Thursday, September 24, 2009

IFPD & County EMS (Ambulance) contract

The (in)famous ambulance contract between the Idyllwild Fire Proteciton District (IFPD) and Riverside County Emergency Medical Services (RIV EMS) Department will be on the board of Supervisor's agenda Monday, Sept. 29.

RIV EMS actually is a surrogate for County Service Area 38 (Pine Cove), who pays the $91,220 for ambulance service for residents of CSA 38.

The new contract was approved by the IFPD commission at its Sept. 8 meeting. Now the Supervisors must also agree.

The three year contract's first year cost is $91,220. The second and third year costs are $93,044 and $94,905.

Among the other amendments is one "requiring IFPD to work mutually with the CSA-38 Advisory Board to address concerns regarding ambulance service int he Pine Cove Community (Zone II)."

The Board of Supervisors meets in the County Adminstration Building, Lemon Street, Riverside. The meeting begins at 9 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The item with contract amendments is Agenda # 3.29 and can be found at the county web site:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Highway 74 one lane

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21, CHP was controlling traffic through one lane on Highway 74 near Pinyon Pines because of a wildfire. The traffic control was expected to last about 30 minutes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A busy Monday and lazy Sunday

Below you can see Marshall's account of the joint County Service Area 36 and Idyllwild Community Recreation Council meeting with Bill Brown, CSA operations manager for the county.

Now, on JP's blog site are exclusive photos from that event. What an evening for the local paparazzi! These are all "RE" rated, that's "restricted elderly", no one over 68 should be allowed to view them.

Okay, those commuting from Pine Cove and the further northern suburbs should be aware that the Forest Servcie will have a helicopter removing brush from the Deadman's curve area. Please keep you head inside the car when you hear the putt, putt, putt, sound of the propellers starting tomorrow through most of the week.

There is no fire, no pot eradication effort (so don't stop and try to save the leaves that might fall out of the bags) and it is not a rescue. If you still have the urge to call …

Finally, don't forget to join me at IFPD's budget committee meeting tomorrow, Monday @ 10 a.m. at the Fire Station.

Speaking of "Sunday's" as the Young Rascal's said

"Groovin' . . . on a Sunday afternoon

There's always lots of things that we can see
We can be anyone we want to be
And all those happy people we could meet just . . .
Groovin' . . . on a Sunday afternoon"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brown questions ICRC over contract with county

Bill Brown, operations manager for Riverside County's County Service Areas (CSA), requested a joint meeting on Sept. 17 between the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC) board and CSA 36's advisory committee to discuss county concerns over its contract with ICRC and clarify county positions about contract requirements. Brown called the joint meeting because ICRC reports on a monthly basis to CSA 36 but is also obligated, by the contract it signed with the Economic Development Agency (EDA), to report directly to Brown, the CSA administrator. “I called the meeting because the county is concerned about process,” said Brown,” and I have received reliable information from sources other than the press that raised county concerns. It is important the people know that the county initiated this meeting.” Brown said.

The CSA 36 advisory committee opened the capacity attendance meeting by running through a routine agenda. Then ICRC chairperson Chris Singer summarized her board's understanding of its publicly funded role in managing Hill recreation and its separate donor-driven role in building a new community center.

Brown then questioned ICRC’s board about their understanding of and compliance with the terms of the contract they signed in 2007, pointing out areas of non-compliance that neither ICRC nor the CSA advisory committee seemed to be aware of.
Brown began by calling attention to the importance of public funding of Hill recreation. He stressed that although the county is the conduit for disbursing Hill recreation money, it does not "fund" recreation. Residents of CSA 36 fund recreation through special parcel taxes. The county administers and disburses parcel taxes to ICRC based on ICRC’s submission to EDA of a proposed annual budget along with any mid-course corrections. Brown linked the public's financing of recreation to its right to attend all ICRC meetings. Brown reasoned that since the public pays for Hill recreation, they should be allowed to attend all meetings affecting recreation decisions. To illustrate his point, Brown referenced an ICRC annual budget line item. The line item allocated public money to pay a secretary to sit in board meetings and take minutes. Brown asked Singer, "Is that (use of public money) integral to providing public recreation?" "Yes," said Singer. "Then isn't the public's presence important at these meetings to set recreation priorities?" asked Brown. Singer acknowledged it was.

