Oak View man booked for alleged road rage incident
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S PRESS RELEASE
Narrative: The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Gang Unit arrested the president of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Hell’s Angels for a road rage incident that occurred on 1-16-2009.
On 1-16-2009, Archie Schaffer was driving a pickup truck behind a group of motorcycles, northbound on State Route 33 at Casitas Springs. Schaffer began tailgating the motorcycles at an extremely close range and forcing them to move from one lane to another. Schaffer forced one of the motorcycles into oncoming traffic and brandished a firearm at another. A witness who was following the vehicles, captured pictures of the incident as it occurred.
On Friday, 1/30/09, Sheriff’s gang investigators served a search warrant at Schaffer’s home Schaffer and arrested him for assault with a deadly weapon, brandishing a firearm from a vehicle, and street terrorism. He was booked into the Ventura County Jail and is being held on $100,000.00 bail.
Substance spills into creek, soil on Maricopa Highway
By Lenny Roberts
Seven drums, each carrying 300 to 400 gallons of diesel fuel, spilled from a large truck on Highway 33 at mile marker 40.84 before dawn Friday morning after the truck ran off the highway. According to reports, 1,000 gallons spilled into Adobe Creek and 700 gallons spilled into the soil near the creek.
California Department of Fish and Game crews were dispatched to the scene, along with Ventura County HAZMAT teams.
More information will be posted here as it is learned.
According to The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services most recent report, the driver of the truck fled the scene after the accident. The truck had not been registered for several years and the CHP was unable to find the owner of the truck or the driver. Based on that, the US Forest Service, in consultation with USEPA, has opened the federal oil spill pollution clean up fund to pay for the clean up of Adobe Creek.
To read the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services report, click here.
State mandate for 427 new units by 2014 late, as council concerns focus on water, rentals
By Sondra Murphy
Water, environmental concerns and physical space were debated vs. expensive yet substandard structures that often serve as rentals in the city as the Ojai City Council examined options Tuesday to help move into compliance with affordable housing laws.
City consultant Tom Figg introduced reports on a Draft Housing Element, recommending that the council choose one of four options to submit to the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
The Housing Element is a required plan to accommodate new housing to be certified by the HCD and is based on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) mandated by State Housing Law as part of the periodic process of updating local housing elements of the General Plan. The RHNA quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction during specified planning periods.
In May, council members said they were not ready to adopt a plan to accommodate 427 new housing units required by the state. In December, the council determined it could not support any of the three options presented to accommodate a state mandate that conflicts with the city’s growth management plan.
Ojai was to have created a Housing Element plan by June 30, 2008, and the lack of one is troubling to city staff. “As of July 1, you’ve been vulnerable,” Figg told the council. “The farther out we get from the target deadline of June of last year, the more problematic it is for us to meet our requirements.” He warned that developers or others might initiate lawsuits against the city if the council continues delaying a decision.
Of the choices, council leaned toward a fourth option added since last month that addressed involving existing structures that are presently used as rentals but have varying legal status.
Councilwomen Betsy Clapp and Sue Horgan were not impressed with the options that imposed requirements on the city it would not necessarily be able to meet, such as water needs. “I find myself still in a position of not being able to accept any of these options,” said Horgan. “None of them make any sense for Ojai.”
“I agree that I would hesitate to pass a Housing Element due to fear of litigation,” said Clapp. “I think we should pass policy that makes sense.”
The entire council expressed dissatisfaction over the forced mandate, but liked the newest option presented that relies more on identifying and upgrading existing units in the city.
In going over the draft proposal, Figg believed that HCD would likely receive the fourth option with less enthusiasm than the others, but said, “It presents reliance on existing structures more in line with the community values and the community scale.”
The council chamber was packed with people wanting to speak on the issue. Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency board member Jim Ruch and Golden State Water Company superintendent Skip Faria offered contradictory facts about the state of water supply in the valley. Faria said Golden State would be able to import water into the valley regardless of local supply, but conceded that the expense of any necessary importation would be passed on to consumers.
“I think Skip is saying they’re a water supply company and will supply you water, it will just cost a ton of money,” said Councilwoman Carol Smith.
Much time was spent by the council and members of the public in asking questions largely fielded by legal consultant Julie Biggs, who explained that the process between submission and adoption allowed for amendments and adjustments and that the city would better protect its point of view by working with the state.
“There is a difference between not complying entirely and being in the process,” said Biggs. “If you’re not doing it at all, then you don’t have the same defenses as if you are in the process but have not reached consensus yet. What you need to achieve to comply with state law is substantial compliance with the law, which is different from complete compliance.”
“We can probably all agree that affordable housing is good, but we do not appreciate the way it is being foisted upon us,” said Carolyn Vondriska during the public addresses. “For developers, only 15 percent of their units need to be dedicated to affordable housing. We already have a glut of unaffordable housing here in Ojai. We don’t need anymore.”
“I was on the task force and we gave this all a lot of going over and we looked at the subject properties,” said Dulanie La Barre. “I would say coming up with No. 4 kind of meets both the desire to meet RHNA while not growing very much. It is just legitimizing what’s already there and that seems to me a good option. Some property could be split into duplexes and these are ways I see that don’t encourage new construction. We need to look at the spirit of the law, to ask cities to make housing available to meet the needs of its community. In my experience, if it isn’t mandated, it doesn’t get built.”
Smith pressed for the council to advance. “We’re doing nothing but debating this darn piece of paper for the state. I almost feel like we are in the ‘Groundhog Day’ movie. I can almost predict what the speakers are going to say.”
Mayor Joe DeVito got to the heart of the matter. “If we selected one of the options this evening, once you submit it to them, there’s a process that begins. HCD may take several months to look at what we submit and once they send it back to us, the City Council can proceed however it likes?” he asked Biggs, who answered affirmatively.
The council eventually concluded the risks of being out of compliance outweighed the other concerns and expected they could fine-tune the plan to be harmonious to Ojai’s character. After more than two hours spent on the item, the council voted 3-1 to have staff prepare a plan to bring to a council meeting next month. Horgan cast the dissenting vote.
To read the entire 17-page administrative report, go to the city web site at ci.ojai.ca.us. From the left menu bar, click on City Council, council agendas and reports, Item 3 Draft Housing Element, Attachment to Draft Housing Element.pdf.
Wolfe chosen to head nonprofit from among 60 job applicants
By Sondra Murphy
Leadership is a crucial component to service that Help of Ojai is striving to improve.
After an extensive two-month search, Dave Neville, Help’s board chairperson, and director Kelly Randall, head of the executive director search committee, announced Monday the hiring of Terri Wolfe as Help’s new executive director.
Wolfe is an Oak View resident who comes with a broad range of professional experience and leadership skills that will address the current and future needs of Help. “I plan to provide ongoing and consistent leadership for the staff and volunteers so they can focus on the things they’re really good at,” said Wolfe. “After working with other not-for-profits around the country, I wanted to come back and do it in this community.”
Randall said that 60 applicants responded to advertisements and listings that the search committee narrowed down to 18. “The process led us to three candidates,” Randall said. “There was debate given to the desirability to hiring a local familiar with the Ojai Valley as opposed to someone from the outside who might come in and be more objective.”
Randall pointed to Wolfe’s experience with nonprofit organizations as part of her appeal. “We were looking for some specific things, real management background, someone who has experience in development, is highly ethical and has a nurturing and caring personality,” said Randall. “One of the things the agency is crying for is leadership and I’m anxious to give Terri the opportunity to do that.”
Wolfe holds a master’s degree in organizational development from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, and a bachelor of science degree from California State University-Chico. She applied for Help’s executive director position after hearing members of the board describe the needs and desires for the agency’s leadership. “I thought that it fit with my experience,” said Randall.
Wolfe founded a consulting practice in 2000 that works with not-for-profit enterprises and emerging companies. The consulting service specializes in designing and developing organizational structures. Most recently, Wolfe worked with not-for-profit health care organizations and schools throughout the western United States. She is also a former 12-year human resources executive with Patagonia, Inc.
Through her involvement with Ojai Presbyterian Church, Wolfe has participated with Whispering Oaks and Help’s Community Assistance Program, West Campus expansion efforts and brown bag lunch program. Wolfe is an Ojai Presbyterian Church session elder for personnel.
In addition to her Help responsibilities, Wolfe is currently the vice chairperson of the board and trustee for King Arthur Flour of Vermont, a position she will continue to hold.
Wolfe lives in Oak View with her husband, Tim, and two children, Taylor and Abigail. Raised in Ventura, she has lived in the Ojai Valley for the past 15 years. Wolfe will start at Help’s Little House on Monday.
After just more than a year as executive director, Help terminated J.R. Jones Nov. 4, citing in a press release, “Our goal is to continue the restoration of the organization’s fiscal health and to persevere in our efforts to broaden community support. A talented and dedicated cadre of staff and volunteers will work with the board to assure that there are no interruptions in the many services Help provides in our community.”
Help has been an institutional fixture in the Ojai Valley for 40 years, offering a range of human services from senior transportation to nutrition programs and grief counseling for teenagers. For more information about Help of Ojai programs, visit helpofojai.org, call 646-5122, or stop into Little House at 111 W. Santa Ana St. For more about projects at the West Campus, call 649-9218.
By Daryl Kelley
A small East End water company founded in 1928 by five pioneer families is struggling to survive, the victim of higher wholesale water prices and a dispute among shareholders about whether the company should change the way it does business.
Climaxing a raucous meeting of Senior Canyon Mutual Water Company shareholders on Saturday, directors agreed to study whether a merger with the Ojai Valley’s largest water district could stabilize water cost and supply for the company’s nearly 250 shareholders.
