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.