Ask the Captain - Q&A (continued)
Question (March 2015): It's been almost a month since the Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield exercise, but the traffic barriers remain in place at Pleasant Valley gate. This creates a traffic flow problem and delays, especially going in the gate. Because of the barriers, the two lanes immediately merge into one lane. Drivers must coordinate with the car next to them to drive around the barriers safely and not cause an accident. The exercise is over, so why are barriers still in place?
Answer: Thank you for allowing me to address this issue. The barriers were placed at Pleasant Valley Gate as part of the Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield exercise but remain in place because they are part of a larger barrier plan we are working for all Naval Base Ventura County access points.
Pleasant Valley Gate, much like Las Posas Gate, has a long, straight road leading up to the Entry Control Point (ECP), then a long straight road into the installation behind it. Although we’ve put in temporary speed bumps at both gates, they are still not as effective in slowing down a speeding vehicle trying to get past security guards and onto the installation. In addition to the risk of a driver running the gate, many drivers exiting the installation do so at high rates of speed which presents a safety hazard. Placing barriers in a serpentine both increases the security of the installation and the physical safety of those working our gates.
As I write this, there have not been any accidents in the month since the barriers were erected, and we have tested the lanes with fire trucks and other large equipment to ensure they are safe to enter and exit. It does require more coordination coming through in the morning, but that extra step makes us all more careful drivers when we come through the gates.
A more likely cause of the delay you mention is the implementation of 100 percent scanner use at the gates, which initially created delays but is becoming less of an issue. All military-issued and Navy commercial access credentials are now scanned to verify access credentials, and those whose credentials fail are denied unescorted access. The first time an ID is scanned, it can take several seconds to register in the database, and that did cause some longer-than-normal waits for the first couple of weeks. As more and more people get their first scan complete, this should become a transparent, easy process for us all.
Question (February 2015): Why do we have so many outages on this installation – planned and otherwise? It seems like the power is taken down for repairs or just goes out unexpectedly. Why can’t you just fix it? This is really inconvenient for those of us who work from home, especially.
Answer: Thank you for the opportunity to address this. We DO have a fair share of outages, there is no denying it. Much of the infrastructure at Naval Base Ventura County dates back to World War II, making some of it nearly 70 years old. That means our plumbing, power network and sewage systems need TLC to keep running.
Public Works has a plan in place to upgrade the infrastructure, particularly the power grid, in a measured, phased approach. Taking it all down at once and replacing it isn’t practical, and the funding for maintenance has been greatly reduced over the past several years as we’ve faced repeated budget cuts. In 2014, we started the year with less than half of our known maintenance requirements. This year is a little better.
We are currently in phase two of an eight-phase electrical upgrade plan stretching through fiscal year 2018. Since 2012, we’ve spent an average of $12 million a year on utilities infrastructure repairs and upgrades. This included the wiring in housing areas at Port Hueneme, to strengthen energy security and reduce outages. The President’s Day outage earlier this month repaired or replaced some core systems that connect Southern California Edison (SCE) to the housing power grid. These outages are necessary as we continue to repair and improve our infrastructure, and this one was scheduled during daylight hours for safety and in coordination with SCE. We certainly did not plan on turning off the power during a homecoming for NMCB 4. I have enjoyed my fair share of homecomings and hope our Sailors enjoyed reuniting with their families.
Question (December 2014): The pool at Port Hueneme is used by many active duty as well as DoD Civilians. Not sure if you are aware but the heater at the pool failed, and we’re being told it will be after the New Year before it can be repaired. The last time I swam, only one other person was brave enough to jump into the 65 degree water. I and the other patrons would appreciate anything you can do to expedite this repair.
Answer: The equipment failure at the Port Hueneme pool is definitely inconvenient for our frequent lap swimmers, and as with all critical failures, it was immediately reported up the chain of command to my office.
Unfortunately, the repair delay is the result of an equipment backorder; the part we need just isn’t available any sooner. We’ve avoided closing the pool, as some people are willing to brave the colder water, but we are monitoring the water temperature to ensure it doesn’t fall below 65 degrees, which is the minimum temperature recommended by the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s Manual of Preventive Medicine, Chapter 4.
In the interim, the hours at the Point Mugu pool have been expanded to allow more people use of that facility. It’s now open 6 – 8:30 a.m. Monday – Friday and 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The locker room stays open 30 minutes later most days to accommodate patrons. For more information, call 805-989-7788.
Question (October 2014): Are there any planned upgrades to the athletic fields on Point Mugu? The fields are often marked with rodent holes, and with the drought they’re more dirt than grass. I had heard rumors last year that we may be getting a turf field similar to the one at Port Hueneme here at Point Mugu, but I haven't heard updates on that or if there was any merit behind those rumors in the first place.
Answer: The athletic fields at Point Mugu and many of the grounds on base, including the headquarters building, are frequently marked with signs of gophers. We even had an article about gophers in The Lighthouse not too long ago! It’s really part of the challenge in operating in such a natural environment.