The board appointed a committee to study a possible merger with the Casitas Municipal Water District as a peacekeeping move after angry Senior Canyon owners — especially large shareholders with agricultural interests — objected to a board proposal to levy a new assessment on every share to pay off the district’s $110,000 debt to Casitas.
Holders of Senior Canyon shares range from Twin Peaks Ranch, with 232, and The Thacher School, with 161, to residential owners of a single share. There are 1,125 total shares.
Shareholders, with votes weighted to reflect their shares, rejected the proposed levy. That left unanswered until an April meeting the question of how to pay off the debt and begged the question of whether private Senior Canyon should join with its large public neighbor, Casitas.
Casitas officials said a merger with Senior Canyon could be possible, but only if it does not cost Casitas’ ratepayers any money. That would mean that Senior Canyon shareholders would have to upgrade their water system to public agency standards before Casitas could take it over, officials said.
Saturday’s standing-room-only meeting at San Antonio School highlighted the plight of small, independent water companies statewide, and showcased problems water companies around California are experiencing in times of drought-limited supplies and rising demand.
It also spotlighted the tensions at Senior Canyon between large farmer shareholders and residential users, who now underwrite part of the cost of water for agriculture.
In a December letter to shareholders, directors proposed that Senior Canyon change its fee structure so users pay for the actual water they use if it’s purchased from Casitas. But that proposal went nowhere on Saturday.
“I’m glad to see they’re going to evaluate their business situation,” said Steve Wickstrum, general manager at Casitas, who attended the meeting. “This is a difficult situation that a lot of water companies are having to address, and not only smaller ones.”
Indeed, Senior Canyon directors, in their letter to shareholders, blamed the private water company’s inability to pay its bills on Casitas’ escalating water rates. Casitas, whose huge reservoir supplements supplies of small Ojai Valley water agencies, has sharply hiked its wholesale rates over the last two years to balance its own budget.
And Senior Canyon directors said that the company’s need of Casitas water during dry periods — along with a dispute with a shareholder over fixing a broken water line — created the current budget shortfall.
The directors’ letter to shareholders said Senior Canyon “is going broke.”
“The problem is that Senior Canyon uses more water than is presently available, necessitating increasingly onerous and prohibitively expensive purchases from (Casitas),” the letter said. “This is due primarily and logically to large Ag (agriculture) consumption combined with a (Casitas) decision not to support Ag interests.
“The board believes that our historical strategy of subsidizing Ag costs through Domestic-weighted rate structuring is no longer viable in terms of survivability.”
The board proposed solving that problem by having shareholders pay for water based on actual use when that water is purchased from Casitas, and also by having Senior Canyon’s largest water user and shareholder, Twin Peaks Ranch, transfer to the Casitas district.
If that occurred, and with the drilling of two new wells, including one on the Friend’s Ranch run by the Thacher family, the Senior Canyon system could become independent of Casitas except in the driest of times, directors said in their letter to shareholders.
But the letter prompted a rebuttal from several shareholders, including Helene Gordon, owner of Twin Peaks Ranch, and the ranch’s manager, Mike Miller.
“The business model for Senior Canyon no longer works,” they said. “This company is simply too small to support the required overhead.”
Merger with Casitas, the rebuttal letter said, would mean lower costs for water, no more assessments, less exposure to risk and more stability.
“The Senior Canyon board states that agriculture is no longer a viable aspect of our environment,” the rebuttal letter said. “We believe this statement is wrong. Agriculture is an integral part of life in Ojai’s East End … If the choice needs to be made between preserving agriculture in the East End and preserving the water company known as Senior Canyon, we choose to preserve agriculture.”
Board members began Saturday’s meeting by telling a crowd of shareholders that they still support East End agriculture.
Director Keith Nightingale, who said he wrote most of the letter to shareholders, said the board believes agriculture is “absolutely critical to our way of life,” but that Casitas’ new higher rates “no longer allow us the flexibility to support agriculture as we used to.”
Board members emphasized that Senior Canyon needed to develop two new wells beyond existing ones, while maintaining a working relationship with Casitas as a backup supply. But they also stressed that changes needed to be made so water rates reflected actual usage of Casitas-supplied water.
“In some cases, because of shares, you’re receiving water at a rate (less) than we have to pay for it,” said director Sam Eaton. “You should pay for the water you use.”
Board Treasurer Bill Prather said Senior Canyon’s situation is not unusual in this time of drought and water shortages.
“The norm right now,” he said, “is everybody is in water wars, essentially. It’s a collision of events that’s pretty dreadful.”
He said billing to pay off the debt should be based on use, not number of shares. He noted that he is business manager for The Thacher School, which is Senior Canyon’s second largest shareholder.
Twin Peaks’ Miller supported paying off the $110,000 debt with a low-interest loan offered by Casitas, citing a third straight low-yield avocado harvest. With nearly 21 percent of company shares, Twin Peaks would have had to pay nearly $23,000 of the debt if shareholders had approved the per -share payoff.
Some small shareholders pressed for approval of the new levy per share.
After a confusing vote, in which more shareholder votes were cast than were shareholders present, an audit of the votes found shareholders had rejected the new levy.
But there were bigger issues at hand.
Shareholder Bill Loehr, a former board member who had signed the rebuttal letter, challenged Prather’s explanation of how Senior Canyon is charged for Casitas water. And Prather promised to come up with a figure for how much those who irrigate are charged for that wholesale water.
Other shareholders asked for documentation of precisely how the debt had been incurred. But Prather said documentation “is shaky.” In fact, data on one key summer month is missing entirely because the company’s auditor can’t find it, directors said.
Another shareholder complained that the confusion was “mind-numbing.”
And shareholder Bob Davis, a grower, complained that the board in its letter said he had offered to allow a new Senior Canyon well to be drilled on his property for free. He said he had not spoken with anyone on the board about a well in the past three years.
Davis questioned the board’s competence, as did a second shareholder.
Director Nightingale said the board wanted to appoint a committee to explore a merger with Casitas so Senior Canyon could put that issue to rest.
“We want hard data,” he said.
Among the frustrated shareholders was Lou Tomasetta, who owns 18 aces of avocados and oranges and 44 water company shares. He voted against the levy, favoring instead taking out a loan and paying it off with a surcharge on usage.
Others were simply left scratching their heads.
“I don’t know what to think,” said Stephanie Gibson, who holds one share. “I don’t have enough good information.”
Roger Essick, a grower who signed the rebuttal letter, added: “Hopefully we can work it all out in a constructive way. I think we will.”
Outdoor displays would be allowed, if council agrees with new standards
By Linda Harmon
Outdoor business displays are effective ways for merchants to invite potential customers into their shops and are one step closer to being easier to set up in the city of Ojai.
Shortly after voting in Susan Weaver as 2009 chair at Wednesday’s meeting, the Ojai Planning Commission approved proposed general standards for outdoor merchandise displays drawn up by a committee of merchants and city representatives.
Such displays have historically been prohibited in the city, but when recently adopted sign regulations amended language in the regulations that would allow for outdoor displays, a need for specified standards came up. The Planning Commission requested last autumn that a merchant-based plan be brought back to them.
Merchants can obtain conditional use permits for certain outdoor displays that adhere to city regulations regarding dimensions that allow for walkway clearance, but city planner Katrina Rice Schmidt reported that the committee examined a number of potential problems with the looser standards. “The merchants wanted some displays to be out ‘by right’ because they didn’t want to come to the office every time they wanted to put out a display, but they also saw that it could get out of hand,” said Schmidt.
The main focus of the group was the Arcade area of the city because of the access limitations that exist on public property. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires 28-inch clearances along public walkways, plus legal concerns dictate that exterior merchandise cannot be hazardous to passersby.
The proposed standards for displays continue to require a CUP for some exterior exhibits, but also include a flat fee for outdoor displays that coincide with dimensional standards. “Assuming merchants subscribe to the standards, they would not have to come to the planning desk each time,” said Schmidt.
Aesthetic appeal was important to the committee, as well, and restrictions of things like cardboard boxes were included in the proposal in order to make for more visually appealing exhibitions. “It’s not to extend sales space, but to pique interest so people know what’s inside,” said Schmidt.
A third tier in the proposed standards is that of code enforcement and education. “A recurring theme of discussion of the committee was to strongly enforce the existing and proposed regulations to ensure that Ojai remains a clean and friendly place to live and visit,” reads the proposal. “Concern was expressed by the committee that violations of the standards can result in goods being displayed in a manner that is counter to the goals of the city.”
Commissioner Tucker Adams wanted to hear more about this area of the proposal. “Would there be an effort of the group to actively inform the merchants about the standards?” she asked. Schmidt replied that, with adoption, the city would develop a brochure with the standards and visit merchants to educate them about the options.
“It may be that the lion’s share would fit into the standards, but that some may come later that you would need to adjust,” said city manager Jere Kersnar.
“The committee asked that the commission make code enforcement a higher priority, if not for the long term, at least for the beginning efforts,” Schmidt said.
“The implication of the requirement is there be dedicated staff to stay on top of violations and follow up,” said Kersnar, reminding the commissioners that the city’s code enforcement staff is also its building inspector, the latter taking priority. “Right now we don’t have the capability to stay on top of violations, at least not consistently.”
“The committee was fantastic and the documents Katrina put together were great,” said freshly appointed Vice Chair Troy Becker, who served on the committee. “We felt like we needed to narrow it down and those that fell out were kind of long-term displays that needed a CUP.”
In continued discussion, the commission expected that some adjustments would be needed as the standards were put to use. “It’s hard to do something new because you have to test drive it,” said Commissioner Paul Crabtree.