The issue of whether the public's right to attend all ICRC meetings should be unrestricted is one over which ICRC and the county continue to disagree. ICRC has maintained that, as a private board, they have the right to restrict public attendance at meetings they define as closed. "We're a private agency and our meeting don't have to be open," said Singer. Some county officials, including Brown, believe that ICRC, as a recipient of public tax money, should not restrict attendance at any of its meetings, and should conduct any and all business affecting public recreation with the public present. Brown questioned why ICRC changed its bylaws, 3 months after signing its contract with the county, to revise a provision providing unrestricted public access to adding a section sanctioning special or closed meetings. "We were fairly comfortable [when the contract was signed] that you were an open meeting board," said Brown. "Why did you change that 3 months after signing the contract?" Looking out at the large crowd, Brown said, "This is an open meeting. The worst thing is to hold a closed meeting." Brown may have had some heat on this issue, since he and assistant Mike Franklin were refused attendance at a recent ICRC meeting.

Brown raised ICRC's apparent failure to comply with specific contract terms in its county contract - i.e. to provide its proposed budget directly to the CSA administrator on the agreed date of February 1. ICRC had been submitting it only to the CSA 36 advisory committee, and generally after the Feb.1 date; failure to provide directly to the county administrator a copy of a monthly written report on recreation activities. ICRC routinely provides an oral, but not written report from the recreation director to the CSA advisory committee; and failure to request approval from the county in advance for expenses (significant salary increases) not accounted for in the pre-approved budget. ICRC had raised the proposed salary increases with the CSA 36 advisory committee but did not get the approval directly from Brown that the contract stipulates. Brown explained that the CSA advisory committee cannot authorize or approve budget revisions. Its role is to “review and comment” to the CSA administrator; Brown also questioned a $5,000 expenditure of public money as a gift to a private organization without prior county approval especially since, in county CSA budget processes, there is no line item authorization for such a gift. "When you want to give my [taxpayer] money, you have to use my rules," he said.

Brown emphasized that ICRC had signed its contract with the county, not with the CSA 36 advisory committee, and has a direct reporting responsibility to EDA as the contract states.

When some in the audience suggested that Brown called this meeting only because of reports in the press, Brown said that was not correct. He said he has received calls from the public questioning current ICRC management policies. The questioner went on to say that 90 percent of CSA 36 residents approve of what ICRC is doing. "My job," said Brown, "is to make certain that the questions of the 10 percent are answered and that the [ICRC] board is doing nothing inappropriately." He advised ICRC that following the contract with the county would be the best way to build confidence both with the county and the public.

After the meeting, Brown said he was surprised that the ICRC board could not answer financial questions about their Town Hall budget, instead deferring those questions to accountant Jim Ludy. “The county asked many questions,” said Brown. “ICRC did not have answers about their own budget asking me, at one point, ‘where did you get those numbers?’” The numbers came, said Brown, from ICRC’s budget and the county will be requesting written answers to any not answered at the meeting. Brown said he is specifically concerned about the allocation of 72 percent of budget to salary and only 9 percent to programs, as well as what Brown reads as a 47 percent increase in salary for recreation director Bob Lewis. He wants clarification on those matters.

Brown said the additional impetus for calling the Sept. 17 meeting was the 2010 expiration of the current contract with ICRC. “We wanted [at the meeting] to educate the public about how recreation is delivered, to make sure the contractor [ICRC] is performing this contract as agreed, and to evaluate if this current contract is providing the best delivery of recreation for Idyllwild,” said Brown. “This will help achieve the county’s goal of maintaining the public’s trust since recreation is publicly funded.”

Brown sought answers and reassurances from ICRC. By raising questions and pointing out areas of present non-compliance with the county contract, Brown provided ICRC opportunities and time to address county concerns.

