LAFCO seeks CSD Consolidation
Daggett, Newberry Springs, Yermo affected.

Newberry Springs the bad boy.

Consolidation favored by the Grand Jury.

August 25, 2014

    Like another bad dream that keeps returning, the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) is coming back again proposing that Daggett, Newberry Springs, and Yermo consolidate their Community Service Districts (CSDs).

    Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, Executive Officer, and Michael Turpe, Project Manager, of LAFCO for San Bernardino County, recently met with representatives from the three CSDs for consultation.  The meeting took place last week in Yermo.

    Rollings-McDonald, who has been a strong advocate for CSD consolidation for years, has now been encouraged by the 2012-2013 Grand Jury Report that has made a recommendation that the three CSDs unite.  The scathing Grand Jury report attacked the incompetency, irresponsibility, and the overall mismanagement of the Newberry CSD.

    As the three CSDs are analyzed separately but together by LAFCO in their 5-year review, the mismanagement of one can impact the others.

    Through consolidation, it is felt that the financial resources of the three CSDs could be pooled to hire professional management that would better benefit the communities. The communities, on the other hand, are fiercely independent and demonstrated their local desire to remain independent on January 21, 2009 when they filled a LAFCO called general meeting at the Silver Valley High School auditorium during the previous review process.

    A consolidation of the three CSDs would need voter approval which would be highly unlikely.

    The emphasis for a consolidation need has focused on the Newberry CSD, considered a bad apple.  With the Newberry CSD's earlier constant violations of procedures and state law, the Grand Jury's report and presentation to the Superior Court has already forced some radical changes within the Newberry CSD.

    Le Hayes, a recent retiree to Newberry Springs and previous General Manager of the Baker CSD, has been hired by the Newberry CSD as its General Manager.  The highly respected Hayes has introduced a professional skill level previously lacking in Newberry Springs.  Hayes has properly seized the reigns and has eliminated the inappropriate micromanagement of board members over the daily CSD operations.  The board's duty is policy making and general oversight of the GM and treasury; not general management.

    Hayes brings a uniqueness with him.  Some past, good General Managers appear to have had their job security intimidated, and their performance affected, by overreaching and meddling board members who have the power to fire the GM at their whim.  Hayes on the other hand was initially reluctant in taking the position and has only done so to help his newly adopted community.  If the board doesn't want to follow the proper rules, he'll happily go back into retirement and let the board deal with the court oversight.

    With a long-term culture of poor CSD procedures to correct, the office and Board are a work in progress for Hayes; however, many good improvements are already recognizable.  The current board appears highly supportive of Hayes.

    Residents enjoy the feeling that they hold some local control over some matters effecting them; and they want the CSD.  However, the Newberry CSD's past has severely stunted the progressive growth of Newberry Springs.  This appears to be due to the background and the lack of professionalism of most of those who run for and who acquire seats on the board.  Although excellent citizens who mean well; historically, they have lacked vision; and they have spent uncountable hours squabbling over petty and trivial issues.  Board after board have failed to identify and meet the needs of the community.

    What the Grand Jury report has clearly demonstrated is that Newberry Springs is lousy at mustering people from within its own community capable of managing its simple community services; these include its volunteer fire department, parks and recreation, and street lighting.  With the Grand Jury mandates, the CSD is lucky to have acquired Hayes, so there is good hope and promise.

    Another form of community management that has been largely overlooked for Newberry Springs has been a Municipal Advisory Council.  This would consist of the CSD powers being returned to the county with the local county supervisor appointing a group of local citizens to advise him of the issues and local desires of the community.

    Under a Municipal Advisory Council, communities like Lucerne have access to county professionals, and Lucerne has done far better in acquiring community infrastructures than Newberry Springs has under a CSD.

    The communities of Daggett, Newberry Springs, and Yermo are now having their 5-year LAFCO review finalized.  LAFCO's draft evaluation and recommendations are what LAFCO recently consulted the CSDs on; checking for errors and seeking CSD input.  LAFCO is also consulting with county fire and the county itself.

    The final LAFCO staff recommendation draft will be presented in advance of a Public Hearing that is expected to take place sometime in November 2014 at the Silver Valley High School's auditorium.  Notices will be sent to all properties owners and registered voters in Daggett, Newberry Springs, and Yermo.  Notices will also be published.  The LAFCO draft report will be available online and anyone without Internet access can request a CD copy be mailed to them.  (Note: The final draft will NOT be available until late October or early November.)

    After the public hearing in November, the LAFCO staff's draft report with community input will be finalized and presented to the LAFCO commission in January 2015.  The commission does not meet in December.

    LAFCO staff's desire is to have all three CSDs consolidate; however, recognizing the resistance to such, in the alternative, they will also be strongly recommending the consolidation of Daggett and Yermo.

    Consolidation of the three (or two) CSDs is expected to address possible improvement in administrative efficientency only.  Community services, such as fire protection, are expected to remain at about the same service level since the tax basis of the three CSDs is low.

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