The field located nearest the movie theater at Point Mugu is slated to be replaced with a synthetic field. The rumors are true. Work is currently scheduled to begin in January, with completion in April or May.
We’ve cut back on watering during the drought, and it is having an impact in our green spaces. The synthetic field needs less water – mostly for the occasional spray-down cleaning – so getting it installed will both improve the recreation and PT options at Point Mugu and reduce our water consumption.
Until then, our Morale, Welfare and Recreation team keeps an eye on the fields, maintaining them and working with safety to ensure they’re fit for use. We also call in a pest service when necessary.
Question (October 2014): Why is it always so hot at Needham Theater? I know they went through a renovation recently. Why didn’t they fix the air conditioning?
Answer: Needham Theater’s recent renovation did include an air conditioning refurbishment, and the system is operational. However, energy conservation standards set by Naval Facilities Command require that air conditioning be set no lower than 78 degrees in the summer.
This may seem warm, but it is in line with recommended conservation guidelines set forth by other power providers, such as Southern California Edison. The heat of summer brings huge strains on the power grid; we do our part by keeping the thermostat set, turning off lights when we leave the room – or installing automatic lights that turn themselves off – and shutting down our workstations at the end of the day.
Being good stewards of our nation’s resources requires diligence and constant re-evaluation. At Naval Base Ventura County, we have reduced our energy consumption by over 36 percent since 2003; our water consumption has been reduced by over 35 percent. Every little bit helps us do our part, and your understanding is appreciated.
Question (August 2014): The mosquitos at Point Mugu this year are abnormally numerous and I received multiple bites each day even though I used mosquito repellant. With the outbreak of West Nile Virus in nearby Orange County, I am concerned about the lack of mosquito remediation at Point Mugu.
Answer: Every year, we who live and work at NBVC Point Mugu contend with mosquitoes; as you pointed out, we work next to a lagoon and 2,500 acres of protected wetlands. In April each year, the NBVC environmental team works with The Lighthouse to publish information regarding mosquito season, including how to help in remediation efforts and how to protect yourself. Sometimes though, repellent and long sleeves just aren’t enough.
Luckily for us, most of the mosquitoes at NBVC are saltwater species, which are nuisance rather than vector mosquitoes. This means that while bites are painful and itchy, they do not transmit diseases like West Nile.
Many of the efforts for controlling the mosquito population are relatively invisible to the public, as they target the larva to prevent adults from developing. Remediation efforts begin in April or May every year, and always include monitoring of larval activity and the use of treatments in spawning areas, like the lagoon or drainage ditches. Due to the sensitivity of the wetlands, the types of chemicals used are limited. This year, Public Works is testing a new, more environmentally friendly form of deterrent to spot-treat high-presence areas. This has been tested in a few places and seems effective at managing the adult populations. Hopefully this new effort, which is compliant with California standards but must be frequently re-applied, will help curb this year's large mosquito population.
Question (February 2014): I am concerned about the quality of water we drink here at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme. Sometimes the water smells so strongly of chlorine, I can’t believe it’s safe to drink.
Answer: First, thank you for allowing me to address this very important issue. At NBVC, providing you with safe, clean drinking water is one of our top priorities. We publish an annual water quality report, and our system is constantly monitored and tested according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
Your water is treated using chloramines, a combined chlorine/ammonia disinfectant. Periodically, water systems using chloramines conduct a chlorine “flush” to remove residual deposits in the system, including excess ammonia and nitrates, and disinfect the system. This process is recommended by the EPA as a safe method that will not cause any adverse health effects.
During this process, you may notice that your water has a stronger smell than it usually does. This is a result of both the process change and possible residual levels of chlorine in the system during and after the flush. According to the EPA, the maximum residual disinfectant level goal for chlorine is 4 parts per million (ppm). We monitor our water daily, and we stay well under that guideline, generally under 2 ppm.
During the flush, you may also notice some discoloration or cloudiness in your water. You may also find air pockets in the system. The discoloration and air are harmless, but you may want to run water through the tap until it runs clear.
Question (January 2014): Why is it that we get so many power outages at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme? Days after we have a planned outage to upgrade wiring, power goes down all day, then again a couple of weeks later.
Answer: Thank you for the opportunity to address this issue and for your patience.
Our Public Works Department is hard at work and has a long-term plan to replace, repair or upgrade the infrastructure at NBVC. The utilities infrastructure had a planned life of 50 years before replacement and is well past that, in some areas, at 70-plus years. We cannot afford to completely replace the electrical lines at Port Hueneme and Point Mugu at one time, but we are repairing sections as funding becomes available. Unfortunately, funding is a hurdle we are struggling to overcome, as are shore installations across the country.
