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The Madera Tribune

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Grand Jury report focuses on the problems within various agencies

August 21, 2019

Traffic around schools, Community Action Partnership, City of Chowchilla water system all get strong suggestions from jurors

 

The complete Madera County Grand Jury Report has been issued, and it is a lively one in some areas for sure.

 

Not only did the Grand Jury blast the City of Madera for the inappropriate conduct of some of its employees — mainly top executives — but it also questioned why Madera Unified School District doesn’t do a better job controlling traffic outside some of its schools. Traffic jams in front of some of those schools pose a danger, the report says.

 

The Golden Valley Unified School District also gets a dressing down for not mitigating traffic safety problems around at least two of their schools.

 

In both these cases, the behavior of apparently uninformed and not very polite parents dropping off their kids also is under the spotlight.

 

The schools and law enforcement agencies are working to try to improve this traffic safety problem.

And efforts to improve communication with parents are under way.

 

Community Action Partnership of Madera County

 

A Grand Jury inspection of the Community Action Partnership of Madera County discovered that the agency, which has a budget of $23 million, is barely known in the community, either by citizens or those whom the agency is supposed to be helping.

 

There was a general lack of understanding as to what CAPMC does for the community, what its funding sources are, and who benefits from the services. 

 

As a non-profit agency, CAPMC is unable to use direct advertising of its services and programs. This causes a broad lack of knowledge of the agency’s services and programs. This Grand Jury report is designed to help enlighten the community about these services and programs, and their availability. 

 

The Madera County Grand Jury toured several programs and facilities supported, operated, and staffed by CAPMC within the city of Madera. The facilities were pre-selected by the staff, and interaction by the Grand Jury with those operating the various facilities was limited. 

 

Three separate Head Start facilities were toured. At each of these facilities, the children were at naptime, and the MCGJ met few of the staff at work. 

 

Also included in the tour, was a visit to the Shunammite Place, which is a supportive housing program for chronically homeless women with disabilities. The Shunammite Place currently houses 15 residents. On-site staff assists clients with employment training, case management, basic life skills, and education.

 

The final location visited was the Strengthening Families services delivery site. Strengthening Families programs involve building parenting communication skills and strategies to prevent and/or mitigate the incidents of behavioral, emotional, or social problems for children, teens, and adults. 

 

The program has a child-care area. It is provided for the parents as a practice area, and while adults are attending classes. The parenting classes are available in English and Spanish. 

 

An issue MCGJ noticed is that program publications provided by CAPMC to the target group, are geared toward a verbal, reading audience. Most publications are reader-intensive, and the vocabulary may be beyond the target audience. Those with limited reading abilities need audio-visual media in order to access and understand CAPMC publications. 

 

• By Jan. 1, 2020, the MCGJ recommends that CAPMC promote services through various forms of social media and other community venues throughout the County. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Jan. 1, 2020, CAPMC update their Resource Guide to reflect style, social media outlets, and include all areas of the county. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Jan. 1, 2020, that CAPMC reestablish the Gang Task Force in conjunction with other community agencies. The Gang Task Force, led by a now out-of-office county supervisor, had success in lowering gang activity, but when it was ended about two years ago, gang activity increased.

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Jan. 1, 2020, CAPMC coordinate a plan to work with law enforcement and the Courts for training staff on how to recognize and defuse gang intimidation. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Jan. 1, 2020, CAPMC increase efforts to address the community issues for the needs of victims of sexual assault and human trafficking by reviewing and creating new strategies for victim prevention and assistance. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by July 1, 2020-2021 budget, CAPMC secures funds and includes a line item for expenses attributed specifically related to CFIT (Child Forensic Interview Team) activity.

 

Chowchilla Water System

 

A series of problems has plagued the Chowchilla municipal water system for the last several years, leaving the city with too little water and not many plans to cure the problem, says the Grand Jury.

Between 2008 and 2017, the Grand Jury report says, a turnover occurred approximately every two years in the Public Works Director position. 

 

Up until 2017, no evidence of a long-range water development plan was provided to prove that one existed. A slow recovery from the fiscal downturn in the economy that reduced staffing levels, a four-year statewide drought, and imposed water restrictions during the summer of 2018 had a devastating impact on the residents of Chowchilla. 

 

The restricted water use within the City of Chowchilla, additionally was caused by fewer functioning wells. This caused significant system-wide pressure loss, and reduced delivery for domestic water use down to a trickle. Also, outdoor watering was restricted to “one day a week only with water warnings, the water patrol, and imposed water fines.

 

Some highlights of the Grand Jury report on the Chowchilla water well system:

 

Currently, the City of Chowchilla owns seven domestic water wells; five of which are operational. The Water Division personnel do not have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), knowledge, or field experience. This contributes to well maintenance failures. There are no established and consistent testing, security, or maintenance procedures in place. Employees indicated that when they were hired, they did not have any type of formal training of the procedures. 

