Tuesday, June 3, 2008 • Herlong community leaders discuss ways to improve town

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, June 3, 2008, edition of the Lassen County Times.

Herlong community leaders held an informal meeting at the Fort Sage Family Resource Center at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 29 to discuss ways they could come together and start revitalizing the community.

Representatives from several of the boards, businesses and districts in Herlong were in attendance, including Herlong Federal Correctional Institution Warden Richard Ives, Lassen County Undersheriff John Mineau, West Patton Community Services District member John Everett, Local 1808 Union president and Herlong Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jim Swistowicz, Herlong Public Utility General Manager Pat Williams, local business owner and Lassen Community College Trustee Tom Hammond and District 5 Supervisor Jack Hansen. No one from the Sierra Army Depot was on hand.

Swistowicz told everyone how he, Everett and Rod Colvin of the resource center organized the meeting to not have everyone explain the status of their respective organization in relation to the community, but to brainstorm on methods and ideas that could be used in restoring the community.

“The purpose of this meeting is to see how we as a community can come together,” Swistowicz said. “Basically to work on services, recreation, housing, and hopefully energize the community to come together in a couple different areas.”

The meeting started with various representatives giving a brief overview of their respective agencies. Swistowicz briefly talked about the agreement worked out between the county and the fire department for a building the department could use in the near future.

He touched briefly on the new housing coming into the area, as well as the need to accommodate for affordable housing in the area for both Depot and prison employees.

Hanson mentioned how many of the employees for both facilities commuted from either Susanville or Reno, and with the rising costs of fuel prices, housing was going to quickly become a top priority for employees wanting to live closer to where they work.

“I know it’s frustrating both to me personally and to members of the community how long it takes to get things done,” Hanson said. “But the Herlong area has offered a unique challenge, in that we kind of have a skeleton, if you will, of a major community. Many of you’ve lived here when the base was really active, so you knew what this place was 20 years ago, when the population was a little over 1,000 permanent residents.”

He highlighted how the community has many public buildings that other communities such as Doyle, Standish or Litchfield that would love to have in their communities. He mentioned how any property taxes residents see associated with redevelopment projects would go right back into the community.

It was at this point where retired rancher Tim Holabird voiced his concern about the overall cleanliness of the community, asking for the county to chip in and help in an effort to not only clean up areas in the community, but help in restoring glory to areas once covered in fresh grass, such as the greenbelt along Susanville road or the formerly green baseball fields near the school. Warden Ives jumped in saying he could help out by using inmate labor to help in the cleanup efforts, as he has a number of projects in the pipeline utilizing inmate labor. He mentioned how the prison had just adopted two miles of roadway along County Road A-26, and there were plans in place for using inmates to clean up the stretch.

As for the restoration of the grass, Williams jumped in to clarify that the PUD is still awaiting the full amount of funding to work on the water companies infrastructure, which he said won’t start to yield results until 2011.

Another topic discussed at the meeting was the eventual formation of a neighborhood watch association in the West Patton Village. Swistowicz said there have been a rash of break-ins and small acts of vandalism lately in the area, and forming a neighborhood watch might help to curb the activity. Everett said he took up the work to put a community watch program together about 12 years ago, and while it has since fallen by the wayside, it would be a good idea to bring the effort back to the front.

At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that everybody go home and put forth the effort to work on one aspect of the meeting. Swistowicz organized a revitalization committee to meet every two weeks to discuss and implement changes in the community.

The committee meetings will be completely open to the public. Swistowicz said he didn’t invite the public to this first meeting because he didn’t want it to turn into a complaint session. He said he wanted this meeting to focus on improvement, not pointing blame.

The next meeting will take place at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 12 at the Fort Sage Family Resource Center.