The proposed standards as approved by the Planning Commission will go before the City Council in the near future.
Council hesitant until economic situation comes clear
By Sondra Murphy
It was a “show me the money” moment during last week’s Ojai City Council meeting when the subject of amendments to city personnel classifications came up.
City staff will have to wait until council members see the budget before they have a chance at upgrading some job positions.
Amendments to certain positions in the city’s personnel classification system were brought to the board last Tuesday in an effort to make city salaries more competitive with regional agencies.
City staff recommended the council give two positions pay raises to closer reflect other county agencies pay scales: planning and building technician and assistant to the city manager. Staff also recommended a third position be established, that of redevelopment manager. That job is currently being filled by an independent contractor. City attorney Monte Widders said auditors have advised the position should be converted into a part-time contracted position in order to be in accordance with IRS guidelines.
With the impending retirement of the assistant to the city manager, a search for her replacement has been under way. The city manager’s office went through an application process in late 2008 that resulted in two candidates. Unfortunately, both turned down the job, citing the low pay. Increasing the salary range was an effort to find a highly qualified person to fill the role.
“I’m sure that these are good ideas and need to be done, but my question is why now?” asked Councilwoman Sue Horgan. “We have no idea how our budget will be next year. I think we need to consider the economic market right now.”
“The timing is coincidental,” answered city manager Jere Kersnar. “The issue of the IRS ruling has been bubbling for years, but the assistant to the city manager position just became vacant. This was one of her tasks to complete before retiring. Whether you can afford it or not, this is the right thing to do from a legal perspective.”
In regards to the assistant to the city manager, Councilwoman Carol Smith said, “It’s clear to me if we don’t go to Range 58, we may not get someone. The amount of staff time it took, including (Kersnar’s) was huge, then to have the person determined to be successful in the position turn it down because of salary, how much more time will be spent on this?” Smith then suggested the funds saved by staff time in finding an assistant to the city manager might compensate for the extra wages.
“I can see a need for it, especially in the assistant to the city manager, but when I look at the total cost … it’s like $30,000,” said Mayor Joe DeVito. He then asked why the position could not remain filled by an independent contractor.
“The requirements for an independent contractor status, according to the IRS, are very strict,” answered Widders. “There’s like 20 different criteria they feel you have to meet.” Widders added that if the indepen-dent contractor was determined to qualify as an employee, the city runs the risk of needing to pay back deductions not taken, which could be a burdensome retroactive amount. “Now that the auditors have made this recommendation, we could not claim in any type of good faith that we thought she was otherwise.”
Council ultimately rejected the personnel changes by a narrow 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Steve Olsen and Smith in support of city staff’s request. “I can’t support this now, but that’s not to say I couldn’t later,” said Horgan. City analysts are expected to bring a city budget update to a February council meeting.
Matilija Dam during the rains of 2005. An estimated 2 million cubic yards of silt and fine sediments must be removed as part of the $145 million dam demolition project.
By Daryl Kelley
With a Meiners Oaks church refusing to lease Ventura river-bottom land, government agencies have been forced to back away from their top choice for disposal of a 20-foot-high mound of silt as part of the Matilija Dam removal project.Members of the Church of the Living Christ rejected last week a lease with Ventura County and the U.S. government that would have allowed 2.1 million cubic yards of slurried silt to be piped from behind the aging dam to a 74-acre site at the base of a bluff next to Rice Road.
That leaves the county’s Watershed Protection District, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the state Coastal Conservancy and county Supervisor Steve Bennett with the question of how to proceed now with a key part of a plan to tear down Matilija Dam.
Funding for $90 million of the $145-million dam removal project, the first of its kind in the nation, was approved by Congress last year. But where to move silt from behind the dam has become a thorny question.
Project managers have said $5 million to $6 million can be saved by piping silt slurry to the Meiners Oaks site and drying it there, instead of pumping it to other sites miles farther down the Ventura River near Baldwin Road.
The silt must be moved from behind the dam because it would likely clog the Robles fish ladder just up-river from Meiners Oaks if it were allowed to simply wash downstream during storms once the dam is removed, officials have said.
But environmental and conservation groups, along with several dozen nearby residents, have criticized the Meiners Oaks disposal site.
Critics favor use of two sites north and south of Baldwin Road that would allow most of the silt to be naturally washed away to Ventura beaches during wet years.
Conversely, they maintain the Meiners Oaks site would become a permanent visual blight, alter the natural course of the river and hinder access to public hiking trails, while possibly creating flooding problems, sullying groundwater supplies and producing noise and dust for years.
Critics also say the government has underestimated the cost of the Meiners Oaks option and that it might cost as much as the Baldwin Road alternatives.
Because of rejection by the church, government officials are rethinking their options. But they maintain that the Meiners Oaks option could still be viable, if they can prove to church members that the broader Ojai Valley community favors that plan.
“My information is that all options are still on the table, that the church didn’t close the door on revisiting the issue,” said Peter Sheydayi, project manager for the Watershed Protection District.
Pastor Ron Triggs confirmed that church members might reconsider the issue if they become convinced it has broad community support. But for now, the church’s position is that the county should look elsewhere.
“Our membership would likely revisit it and likely pass it if they had some way of knowing the community was in support,” Triggs said Wednesday. “But they would want to know how our community feels.”
The church balked at a $180,000 lease offer because of opponents’ concerns and the potential for a community backlash, Triggs said.
“There was a high concern among some members that the community would become angry with the church and feel we did it only for the money —that there would be some kind of backlash,” he said.
As a result, the church council decided the full membership should vote on the issue. And to retain consensus, the council decided an 85 percent super-majority was needed for passage. Only 70 percent favored the lease, so it failed, Triggs said.
If the county were able to show community support for the Meiners Oaks site, of which the church owns the majority, the congregation would probably reconsider a lease or outright sale of its 46-acre portion of the disposal area, he said.
Meanwhile, an early February meeting in which the project’s oversight committee was expected to announce a disposal site likely will have to be rescheduled, said the county’s Sheydayi.
“At this point, we need to meet and discuss our options as an executive team,” he said.
Sheydayi acknowledged that cost estimates of the disposal alternatives, provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were based on a “very limited analysis” under the assumption that all sites would be cleared and restored in a similar fashion.
But now the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy has questioned whether the restoration of the Meiners Oaks site might not cost as much as the $5 million saved on transportation because it would have to be replanted as permanent, while the Baldwin Road sites are in the immediate flood plain and might not have to be.
“We have a lot of big concerns,” said Stevie Adams, project manager for the Land Conservancy, which owns about 1,700 acres adjacent to the disposal site and maintains access to hiking trails across the church property.
The conservation group not only questions cost estimates, but also is concerned that the silt pile, protected from erosion by a new levee, would become a permanent eyesore, she said.
“That pile would always be there,” she said. “We’re also concerned that the county would not be able to maintain trail access through this pile of slurry. And the aesthetics of it are a huge issue … (pictures) show other sites look like the moon.”
The Land Conservancy estimates that 250 people a day visit its Riverview Trial during peak season.
Another opponent, Paul Jenkin, founder of the Matilija Coalition and executive director of the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, has pushed a Baldwin Road alternative that would affect two sites closer to the river and be subject to flooding during heavy rains, which would carry the silt to the ocean.
“The county has appeared to be pretty hell-bent on this Meiners Oaks proposal,” Jenkin said. He thinks a slurry pile there would forever change the natural course of the Ventura River. And restoration of the natural river valley is the key goal of the dam removal effort, he said.
“This is one of the first projects of its kind around the world,” Jenkin said. “And we’re hoping this will be a good example, not a bad one.”
Lynn Malone, a neighbor who fears flooding, traffic, noise and dust problems, thinks the Meiners Oaks disposal would undermine the value of her property by making her community a less inviting place to live.
Indeed, 44 nearby Meiners Oaks area residents signed a petition against the plan, she said. And the Meiners Oaks County Water District has hired a consultant to determine if its wells would be affected by seepage from the silt pile.
“Everybody is guessing the county will go back to the church with another offer,” said Malone, who is also membership director for the Land Conservancy.
For his part, Sheydayi said arguments against a Baldwin Road alternative are not only greater costs, but also concerns by the Ventura River County Water District about proximity to its wells.
“And both Baldwin Road sites would have a substantial amount of impact on their neighbors,” he said.
That impact would be the risk of erosion of river banks resulting from the silt deposits.
“That would be a risk,” Sheydayi said.
For now, he said, “all options are still under consideration.”
The earliest actual dam demolition could happen is during 2010-2012, according to a feasibility study completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers four years ago.
In addition to the federal government’s contribution, about $55 million would be required from state and local sources. Almost all of that would come from bonds issued by the state, which has endorsed the project and has assigned the Coastal Conservancy as the point agency for it.
So far, the state has spent several million dollars to design the dam removal project.
But state and federal budget crises have raised questions about the reliability of that funding.
Matilija Dam, built in 1948 for flood control and water storage, has been obsolete for decades, because it quickly filled with sediment from Matilija Canyon runoff. Now, only 5 percent of its storage contains water. Millions of cubic feet of sediment fill the rest of the reservoir.
By Scott Wintermute
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, back by Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies, arrested a murder suspect in Oak View on Tuesday afternoon.
The suspect, Jonathon Van Dyke, was wanted for a robbery and homicide in March 2008 in East Los Angeles. The deputies, both uniformed and in plain clothes, made the arrest in Room 205 of the Oak Ridge Inn.
The suspect was sharing the room with another man, and was working on a construction crew with two other men also staying at the hotel, who were wearing AA1 Services Inc. T-shirts.
One of the men, who said his name was Mike, said “He’s been a pretty good worker.”