The Chief of Naval Operations’ first tenet is “Warfighting First.” As a result, the Navy is taking a risk at the shore to ensure continued operations at sea. Funding for preventive maintenance has taken a big hit, and we have experienced the effects as our infrastructure suffers. The recent planned outages were coordinated to upgrade our electrical lines and were successful. The most recent unplanned outage occurred during removal of older lines, and the other was a catastrophic failure of a transformer, a major part of the electrical distribution system. Public Works did an amazing job of coordinating with Southern California Edison and local contractors to repair and restore electricity in eight hours for a condition that normally requires 10 to 12 hours to repair.
We will continue to upgrade our services as funding is available and will move quickly when failures occur. As budget concerns begin to relax, we hope that preventive measures will be funded in the future.
The NBVC Facebook page has been the most effective way to get the word out during power outages, but we would like your feedback if there is a better way to communicate with our Sailors and their families.
Question (November 2013): Is there a specific reason Seabees cannot improve our roads on Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme? There are numerous asphalt classes throughout the year. With all the great work they do while deployed, it would a great pleasure to enjoy some of their hard work on our own base. I’m aware they have projects elsewhere on NBVC, but improving our roads would have the greatest impact on the most amount of patrons. Please enlighten us on the big picture we don’t always see.
Answer: As the West Coast home of the Seabees, we are constantly being asked, “Why don’t you just use Seabees?” to repair, build, pave, paint, etc. It seems like a no-brainer: Seabees build, we need things built, have the Seabees build it.
Seabees are an operational force. Their primary mission while in homeport is to train for future deployments. Any project they do take on must be directly related to improving their deployment readiness. You brought up paving as an example. Seabees have completed paving projects at NBVC before through the “Call for Work” process, practicing their skills and providing a completed project for our use, but their mission requirements and other considerations stop them from being a go-to answer for every project. They simply have other things they need to do.
Another consideration is funding. Seabees bring the labor and the know-how, but not the asphalt, tar or other required items to complete projects. We have to fund that, and in today’s fiscal environment, projects that aren’t deemed critical to life, safety or health are difficult to get funded. There’s just not enough money in the pot.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this frequently asked question.
Question (October 2013): All summer we’ve been watching the weeds and grass grow out of control due to budget cuts. Then, right before and even during the shutdown, everything gets cut, trimmed, manicured. If the government was out of money, why did we suddenly have money for mowing the grass?
Answer: Every fiscal year, we often have the opportunity to gain some end-of-year maintenance funding. This year, we secured funding to do a one-time grounds maintenance operation, aimed at scaling back the overgrowth that occurred during the summer. We also secured funding to begin repairs on the North Mugu Road gate at NBVC Point Mugu, which has been closed since February awaiting repair funding.
Because of the gap in time between being notified funds are available and the ability to actually mobilize contractors to execute the requested tasks, we had grounds maintenance folks cutting back overgrown hedges just days before the government shutdown. As government employees were heading home for nearly three weeks, contractors were mobilizing to begin repairs on our long-closed gate. On the surface, it is definitely counter-intuitive.
But really, it is like ordering something online, and it’s on back-order. It may show up at your house a month later, but you paid for it — or obligated the money for it, in government terms — back when the order was placed. Money doesn’t come out of this paycheck but out of the check where you had all that overtime. This happens quite frequently, but with the government shutdown, it was glaringly obvious and somewhat confusing. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to explain.
Question (June 2013): I was driving around base the other day and I noticed a lot of really high grass. Why aren’t grounds maintenance people keeping everything in “ship shape”?
Answer: The grass is getting pretty high in some areas, but it’s not because our maintenance crews are doing less than their best. Grounds maintenance, including mowing the grass, is one area that has been greatly affected by this year’s budget crisis.
Effective June 1, grass will be allowed to grow a little taller than it is now – up to a foot high for some species of grass – and in some areas it won’t be cut at all except as required by fire and safety regulations along fences, roadways and firebreaks. Edging will also be a thing of the past under these new budget constraints, unless required for health and safety reasons.
One of the most noticeable changes will be in Military Family Housing. Lawn care will be performed less often, likely only six or seven times a year.
Like you, I am used to seeing our facilities well-groomed and manicured. Pride in ownership is important, but in today’s budget climate, preserving funds for our deployed or next-to-deploy units is the priority. We’ve got to find ways to meet our challenges that are within the rules and guidelines available.
These are tough times, but we are far tougher. The grass is just a small indicator of the bigger picture, but like the grass, this challenge can be met with a little creative thinking and a lot of elbow grease.
Question (June 2012): The female locker room at the Bee-Hive gym needs a little TLC and has a toilet that has been out of order for at least a month. Can this be fixed?
Answer: Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Any time you notice a facility in need of repair or a little “TLC,” please be sure to bring it to the attention of the building manager. They are responsible for making sure Public Works is notified and any necessary repairs – such as the out-of-commission toilet – are made. You may also call Public Works directly and report the outage. On Port Hueneme, call 805-982-2222; on Point Mugu, call 805-989-9234. We all take pride in our facilities, and reporting problems is the first step to solving them, so thank you again for letting me know.