to them about this, Watson said ‘don’t mind this,’ but once it is signed, it is in. They can change it to what they want. I pay $50,000 to Bakersfield in property taxes a year. What are they giving back?

I would propose that everyone should take care in front of their own business. I will instruct my tenants to pull the weeds and water the flowers.

I think the county can spring from our property taxes to pay for the water and the electricity. It is piddling stuff. They get more in our property taxes than what they give back.

Lichter said he would drop the emails with Watson by the office of The Mountain Enterprise if we wanted to see them. We haven’t seen them yet.

This is part of the December 10, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.