Connor DiStasio, 14, and Dakota Crawford, 15, along with Harley Harris, 12, not pictured, and 9-year-old Cade Crawford rushed to extinguish the fire.
By Lenny Roberts
A power outage caused by a blown transformer Friday afternoon inconvenienced shop keepers and residents, but the situation could have been a lot worse.
Capt. Ron Oatman, public information officer for the Ventura County Fire Department, said the call originally came out as a structure fire when smoke was reported at the Ojai Library, 111 E. Ojai Ave. When firefighters from Station 21 arrived, they reported seeing a large head of smoke coming from the pole and downed wires, but no structures were involved.
Station 21 Capt. Dale Cundiff was able to cancel the response of other engine companies after 14-year-old Connor DiStasio, 15-year-old Dakota Crawford, 12-year-old Harley Harris and 9-year-old Cade Crawford had extinguished some flames at Libbey Park that were spotted at the time of the explosions.
The boys were riding their bikes along the Ojai Valley Trail when they saw the flames and grabbed garden hoses to put the fire out. The fire, onlookers said, may have spread to a house only a few feet away had the boys not taken their quick action. Crawford, who has taken military classes in firefighting, was humble in acceptance of the praises of onlookers, saying, “I was just trying to help out a little bit.”
Scott Eicher, Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO, was at his office at the time of the explosion.
“The flames were coming out of the tube attached to the telephone pole,” Eicher said. “I heard three explosions and then moved my car. The second one was about five minutes later and shook the building again. After the second one, the lights and phones went out so I was done for the day.”
Southern California Edison spokeswoman Nancy Williams said the failure of the transformer atop a pole at Topa Topa and Signal streets was the cause of the 4:21 p.m. outage. “There were initially 1,900 customers impacted, and at 4:37, we (restored power) to 1,200. By 5:26, the rest were brought up with the exception of two customers right at the pole,” 201 S. Signal St.
The original boundaries of those affected were Ojai and La Luna avenues, and Montgomery Street and Fairview Road, Williams said.
Skip Faria, district superintendent for Golden State Water Co. said that flooding on South Ventura Street was caused by a severed water line in the aftermath of the explosion.
“The service line was broken and that’s typical of earthquakes when you get that kind of ground movement,” Faria explained. “It’s fortunate that it was mostly in a residential area that affected fewer than a dozen customers.”
Faria said crews were able to quickly turn off the water source and limited the loss to 500 to 600 gallons.
Water service was restored in the neighborhood by 8 p.m.
Photographer Scott Wintermute contributed to this report.
As much as $2.4 million likely for 2009-2010 school year
By Linda Harmon
To make ends meet, local schools may end up with shorter years and bigger class sizes.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the board of the Ojai Unified School District was presented with recommendations for immediate cutbacks due to the accelerating budget problems.
Superintendent Tim Baird outlined the cuts and planned responses to budget shortfalls anticipated to continue for at least two and possibly five years.
Baird explained possible budget scenarios which had been presented at the Governor’s Budget Workshop earlier in the day. Baird recommended the board look at plans for emergency spending cuts not only in the midyear budget, but for the upcoming two years.
“I’d compare the scenario to being in the Army, and you are either being sent to Iraq or Greenland, you have one day to pack and you better start packing now,” said Baird.
Baird announced anticipated reductions of $800,000 for midyear, a reduction of $1.6 million to $2.4 million for the 2009-2010 school year, and at least another additional $800,000 in 2010-2011.
Baird presented two possible courses of action by the legislature in response to the current crisis, and suggested the board have plans in place for either, as soon as possible. Baird said he favors the governor’s plan among “the dismal possibilities” as it provides some flexibility in dealing with the cuts, but added that we’re still “setting the clock back on education.”
“With the governor’s plan we think we have the midyear cuts handled,” said Baird. “There will still be some mandated programs, but with flexibility, we are not to a class size of 50 yet.”
Baird is currently looking at an 18-month budget that includes planning for the 2009-2010 year budget. The district is looking at identifying additional areas for cuts and will establish a priority list, “working on all alternatives simultaneously.”
Planning options include adopting a shortened school year (by five days), recommending increasing class size in second, third and ninth grades only, keeping cash in reserves, and looking at further staff cuts.
“Staffing issues will come first,” said Baird. “We can’t wait on layoff notifications, due by March 15 for certified employees and April 29 for classified.”
The board was also presented with charts of information comparing OUSD wages and benefits to other area schools. According to documents provided, Ojai teachers’ salaries ranked 16th out of 21 districts in Ventura County. Management salary comparisons showed a similar trend placing Ojai employees at or near the bottom when compared to similar districts.
Cash flow is another issue due to budget delays that Baird addressed. He has met with county officials to ensure there is money available for the short-term cash flow problems but cautioned that OUSD’s cash flow still needed to be monitored carefully.
“For example the $300,000 the district set aside and saved for math texts,” said Baird, “they will not be bought this year. Maybe next year we won’t buy the science text we looked at earlier this evening after all.”
According to Baird, if the budget crisis continues as projected, possible actions include further deep layoffs and extensive program cuts. In a worst-case scenario, with no further cuts possible in a bone-dry budget, Baird advises bringing in the county for budget planning, the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team for consultation, and local legislators for emergency legislation.
Baird stated long-term fixes need to be developed instead of the short-term ones the legislature has relied on in the past. With the economy suffering and tightening credit available, the state has hit a wall.
“Our budget crisis is worse because we can’t borrow to ease the crunch,” said Baird. “California has the worst credit rating in the country.”
Baird outlined some possible long-term budget solutions including: the California Teachers’ Association recommended a 1 percent tax designated for education; new ballot initiatives, possibly one in June; legislation forcing acceptance of previous year’s budget for the current year if new budget is not approved by June; a California budget efficiency act that makes passage of the budget possible with a 55 percent majority instead of the current two-thirds requirement.
When asked whether he felt approval of this year’s state budget would be decided soon, Baird replied, “They’re acting as if it’s business as usual.”
Despite the budget gloom, board members made a point of thanking those who have stepped in to help the strapped district. A partial list of donations was read by Linda Taylor, board president. The district has opened an account to hold donations, many coming in $89 amounts replacing the defeated November parcel tax.
“We are thankful to the number of individuals in our community who have stepped up,” said Baird adding, “we all need to get back into that mode.”
In other business, Nordhoff principal Dan Musick presented the Western Association of School and Colleges Accreditation Report produced as part of a state-mandated self-study program for schools. The visiting committee’s report evaluates the school on whether it is accomplishing its stated purposes and functions.
“The report looked at over six years of changes at Nordhoff,” said Musick. It covers five areas: vision and purpose, curriculum and instruction, accessibility, accountability, and school culture. The data includes informational surveys from parents, staff and students, along with state testing. Musick reported the school’s Academic Performance Index had increased by 78 points, the state goal is 800 and Nordhoff’s is now at 775.
“We found that parents felt we were strong scholastically,” said Musick, something brought out in 90 percent scores in English and language arts and almost 90 percent in math exit exams. “They did want us to find more ways to become more career oriented.”
Musick pointed to the past success of “smaller learning communities,” like Nordhoff’s Medical Arts Academy and the new Media Arts Academy, as a way to benefit “middle band” students, who are not in advanced or remedial programs.
The report demographics showed an increase in student Latino population from 19 to 30 percent and noted staff did not meet goals of growth targets for Latino, lower socio-economic groups and special education students.
“Our goals reflect those findings,” said Musick, explaining that each goal has a detailed action plan in the report. “We have added two English classes, literacy classes for 10, 11, and 12, and another class for ELO and special education students who need background courses.”
Architect seeks to preserve character of iconic structure, $3 million expected cost of rebuilding
By Sondra Murphy
Replacing a beloved performing arts venue in a community which values its history and artistic expression is no easy feat, but David Bury feels confident in coming up with a design for rebuilding Libbey Bowl that will preserve its character.
A special joint meeting of the various Ojai commissions and councils took place yesterday in the Boyd Center in order to view the preliminary designs created for the bowl by David Bury & Company Architects, Ltd.
Independent studies undertaken last year concluded that the 52-year-old structure has been irreparably damaged by years of improper drainage and termite rot. As a result, the city of Ojai, the Ojai Music Festival, area foundations, and the Ojai Valley community are joining together to raise $3 million for the rebuilding project.
Construction is projected to begin this summer following the 63rd Ojai Music Festival and will open with the 64th Ojai Music Festival in June 2010.
“This meeting is the first public unveiling of the concept design that the city of Ojai commissioned from David Bury,” said Ojai Festivals executive director Jeff Haydon. “All of our understanding is it’s an unprecedented meeting of every commission in Ojai, as well as the City Council.”
“Libbey Bowl is a critical part of the city’s artistic and cultural identity as well as a vital economic driver. It is important that we ensure its viability for future generations,” said Ojai city manager Jere Kersnar. “The city of Ojai is looking forward to working with the leaders in our community who share the same commitment to rebuilding this internationally beloved landmark.”
Bury explained that it is unusual for a project to have to go before every commission, so the joint meeting was as much a matter of efficiency as input. “There are many challenges to designing this project,” said Bury. “One of them is trying to meet all the needs of the users when each can be very different. We’re trying to address the practical, functional, historical and environmental elements.”
Community input has been important to the project. “The nice thing is the users have been involved with this in a couple of different steps,” Haydon said. “It’s been a joint venture with the city and the community to preserve the future viability of this city assets.”
