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At this month’s meeting, the Community Services District board continued its multi-month effort to lay a foundation for the possibility of buying undeveloped land on the North and the Country Club land. 

A 45-minute conversation about the project – the bulk of the meeting, held Jan. 17 – was bookended by the directors’ efforts to tweak project goals.

Director Les Clark, who has challenged the land-purchase idea, asked whether there has been any effort to gather community sentiment. He said he didn’t want the board to spend a lot of unbudgeted money on the possibility, only to find the community is opposed.

Mark Pecotich, the board president, said there has been talk about doing a community survey, but only after the CSD talks with stakeholders in a potential deal. And that won’t happen until after this preliminary work.

Director John Merchant, the primary driver of the effort, said the CSD needs to do “formal and as sophisticated as possible community outreach.”  He said the CSD needs to see if there’s a consensus possible in meetings with the developer, the Rancho Murieta Association and the Country Club. “We go into this round of meetings and there is no consensus, well, maybe we’re done,” Merchant said. He added, “We’re not going to spend years and years doing this.”

Clark also objected that the ad-hoc committees researching the project – from both CSD and RMA – seem to have members biased in the project’s favor. If the project continues to roll on, running up expenses, he suggested project proponents should find their own way to fund it.

The Saving Our Lakes and Open Spaces group, which tries to steer development, urged its members to turn out for the meeting, which accounted for most of the two dozen people in the audience.

Cheryl McElhany, SOLOS’ president, said the group now has 926 members. Four of them addressed the board. “We are continuing to be very, very happy to see this avenue pursued and the direction you’re taking,” McElhany told the board. When asked by Pecotich if SOLOS would help fund a survey, she said yes. 

“We love this idea,” said SOLOS member Myrna Solomon. She said she and her husband, Jay Solomon, walk the community’s trails. Other hikers they meet feel the same way, she said. “Everybody who comes out to visit us, when we show them the back area, they’re jealous, they’re envious,” Solomon said, saying the effort would help preserve property values. “We live in an amazing area, and I think it needs to be preserved.”

Board hears about Escuela gate possibility

Larry Shelton, who’s also a Rancho Murieta Association director, reported to the CSD board that the RMA had discussed opening the Escuela gate the night before.

Shelton repeated the background he shared at the RMA – that the RMA has discussed a two-gate passive system at the Escuela gate, on Stonehouse Road, and is halfway through a four-year plan to save up the $118,000 needed to fund it.

“The public seems to have a certain interest in revisiting this issue for trying to expedite opening that gate before 2020-2021, which is what our funding would allow us to do,” Shelton told the CSD board. He said he brought it up so the two boards could meet “if there’s the need and the value in trying to secure additional funding to get started sooner than that.”

Mark Pecotich, the board president, asked Shelton to explain the “public input” that was driving the potential action. Shelton said it was a combination of things, sports-parents traffic through the community and security issues “associated with people who come through the North Gate,” 

Director Les Clark asked, “Do you have a list of names and-or the number of people who have requested this?” Shelton said he didn’t. 

One neighbor spoke in favor of the move at the RMA meeting – Jerry Pasek, who’s a CSD director. Pasek was present for the CSD meeting but didn't address the gate issue.

GM fields questions about Security

In response to a question from neighbor Alan Petrasek, General Manager Mark Martin said interviews are complete for the hiring of the new Security chief. Martin said the interviews were done by a panel consisting of Martin, a former CSD Security chief and an RMA director.

Petrasek, who later said he worked briefly last year as a Security gate officer, asked about certification of patrol officers to handle issues with rattlesnakes and loose dogs. Martin said they’re reviewing those policies.

Petrasek also said phones in the gates haven’t worked properly for months, which prompted Martin to say the CSD is looking into a wholesale replacement of the district’s phone system. Right now, CSD has a number of vendors providing services, Martin said, adding that three phone companies providing service were the problem at the gates. He also said the gates have cell phones, so that’s another option for phone calls.

Petrasek also asked about what he called huge recent turnover in Security staff, and he asked whether anyone tracks the cost of hiring and training employees. Martin said he has been on the job 3½ months, and he is looking into the overall Security operation.

In other business...

  • The board unanimously approved a policy change, allowing facial hair on Security staff. General Manager Mark Martin asked the board to allow “well-groomed facial hair, like a goatee or short beard.” He said there was no safety reason for the prior policy.
  • Paul Siebensohn, the district’s director of field operations, said the CSD’s reservoirs are at 91 percent of capacity – “ahead of the curve” for this time of year.
  • Ted Hart suggested the CSD start the board meetings later – at 5:30 or 6 p.m. (The public portion of the sessions starts at 5 p.m. now.) “They may work well for you guys,” Hart said of the meeting hours, “but they don’t work well for the general public.” Later, Director John Merchant said he thought there was merit in Hart’s comment and that it would be discussed at the board’s upcoming goals session. Typically, there is not much attendance at CSD meetings.
  • The board set a goals meeting for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 9. It is open to the public.

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