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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

FPUD to explore community benefit district


Last updated 6/23/2018 at 4:10pm

Several subsequent steps including voter approval would be needed before the Fallbrook Public Utility District could create a community benefit district to handle community beautification and maintenance items, and a June 13 ad hoc committee meeting was among the first of those activities.

FPUD board member Don McDougal is the chair of the ad hoc committee, FPUD director Jennifer DeMeo is the committee's vice-chair, and the committee also includes Donna Gebhart from the Fallbrook Trails Council and Joe Comella from County Service Area No. 81, which covers parks in Fallbrook, Rainbow, and DeLuz. The meeting was open to the public, and FPUD staff members were also present.

"It was just talking about setting up some meetings with the public down the road to get voter input," said FPUD acting general manager Jack Bebee. "They're trying to figure out if there's interest and what it would take to actually do something."

FPUD's May 29 meeting included a presentation by the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce and other community groups proposing the possibility that FPUD might take responsibility for community maintenance.

"It's been talked about for some time," Bebee said.

FPUD's October 2015 meeting included a discussion on the process for activating park and recreation latent powers, and a request for additional information resulted in a December 2015 workshop with no board voting items.

The desire to have the locally-elected district rather than the county maintain Fallbrook assets also includes a 1999 attempt to transfer Fallbrook Community Airpark from the county to FPUD, although after hearing presentations and scheduling a meeting for an action item FPUD's board voted 3-2 to reject further steps.

Professionally McDougal is the chief executive officer of the Grand Tradition Estate and Gardens venue which in the recent past hosted a 4th of July fireworks celebration. The proceeds for that were given to the Fallbrook Beautification Alliance, which is among the community groups seeking the possibility of a benefit district through FPUD.

"It's some type of benefit district that benefits the community beautification and maintenance projects," McDougal said.

"This is really being driven by the local community groups, not by FPUD," McDougal said. "The groups would like to look at something that is controlled by the community, not by the county."

The benefit district would focus on maintenance including trash and graffiti removal. "The group has identified a list of about 15 projects," McDougal said.

"Most of these were funded in the past by the fundraiser they had on July 4," McDougal said. "The last two years they haven't had that."

FPUD currently has water provision, wastewater collection and treatment, and water reclamation latent powers.

The California Public Utilities Code also gives a public utility district the potential powers of acquiring, constructing, owning, operating, controlling, or using works to supply its residents and businesses with light, water, power, heat, transportation, telephone service or other means of communication, and garbage or other refuse matter disposition.

A public utility district may also acquire, construct, own, complete, use, and operate a fire department, a street lighting system, public parks or playgrounds, golf courses, swimming pools, public recreation buildings, other buildings to be used for public purposes, and works to provide for the paving and drainage of roads, streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and other public places.

San Diego County's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) must grant FPUD latent powers to own or operate park and recreation facilities. "You'd have to activate additional powers and there's a process that's associated with that," Bebee said.

An FPUD application to LAFCO for such latent powers would need to address forecasted revenues and expenses, sources of revenue projections such as property taxes and user fees, and the future of County Service Area No. 81 which derives its funding from a share of property tax revenue.

CSA No. 81 was created in 1976. The governing body of a county service area is the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, although a CSA has an advisory board comprised of local residents appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

Twelve special districts in San Diego County have park and recreation latent powers, including five water districts and one community services district which includes potable water services.

The Helix Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, and Ramona Municipal Water District have storage faculties which are also used for public recreation.

The Borrego Water District acquired park and recreation latent powers after it merged with the Borrego Springs Parks Community Services District which provided water and sewer service and also operated the Club Circle par-54 golf course. The Jacumba Community Services District provides potable water services and is also responsible for Jacumba Community Park.

The Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District oversees Lake Cuyamaca but does not provide water service. Valley Center's four active recreation parks are owned and operated by the Valley Center Parks and Recreation District.

CSA No. 81 is one of four county service areas in San Diego County which provide park and recreation services. CSA No. 26 covers parks in Rancho San Diego, CSA No. 83 serves San Dieguito, and CSA No. 128 maintains Spring Valley parks.

Because portions of CSA No. 81 are outside the FPUD boundaries, a LAFCO action to authorize park and recreation latent powers would also include the determination of whether the CSA No. 81 boundaries would be adjusted.

"Part of it is to look at what the process would be to do something like that," Bebee said.

A community benefit district would also include an assessment, so voter approval would be required. The current estimated assessment is $5 per month. The determination of voter support will precede any efforts to form the district.

"The next step is to schedule some public workshops," Bebee said.

Prior to community forums – McDougal expects one such meeting for businesses and one for residents with one forum taking place during business hours and one in the evening – Bebee will obtain information from LAFCO executive officer Keene Simonds on the process portion of the requirements.

"It's very preliminary at this point," McDougal said. "It's all preliminary investigation at this point."

"No formal action has been taken to commit to do anything except to explore and evaluate it," Bebee said. "It's just at a state of looking at it."

"It would be really nice to have some type of a funding program that could help maintain those community projects," McDougal said. "Hopefully we can come up with something that will allow us to make that happen."


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