The Ojai Music Festival board of directors and community volunteers initially built Libbey Bowl in 1957 for a cost of $15,000. It is a primary venue for such events as Ojai Day, Ojai Storytelling Festival, Mexican Fiesta, the Ojai Independence Day concert, Memorial Day celebration, and numerous public school events. Additionally, the Ojai Music Festival has made it an annual international destination for music lovers the world over. Combined events generate over $3 million annually in business and tax revenues for the community and have provided national and international visibility for Ojai.
“There’s no question that Libbey Bowl is one of the most culturally important icons in the Ojai Valley. The important thing for everyone to realize is that, ultimately, this is not an elective process,” said Bury. “We have a decaying structure that, if nothing is done, will result in an unusable facility soon.”
Libbey Bowl has undergone numerous emergency repairs over the past five years, which the city of Ojai, Ojai Music Festival, and community businesses underwrote. These repairs precipitated a full analysis of the bowl in fall 2006 to develop a long-range maintenance schedule. Upon completing the analysis last February, the city of Ojai determined that the bowl was beyond reasonable long-term repairs and recommended that a study be done to completely rebuild the facility. The city also completed immediate repairs to ensure the short-term usability of the bowl.
Last spring, the city of Ojai asked assistance from the Ojai Music Festival, other community users, and Bury in designing a new bowl that retains the character and spirit of the current bowl while improving the functionality of the space for audiences and artists alike.
“We have been so lucky to have and enjoy this treasure — the Libbey Bowl,” said Alan Rains, owner of Rains department store and Music Festival board member. “It’s time for us to step up and rebuild this venue so that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy this valuable community asset.”
While performer and audience features are important to the bowl’s redesign, sustainability will be considered on many levels. “We want to make sure it is built to last for several generations to come,” said Haydon. “When it was originally built, it was done on a shoestring and not really to stand the test of time. This is also an opportunity for another design for green building utilizing natural materials, natural light and habitat. There are a lot of aspects of this project that further Ojai’s goal of becoming a green community. Ojai has always been kind of forward-thinking and this will be one of the early green performing facilities in the country.”
Bury has enjoyed getting input from the stakeholders in the redesign process. “I am particularly fond of modern music, so the opportunity to design a permanent facility for America’s pre-eminent music festival is a dream come true,” he said. “It’s a labor of love.”
To date, the Ojai Music Festival has secured $1 million in gifts and pledges, primarily from the Ojai Valley, as a challenge gift to the city of Ojai and the Ojai community toward the project. The city and some key foundations plan to finalize their contributions in the early spring before the community campaign to raise a projected $1 million in remaining gifts begins in the late spring.
The Rebuild Libbey Bowl campaign needs volunteers to help with the project. To learn about volunteering or making contributions, call 646-3117 or visit the web site at LibbeyBowl.org.
Lawsuit prompted by chain-store ban, housing
By Lenny Roberts
The California Supreme Court Wednesday refused to hear an appeal filed in November by American Civil Liberties Union attorney Peter Eliasberg on behalf of Ojai resident Jeff Furchtencht, who, in 2006, tried to get two initiatives on the general election ballot.
The initiatives, which addressed chain stores and affordable housing, were rejected by Ojai city attorney Monte Widders because Widders believed they were not submitted in the proper manner.
Since the initiatives did not propose legislation, Widders asked Furchtenicht to withdraw, revise and resubmit them. Furch-tenicht refused, and Widders was forced to seek the judicial intervention of the Ventura County Superior Court, according to city officials. A decision by Judge Ken Riley, and later upheld by California 2nd District Court of Appeals Justice Steven Z. Perren, held that Widders had acted properly in refusing to accept Furchtenicht’s initiatives.
In early December, the ACLU asked California’s highest court to review the appeal, which it denied Wedneday.
When notified of that decision, attorney Eliasberg said, “I’m very disappointed and think the court of appeals denial will have a chilling effect on people who want to use the initiative process.”
In a prepared statement, Widders acknowledged that the Supreme Court’s decision was “very satisfying.” Mayor Joe DeVito said, “It is gratifying to have the California courts affirm the actions of our city officials. The issues in the case have long ago been discussed and acted upon by the City Council.”
Furchtenicht did not return a call by press time.
The two-year-long battle cost the city of Ojai $93,810, according to city manager Jerry Kersnar.
By Sondra Murphy
The public’s interest in increasing efforts to organize an Ojai-based public access television station has gotten the attention of the Ojai City Council.
Several speakers brought up the Ojai Valley’s need for public access television during the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting of the council. Because four people addressed the subject, councilwomen Betsy Clapp and Carol Smith requested that the issue be placed on the agenda for the council’s next meeting.
Assembly Bill 2987 altered the regulations for public access to local television production in 2006. Intending to open up access to various media providers by altering franchise regulations, another result was that cable providers such as Time Warner, which provides cable to Ojai, were able to reduce the number of local cable stations they facilitated.
This void has left small communities with the opportunity to take the reins of local television through either governmental or nonprofit efforts. The city of Ojai resolved in 2008 to claim possession of Channel 10 and its equipment, taking over broadcast duties Jan. 1. In November, Ojai Public Works director Mike Culver formed a community task team of interested parties who are working to create a plan for the logistics of such an endeavor.
Public access television must focus on three areas: public information, education and government (P.E.G.). While the city is capable of supplying governmental content like City Council and Planning Commission meetings, the task team is striving to be able to provide the other two components to Channel 10’s broadcasts by enabling community members to submit content as well.
The funding to run a station will continue to come from a percentage of Time Warner’s Ojai franchise profits and is estimated by the city to be about $17,000. Most of the people on the task team acknowledge that this amount is insufficient, but Ojai Unified School District offered to run the station through its Nordhoff High School Media Arts Academy in exchange for the $17,000 to kick-start the effort. Superintendent Tim Baird said that the district would then look for grants and other ways to supplement operational costs and a supervising teacher.
“I got involved with the Ojai public access television efforts because I saw a very unique situation developing and was uncomfortable with the cable TV station going blank Dec. 31,” said P.E.G. task team member and director of community relations for OUSD, Jim Berube, at Tuesday’s council meeting. “We have a lot of young, energetic kids at the high school involved in the video technology class and I can see in the future a public access class that we could start right away that will probably be the most popular class on campus.”
Berube referenced the rich resources that local citizens could offer, both to benefit a public access channel and the training process of NHS students in learning television production. “We have a studio set up already with our Media Arts Academy,” said Berube. “I can envision a lot of things already happening at the high school and in our community that could be covered. The district is prepared to work with your staff to work out a solid proposal with you folks.”
Task team member and public access TV producer Lee Fitzgerald expressed similar sentiments. “I don’t want Ojai to lose public access TV,” he said. “My dream is to have kids take a part, through OUSD, and learn how to run the station.”
“I am speaking tonight for supporting public access TV as a person interested in public safety,” said Karen McCauley, who referenced the concerns about the Ojai Valley becoming isolated in the case of valleywide emergencies, such as floods or fires, as well as the need for volunteers to assist people struggling in today’s troublesome economic climate. “Our community has so many wonderful nonprofits, it would be wonderful to give them access to television time.”
“I would ask that someone put P.E.G. on the agenda at the next meeting or some time soon because nothing can be discussed unless it’s on the agenda,” said Lenny Klaif. “Even if all that happens is staff says, ‘This is how far it’s gotten.’ The public has a lot of interest in this and if it’s an agenda item, members of the council can ask questions.”
Clapp concurred. “Because it is something that people want to speak to, we should place it on the agenda.” Smith voiced her agreement, which allowed the subject to be placed on the next agenda scheduled for Jan. 27.
The Ojai P.E.G. task team meets again Wednesday. It currently consists of representatives from the City Council, School District, Ministerial Association, and OVN, as well as individuals experienced in emergency preparedness, technology and public access TV production. For more information, contact Culver at 640-2560 or email@example.com.
Annual youth Foundation celebration set for Libbey Park
By Sondra Murphy
The Ojai Valley Youth Foundation has made final its Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration schedule and is ready to host another inspiring and entertaining experience in Libbey Park.
John R. Hatcher III will be the featured speaker for this ninth annual free event. He is president of the Ventura County Chapter of NAACP.
Hatcher is a native of Birmingham, Ala., and has been a prominent figure in the civil rights movement for many years, heading the county NAACP chapter for 20 years. Hatcher has also served on the State of California Civil Rights Task Force and the Black American Political Association of California, is past president of Southern Area NAACP, and chairman of the five area presidents of NAACP, which includes nine states.
Now retired from the U.S. Air Force, Hatcher served the last two years of his 22 years of service as superintendent of social action for the Air Defense Command.
His many awards include the USAF Commendation Medal, the USAF Outstanding Education Award, the Vietnam Meritorious Service Award, and Citizen of the Year Award for the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He continues to work for civil rights while pursuing a master’s degree and doing public speaking on equal employment opportunity, human relations and race relations.
Hatcher’s passion for sharing the history of the civil rights struggles have him excited to be a part of the Youth Foundation’s MLK Day events. “I accepted the invitation to speak because the story and the history should be told forever,” said Hatcher. “I will speak about how I grew up in Birmingham and about how, as a young man up until I was 18, we were denied the right to vote. That’s an independent feeling, to vote for whomever I want.”
Like others, the fact the King holiday falls the day before Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration makes the day even more historic. “I never thought I would live to see that,” said Hatcher. “I tell my kids, my nephews and nieces, if my father was living, he would be rejoicing.”
Hatcher feels that to have a day honoring King is important to the African-American community. “I don’t think that Dr. King would have endorsed a holiday for him. Dr. King was a kind of private person, although he affected so many people in his life,” said Hatcher. “But the people in the community like myself and others, enjoy having a day when the only African-American man in history, until recently, is celebrated.”
