Questions raised about possible LACSD-AWAC merger

May 12, 2023 | Front Page

Rich Scott, Crystal Upton and a new board member identified only at Katie fielded questions from the Arrowhead Woods property owners.

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

(Photos by Mary-Justine Lanyon)

It was standing room only at the first public meeting about the possible merger between LACSD and AWAC.

It was standing room only at the first public meeting about the possible merger between LACSD and AWAC.

The passage of Senate Bill 1405 opened the door to the possibility of the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (LACSD) assuming the duties currently held by the Arrowhead Woods Architectural Committee (AWAC).

In the first of what will be a series of public forums on the possible merger, Rich Scott, the AWAC president, and Crystal Upton, who became the AWAC executive director following the retirement of Stacey Lippert, fielded questions from a standing-room-only crowd.

In addition to those attending in person at the LACSD board room, there were 100 people logged on to the meeting via Zoom. More had wanted to log on but the virtual meeting was at capacity.

The series of meetings – a date has not yet been set for the next meeting – will lead up to a vote on the part of all Arrowhead Woods property owners on whether to approve the merger.

That vote, Scott said, is not and has never been scheduled for June, as erroneously reported in another newspaper. Scott speculated the vote could take place in November, although later in the meeting Upton said she didn’t see how they could hold a vote in 2023.

The majority of the meeting was devoted to comments by members of the public.

“Anyone who thinks this merge is a good thing is sadly mistaken,” said George Hatt, the first speaker. “AWAC is a bad organization and LACSD will become one.” He went on to detail a court case he was involved in over a tree he had been noticed to cut down by Cal Fire. “This is not a homeowners association; it is a moneymaking racket,” Hatt said.

Ted Heyck raised a number of questions about AWAC and the proposed merger.

Ted Heyck raised a number of questions about AWAC and the proposed merger.

“I thought I was going to hear how LACSD was going to assume your responsibilities,” said Ted Heyck. “Where are the LACSD representatives? Are they not going to be here?” Later in the meeting, LACSD General Manager Catherine Cerri, who was present, said it was an AWAC meeting, not an LACSD meeting.

She also clarified that LACSD would not be able to use any water or wastewater funds to enforce the CCRs (covenants, conditions and restrictions). In an article in the July 22, 2022, issue of The Alpine Mountaineer, Cerri was quoted as saying that LACSD would review permit applications for such things as tree removal or additions to homes. Those fees, she said, would pay for the inspectors who would enforce the CCRs.

“We expect that the permit fees will fund the additional personnel LACSD would need to enforce the CCRs similar to the way it works now,” Cerri said last year. “No funding for AWAC may come from water or wastewater fees.”

Heyck also told the crowd that, since 2021 and for 592 days, the California Department of Justice has had copies of written notices sent to AWAC “informing them they are delinquent in filing required annual reports and filing fees. They are not in good standing. As of May 1, 2023, the DOJ still lists AWAC as being delinquent. How does LACSD plan to do business with your organization that has been notified they are prohibited from doing business in California?

“AWAC hasn’t filed tax documents for three years,” Heyck added. “Supposedly AWAC is broke. I don’t know how you can come in here with a straight face and tell us you are transparent.”

That was something Upton, who has been on the AWAC board for 10 years, had said. “My intention is to be transparent. The organization is yours.”

When Jim Hannon asked Scott and Upton if AWAC would provide their financial statements at the next meeting, Upton said they would. “Taxes were filed,” she said. “I have the tax returns.”

Heyck also noted that, prior to the existence of AWAC, there were “hundreds of architectural committees. Each tract elected its own policeman who understood the circumstances of each tract. It might be fair to cut down a tree in one but not another. Every tract has the right to secede from AWAC.”

Upton agreed, saying, “We can be gotten rid of.”

“Then why don’t you tell people they don’t have to have you?” Heyck asked. “They can elect their own architectural committee with a majority vote.”

When Roberta Rindenow asked for a show of hands of how many people in the room were opposed to the merger, nearly every hand went up.

“I’m struggling with the scope of AWAC and the implied scope of LACSD,” said Seline Karakaya. “They are two very different things. You should be an extension of the homeowner, an advocate. There’s a lot in the CCRs that is offensive and unlawful.”

“I was here to discuss the merger,” said Marilyn Dishell. “Obviously LACSD is in favor of it or they wouldn’t consider it. I don’t know why they’re in favor of it.”

“We never pursued this,” Cerri responded. “AWAC came to LACSD and said they needed more resources and wanted to do a better job. We’re able to provide services beyond water to unincorporated areas.

“When we’re asked to serve our community, we’re willing to help if the community wants it. We’re happy running our water and sewer services,” Cerri said.

Toward the end of the three-hour meeting, Bob Mattison, the general manager of the Arrowhead Lake Association, said that “it strikes me there needs to be more structure to our decision making. The cart is way ahead of the horse. It’s premature to say LACSD should assume AWAC.” He added there should be a representative from each of the 50 tracts involved to bring a decision to the table. Mattison agreed with others at the meeting that there should be strong CCRs.
“Each tract could decide what their CCRs should be. Do they want to be part of AWAC or do they want to govern themselves? It’s illogical to me that a water company would be in charge of CCRs.”

As the meeting wrapped up, Upton said that, if she hadn’t taken over as executive director, there would be no AWAC.

Someone called out a question to Upton: “Given what you know right now, would you vote for the merger?”

Her answer: “No.”


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