Image 1 of 2
Image 2 of 2
By Patric Hedlund
Tempers flared and angry voices were raised May 24 at a conference over the gaggle of business signs that assaults the eye as motorists swing down Frazier Mountain Park Road toward the Monterey entrance to Frazier Park.
Forty years ago the road to Cuddy Valley and Pine Mountain was built to bypass Frazier Park’s business district.
Struggling local merchants say they need the signs to let people know their businesses exist. Outgoing Kern County Supervisor Ray Watson said he understands, but the signs are illegal and need to be cleaned up. The director of the Kern County Roads Department showed merchants the ordinance authorizing county road crews to pull the signs out. That has not yet happened… but it could.
The good news, perhaps, is that Watson seeks to form a team to solve the legal and design issues and to bring legal, engineering, architectural and funding assistance to create a solution. At the same time, another major issue in Frazier Park—securing funds to keep the street lights lit, streetscape plants tended and the litter cans emptied—may also be closer to being solved, members of the Frazier Park Public Utilities District Board told The Mountain Enterprise on Friday, June 1.
This issue became an emotional distraction on May 24 at the conference hosted by the Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce to focus on Watson’s proposal regarding the signs.
Richard Sheffield (who supported Watson’s reelection in 2008) launched a loud and angry attack about what he called Watson’s failure to nail down a funding source for maintaining the streetscape in Frazier Park.
Sheffield wrote a letter in May reminding the community that he has been donating his time and that of his employees to maintain the streetscape. He said he cannot afford to do that any longer. He also estimated that it would cost about $7,000 a year to pay for the services he had provided for a year for free.
A Community Service Area (CSA, which levies limited taxes for a specific purpose) had originally been agreed upon by Frazier Park’s streetscape-adjacent properties to pay for the streetscape maintenance.
But when the formal vote occurred, Sigmund Lichter (who owns multiple properties in the area) changed his mind, saying he was angry with Kern County Roads Department’s deviation from the original streetscape design plans. His “no” votes and a few others caused the CSA to fail.
For the first year, Watson allocated funds from his ample supervisor’s discretionary fund to cover the electricity, water and other costs.
For the second year, Sheffield and the Chamber of Commerce have borne the costs. But many commercial property owners who said they would donate to a chamber fund to help with expenses have reportedly not done so, leaving the chamber’s coffers bare. The Holiday Faire and Festival of Lights Parade— a joyful annual Christmas season tradition—was abruptly cancelled for 2011 because the chamber could not afford the expense, said Interim President Rachel Unell.
A Graceful Exit
Watson, who retired from KGET-TV in 2002 and has served on the Kern County Board of Supervisors for 10 years, announced this year that he planned to retire from the board and would not be running for office again.
He is credited for helping to create several lasting contributions to the Mountain Communities, including finishing the Cody Prosser Veterans Memorial in Frazier Mountain Park; finding $270,000 in funds to help lay a new water main pipe down Monterey Trail beneath the new streetscape project; the streetscape itself; the unbuilt— but still-promised—Pine Mountain Fire Station 58; and the much-loved Frazier Park Branch Library that opened last summer.
Watson’s offer to help solve the long-simmering problem of the illegal signs along Frazier Mountain Park Road holds the promise of creating a multiprong solution, which might also provide a revenue source to help the chamber pay to maintain the streetscape.
He has masterminded a team approach that would involve the Frazier Park Public Utilities District, a donation of land from Kern County, Kern County professional expertise, the Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce and community merchants.
Alpine Lumber’s Kathy Parker said, “We don’t want to buy a pig in a poke, but I’m interested in hearing more about the specifics….”
TO BE CONTINUED
This is part of the June 08, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.