Hatcher sees the election of Obama as the direct result of so many people of all races and backgrounds working so long for civil rights. “I sat with tears in my eyes when Obama was elected, because we all participated. We all made that happen.”
Others slated to appear Monday include gospel choir Living Sacrifice, Ojai’s own Julie Christensen and presentations by students of many of the Ojai Valley’s schools. OVYF also organized an essay contest for students throughout the valley and three will read their winning essays to the downtown crowd.
Also returning to Ojai is hip-hop musician and poet Gill Sotu, a 2008 semifinalist in the National Poetry Slam, 2007 Los Angeles Gang Green Grand Slam champion, 2006 Ventura County Grand Slam Poetry champion and three-time winner of the annual Poetry Slam at Borders Bookstore from 2004 to 2006. Locals may remember Sotu as the former host of “Train of Thought,” a weekly open mike slam held in various venues around Ventura County.
This year’s MLK Day theme is “The Unity of Humanity: Assert Your Interdependence.” The theme comes from an idea generated by King’s 1962 speech, “The Ethical Demands for Integration.”
“Our youth and adult planning committee decided on this theme, as they believed it would be important to express working together for a common goal,” said OVYF program manager Laura Charles. “And, no matter what your background, beliefs or opinions are, the common goal is to ensure that humanity thrives working together to promote equality and social justice for all.”
The 2009 OVYF Martin Luther King Jr. celebration youth committee members are co-chairs Gus Hoffman and Mackenzie Russell, Emily Cohen, Andria Mendoza, Matt Russell, Meagan Sanders, and Helen Seligman. Adult committee members are Kate Hoffman, Lanny and Rondia Kaufer, David Mendoza, Kate Russell, Carmen Seligman and Charles.
Community sponsors for the OVYF 2009 MLK Jr. celebration include Washington Mutual (Chase Bank), the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors and the Ocone Family. For more information on getting involved with or becoming a co-sponsor of this event, contact Charles at the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 640-9555.
Since taking on the coordination of MLK day in the Ojai Valley, OVYF has transformed the celebration of King’s life and work into a collaborative yearly reminder of the glory of the human spirit. “This year being our ninth annual MLK Jr. Day celebration symbolizes an important turning point for us as we gather together to focus on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. which precedes the inauguration of our 44th president,” said OVYF executive director Joanna Iwata. “Mr. Hatcher, known for his civil rights work in Ventura County, will speak on a timely topic, ‘Unity in Humanity: Assert Your Interdependence’ — all of which allows us to reflect on the different challenges and opportunities facing our community that affect both our youth and adults.
“When we consider what it requires from all of us to do our share to transform our society and our valley, I am reminded that it takes a whole village to work together on what matters, as no one person, one group or organization or one leader can do this alone. Thus it seems appropriate that we have a special occasion like this to come together, unity, to reflect on important causes, humanity, which focuses on our interdependence, which, this year, allows all of us to be a part of a once-in-a-lifetime historical celebration both locally and nationally here in Ojai.”
Events take place Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m in Libbey Park. The schedule is as follows.
10:50 a.m., Drumline
11 a.m., Mayor
11:05 a.m., Julie Tumamait
11:15, Ryan Dietz
11:30 a.m., Oak Grove Preschool
11:40 a.m., Monica Ros Preschool
11:55 a.m., Nordhoff A Capella
12:15 p.m., Essay Winner No. 1
12:20 p.m., Barbara Brown’s Class, Topa Topa School
12:30 p.m., Jazz Combo
12:50 p.m., Essay Winner No. 2, ARC
12:55 p.m., Emy Reynolds
1:10 p.m., Julie Christensen
1:30 p.m., Gill Sotu
2 p.m., John Hatcher
2:40 p.m., Living Sacrifice
3:10 p.m., Essay Winner No. 3
3:15 p.m. Happy Valley Band
3:35 p.m. Living Sacrifice
3:50 p.m., MLK “Dream” Speech, Closing
On Wednesday, narcotics investigators from the Ventura Police Department, aided by the Ventura County Combined Agency Task Force, arrested Neil Hansen at the 100 block of South Lomita Avenue in Meiners Oaks. Hansen was charged with manufacturing of methamphetamines, child endangerment, possession of drugs while armed and possession of drugs for sale. Hansen was one of three people arrested during raids on suspected meth lab locations in Ojai, Oak View and Santa Paula. Also arrested were Blaise Bakken of Oak View and Jesse Crockett of Santa Paula. Hazardous waste removal teams are assisting in cleanup efforts.
For Ojai, a year of living cautiously
By Daryl Kelley
For Ojai city government, 2009 could be a year of living dangerously, or at least cautiously.
An expected decline in hotel and property taxes threatens to deplete a once-robust budget surplus during the coming year.
“It is scary,” said city manager Jere Kersnar this week. “Hotel (taxes) were bad in November and just OK in December. And my worry is that we haven’t hit bottom yet. It feels like we’re waiting for the shoe to drop, but it hasn’t dropped yet.”
As city analysts prepare a budget update this month, Kersnar said it should become more clear how much the faltering economy has curtailed city revenue.
Unlike many California cities, which began to retrench a year ago amid shriveling tax receipts, Ojai was still projecting a $500,000 surplus out of an $8.4-million budget at the end of September, after the first quarter of the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
“But my worry is the second half of the fiscal year and the year after that,” Kersnar said.
Ojai has been in a relatively good financial position because hotel bed taxes make up an unusually large portion of the city budget, about one-third. And local hotels — primarily the Ojai Valley Inn — did relatively well in 2008, he said.
Sales taxes from the city’s shops also remained sound, since Ojai has none of the huge major retailers on which most other cities live or die financially. Only about 15 percent of Ojai’s budget revenue comes from sales.
“It’s sort of the silver lining,” Kersnar said. “We don’t have the auto dealerships, home improvement and big box stores, so there’s tax leakage to other cities. But the other side of it is that many of those stores are the most volatile. When times are tough, people won’t do the big spending. But we have a lot of small stores in town and they’re doing OK.”
Indeed, through the three months ending Sept. 30, local sales taxes were up 4.5 percent from the same quarter in 2007 and ahead of the budget projection of 3 percent.
But times may be changing, Kersnar said.
Not only did November hotel taxes crater, but the sales price of houses has plummeted in recent months, meaning that the taxable value of those sold has likely declined, in many cases to the lower values of 2004 or earlier.
Also, the county assessor’s office is fielding a flood of applications by homeowners for re-appraisals, which could further reduce revenue, Kersnar said.
But reappraisal of houses to their 2009 values won’t be done until later this year, so Ojai and other local governments are still spending on taxes from the higher values of recent years.
“(Money) is always the biggest issue for us,” Kersnar said. “But this year, times are tough. It’s scary. It really is the year of living dangerously.”
While city managers such as Kersnar are expected to budget cautiously, past frugality may help in the year to come. That’s because several major city projects have already been fully or partially funded, Kersnar said.
The city’s $100,000 contribution to the new $350,000 skate park has already been set aside. The $500,000 needed for street resurfacing is in hand from local and state sources. And the city’s $100,000 share of the first $1 million raised to refurbish Ojai’s centerpiece Libbey Bowl is secure, although the project’s total cost is more than $3 million over several years.
Still, some projects are questionable for the coming year. For example, the extension of Fulton Street to Bryant Street to reduce congestion out of the city’s industrial park is questionable. This 10-year effort has finally met environmental requirements and the city now owns the land, but money to build the extension may not be available, Kersnar said.
“At least for the near term, most of the capital projects are funded or on the way to being funded,” he said.
Another variable, however, is how the state’s yawning $40-billion budget deficit over the next 18 months is going to affect Ojai, Kersnar said.
Although this city depends less on state funds than most, it could still be hit with cuts, he said.
For example, the state provides the city’s $65,000-a-year portion of the cost of a police officer stationed on the Nordhoff High School campus, he said. And, of course, Ojai public school funding, which provides the rest of the officer’s funding, is also being threatened during ongoing state budget negotiations.
“That’s just one example of the effects of the state budget mess,” Kersnar said.
Historically, in tough economic times, the state has balanced its budget by withdrawing tax money from local governments that it has pledged to pass through. These so-called SB 90 dollars are supposed to pay for programs the state has required local governments to provide without reliable funding.
Ojai doesn’t receive much from these pass-through dollars, but it could be hurt somewhat, Kersnar said.
“Every time the state gets in trouble, they want to do these Band-Aid solutions,” he said. “That’s frustrating because we have to balance the budget too. We have to make choices; we don’t get to steal other people’s money.”
Fortunately for the Ojai City Council, the choice this year may be deciding how much the city can afford to set aside as a rainy day fund for the future. The city had hoped to build its reserves to close to its goal of $4 million in the next year with another $500,000 surplus from 2008-2009.
But now it’s unclear how much extra money the city will have.
That could affect improvements to city services such as hiring a part-time code enforcement officer to make sure residents don’t violate city laws by illegally converting garages into rentals or by parking on their lawns or storing Rvs and boats in front of their houses.
“It’s hard to talk about adding staff right now,” Kersnar said.
But other key issues facing the city council do not require city spending.
Among those to be considered in coming weeks is a change in the city’s redevelopment plan that would allow it to collect $14 million more over the next 30 years for improvements along east and west Ojai Avenue.
Also, at the top of the council agenda is the question of how it should meet state mandates to provide more affordable housing. One possible answer is to grant amnesty to those who have allowed illegal dwellings on their property if they will bring those dwellings up to city code.
A city report determined last year that there are more than 300 illegal dwellings in the city.
