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RMA crowd

An overflow crowd showed up for the August RMA board meeting. Click for larger image.

Video of the RMA meeting (3 hours, 20 minutes)

A weighty agenda, focused on security issues and pickleball, was addressed at Tuesday night’s Rancho Murieta Association meeting. A crowd of 75 dwindled to a single person by the end of the nearly 3½-hour session. Here are some of the topics addressed by the board:

  • Asking more of Security
  • CHP traffic enforcement in the community
  • Pickleball or basketball?
  • RMA-Village talks on Village access
  • Proposed 2019 projects
  • Motorcycles on the North

RMA crowd asks more of Security

The board fielded a range of complaints about Security, from lack of traffic enforcement (which several RMA directors acknowledged has gotten better recently) to its inability to address criminal problems.

Peter Lindbeck complained about recent crime here, including the theft of a golf cart from a garage earlier in the day. “Thinking it over,” he said, “we’ve made a lot of observations about the way Security’s been running over the last six months, at least, and a few things that we noticed.” He listed visitors coming through the gate on July 4 who didn’t have their guest passes checked, vendors who come through the gate without a call to the house, visitor passes issued for a day or two and used for weeks, and people walking through the gates without being checked.

Zack Morey criticized Security for its handling of after-hours drinking, bottle-smashing and marijuana use at the Gazebo by people in their 20s. Morey said he has reported it dozens of times, and filled out reports, and was told by Security, “We observe and report.” 

“We didn’t move to Rancho Murieta to have people ‘observe and report,’” said Morey, a corrections officer. “We want them to call the police department, have them come out, and give DUIs, search these individuals that are out there at 11 and midnight, drinking and smashing bottles and smearing feces on the walls of our bathrooms. That’s unacceptable behavior here, I mean, or anywhere. We want them held accountable.”

He said his young daughter enjoys playing at the park, and he doesn’t want her finding the debris from the previous night. “Is this what we want our kids playing around in?” he asked. “I definitely don’t want it. And why are we allowing it?”

He said he would prefer Security handled it, but if their powers are limited, and all they do is ask the troublemakers to leave, then police should be brought in to address the problem: “Come out here, give them a DUI, tow their vehicles.” He got strong applause with his conclusion: “That ‘observe and report’ is probably not good enough for us. It’s our kids that are over there playing, and we deserve better as a community out here.”

Mike Martel, a former RMA and Community Services District director (and now president of the Country Club board), complained that work he accomplished with an ad-hoc committee while on the CSD board has gone to waste. 

“We’re allowing our security to slip, because we need to have a comprehensive plan on how we’re going to deal with this stuff,” he said. “We’re getting away from the study that we did, where everybody had a seat at the table; every entity identified their wish list for (security) cameras. We have fiber optics everywhere in this community, already dug in and in place.”

Martel said there are new boards, new general managers, “and we get off the mark and we’re not fulfilling the obligation to keep this place safe, to make people behave and to manage the place.”

Listing the range of issues that had been aired at the meeting, he concluded to applause, “Security has to come first.” 

Security Chief Jeff Werblun and his boss, Mark Martin, CSD general manager, were in the back of the room for much of the meeting, which is unusual. Neither got up to speak.

Betty Ferraro, a former CSD director, made the points they probably would have offered. (The points are made regularly at CSD meetings.) She said Security’s powers are limited by law and that Rancho Murieta’s residents have indicated they won't pay more for Security, which would certainly be required for Security officers to have peace-officer powers or even possibly for greater traffic enforcement or to bring in off-duty police to patrol.

Director Jim Crowder mentioned that neighbor complaints in mid-July about failure to enforce moving violations resulted in an increase almost immediately in CSD enforcement – and on the streets community members said were having problems. Several directors seconded his comments. 

Last week, when security was discussed at the CSD board meeting, directors were told Security patrol officers had written more than 100 speeding citations since Aug. 1. The citations are processed by RMA, which provides enforcement and levies fines through the Compliance Committee.

