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Firefighters delayed by traffic on July 4, a traffic study for the North Gate and the responsibilities of Rancho Murieta Community Services District Security were discussed at last week’s Joint Security Committee meeting, the first since the Rancho Murieta Association ended its participation. CSD, Country Club and Murieta Village representatives were present at the meeting held Wednesday at the Country Club.

July 4 fire on Laguna Joaquin

Vegetation on Laguna Joaquin caught fire at the conclusion of the fireworks display and firefighters had difficulty getting to the location because of heavy traffic in the area.  “I think that was the worst time for the fire to happen because everybody was trying to leave,” Security Chief Greg Remson told the committee. “Talking with the firefighters, I think half the people thought it was still part of the parade and they were waving instead of getting out of the way and letting them through.”

The fire was limited to a clump of vegetation on the cobbled bank of lake and didn’t threaten townhouses clustered around the lake. Witnesses reported seeing flames more than 20 feet high during the brief   fire.  Remson said the fire could be seen clearly from the North Gate, located at the opposite end of Laguna Joaquin. The fire was attributed to fireworks set off by people in the area.

Remson said ways to get emergency vehicles in “better and faster” will be discussed with RMA,  which provides the fireworks display for the community. Murieta Parkway is closed to traffic during the fireworks and narrower Lago Drive becomes the way to get in or out of the community.

July 4 fire

By the time firefighters arrived, witnesses said, the fire had nearly burned itself out.

Caretta Lane, where the fire occurred, is a small, winding street off Lago Drive, and, because of the influx of visitors for barbecues and the fireworks display,  it was reduced to a single lane of traffic for much of the Fourth. “We’ll have meetings on that with RMA to critique, see what the challenges and the issues were, see what we want to do next year to make it better,” Remson said.

Bobbi Belton, CSD board president, described traffic in the vicinity of the North Gate and Laguna Joaquin as “horrendous” on the Fourth, but Remson said the volume wasn’t unusually large for the holiday. 

“That gate is not made to handle that kind of traffic. ... We’ll continue to have a bottleneck and a lot of people stacked up as long as the gate’s where it is. Pre-passing helps a lot,” Remson said. The RMA provided five free passes, each good for a carload, for residents to give to their guests in advance of the holiday to ease traffic at the gate. RMA gave out 1,850 passes, about the usual number, according to RMA staff.

There is also a lot of foot traffic on the Fourth of July holiday. Remson said he’s talked to people who say they don’t want to get stuck so they park across the street from the North Gate and walk over. While many are guests or South residents who don’t want to get caught in the post-fireworks traffic jam, “I’m sure some of those people are friends of friends of friends of somebody else that knows that this is a nice place to watch the fireworks. I’m certain that happens,” he said.  To eliminate uninvited walk-ins, you’d need to close the sidewalk and set up a checkpoint to check IDs, creating “a 30-person queue,” he said.

Remson described the Fourth of July weekend as “pretty quiet all in all,”  saying there were some fireworks complaints and vandalism consisting of stolen flags and power shut-offs on Saturday and then the fire and a DUI arrest Sunday night.

Security duties

Remson explained the role of Security, saying the department has responsibilities within the district that include the back area, the area within the  gates, homeowners associations, the Country Club, businesses  and Murieta Village.

“Our first goal is to eliminate any problems, rule violations and crime by being visible and present, to act as a deterrent. If that doesn’t work, we’ll make contact for a violation that we see and we’ll try to mediate, educate, let people know what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong and go from there. If that doesn’t work, then we’ll move up the ladder, which may involve calling the Sheriff’s Department, which may involve calling CHP,” he said.

Homeowners associations have rules and CC&Rs, and Security uses the same process --  education, notification, mediation -- and moves up to a written complaint or report to association board for compliance. 

“We’ve got a lot of options,” Remson said. When children are involved, meeting with parents  “works most of the time, it doesn’t work all of the time,” he said. “We rarely make arrests, although we did make a DUI arrest on the Fourth of July. Most of the issues and the problems we have we can handle with the rule structure that’s in place and with parent contact. Again, if that doesn’t work, we won’t hesitate to move up the ladder, which would be the Sheriff’s Department or the CHP if that’s needed.” 

Update on North Gate

Remson said representatives of the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers did a traffic survey at the North Gate as part of the planning for the new gate. The PTF will fund the gate under the terms of the Mutual Benefit Agreement between the PTF and RMA. 

He pointed out that the survey was done after the school year ended. “There are so many parents who take their kids both to Cosumnes and junior and senior high school that the gate officers tell me during school the moms just run laps all day. I think that’s going to impact the numbers,” he said of the study’s timing.

Although the RMA approved a plan for the gate that keeps the left turn on Lago Drive, Remson said the PTF is “looking at the long-term, they’re looking at build-out, they’re looking at it as engineers. Which they should be.” Remson noted that Lago and Pera drives, which get the left-turn traffic, were not designed as feeder streets, unlike wider Guadalupe Drive.

Future of Joint Security

The RMA board’s vote in April to end its participation means the committee doesn’t represent 80 percent of the residents, Belton said. Remson added that most of the calls for service come from the gated community.  Remson attends RMA Compliance Committee meetings. He said Security continues to connect with the association. “We have to try to keep them in the loop and up to date about anything we’ve got going on,” he said.

Country Club Director Dennis Martel said he’d been attending monthly CSD Security Committee meetings, which are open to the public, to keep informed about security issues, and Joint Security seems to have become “a committee looking for something to do.”

After discussion, the committee selected Remson to chair the committee and agreed to hold the next meeting January 4 at Murieta Village and on an as-needed basis after that.

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