Recently dismissed ICRC director Bob Schraff, had, prior to being voted off the board, admonished the board for not fully complying with the terms of its bylaws. Schraff advocated strict legal compliance with ICRC bylaws as the only way to do business given the organization's greater exposure since taking over the recreation contract, receiving public tax money, and attempting to build a new community center. ICRC is currently reworking its bylaws to address many of the concerns Schraff raised.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

VHS terms with PHH

Last night, the Valley Health System (VHS) directors approved a tentative agreement with the local physicians group — Physicians for Healthy Hospitals (PHH) — for the purchase of the hospital district.

A final definitive agreement is not ready for approval, but the physicians and hospital directors were getting nervous about the timing of a necessary voter approval and the approaching December and January holidays, according to VHS counsel John Marshall.

Consequently, the board adopted a memorandum of understanding with PHH that outlines the more general or basic terms and asked the county Registrar of Voters to schedule a polling place election or a mail-in ballot election or some combination of the two. The election would occur on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

The doctors are willing to pay the existing bond debt ($42.5 million), provide $21 million for unsecured creditors, assume post-petition (means debt incurred after bankruptcy was file in December 2007) of $25 to $30 million, pay a $8.4 million not to Select Healthcare and relief on other claims amounting to $50 million, eventually this might be reduced substantially.

In aggregate, PHH says it is willing to ante up $156 million for the system. VHS would sell all of its assets (with a few minor exceptions such as a small limited trust account).

In 2007, Select Healthcare’s $135 million offer for the whole district, including Moreno Valley Medical Hospital, was rejected at the polls.

The board voted 6-1 to accept the terms and request the registrar to establish an election if the directors finally accept and approve a sales agreement.

Both Board President Dr. William Cherry and Marshall indicated that the final agreement and related documents will be available in several weeks. But Marshall warned that the sheer volume of paper and number of lawyers involved will slow the process although establishing the election day will be a strong motivator.

The sole dissenter was Director Robert O’Donnell. He was disappointed that PHH did not present a business plan to demonstrate how it will generate additional revenue to pay its own debt.

VHS’s inability to create sufficient profits to pay debt and cover current expenses has been a major criticism of recent management

When asked how the doctors’ group could accomplish this task, Director Glen Holmes, chair of the Ad Hoc committee that has negotiated for the board, asked to discuss it on Thursday.

“A lot of the hospital’s deficit is the cost of bankruptcy. That’s about $300,000 per month,” replied Dr. Alex Denes, PHH spokesman. “That will disappear because we’ll be out of bankruptcy.”

He also said the doctors plan to re-established the healthcare contracts with local groups that the former management team had canceled. He also believes that patients will return to VHS facilities because the doctors can improve the image of the hospitals.

“Nearly 50 percent of residents were seeking healthcare outside the hospital district,” he noted.

If the voters reject this offer, as they did two years ago, an "Alternative Transaction" will be effective. PHH can purchase Menifee Valley Medical Center for $29 mllion. Apparently, some VHS officials have concern about this possibility since one whole slide of Marshall's presentation addressed "Concerns abou the Alternaive Transaction", such as the district will still have one hospital — Hemet — and substantial debt.

For those still excited about this transaction and healthcare finances, go to JP's blog for additional thoughts and comments.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Becky Clark announces retirement from Town Crier

By Marshall Smith
Staff Reporter

After 22 years at the Town Crier (TC), 13 of them at its helm, Publisher-Editor Becky Clark told her staff on Sept. 10 that she plans to retire effective Nov. 13. She’ll remain in a consulting role until the end of the year. In true newspaper fashion, Clark learned the workings of the the TC and newspaper managemen, in a traditional way, by working her way up through a variety of positions.

Clark started part time with the Crier in 1984 as a type printer under previous owners L.B. and Dorothy Hunsaker. In 1989 she took on the front desk and classified position. Six months later the Hunsakers sold the TC to San Francisco based Chronicle newspaper chain. The new editor Carole Brennan appointed Clark to Operations Director as soon as she took over. U.K. based Tindle Newspapers LTD. (TNL) bought the TC in 1994. In 1996 when the then editor resigned with only two weeks notice, Tindle promoted Becky to the publisher/editor position.