Director Jerry Pasek commented that the uptick in speeding and stop sign violations “clearly points out that we have a severe problem,” and asked why the CSD wasn’t charging RMA for the time spent on traffic enforcement.  Martin, the general manager, responded that officers are on patrol when they write citations “and being paid by the fees paid by the residents behind the gates.”

Werblun, the Security chief, called traffic enforcement “an ancillary duty,” and Director John Merchant termed the potential for revenue from fines “windfall cash” for RMA.

Director Les Clark brought the focus back to safety but didn’t rule out the monetary component of traffic enforcement. “I would like to make sure that we’re focusing on the real issue here and that is making sure that roadway safety is of primary importance,” Clark said. “I understand the dollars. ... My question was: Is there a way that CSD can request a report back from RMA on the final disposition of those citations and then start the dialogue?”

At the RMA meeting, there were references to a Joint Security Committee meeting with CSD and other organizations in several weeks. The meeting has been discussed but isn’t scheduled. That committee was disbanded in 2010, in the midst of angry RMA chatter about taking over security duties from CSD.

At their meeting last week, CSD directors were critical of the committee idea. Merchant said he was drawing on 30 years of experience with the Joint Security Committee in calling the meetings "a waste of time." Martin, the general manager, said the CSD had “a pretty big game plan” for a town hall that involved a presentation to educate the public on the security role and responsibilities of CSD, reviewing the summary security plan and survey, and seeking public input. Clark suggested the process could begin with the Joint Security Committee meeting, and Merchant recommended the RMA and CSD general managers lay the groundwork for the meeting. 

Does the community want CHP enforcement?

The board voted 6-0, with one abstention, to table the idea of approaching the CHP about traffic enforcement on the community’s streets so the idea can be studied further.

General Manager Greg Vorster said following last month’s board meeting, where there were complaints about the lack of speeding and stop-sign enforcement, RMA staff contacted county Supervisor Sue Frost’s office about what it would take to get CHP traffic enforcement on community streets. Our streets are private property, and traffic enforcement, handled by RMA and CSD, results in citations and fines that start at $100 – much less than the traffic fines and license points that result in the real world.

Vorster said Frost’s office said Rancho Murieta could arrange for CHP patrol and ticketing inside the gates, writing tickets just as they would anywhere, but Vorster said he didn’t want to move ahead until he heard the board’s thoughts.

Director Rob Brown, who’s a CHP sergeant, led the board conversation, offering thoughts he had shared in an email to the board.

He said a CSD study had found the community strongly opposed to the writing of “real” tickets on community streets. (The CSD’s Security study last year – the most recent data – included a survey of more than 400 residents, and it found 49 percent of the community “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed with the issuance of real tickets by RM Security. Forty-one percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disagreed.)

Rob Brown

Director Rob Brown, who is a CHP sergeant, warned the community about the downsides of bringing in police enforcement. Click for larger image.

Brown said whatever we request, CHP resources are prioritized by need, and Rancho Murieta will have a hard time getting to the top of that list. Of CHP enforcement, he warned, “Running that stop sign, you don’t get the warning in the mail, you don’t get the $100 fine (as with RMA); you get the $250 fine and the points on your driving record. Now, if that’s what the whole community wants, maybe we can take another survey and move in that direction.”

Brown said RMA could hire off-duty officers to come out and write tickets, but it would be expensive. He also saw a problem with CHP writing expensive, punitive tickets one day and the community writing warning tickets the next day.

He agreed with the need for a comprehensive plan, including some steps RMA is considering, like photo-enforcement trailers, speed humps and stepped-up Security enforcement. “I just think there are other solutions rather than bringing enforcement out here,” he said. 

He was applauded when he told Vorster he wanted to explore all other options. 

Director Larry Shelton, taking the other side, said the community is “not comfortable with the security we have,” with crime issues in addition to moving violations. He called CHP and Sheriff’s Department patrols “a wise decision to make,” adding, “What we have now is nothing. We have no security whatsoever. We have a Security force that is observe and report. I can do that myself.”

