WONDER VALLEY — County Supervisor Dawn Rowe touched on subjects that ranged from the county fire protection assessment to her status as the appointed replacement to Third District Supervisor James Ramos during a town hall meeting Monday, Oct. 7, at the Wonder Valley Community Center.
Among other things, Rowe promised that a county-wide fire protection assessment, paid with property taxes, will sunset in two years and that residents will have a say and a vote on any new assessment.
She said she objected to the manner in which the previous assessment was approved, a process which called for the assessment to be approved unless enough property owners registered protests against it.
“I didn’t think it was a fair process,” she said. She said she also felt fire department officials needed to do more to cut costs in order to close an anticipated $22 million budget shortfall.
Since voting to sunset the assessment, she said, county officials have worked with fire department officials to cut the anticipated shortfall to $15 million and are now looking for long-term funding solutions.
“Do we do a general tax?” she said, noting that residents will have a voice in deciding more than how much they will have to pay for fire protection services.
“You get to decide what levels of service you want,” she said.
The ultimate goal, she said, is to reduce costs and come up with an assessment amount everyone can vote on.
Rowe also touched on her status as a member of the county board of supervisors, which was called into question when a judge ruled that the process used to appoint her violated the state’s open government act.
“The way they did it was called into question,” she said, noting that the judge’s ruling has been placed on hold while the county appeals the decision.
“I am still your supervisor,” she said. “We’ll see where that lands.”
Rowe also addressed the question of short-term rentals, which have sprung up around the Morongo Basin.
“It’s increased our traffic patterns,” she said, and brought more strangers into communities.
On the other hand it has also to the rehabilitation of derelict properties and employment opportunities for residents.
“There are great pros and great cons on both sides of the argument,” she said. “It’s wild and crazy, there are no regulations.”
The county’s goal, she said, is to provide thoughtful management of the growing industry.
“We have ticked off both sides, which probably means we are doing something right,” she said.
Some of the calls received from the area, she admitted, have left county officials who have little understanding of the Morongo Basin, stumped. This includes a resident who reported that a tiny house was dropped off on their property.
“They don’t understand how a tony house could get dropped off on the wrong lot,” she said.
She also questioned the wisdom of requiring the owner’s phone number to be displayed in front of vacation home rental properties, requiring those seeking to complain to approach the home.
“You might likely get shot at,” she said.