NEWBERRY SPRINGS — Fire Chief Steve Miller stood in front of a presentation easel plastered with sticky notes of different colors. Each sticky note represented a problem or a strength of this community.
"It's heartbreaking to drive those engines 20 miles per hour and you know somebody is not breathing 5 miles away and there's nothing we can do to get there faster," Miller said. He was describing the condition of roads and other infrastructure as one of the areas where improvement is needed in Newberry Springs.
Miller reported out for one of four groups of residents who sat down Wednesday evening in effort to brainstorm the needs and improvements sought for 2,100 people.
San Bernardino County officials facilitated the group discussions as part of a countywide plan initiative that started 2015. County officials are holding a second round of meetings in rural areas such Newberry Springs, Yermo and Daggett.
"The reason we are here is to set up the community plan for Newberry Springs," County Senior Planner Chris Warrick said. He told the group of 25 residents who showed up for Wednesday's meeting inside the Newberry Springs Community Center that he and the other officials where present to hear from them.
"It's not us telling you what we think what your community is," said county representative Shane Burkhardt. "It's how you can improve yourself. Helping to bring in all the data, so we can look at what are some of the common problems."
Burkhardt explained a plan eventually will be developed for Newberry Springs on countywideplan.com/cp.
"This is really a living document. This is for you to make changes," he said. "As you get things done, you can check them off the list or if you think something needs to be added to the plan."
According to the Countywide plan fact sheet, the purpose of a community plan is to guide the future use, character and independent identity of a community. The county has 14 community plans currently in use. Most were adopted in 2007.
The participants broke into four groups and developed lists of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, values and aspirations.
All of the groups reported such problems as water resources, crime and emergency services. But the rural, independent lifestyle was listed as a strength. Potential was found on Route 66 and wilderness areas.
Miller said Newberry Springs needs a voice in county government when it comes to water. But he also listed the high cost of needed resources.
"We need planning and some coordination out here to make things useful," he said. "To make things workable for emergency services, to be able to support industry. The high cost of wells, high cost of electricity, the whole host of issues. Somewhere or another we need to look at a plan where we can find some workable solutions.
"Nobody can invest in a community where you can't get insurance for their business. Plain and simple, that's a huge roadblock for us."
Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-957-0613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @mlambdispatch.