“Should we legalize some of these illegal residences and claim credit for them as new low-income housing? Or do we really want to reward those who broke the law by allowing these residences,” Kersnar has said. “Do we promote property owners’ willing participation to bring these residences up to standard, or do we punish them for violating the law? That will be a policy decision by the council.”
At issue, is how the city can address a state quota that requires it to provide 465 new affordable dwellings, despite a shortage of bare land and the traffic and smog problems that growth would bring to this narrow valley served by two-lane highways.
The council must also deal with a second benchmark plan within the first few weeks of 2009 — how to extend the life of its Redevelopment Agency.
The council, acting as the city Redevelopment Agency board, must focus on how it can continue to refurbish the city’s core as the agency approaches a cap on how much it can collect in property taxes.
Since its founding in 1972, the Redevelopment Agency has captured about $19 million in property tax that would otherwise have gone to other government entities. But, with soaring property values during the last decade, the agency is now approaching a $23.2-million cap on how much it can collect.
That means that by 2012, the agency could be effectively out of the redevelopment business, and the city would be hard-pressed to find another source for the $1 million a year the agency collects.
A top redevelopment lawyer has said the city may extend Redevelopment Agency collections, however. That’s because Ojai’s collections cap may apply only to its original redevelopment zone, its aging core, and not to two newer, smaller redevel-opment zones for east and west Ojai Avenue and Bryant Street, the lawyer said.
Also new this year is the composition of the council itself. Incumbent Sue Horgan was returned by voters in the fall election. But incumbent Rae Hanstad has been replaced by businesswoman Betsy Clapp, the top vote-getter in November.
“Rae served the role of facilitator, the person who worked to find the middle ground,” Kersnar said. “That’s always the thing about councils, to see how they work together as a group.”
Oak View man survives New Year’s Day attack in Ojai in an apparent attempted murder
By Lenny Roberts
According to his father, it’s a classic example of wrong place, wrong time.
Fresno resident Jerry Powers said Monday his 27-year-old son, Oak View resident Joshua Ray Powers, was left for dead in the 200 block of Waite Street at 1:30 a.m. News Year’s Day after being stabbed 17 times about his side and back. “They sliced both sides of his shoulder blades down to bone. They were trying to cut his spinal cord,” the elder Powers alleged.
The victim, a former local forestry worker and Ojai resident, had recently returned to the valley after working construction in New York until about a month ago. He and his wife, who works at a local restaurant, just learned they are parents-to-be, according to Jerry Powers.
“He was walking home from party with a friend,” Powers said. But the victim soon found himself alone when the friend was given a ride just before the attack. “He isn’t real clear on what happened. By the grace of God, someone passed by and saw a body laying in the gutter. He would have bled to death.”
According to the police report, the victim was transported by ambulance to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital in critical condition.
Notified of the attack by a relative, Powers made the four-hour trip from Fresno and was initially told by hospital officials his son would spend three to four weeks in the hospital because of his extensive injuries. Powers arrived to see his son in a drug-induced coma.
His prognosis improved on Sunday, however, and, according to the senior Powers, he was taken off the coma-inducing drugs and was able to walk to the bathroom with his father’s help.
Sheriff’s Special Services Commander and former Ojai Police Chief Gary Pentis said Tuesday there was not much information in the case and the public’s help is needed. “It was a vicious attack with in excess of 13 stab wounds, and it appears to be an attempted murder,” Pentis said.
Anyone with information related to this incident is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Department at 646-1414.
Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. The caller may remain anonymous and the call is not recorded. Call Crime Stoppers at 494-TALK.
Anonymous donation gives DUI-preventing service another opportunity
By Sondra Murphy
An anonymous donation will allow the Ojai downtown shuttle to continue service for several more weeks. “I think I can make it last till around mid-March because gas is not as expensive,” said shuttle driver Dutch Van Hemert. “It was really, really cool getting this donation. Unbelievable.”
Loss of merchant support for the shuttle service has created a financial hardship for Van Hemert, who has been spending his own money to keep the service alive. Van Hemert estimated that he had driven more than 10,000 people to all parts of the Ojai Valley in the 11 months of the shuttle’s existence.
Economic downturns were attributed as the reason merchants stopped contributing to the service that customers could call for transportation home after a night out on the town. Van Hemert was optimistic that the anonymous contribution would buy the shuttle some time to reorganize.
“Dutch and I are still talking about how we can keep the service going after that,” said shuttle co-founder Nigel Chisholm on the OVN blog Monday.
Chisholm added that the shuttle is not just for inebriated customers. “It also takes folks home who are alone and feel unsafe walking,” he said in the blog. “In addition, if that weren’t enough, the shuttle takes home local restaurant employees when they get off their shifts. It also provides a viable option to those who, for whatever reason, cannot, will not, or should not drive. The notion that the shuttle only carries drunk people home is inaccurate. It is much, much more than that. It is something that deserves broad support from the city, businesses and the citizenry of this community.”
One idea that may be looked at is tokens sold by merchants to shuttle customers that Van Hemert may redeem periodically so that business owners are confident their customers used the shuttle.
“I thought I was going to have a couple of weekends off, but now I have to show some good will and get to work,” Van Hemert said, “so I did it last Saturday night.”
To schedule a pickup, leave a message at 340-6850. The donation is to cover fuel and vehicle maintenance. Van Hemert still works on a gratuity basis, so return the good will and budget in a tip for his efforts when using the shuttle service during this reprieve.
Sending text messages while driving now illegal
By Misty Volaski
The rumors are true: as of yesterday, texting while driving will be an illegal infraction in the state of California. Although over the past few years texting has become a quick, popular and convenient way to communicate with people of all ages, the state Legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the no-texting ban into law for the new year.
“The overall safety of the motoring public is our primary concern,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.
If caught writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device, like a cell phone or PDA, the infraction will cost the offender a $20 fine for the first offense. Subsequent violations will increase the fine to $50.
A Nationwide Insurance study found that 18 percent of all drivers, and 39 percent of drivers age 18 to 30, have texted while driving at least once before.
Accurate statistics on cell phone-related traffic collisions, however, are difficult to come by; after all, it’s one thing to admit to cell phone usage on a survey, but quite another to admit the same to a law enforcement officer. Whenever there is a traffic collision in this area, said Senior Deputy Jim Popp, public information officer and traffic expert for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department-Ojai Substation, “Every time, we always ask them if they were using a cell phone. And they say, ‘No, no, no.’ So we don’t know for sure.”
Churches offer hot meals, warm place to sleep
By Sondra Murphy
With the weather turning cold and rainy, locals without homes are eligible to use the Ojai Valley Family Shelter for a warm place to rest and have a hot meal.
In its 16th year, the shelter locations change each night to one of six participating sites. Host locations are the Ojai Valley Grange, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Ojai Presbyterian Church, First Baptist Church and Ojai Valley Wesleyan Church.
“To my knowledge, we’re averaging 15 to 18 people per night,” said Pastor Lyn Thomas, of Ojai Valley Wesleyan Church. “Currently this season, we haven’t seen any children. We do have one couple and one or two other women who are staying at the shelter. Otherwise we’re seeing single men, a minority of whom have work.” The shelter is open from Dec. 1 to March 31 each year. “For the guests who stay, we do require some kind of Ojai Valley connection, such as they lived here in the past or have family here,” said Thomas.
Shelter guests are given a hot meal, foam mattress and access to a mobile shower facility four nights a week. Each site arranges the meals and Thomas said The Thacher School and Oak View Women’s Club are among those who contribute meals on his church’s host nights. “We also have a family that brings Christmas dinner each year,” said Thomas.
Rick Raine started off volunteering as an overnight host about 12 years ago and is now the shelter administrator. “My church, the Ojai Valley Community Church, put a notice in the bulletin that they needed someone to help out,” said Raine. ”The next year they needed a site coordinator, so I volunteered for that.”
Raine said volunteers are crucial to the success of the cold weather shelter. “We couldn’t do this without all the volunteers,” he said. “Everything is donated, the food, everything. We are a donation-based organization and get no government funding.” Raine said that one church was underwriting the shelter, but had to stop because of the economic climate. “Donations have definitely gone down.”
Each shelter site abides by rules and guidelines for an integrated approach to the effort, which Thomas said is well organized. “On the whole, we never know exactly how many volunteers we have, but our estimation is 200 or more people each season,” he said. Besides assisting shelter guests, volunteers help with general housekeeping needs, such as laundry.
“As far as the actual production each night, it is really quite autonomous,” Thomas said. “You can think of it as the shelter is the franchiser and the sites, the franchises.”
Both Thomas and Raine attributed the people involved with the shelter as the reason they continue assisting with the efforts. “The people, they’re very nice,” said Raine. “I would say there are at least 30 different church groups, service clubs and individuals who participate. Some sites have four or five different groups that come in, like the Boy Scouts, Nordhoff’s Interact Club and Villanova. During the winter season, we’re all an extended family.”
Thomas echoed the sentiment. “Some of the nicest people you would want to meet are at the Ojai Valley Family Shelter, on both the guest side and the volunteer side,” he said. “Right now, we are looking for a genuine mechanic who would take a personal interest in our shower vehicle. It’s a recreational vehicle that’s been remodeled with a full shower and it travels with the sites.”
“The shower unit needs to last a long time,” added Raine.
The volunteers have a lot of compassion for the guests. “There are a lot of root causes of their homelessness,” Raine said.
“Some people have just been dealt a bad hand and, along with the choices they’ve made, find themselves here,” said Thomas.
For the people who help the shelter offer a safe haven to Ojai’s homeless, Thomas summed up a common motivating factor: “There but for the grace of God go I.” That empathetic sentiment keeps the shelter operating year in and year out to benefit those who need a little helping hand during the cold months.
