→ Security study and survey results
Four Community Services District directors tried Thursday to get their arms around the future of Security, finally employing a study that was started 18 months ago. The conversation at a special board meeting wandered for two hours, returning frequently to the need for greater communication, especially about Security’s observe-and-report limitations.
“Let’s take the classic case of a domestic dispute,” said Director Jerry Pasek, explaining what Security cannot do. “There’s nothing you want to do about that except park outside and wait for the sheriff.” Security Chief Jeff Werblun responded, “Exactly.”
Director Morrison Graf said public outreach is something that can be done immediately, clarifying Security’s role and setting community expectations appropriately. “...I think it will help our current situation,” he said, “and then it can be modified and adapted as we go farther along.”
Eight people were in the audience, including representatives of the Rancho Murieta Association. The first hour of the session was spent in preliminaries and opening thoughts by the directors. Graf, the board’s vice president, ran the session in the absence of President Mark Pecotich.
Director John Merchant, who has been critical of the security study and community survey, done by Burns & McDonnell of Kansas City, Missouri, pointed out how positively the community reacted to the survey question about how safe residents feel inside the community.
He said it appears residential development is far in the future, but there are already increased pressures from commercial development. As for the recurring call for Security to have police powers, Merchant, a longtime resident, said this has been explained many times, but the question could be answered usefully – and maybe memorably – with a breakdown of costs.
“Put the menu out; let everybody in the community read it,” he said, “and say, ‘Well, we can do everything you want: We can man another gate; we can increase the patrol; we can add cars; we can put guys at the gazebo; we can protect the fish; we can control the back lakes. But here’s what it takes and here’s what it costs. What do you want?’ ... Our job is to ask the customer what they want.”
Pasek and Director Les Clark talked back and forth about a future in which the present empty lots sprout homes and the empty-lot tax payments could grow by a factor of three, four or five once the lots are developed.
General Manager Mark Martin offered the possibility of getting things done less expensively through the RMA.
“It isn’t us trying to hand off responsibility to RMA,” Martin said. “If it’s to the benefit of the RMA residents in this one case to add some new service, do they want to do it at the price of government or do they want to do it at the price of a private entity?”
Martin suggested a change in the strategy for a camera network, saying businesses should buy camera systems without worrying about whether the cameras will integrate into a central CSD system. Werblun, the Security chief, backed Martin’s claim that the sheriff’s department will go directly to the business, rather than the CSD, if the cameras record evidence of a crime.
“The one thing I’ve learned, and I’ve implemented technology for almost 30 years now,” Martin said, “is that when you try to make everything integrated – the state has failed at it, local agencies have failed at it, the U.S. military has failed at it. It usually ends up being a disaster.”
Mike Martel, a longtime Murietan and past member of the CSD board from 2012 to 2016, brought up the promises about security he said CSD made but didn’t deliver.
Martel said there were 360-degree feedback interviews in which CSD staff assessed management, and past Security Chief Greg Remson wouldn’t make the results public or even share them with the board.
“It talked about how the staff were reacting with the public and issues the staff were having with the chief and the general manager at the time. I got to see a little bit of that stuff,” Martel said. “I truly believe that if you want to do an accurate description of Security, that needs to be released to the public, so that the public can see internally what the staff at the time was complaining about.”
Martel also said CSD pledged it would put together three years’ worth of data on vandalism, speeding and other incidents and attach this data to two development traffic studies. In total, he said, this would forecast where problems would be once development started happening, suggesting camera locations. “That report never got done,” Martel said.
Martel, who chaired a CSD ad-hoc security committee for much of 2014, said his committee went to technology fairs and met with experts to get advice on camera equipment they should buy, and the committee gathered camera wish lists from “the Villas, the Village, RMA, CSD – everybody got together.”
“So, all those suggestions for 18 months went bye-bye,” Martel said of their absence from the report. Further, he said, Burns & McDonnell went back at one point to flesh out the study by interviewing community stakeholders, and those comments have never been shared with the public.
Martel added, “I’m really disappointed, personally, in this report. ... I don’t think it captures what the true issues are, and how to resolve them. I think the report only directed how we’re going to increase staffing.”
In an email exchange after the meeting, Martin, the general manager, said the Burns & McDonnell interviews were “informal drafts,” generally incorporated into the study, and not the kind of thing CSD releases when it shares final documents. As for the 360-degree evaluations, he said those are personnel documents and not available to the public.
Rita Schroeder of Puerto Drive expressed concern about crime in the community and Security’s diminished power to fight it. “So much power has been taken away from Security,” she said. She said there are prostitutes working in the community and drugs being sold.
She also spoke of reporting a crime and expecting the community’s security cameras to help with an investigation. But the cameras has been out of service for several days, she said. “What’s the point of having security cameras if they’re out?” she asked.
Martin said the CSD hopes to put together a community meeting with the RMA in late September.