The three members of County Service Area 36’s Advisory Committee are Vice Chair Reba Coulter, Chair Bob Schraff and Mike Freitas. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

County official Michael Franklin told the County Service Area (CSA) 36 Advisory Committee that its fiscal year expenses through November 2011 had been $63,000. That’s good news. This total is 10 percent less than last fiscal year and $25,000 less than two years ago when costs through November totaled $88,000, according to Franklin.

When Committee Chair Bob Schraff questioned the reason, Franklin attributed the difference to the prior private contractor’s (Idyllwild Community Recreation Council) need to maintain more staff to run programs and maintain Town Hall in comparison to the current situation where the county’s management team can request help from other county programs.

“We can just send staff in on an as-needed basis which doesn’t cost the CSA,” Franklin replied. “Thus there’s a savings from not having extra staff being paid for full-time or nearly full-time to be on call.”

The November expenses were $17,300, substantially higher than the August through October expenses, but Franklin noted that reflected the county administration catching up on this year’s budget data. Future months should level out at a lower rate, he promised.

In other business, Schraff encouraged Franklin to help Curves find a permanent location, which might make the former library site, on Pine Crest Avenue, available for the Forest Folk group (see story on page 9).

Curves had been a tenant at the Cornet building, which is being renovated for the new library. Franklin confirmed that Curves has the right to use the former library site if it chooses. Currently, the exercise business is located in the Village Centre.

Schraff encouraged Franklin and county officials to consider subsidizing Curves current rent in order to use the old library for a senior center, which would not incur or need extensive renovation costs.

The Committee is also investigating the possibility of creating a community garden this spring. Advisory Committee Vice Chair Reba Coulter had met with the Forest Folk group, where the idea originated.

Preliminary examination of the Mountain Resource Center grounds did not reveal enough land with adequate sunlight according to Coulter. Coulter said Idyllwild Water District was reluctant to permit use of the jointly owned water district land between Foster Lake and the Resource Center.

She will explore other sites such as the Nature Center and the County Park.

Local Jeff Smith encouraged this effort and suggested it would be an activity for which residents would be willing to pay. Franklin concurred and said the CSA management has experience providing victory gardens with six other CSAs, including the very popular Kay Ceniceros Center.

“They often pair the adults with local teenage students to grow vegetables,” he said. Coulter also acknowledged the short growing season on the Hill and suggested investigating the possibility of greenhouses to extend the growing period.

The current recreation program is becoming very popular according to Recreation director GeGe Beagle. Winter sports — adult volleyball and kids basketball — have more participants this year. Adult and children’s programs started last week and the field trip to the Mission Inn and the next week’s trip to the Getty Museum are attracting many participants. Seventeen rode the buses to Riverside on the weekend of Jan. 7 to see the Mission Inn’s holiday lights.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Norm Cassen asked about the playground equipment adjacent to the Town Hall building.

According to Schraff, Franklin and Beagle, Riverside County playground inspectors found several problems that posed dangers. Consequently until these are corrected or addressed, the playground equipment will be closed.

Franklin said the county will try to help and is actively looking for funds. But it does not own the equipment and is sensitive to the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce’s ownership of the Town Hall property and Rotary’s installation of the original equipment.

“From my background in construction and playground management, this equipment is sorely in need of a lot of upgrade,” Schraff said.