“I raised my kids at the Town Crier,” said Clark. “Now I want to spend time with my grandbabies, husband and family.” Attorney husband Jack is retiring next year and Becky said she and Jack want to travel. “I’ve never even been to Canada,” said Clark, a Florida native.

Now is the right time, she said, since this is the best staff and in-house team she has ever assembled. “You try and try to get it right [staff hiring] and I’ve finally got it right with this staff.”

Clark announced her intentions at a 3 p.m. staff meeting attended by Robert Stiby, director of Idyllwild Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Tindle Newspapers U.S.A., the American corporate division of U.K.-based Tindle Publications Ltd. (TPL). Tindle acquired the Crier in 1994, making it the only U.S. newspaper in Tindle’s chain of more than 220 community newspapers. TPL has weekly circulation of more than 1.4 million.

Started by Ray Tindle in south London with 300 pounds sterling demobilization money at the end of World War II, TPL operates under a “strictly local” philosophy, providing local news to its readers and fixing the peripheries of each paper’s coverage to the town or area environs.

As TPL’s sole shareholder, Tindle is better positioned to ride out tough economic times such as the current recession affecting both the U.K. and U.S than are corporate-owned papers that must juggle stockholder concerns and dividend payments in calculating bottom lines. At a January 2009 U.K. TPL managerial meeting, Tindle reminded managers that Tindle Newspapers had never borrowed money and that it had cash reserves to help see it through the looming recession.

At the Sept. 10 staff meeting where Clark announced her retirement, Stiby affirmed the Tindle model of dedication to local news and noted that by and large, smaller local papers are doing better in this recession than larger corporate-held dailies. He and TPL are particularly proud of its American unit, headed by Clark.

“Becky’s contribution to the success of the Town Crier has been without parallel. She has led from the front and cared passionately, not only about her newspaper and staff, but above all, about Idyllwild itself, the area we serve. She is a phenomenal individual who has created one of the best community newspapers in California,” Stiby said on behalf of Sir Ray.

Under Clark’s leadership as TC publisher-editor, total revenue has almost doubled, and at a time when most newspapers are suffering circulation decline, TC circulation has remained steady. Clark noted the paper’s growth. “During my tenure, I think the paper has improved in quality both in printing and journalistically,” she said. “We have added many more community and visitor information features.” Recently the Crier added blog sites including “Breaking News,” which during the recent Cottonwood Fire, kept readers both on and off the Hill informed of the fire’s progress and received nearly 7,000 hits over five days of fire coverage.

Clark, who holds a bachelor's degree in mass communications and journalism from City University of Seattle and a paralegal certificate from Chapman University, said one of the highlights of her tenure has been her association with the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “Sitting around with other publishers you find the issues are the same, you learn the best ways to cope, and that it’s not about you, it’s about the job,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who is in the job [of publisher], there will be heat. It’s not personal. And you have to learn to laugh.”

Clark said she had some regrets, almost unavoidable in the crush of reviewing and approving fairly volumonous recurring advertising, editorial, budgets, outside features and staff issues. Clark said that it took a while to getting a handle on hiring the right people for TC staff - people with talent but also the ability to work productively together, since getting out a newspaper is a collaborative effort in which no staff position is superfluous. "I've learned to make better staff choices." She also said that she might have handled some public utterances differently. Clark holds press freedom and the public's right to know as the lodestars of journalistic practice, a passion the public sometimes misunderstands as personal with Clark rather than professional.

Laughter, sometimes called newsroom gallows humor, is a unifying thread at the TC and Clark’s laughter has been a huge part of that. Loyalty among the staff is solid. “It [retiring] has been a difficult decision to make but it was made easier knowing the paper will be in good hands,” said Clark, referring to her current staff and the timing of her retirement decision.

Asked to name another highpoint in her TC tenure, Clark, a fierce advocate of open government, noted with satisfaction attending a public meeting and hearing someone in the audience tell the officials they are violating the Brown Act open meeting law.

