MOORLACH UPDATE — Los Alamitos/Seal Beach Patch — June 14, 2011

Happy Flag Day!

Tomorrow’s Update should provide for some interesting news on today’s budget hearings and on tonight’s Rossmoor Community Services District meeting.

Rossmoor to Decide on Power Grab Tonight

By Paige Austin

The district’s board of directors will vote tonight on whether to petition the county for authority over police, trash or animal control services.

Once again, Rossmoor residents are faced with sweeping decisions about their future as a community.

The Rossmoor Community Services Board of Directors is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to petition the county for authority to oversee services such as animal control, police and trash collection. Having rejected cityhood in 2008 and facing increased pressure by the county to be annexed by Los Alamitos, Rossmoor leaders are pursuing “latent powers” as an alternative option. In large measure, the latent powers strategy is designed to short-circuit the county’s pressure to merge Rossmoor and Los Alamitos.

The board is asking residents to voice their opinions on the matter before tonight’s vote.

“The public has one last opportunity to tell us whether or not to pursue latent powers,” said Rossmoor Community Services District General Manager Henry Taboada.

Of the three powers that Rossmoor is pursuing, police service is the most complicated, said Taboada.

For Rossmoor to contract with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department such as Villa Park does, it would need an opinion from the California Attorney General supporting a community services district’s right to contract for police services. Despite the fact that districts in other counties have done it, the county’s attorney has said unincorporated islands such as Rossmoor cannot have the authority to negotiate contracts for core police services, he said. Taboada said he expects to the attorney general to issue an opinion on the matter soon.

Conversely, authority of animal control services might be the district’s best bet for obtaining latent powers. Widespread dissatisfaction with the county’s handling of coyotes in Rossmoor has triggered public support for Rossmoor to take over animal control by contracting with Long Beach for animal control services.

“If the costs for contracting with Long Beach are comparable to the county and if we can get better response times than the four to six hours it currently takes for animal control to come out, then we can make a valid case to (the Local Agency Formation Commission) for latent powers,” Taboada said.

Taboada also renewed calls for the county to release its report on Rossmoor’s expenses and tax revenues. He called claims that Rossmoor is a financial burden on the county “hogwash.”

County Supervisor John Moorlach said the study is in the process of being completed. Given the county’s mission to dissolve unincorporated islands such as Rossmoor and the expense involved in providing services to them, it’s not likely that LAFCO will approve a petition for latent powers, he said. Dubbing a community district with latent powers a “city-light,” Moorlach predicted an uphill battle for Rossmoor officials if they make the grab for additional powers.

In March, a poll of 300 Rossmoor voters found that most residents would prefer to keep the community operating in exactly the same way it has for the last 40 years. However, if the status quo is not an option because of county pressure to merge with Los Alamitos, the next most popular option among voters is to be annexed by Seal Beach rather than Los Alamitos. But since Seal Beach officials have expressed an unwillingness to take on Rossmoor, the next option favored by Rossmoor voters is to take authority over police and animal control from the county and place it in the hands of the Rossmoor Community Services District.

When asked if they would support Rossmoor’s grab for latent powers as long as it didn’t cost residents more money, 70 percent of respondents favored the move. Additionally, 47 percent of respondents favored the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for police services as opposed to the 38 percent who preferred the Los Alamitos Police Department.

The survey is a key component in the drive for latent powers because the county would require proof of community support before it would agree to expand the community services district’s authority.

Tonight’s meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Rush Park Auditorium, 3021 Blume Drive, Rossmoor.

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