■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
A special meeting was held for the San Jacinto City Council Thursday, July 6, following their postponed meeting that would have fallen on July 4, which was a holiday.
City Council discussed the approval of Urgency Ordinance No. 17-04, removing the prohibition on discing and amending other weed abatement measures.
The City adopted an urgency ordinance as a result of serious property damage that was occurring from high winds exceeding 70 mph in 2007, which put dust control measures in place. One of the restrictions included a prohibition on “discing” on all real property, vacant property, and property not actively used for agricultural operations. This created, in effect, a “mow only” solution to the weed abatement problem.
“We don’t want to be noted in San Jacinto for burning down a trailer park,” said Aaron Dall from Karl’s Tractor Service, a company that provides tractor services in the valley. “It’s a no-brainer.”
A CalFire representative present categorized the fire threat level of the evening as “Extremely High.” The combination of extreme drying of vegetation and high temperatures, as well as other current climate conditions within the city, have caused fires from the use of push mowers on vacant property and in weed abatement. Mower blades seemed to have caused sparks when striking debris, igniting the brush. The abundance of dried brush and weeds in the valley pose a risk of fire that certainly requires abatement.
“Just over the last 10 days, I got two calls on illegal discing that started two fires in the city limits,” explained City Manager Rob Johnson. “So whether it’s mowing or discing, you still have metal on the disc…if there are some other preventative measures that we could come up with, we’d obviously like to see that.”
Section 2 of the ordinance states that, “no person shall disturb the topsoil or remove ground cover on any real property within the city limits and thereafter allow the property to remain unoccupied, unused, vacant, or underdeveloped, unless reasonable actions are taken to ensure adequate weed abatement and prevention of the man made generation of dust, including application of soil binders and installation of windbreaks.”
“I know from experience – I disc myself,” stated Mayor Pro Tem Alonso Ledezma. “I would say discing 80 percent less [risky] than mowing.”
City Council adopted the urgency ordinance “for the immediate preservation of the public’s health and safety” that removed the previous discing prohibition.
Weed abatement contractors will be allowed to disc instead of mow from May 1 to Nov. 30, which could help “smother” sparks by churning the dirt as the weeds are pulled. The ordinance also requires property owners to clear any debris prior to weed abatement, and requires active water trucks between May 1 through Nov. 30 when discing to control dust and reduce sparks. It was also approved to bring the issue back to Council in December to determine whether the ordinance should be modified.