Stiby, who is also retiring, said he believes a new management team will be put together from within existing staff and that it has been Tindle’s policy to promote from within. Stiby’s replacement, TPL’s CEO Brian Doel, will visit the Crier in October to confer with staff and help facilitate the management change.

The grandbabies Clark is looking forward to spending more time with are Carter, 3, and Evey, 2, children of Clark’s son Zac Johnson and wife Mandy. Johnson is a Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class stationed in Central California at the Lemoore Naval Air Station. And granddaughter Mina Clark, 6, daughter of Jack's son, Jeff, and his wife, Lael, who live in Lake Elsinore, are on the agenda, as well as the expected December arrival of another daughter. Clark’s daughter, Halie Johnson, lives in Del Mar and is an assistant editor with the La Jolla Light and its four sister papers.

Clark stresses she has been discussing her eminent retirement with her husband and TNL executives for several months. She says the decision doesn't come easily and that she will miss her staff and the constant challenges of putting out this important national award winning paper. Clark says she wants this next part of her life to be about her family, travelling, and paying attention to the the important little things like cooking. For her recent anniversary she prepared for Jack the signature boeuf bourguignon recipe from Julia Child's seminal French cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

Asked if she could change anything in her life to date, she said, "I'd be taller!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

IFPD budget meeting


The Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission has scheduled its second special meeting of the week. Tomorrow at 1 p.m. the commission will hold review of its budget.

I assume they will review the 2009-10 budget. The commission adopted a preliminary 2009-10 budget on June 18. A final budget must be adopted before Oct. 1.

This meeting is needed. Section 13894 of the state health and Safety Code requires fire districts to hold these meetings.

For those who only want the facts, stop reading and go to the meeting. In the next few paragraphs, I plan to express some opinion on the scheduling of the meeting and how I relate this to the commission’s concern about public involvement.


On July 9, the Fire Chief Steve Kunkle published a “Public Notice of a Public Hearing”. The notice started that the hearing would be held on Sept. 8.

The district has moved their regularly scheduled monthly meetings to the second Tuesday of the month. So they should have met, two days ago. Unfortunately, the Commission didn’t post an agenda for the meeting.

IFPD President Paul Riggi canceled the regular meeting and scheduled a special meeting for tonight. The only item on the agenda for tonight is “Parcel Fees”. Now I don’t know if the commission has to ratify the current level, plans on raising them or is taking Commissioner-elect Schelly advice and lowering the fees.

But there is no mention of a budget review on tonight’s agenda.

This afternoon, I received notification that a special meeting would be held tomorrow at 1 to discuss “Budget review”. I get these notifications because I’ve requested them, requested in writing, and you can, too.

Dozens of people attended the June 18 meeting.

My opinion:
Regardless government budgets are in bad shape this year. In June, Commissioner Killingsworth indicated it was easier to over estimate revenues and cut expenditures later if necessary.

Since thin, the state has decided to borrow up to 8 percent of special district property tax revenues this year. IFPD might, no one knows yet for sure, lose $50,000 to $80,000.

Don’t you want to know how they’ll adjust for that. One Captain is retiring but he is being replaced. Word on the street is two reserves were promoted, I can’t confirm that.

Why not advertise the meeting for a week and the hold it in the evening. The final budget is supposed to be approved by Oct. 1. That’s 20 days from now.

Why are they making it hard for you or your friends to attend this meeting? Do they want to pass the budget in private, which is what they tried to do in June before they were outed? Are you the public persona non grata when comes to collecting and spending your tax dollars?

This is the meeting notice:

The Special Meeting will be held at the Idyllwild Fire Station, 54160 Maranatha Drive at 1:00 p.m.
date, Sept. 11, is in the letterhead.]

1. McWilliams – Vaught – Parker – Riggi – Killingsworth -Kunkle – Coppersmith(s)


1. None


1. None


1. Budget Review

1. None

1. None



Not everything is "breaking" news. So if you want an update on the highway construction in Idyllwild and last night's championship softball game go to my blog. See the list on the right. Look for "JP", place your cursor on that line and the click.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Flu vaccine schedule

These are not all of the dates and places, but they are the closest to Idyllwild. the very closest will be the Idyllwild Community Health & Resource Fair, from 10 am to 2 pm, Saturday, Nov. 7 at Town Hall. Free flu shots will be available there.