“There’s a difference between homelessness and houselessness,” Thomas said. “For the majority of our guests, the Ojai Valley is their home, but they don’t have a house. The flip side of that is that many people might have a house in Ojai, but it’s not their home.”
For more information about volunteering or using the facility, leave a message at 804-7094. Check-in is at 6 p.m. each day, with placement priority given to families, women, working men, then all others.
Ojai Valley Family Shelter
Ojai Valley Grange, 381 Cruzero St.
St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 185 St. Thomas Drive
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 409 Topa Topa Drive
Ojai Presbyterian Church, 304 N. Foothill Road
Ojai Valley Grange, 381 Cruzero St.
First Baptist Church, 930 Grand Ave.
Ojai Valley Wesleyan Church, 105 Topa Topa St.
A look back at the first half of 2008
• About 100 diverse friends and family members came together for a memorial service in honor of Jeffrey W. San Marchi, editor of the Ojai & Ventura Voice bimonthly newspaper. San Marchi died of a heart attack Dec. 23 after collapsing while delivering papers in Ventura.
• The “Early Bird Shopper” sculpture that welcomes people to the Arcade Plaza was reported stolen Wednesday afternoon. The whimsical 4-foot-high bronze sculpture of a Chumash bird woman by noted Ojai artist Sylvia Raz was valued at about $10,000.
• Since the announce-ment of the closure of Oak Tree House, the adult day activity facility at the West Santa Ana Street site, an anonymous donation has been received toward paying rent on the Fox Street Community Assist-ance Program office and local churches are indicating support to use the site for at least another six months.
• A single-vehicle crash early Sunday morning on East Ojai Avenue in front of Ojai Lumber killed a 34-year-old man reportedly visiting from Italy. The visitor, Andreas Zini, was pronounced dead at the Ventura County Medical Center several hours after the 12:34 a.m. accident. According to Ojai Chief of Police Bruce Norris, the driver of the car, Ojai resident Roger Avary, 43, failed to negotiate a turn in the highway and crashed into a power pole.
• Three adult steelhead trout were discovered climbing the Robles Fish Ladder on the Ventura River in recent days, the first such sightings of the endangered fish at the ladder in two years, authorities said.
• Deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department’s Gang Unit arrested two men and a 17-year-old juvenile Tuesday night on suspicion of the attempted murder of a alleged OSL gang member Jan. 5 on Fox Street.
• Three days into a Superior Court trial, parents who’d claimed their children were harassed after they complained about profanity and sexual content in a book withdrew their lawsuit against the Ojai Unified School District, ending three years of controversy and expense.
• Local attorney Cathy Elliott Jones has settled the $10-million civil rights claim she filed against the Ojai Police Department after the police chief pulled her from a candidates’ forum he said she was disrupting and arrested her in October 2006. “A settlement was reached with her for $22,500 simply for economic reasons,” said Alan Wisotsky, whose Oxnard firm represents the county Sheriff’s Depart-ment, which provides police protection in Ojai.
• Capital project funds of $100,000 were allocated to the future remodel of Libbey Bowl at Tuesday night’s Planning Commi-ssion meeting.
• The directors of Casitas Municipal Water District voted 3 to 2 this week to shut Lake Casitas down to outside boats for up to a year to avert a potential infestation of the destructive quagga mussel.
• Steve Bennett became the first county supervisor in at least two decades to run for re-election unchallenged on the primary ballot, after county Republicans failed in a year-long attempt to recruit a serious opponent to the veteran Democratic lawmaker.
• Cliff Farrar, Nordhoff High School’s football coach since 1987, an-nounced Thursday that he was leaving the Rangers to take over the head coaching position for the Bulldogs of Buena High School. Farrar racked up 150 wins and 89 losses during his 21 seasons.
• Owners of the Ozena Valley Sand and Gravel Mine and the Virgilio Family Trust filed a lawsuit against Ventura County last week, for allegedly changing the scope of their permitted operations without prior notice, hearing or environmental review, according to the lawsuit.
• After its mysterious theft over New Year’s weekend, the “Early Bird Shopper” statue was found about 300 yards above the Shelf Road Trail.
• Directors of the Meiners Oaks County Water District voted Monday to raise the water rates of the typical residential customer nearly two and a half times over the next five years, a boost officials said would still leave rates at the tiny district lower than at others in the Ojai Valley.
A look at the second half of 2008
• The energy crisis has given rise to a new type of fueling station in Ojai, biodiesel. The Ventura County Biodiesel Cooperative is having its grand opening July 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Help of Ojai’s West Campus, 370 Baldwin Road. The solar-powered traveling fuel pump can hold over 1,000 gallons of fuel, which the group purchases and then retails. Interested customers normally will go online to become a purchasing member, but for the opening day only, the cooperative plans on offering a one-day membership to try their fuel.
• A large male black bear was spotted wandering around Meiners Oaks. The bear, frightened by news helicopters flying overhead, began climbing down the tree. California Department Fish and Game Officer Chris Long shot the bear with tranquilizer darts, causing it to have a dramatic fall, though it appeared that the bear was unhurt. After allowing local children to have an up-close look at the bear, it was taken to Rose Valley and released.
• Overall, Ojai experienced 92 serious crimes from January through June, compared with 148 for the same period last year and 139 for the first half of 2006, reported the county Sheriff’s Department, which polices Ojai and the rest of the Ojai Valley. In the city of Ojai, there were reports of only seven serious violent offenses — rapes, robberies and assaults (no murders) — during the first half of this year. But petty thefts were cut by more than half, from 87 to 38, accounting for most of the overall drop.
• Jeff Furchtenicht appealed the November 2006 court denial of his anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation)motion against the city. Furchtenicht and Chait deny that the ACLU has any intention of changing thelaw. “It’s the exact opposite,” said Furchtenicht. “The ACLU is actually trying to defend the existing law. What Monte did was violate the existing statute.”
• Bruce Norris’ tenure as Ojai’s chief of police is coming to an end. City manager Jere Kersnar said Wednesday that Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Dunn has been appointed as Norris’ replacement effective Sept. 22. Dunn, a Camarillo resident, brings more than 20 years of law enforcement experience to the position of Ojai’s top cop.
• An Ojai man escaped death in the Chatsworth Metrolink train accident that occurred after an engineer failed to stop at the final red signal, according to an Associated Press article. The commuter train was carrying 220 people, 138 were injured and 25 killed in the accident.
• Beginning in January, Ojai’s public access station will be in the hands of the city, which still has little if any spending money to spare. Local public access Channel 10, offering everything from John Wilcock’s low-budget video travelogue, to lectures by the late philosopher and spiritual speaker J. Krishnamurti, may be showing nothing except government meetings in the coming year.
• Vandalism at Villanova Preparatory School has the valley talking about the spray painting of a statue of St. Thomas of Villanova and other destructions perpetrated. Extensive graffiti insults referenced NHS and the football game and Villanova’s pool and football field were also damaged. As many as eight suspects have been identified as participants in the vandalism
• City staff and council members came together to mend the rift that has drawn them apart from members of Skate Ojai and local skateboarders over the past few weeks. “We are here to build a park,” said Mayor Sue Horgan. “It will not be easy, there will be bumps in the road, but we are going to do it.”
• The monthly water bill of the typical Ojai customer of the Golden State Water Company would be hiked 4.38 percent on top of a 35 percent increase granted earlier this year under a new proposal by the San Dimas based water firm. The new increase is couched as a means to promote water conservation, not as a way to increase revenues, because it would reduce the basic monthly service fee by about $5 while charging customers who use little water lower rates than those who use more.
• The flames of the Tea Fire crossed all lines it encountered in Montecito and Santa Barbara, Ojai’s neighbors to the north. The fire was contained at 1,940 acres though more than 300 homes remained evacuated and 210 homes were destroyed. Fire costs exceeded $6 million.
• City Council members approved $167,000 in net surplus from the 2007-2008 fiscal year to go toward maintenance projects that have been waiting on the back burner. Revenue budgeted for this year is $8.84 million in revenues with $8.3 million in expected expenses, for a net surplus of $540,000. However, for the first quarter of this fiscal year, which ended in September, the city has collected $64,000 less than expected, said Jere Kersnar, city manager.
• O s c a r – w i n n i n g screenwriter Roger Avary has pleaded not guilty to gross vehicular man-slaughter while intoxicated, resulting from a late-night car crash near Ojai in January in which a man was killed and Avary’s wife was injured. Defense attorney Mark Werksman entered not guilty pleas Friday to three main felony counts and five special circumstances, while a grim 43-year-old Avary.
• The new Emergency Room will be twice the size of the old one, going from three beds to six, and will offer greater privacy and comfort for patients and their family, said Whaley. A new waiting and admitting area will also be added to the facility. The community is paying for at least half of the $1.8 million project through the OVCH Foundation and OVCH Guild.
• George Nicholas Skan, a junior, and Tyler Collins Cook, a Senior, were located safe and sound Tuesday at 9 a.m at the Santa Barbara Airport, where, according to a Sheriff’s Department press release, they were attempting to board an airplane to an u n d i s c l o s e d destination. They were soon relocated with their anxious families.
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S PRESS RELEASE
In the early morning hours of January 1, 2009, Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputies and emergency medical personnel responded to a report of a 27-year-old male assault victim in the 200 block of Waite Street in Ojai. Deputies located and contacted the victim, who was suffering from multiple stab wounds. The victim was transported by ambulance to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital where he was listed in “critical condition.” Anyone with information related to this incident is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Department. Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. The caller may remain anonymous. The call is not recorded. Call Crime Stoppers at (805) 494-TALK.