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[News brief published March 20] Security patrol staffing levels and law enforcement powers -- in the context of last week's car break-ins -- were discussed at the Community Services District meeting Wednesday.

The CSD board of directors heard from two North residents who expressed concerns about more than a dozen recent car break-ins and ongoing vandalism. "You need to have more security," Barbara Rosenberg told the board, suggesting two officers at all times on the North and the South.

"We've had a lot of vandalism," said Frank Simmons. "It's almost like it's gotten to a different level. ... a little more aggressive.

Frank Simmons

Frank Simmons was willing to pay more for more Security officers, but the board pointed out the community may not agree.

Simmons agreed with Rosenberg that more security officers are needed. "There's a whole bunch of homes here now and we only have, say, one officer on duty, no matter how he's defined under the code," he said. "So that makes it difficult to deal with these perpetrators in any effective way. ... Unless they're aware that we're going to do something about it in this community then it's just going to continue on."

In response, President Wayne Kuntz said there are two officers on patrol duty at certain times and Director Dick Taylor pointed to CSD's recently adopted reward policy.

Taylor asked if Simmons would be willing to pay a higher security tax to have an additional officer. After Simmons replied, "Sure!" Taylor noted, "Most of the people that responded to our (CSD security) survey declined to say that they would."

"They wanted more information," Director Bobbi Belton countered. "It was yes or no and a lot of people who wrote comments said, 'I need to know what you would do with this money.'"

"There's a lot of apathy here. It will be a tough sell," Simmons said.

As for the Sheriff's Department's response, Remson said, "Sometimes it's difficult to get them out here on what they consider minor property crimes."

Belton said the CSD has taken a different tack and approached the Rancho Murieta Association about including minor vandalism in its non-architectural rules so the RMA fine structure would apply. CSD Security officers would enforce the rule as they do other RMA rules, which include traffic violations. "There is no judge any place in juvenile court that is going to sentence a kid for minor vandalism," Belton said.

The status of the Security patrol officers was a recurring theme. Simmons quoted a 1991 municipal court ruling saying they had peace officer status. Security Chief Greg Remson said that was superseded by a 1993 Superior Court ruling saying they don't. "The board never gave the Security Department peace officer powers," Remson said.

"They have to have peace officer powers of arrest if they're operating under (California penal code section) 836.5," said resident Lisa Taylor. "In your own district code, it shows they can cover crimes of the state."

"That's an interpretation of that ordinance that we are looking at," Remson said.

"There's a whole class of people that aren't peace officers that are recognized in the penal code that have peace officer powers of arrest," Lisa Taylor persisted. "And if they can detain, then they have peace officers powers of arrest, then they're not security, they're public safety (officers)."

"We are going to continue enforcing the ordinances within the district," Remson said.

"Which are misdemeanors, which require peace officer powers of arrest," Lisa Taylor said.

"That's your interpretation. But it's not the district's interpretation," Remson said.  Taylor is the wife of Security Sgt. Jim Bieg.

Simmons then read from a CSD ordinance invoking penal code section 836.5 in giving CSD officers the authority "to make arrests and issue citations ... for misdemeanor violations of the laws of California and ordinances of the County of Sacramento and the District committed within their presence within the boundaries of the District."

Remson said, "The district is looking into that whole ordinance situation and cleaning up what may be mistakes or ambiguities."  

Rick Davis, business agent for Operating Engineers Local 3, the union that represents Security officers and other CSD employees, came to the podium to address the board. "Can you imagine what it's like to be out there as a security officer working and you're like, Do I arrest? Do I stop and detain? ... Try working under those conditions," he said.

"Either make them peace officers or make them security officers. They're responding to domestic violence calls, they're responding to any time the CHP or the sheriff's office needs some kind of assistance or to go check on a call. They look like police officers; they drive vehicles that look like they're emergency vehicles to the layman ... That's a dangerous circumstance to work under. ... I think the job is in a very gray area. ...  You need to clarify what exactly is their job, what's expected of them, what's the liability to the district. I think you'd be doing them a great service if you did that and you'd be doing your community a big service also."

Board receives draft audit of wastewater facility

The draft version of an independent operations audit of the wastewater treatment plant was presented to the board. The report recommends additional staffing for the plant, new equipment and other changes.

The final version of the audit is expected at the April meeting. It will include an executive summary, provide costs and assign priorities for the recommendations. The draft report is available here.

The report included the following:

  • Additional training for staff to maximize plant equipment operations and use of chemicals, and to minimize the loss of institutional memory caused by turnover.
  • Increase staffing levels: When the plant was built 25 years ago, it called for a staff of 2.8 operators. Up to four -- three plus a supervisor -- are recommended in the report for efficient operation. Although that is the current level of staffing, staff responsibilities are divided between the water treatment plant and the wastewater plant. 
  • Implement a supervisory control and data acquisition system to collect and  monitor data at all district facilities. This and other recommended measures could lower staffing requirements.  The CSD planned to add such a system as part of the water treatment plant expansion. The expansion is needed to accommodate new development and would be paid for by developers. The downturn in the real estate market has postponed development plans indefinitely.
  • Reduce sludge accumulation in ponds. The sludge level in Pond 1 is 41 percent. The report includes a plan to reduce sludge levels in Pond 1 and Pond 4.
  • Install two additional aerators for better circulation in Pond 1. This will address odor issues and might also reduce sludge accumulation.
  • Plant trees for a natural odor barrier.
  • Add a coarse screen, metering system and sampling point at the headworks. 

Also from the meeting

  • The board decided against placing a security tax increase on the November ballot. The board will continue to pursue the matter and it could go out for a vote in a special election. The tax increase is necessary to provide funding for an additional patrol officer position.
  • A flashlight left in a vehicle break-in last week did not belong to the burglars, Security Chief Greg Remson said before the meeting. Another break-in victim recognized the flashlight as theirs, he said.
  • Remson reported that the district attorney's office has dropped all the charges against the two juveniles and four adults arrested in Murieta North last week and charged with possessing marijuana for sale. The charges were dropped because the amount of marijuana was small -- about an ounce -- and the evidence didn't include a scale, money or paperwork indicating transactions, Remson said. 
  • The board voted unanimously to consider the matter of the Rancho Murieta Association's removal of parks funds closed if the RMA returns another $19,000 to the parks fund. This would reduce the amount the RMA took from the fund to $44,506. That's the amount the RMA requested for its legal fees when the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved $250,000 in additional funding for the pedestrian bridge in 2005. The RMA has cited the county's approval of the additional funding to justify taking more than $88,000 to reimburse its 2005-2006 legal fees for the bridge. The RMA agreed to return about $25,000 of the money after the CSD sent the RMA a letter requesting the return of the funds last month. The $88,000 was removed from the parks fund without the authorization of the Parks Committee. 

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