REMEMBER, this a vaccination schedule for the seasonal flu; Riverside County plans to deliver the H1N1 vaccine once it is available, but no schedule is published yet.

October 13th 9am-12pm
Elks B.P.O. Lodge No.643
6166 Brockton Ave

October 15th 10am-12pm
Beaumont Civic/Senior Center
1310 Oak Valley Pkwy

October 26th 9am-12pm
Simpson Senior Center
305 E. Devonshire

October 27th 9am-11am
Moreno Valley
Moreno Valley Senior Center
25075 Fir Ave

October 28th 10am-1pm
Palm Desert
Joslyn Senior Center
73-750 Catalina Way

November 3rd 10am-12pm
Cathedral City
Cathedral City Senior Center
37-171 West Buddy Rogers Ave

November 12th 9am-12pm
Simpson Senior Center
305 E. Devonshire

November 16th 9am-11am
Moreno Valley
Riverside Regional Medical Center
Room #D18
26520 Cactus Ave

November 18th 10am-12pm
Bordwell Park
2008 Martin Luther King Blvd

Monday, September 7, 2009

IFPD reschedules its meeting

For fire departments, fall can be a very disruptive and random time of year bringing the advent of "fire season"

IFPD Commission Chair, Paul Riggi, notified the Town Crier that the regularly scheduled IFPD meeting for Tuesday, Sept. 8 has been moved to Thursday, Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m. (of course the usual pre-meeting workshop will commence at 5 p.m.).

Interestingly, Riggi called after the above photo was taken. If you click on it, you will see its the agenda for the Aug. 11 meeting.

For those who attended in person or vicariously by reading the report in the Town Crier, it was an interesting and good meeting. Some might place it in the "Top Ten IFPD meetings", but worth repeating?

Nah, and that's the value of this photo taken today about 9 a.m. It is not the agenda for the Sept. 8 meeting. The notice wa tacked to the wall just to the left of entrance to the fire station.

The regular monthly IFPD meeting has been set for the second Tuesday of each month. For September, that's tomorrow, Sept. 8.

The intrusive Brown Act (Ca. Gov't code sections 54950 to 54963) requires public bodies to post their agenda 72 hours in advance of the meeting. That allows the public which may be interested in attending to know what will be discussed or what actions taken, even if it approval for a bake sale to buy another fire engine.

Since IFPD had scheduled its meeting for 5 p.m., Sept. 8, the agenda for the meeting should have been posted in three public places by 5 p.m., Saturday.

I didn't see the new agenda Sunday morning and upon returning Monday, the old one was still there, so I photographed.

When asked what had they done, I replied, "Nothing." A few hours later, I received a call from Mr. Riggi and agreed to post the meeting change on-line.

See ya Thursday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Roy Wilson's funeral

Former Riverside County 4th District Supervisor Roy Wilson's funeral at Palm Desert Presbyterian Church on Sept. 2. Wilson died Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, after announcing his resignation for health reasons on Friday, Aug. 21.

Top photo:
Services for Supervisor Roy Wilson drew large crowds to the Palm Desert Presbyterian Church.

2nd photo:
A cowboy hat rests on the seal for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in front of Supervisor Roy Wilson’s casket.

3rd photo: Scott Wilson speaks during services for Supervisor Roy Wilson, his father.

4th photo: Aurora Wilson listens during services for Supervisor Roy Wilson, her husband.

5th photo: Ashley Kendall speaks during services for Supervisor Roy Wilson, her grandfather.

Photos courtesy of Riverside County

Slide on Highway 74

CHP and Caltrans are reporting a mud and rock slide at mile post marker 58 on Highway 74. Caltrans spokesperson Terri Kasinga said the slide "should be cleared in about 15 minutes."

When officials reached the site, they noted that it was not a slide but a few rocks on the road.