Foresthill is a thriving rural community because of its strong network of residents and volunteers. With the influx of tourism and the willingness of more residents to play, shop and dine on the hill, Foresthill’s infrastructure and services were stretched. Concerns escalated. Social media pages and Forum meetings experienced higher participation with locals wanting to preserve the natural beauty and culture of their historic town.
Foresthill underwent a ‘paradigm shift’ with key events triggering a new outlook.
Expectations morphed. After three contentious special ballot tax measures emphasizing the responsibility of Foresthill voters to select the level of emergency services desired to protect the community, Measure B passed as the majority desired to retain control of the fire and ambulance service on the hill. Director John Michelini, President of the Foresthill Fire Protection District, invested hundreds of hours educating the public. Presentations and materials were professionally crafted and presented at public meetings supplemented by community outreach through articles in the local paper, interacting on social media and face-to-face meet ups.
Expectations defined. As more grasped their “ownership stake” in the precious resources controlled by Foresthill, the community took a greater interest in how they were managed and financed. The Fire District was funded with a clear direction on services to be provided, the Foresthill Public Utility Water District was challenged on water rates and oversight, US Forestry was asked to better manage visitors to Sugar Pine Reservoir, and local law enforcement was requested to increase patrols to manage speeders. Results were achieved.
Expectations increased. Foresthill residents became vested; they shifted from being consumers to engaged owners. With an invested mind set, this paradigm shift placed pressure on elected representatives. A new level of accountability and transparency was expected on use of tax dollars generated by parcel owners.
The audience at the August 5, 2019, Foresthill Forum MAC meeting demonstrated how well they understood the issues of managing their fire and water models. There was a level of disappointment with Placer County representatives who inadequately addressed the concerns of how General Fund tax dollars were allocated to support seven failed fire zones (with Ophir/North Auburn paying the least while reaping the largest benefit). Time will tell how successful the County will be in passing special fire tax ballot measures in those seven zones. Education is key and they have not yet launched a campaign to prepare voters. Just as Foresthill underwent a paradigm shift, so too will voters in those zones as they learn of their ownership in how their fire service model is delivered and what, if any, impact it may have on their insurance rates. Placer County needs to have a sustainable model that is self-funded by those receiving the service. They will need to properly prepare residents what services may be trimmed if tax measures fail.
Expectation of stakeholders. Great communities do not just happen. It takes involvement. Volunteer. Attend local community meetings and Placer County Board of Supervisors meetings to learn about issues and opportunities. Meeting dates are posted in the Foresthill Messenger, Facebook pages, and on district website pages. Continued presence is key to keeping Foresthill a special place to live and play.