Shelton was the lone abstention on the board vote.

The views of other directors: Joanne Brandt said she didn’t see a need to bring in outside authorities because they’re needed more elsewhere in the county. Cheryl McElhany said every board member is concerned and committed to addressing the problem. Stephanie Bianchi urged there be a comprehensive plan. Jim Crowder said RMA and CSD need a chance to address traffic issues on their own.

Alex Bauer, board president, echoed the suggestions that other options be tried first. “I was just impressed with how we made a few comments and, boom, all of a sudden we’ve got a lot more speeding citations,” he said.

Pickleball or basketball?

Ruth Lechler-Moore addressed the board about the possibility of taking basketball courts to build two new pickleball courts at Stonehouse Park. “We already have two, but our community is growing,” she said.  New pickleball courts were on the board’s list of 13 possible projects for 2019 but were ranked near the bottom. “It is a game for all ages, not just old people,” she said, adding that it’s an easy game to learn and to become proficient.

In response to a question about pickleball's popularity from Alex Bauer, board president, Lechler-Moore said she has an email list of about 75 prospective pickleball players, and 41 are active players. There are pickleball courts at the South’s Riverview Park, but she said sharing the Riverview courts with tennis means working around tennis players who feel they have priority. Fellow pickleballer Tom Burkart said later that it hurts the social aspect of the game to separate players into two locations.

Jennifer Heavenston said she was one of 225 people who signed the petition that was inside the directors' binders, a petition opposing more pickleball courts at Stonehouse Park. She doesn’t oppose pickleball, she said, just where it has been located – on the basketball courts where children have been playing for years.

“I have two children who simply walked through the pickleball court and were yelled at for walking through them,” she said. When an audience member muttered in disagreement, Heavenston responded, “It is true. I was there. You can deny it, but it happened.” She said the notion that the pickleball courts should be designated for the exclusive use of that sport is wrong. “This is not appropriate. This is something we all should be able to use, even if it’s just us walking across, or the kids playing if pickleball players aren’t playing,” she said. “If they’re not being destructive or disruptive, there’s no harm.”

Middle-schooler Joseph Merino read a speech about how his friends like to play basketball after school at Stonehouse Park, but it’s difficult to get a court. “There are not a lot of options for outdoor physical activities for kids like me,” he said. The group opposed to the pickleball expansion applauded when he was done.

Don Craig said almost two-thirds of the community is over 40 years old, and he ran through a list of recreational options RMA maintains that are available to older people (bocce courts, tennis and pickleball, maintained at minimal cost) and what’s available to younger people (playgrounds, soccer fields, baseball and softball, maintained at substantial cost). He said the basketball courts at Stonehouse Park don’t seem to be used much, unlike the courts at the Gazebo and Riverview Park, which are well used. “We have been documenting this,” he said of the Stonehouse courts, “...and it just doesn’t seem to get a lot of play.” He was applauded when he sat down.

Director Joanne Brandt said she thinks there is plenty of play space for kids at the park, both paved and green. “It seems to me there’s plenty of other areas for kids to play,” she said, “and I think it’s more of a matter of common courtesy and respecting association property.”

Village, RMA talks over access ‘going well’

Alex Bauer, board president, said the RMA is engaged in talks with Rancho Murieta Village over access fees. “We feel like those talks have been going well,” he said, adding that they hope to reach a resolution in the next month. In the meantime, the Sept. 1 deadline for an agreement with the Village has been pushed back, he said.

Board offers tentative list of 2019 projects

The board unanimously approved a tentative list of projects for inclusion in a draft 2019 budget, aiming for a budget increase of 3 or 4 percent. The budget and projects will be reviewed again in a budget workshop in October.

