RV Park Owner Is Told County May Not Offer Flood Warnings

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County has notified the owner of a recreational vehicle park swamped by recent flooding that the county does not have to provide flood warnings to the park's owner until he agrees to formal warning and evacuation procedures.

Ventura RV Resort owner Arnold Hubbard, in turn, has informed county officials that his operating permit is still in force and has called on them to "immediately shoulder your legal responsibility."

Hubbard said he has not informed his customers that the county's flood warning system may no longer protect them. But he said he has taken some steps on his own to ensure their safety.

"I posted letters telling the residents to evacuate in the event of heavy rainfall, and I've told our staff to be extra alert," he said.

The RV resort was flooded by heavy rainfall Feb. 12, when raging Ventura River water damaged dozens of trailers. The park reopened Tuesday, and about 15 families have moved in.

Alex Sheydayi, director of the county's Flood Control Department, told Hubbard in a letter Monday that the county is "not going to take responsibility for providing flood warning notification," until Hubbard meets three conditions.

First, county officials want Ventura officials to conclude their review of Hubbard's operating permit. The City Council is scheduled to take up the issue at its March 23 meeting and City Atty. Peter Bulens has advised that the council can revoke or alter the permit, but may have to compensate Hubbard for any lost earnings.

Second, county officials want Hubbard to sign an agreement holding the county harmless for damages from any future flood. Hubbard responded in a letter Thursday that he signed such a release drafted by the Ventura city attorney five years ago.

Finally, county officials want Hubbard to enter an agreement with the Flood Control District specifying Hubbard's responsibilities after he receives a flood warning.

Arthur Goulet, county public works director, said the county wants a new agreement to avoid problems experienced during the Feb. 12 flood, when park officials did not issue evacuation orders until 45 minutes after receiving a warning.

"We need a clear, formalized protocol establishing what is expected from Mr. Hubbard when he receives a flood warning," Goulet said. "This agreement was lacking in the letter we exchanged in 1987 and 1988."

Goulet, who is Sheydayi's supervisor, said the county is under no obligation to provide flood warnings to private businesses.

Yet despite the notification to Hubbard, Goulet said the county might help out Hubbard and his customers in the event of another flood. "We would probably give Mr. Hubbard a phone call as a courtesy," he said.

In his letter responding to county officials, Hubbard wrote that he already has a valid agreement with the county Flood Control District and that he received letters from the district in 1987 and 1988 indicating that the park operators had fulfilled their responsibilities.

Hubbard also told county officials that he was shocked by their official position.

He said he always has met the county's requirements.

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