 

According to the Safe Water Drinking Act, only trained, certified operators, or persons trained by a certified operator are permitted to sample collections or test samples. Employees reported that they were shown how to test samples by other employees currently performing the job. The MCGJ interviewed the City of Chowchilla Public Works director, and was provided testimony and documents regarding the wells. 

 

After the interview, the MCGJ reviewed the provided documents and observed that testing logs indicated that chlorine residual tests were at a level of 0.3ppm every day for the past several years. This is statistically impossible. Chlorine levels vary depending upon well depths, ambient temperature, and flow. This false representation of the integrity of the chlorine residual tests can result in a public safety hazard. 

 

While at the Corporation Yard, the MCGJ requested to observe a chlorine residual test. City staff suggested to observe the test at well No. 14. Upon arrival at the site, the MCGJ observed that none of the employees present were prepared with a chlorine residual test kit. Prior to this visit, the MCGJ was told, during interviews, that all of the service trucks are equipped with a chlorine residual testing kit. While at well No. 14, the staff discovered that only one of the three trucks present that day had a chlorine residual test kit. 

 

This was confusing, as it was reported this is a required daily test, which is part of their job duties. These chlorine residual test kits are simple and readily available, according to the Grand Jury report. 

 

Despite claims of each vehicle carrying chlorine residual testing kits, the operators were not prepared to conduct the chlorine residual test. The MCGJ witnessed the chlorine residual testing of the sample site at well No. 14. The sample valve was leaking, dirty, and the line was not flushed prior to the start of testing. Operators use a reagent, which is included in the test kit and is a chemical used during the test, which reacts with the chlorine to give the results of the chlorine residual test. 

 

During testing, the operator poured out half of the sample and refilled the test vial from the sample valve, forcing the results to a 0.3 ppm reading. Adding more water diluted the sample and changed the outcome. If the test had not been diluted, the result of chlorine would have been higher. This dilution placed the results within the range of 0.2 ppm to 4.0 ppm as required by the State’s Safe Drinking Water Act. 

 

Security for the water system should include the following: locked perimeter fencing, locked doors to pump houses where applicable, and locked test sites. Wells which are not housed are only secured by perimeter fencing. Another security risk concerns the sample sites. These sites can easily be secured with simple padlocks, but are not. Boxes are designed with a ring to accommodate a lock. During the investigation by the MCGJ, only one box was secured with a rusted lock. Additionally, MCGJ observed one site’s equipment door was open, not locked, or secured. Since October’s high temperatures could damage the pump motor and motor control center, staff cited a non-functioning air conditioner as one of the reasons for an opened door. 

 

The Grand Jury returned on March 4, 2019, when temperatures were significantly less intense, the door was again open and no staff was on site. The lack of proper training, policy, procedures, and security practices were viewed at multiple well and sample sites. These issues pose an unacceptable safety risk to public health. This is a liability for the City. 

 

Several other problems were identified by the Grand Jury during its inspection.

 

Recommendations

 

• The MCGJ recommends that, by Sept. 1, 2019, the Public Works Director implement testing, security, and maintenance procedures and training be established, practiced, and documented consistent with regulatory standards. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends that, by Sept. 1, 2019, the Public Works Director implement a procedure, which accurately tests and records the daily outcome of chlorine residual tests at each sample site. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends that, by Sept. 1, 2019, the Public Works Director be responsible for providing each vehicle and well site with a chlorine residual testing kit. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends that, by Sept.1, 2019, the Public Works Director will assure all well and sample sites are clean, repaired, and secure. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends the Public Works Director immediately adopt and implement a Standard Operating Procedure for chlorine residual testing. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends the Public Works Director immediately secure all equipment room doors at all well sites where applicable. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends the Public Works Director immediately secure all sample sites to eliminate any opportunities for tampering or intrusion of the water system throughout the City. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Sept. 1, 2019, the Public Works Director implement and supervise monthly goals for operators who are actually performing the exercise program, including logs with complete and accurate records. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Sept. 1, 2019, the Public Works Director implement and provide all employees with training and orientation for the adopted valve exercise form from 1999 and contained in the April 31, 2017, Public Works Policy and Procedures Manual. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends the Public Works Director immediately direct staff to address the flush line support brackets at well site No. 14 to be repaired and secured, and inspect all other well sites with flush lines. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Sept. 1, 2019, the Public Works Director implement a standard color code line identification system, including labels, on all appropriate equipment and lines at all well sites. 

 

• The MCGJ recommends, by Sept. 1, 2019, the Public Works Director develop, adopt, and implement a policy dealing with water-related complaints and entering private dwellings.

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