Earthquake: The Long Road Back : Commerce Secretary Brings Aid : Fillmore: Ronald Brown offers residents and businesses encouragement. Assistance for Simi Valley will take longer.


Bringing cash and encouragement, U.S. Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown came to Fillmore on Wednesday, promising that the federal government will do all it can to help businesses and residents in earthquake-ravaged Ventura County communities.

Speaking to about 50 residents and city officials at Fillmore’s Central Park, Brown expressed confidence in a quick recovery for Southern California.

“This is not just about talk,” Brown said. “We actually brought some money with us,” referring to loan checks given to four Fillmore homeowners and one business owner.


Dortha and Raymond Miller, who have lived in Fillmore for 54 years, received $5,300 to pay for repairs to their house, which lost part of its roof in the quake.

“We did not have the money to repair the house,” Raymond Miller said. “If we had not received this check, I have no idea what we would do.”

Ron Stewart, owner of the Ballard’s Furniture store founded by his grandfather 57 years ago, received a check for an undisclosed sum to start repairs at his store.

“I don’t know what I would be doing” without the assistance, Stewart said. “I did not know what to expect.”

Ventura County Supervisor Vicky Howard, who had lunch with Brown during his visit, said that residents of Fillmore were among the first to receive checks from the government because they applied early.

“Fillmore is such a small community that it is easier to get your arms around it and rebuild it in a quick fashion,” Howard said.


For her Simi Valley district, however, it will take longer for many to get financial assistance because many in the community are still assessing the damage, Howard said.

Howard said Brown assured her that the destruction in Simi Valley will not be forgotten and that everyone in Ventura County who needs help will get it.

“President Clinton’s instructions,” Brown told the Fillmore crowd, “were to do everything that we can do, to be as helpful as we can in the economic recovery of communities like this all over the state of California.”

His comments came as workers nearby continued to hammer together a prefabricated structure in the park where 10 to 12 local businesses will be temporarily relocated.

Merchants moving into what Mayor Linda Brewster dubbed the Domed Mini-Mall Shopping Pavilion will pay the city $1 a month for the first six months. Then the city will reassess the economic situation and may increase the rent.

And by next Wednesday, the city hopes to have modular buildings installed in a city parking lot across from Central Park. The modular facilities will house private offices and the town’s only health clinic, which has been operating in a trailer since the Jan. 17 quake.


City Manager Roy Payne said the city will do everything it can to prevent merchants from leaving town.

“We are extremely concerned that merchants will move out of town. We are going to get those structures ready as soon as possible so they will stay,” he said.

Brown was accompanied by James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Richard Andrews, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. All of them praised residents and city officials for working together to rebuild the community.

“We got a lot to do and a long way to go, but we are doing it quickly,” Witt said.

In other quake-related developments, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) introduced legislation to allow earthquake victims to use money from their Individual Retirement Accounts without tax penalties.

And a state agency, the California Coastal Rural Development Corp., opened a satellite office in Fillmore to assist small businesses with state-backed loan guarantees.