These projects, taken from a recent goals session, got the preliminary go-ahead:

  • Add one full-time employee to the Maintenance Department. (Cost: $26,000, or $0.85 per member per month)
  • Speed enforcement measures. (Cost: $3,200 for speed humps and $37,500 for radar gun trailers. Money would be taken from reserve funds, which total nearly $52,000, so there would be no budget impact.)
  • Stonehouse Park re-sod, Phase 3. (Cost: $25,000, or $0.84 per member per month)
  • Electronic display sign. (Cost: $12,000, or $0.43 per member per month)
  • Loop sidewalk at Lake Clementia. (Cost: $0.40 per member per month)

Director Stephanie Bianchi said she would like to explore the possibility of obtaining funding from community groups for particular projects – shade structures for playground equipment and the re-sodding program for Stonehouse Park.

Alex Bauer, board president, addressed comments he has seen online about how the goals process is shortchanging the South.  He said RMA tries hard to treat each side of the river equally. He said RMA doesn’t own a lot of property on the South, so the sports fields have to be on the North. He added, “We have put a new park in the South; there’s a Frisbee golf course going in down there; we’re going to light the tennis courts; there’s a dog park going in. So it’s on our agenda. We’re taking care of the South, I can assure you.”

Board delays action on new motorcycle vote

The board decided to delay action on a possible vote on North motorcycles in this fall’s election. The change in our CC&Rs, which would require approval by 60 percent of the membership, was last put before the community in 2012. (In that election, it got less than half of the 1,299 votes needed.) The board discussed adding motorcycle operating restrictions to the new language, to make the measure more appealing, but that would require even more lead time to develop. In the end, the consensus was that there isn’t enough time to add a motorcycle ballot to this fall’s election mailing, which would lower the cost of the vote. Directors said they will look for the next opportunity.

RMA gears up for Facebook, new website

The board discussed launching an RMA presence on Facebook and relaunching its website with a new vendor, which would host and maintain the RMA site for $3,500 a year, up from the current vendor’s fee of $2,000. The RMA website averages five visitors a day now, General Manager Greg Vorster said, primarily from people looking for job postings.

Director Stephanie Bianchi said the site may only get five visits a day because it isn’t useful. She suggested the website should have a community calendar, make it possible to sign up for events, and allow directors to share committee news. “We can do a better job of communicating,” she said. “I think Facebook may be one entity of that, but I think a functioning website is, I think, a big portion of being in the 21st century, and we’re way behind, in my opinion.”

Vorster said he’ll return next month with more details for the board.

In other business...

  • After 45 minutes of discussion, the board unanimously approved a Casino Night event early next year at the Murieta Inn. The event is estimated to break even at a ticket price of $60 with 200 tickets sold, according to Director Stephanie Bianchi. (Sponsorships are planned to bring in revenue above that.) Bianchi, who said she has worked on the project for six months, outlined the event, and directors expressed concern about its $12,000 cost. At Director Rob Brown’s suggestion, the board approved the plan with the requirement that any losses be handled within the Recreation Committee’s budget.
  • The board approved Renee Bechtold, Nancy Pohll and Les Kuhnz as members of the Nominating Committee, which will handle the association’s fall election. Ken Poole was named director of elections.
  • Neighbor Jude Gaither offered photos of what she called deteriorating properties. “I know that we have CC&Rs that are supposed to prevent this kind of deterioration,” she said, “and I’m seeing it too much, and frankly I don’t like it.” She was told to bring the photos to Danise Hetland, the RMA’s assistant general manager.
  • Betty Ferraro, a former Community Services District director, urged the board to work with the CSD to develop a policy on emergency evacuation of the community to address situations like a large fire.
  • Starting with the September meeting, public comment will only be allowed at the beginning of the board meeting, not scattered throughout the agenda, as the board addresses different issues, President Alex Bauer announced. 
  • Board spending approvals: $4,325 for a review of the association’s finances. ... $38,000 for a new pickup for Maintenance. ... $11,671 for a John Deere Turf Gator. ... $8,200 for structural inspection of the 11-year-old wooden pedestrian bridge, which has had some boards fail at its north end.

John Hein's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 353
Post rating: 417


The last thing we need is CHP inside the gates. When is the last time any of you have seen a on duty CHP on Jackson highway?

What we need is for neighbors to have some common courtesy.

John Hein

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