Santa Barbara County officials are in a meeting about Michael Jackson plans, and E! Online reports they are discussing a possible memorial service at his Neverland Ranch. Early media reports disagreed as to whether the event would be held Friday or Saturday.
Lt. Butch Arnoldi, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman, told E!: “Our guys are meeting as we speak with the California Highway Patrol to discuss the security issues.”
But Arnoldi says says the Jackson family has yet to reach out to them for a possible memorial at Neverland and that authorities met Tuesday based on speculation that such a memorial was being considered.
Santa Barbara County Fire spokesman Capt. David Sadecki confirmed to The Associated Press that fire officials, California Highway Patrol and county sheriffs officials were meeting Tuesday morning to discuss “the whole Michael Jackson thing.”
“The Santa Barbara County Fire Department is willing to accommodate the Jackson family with whatever request they have regarding a funeral procession should they have one,” Sadecki said.
Sadecki said he had not yet talked representatives in the ongoing meeting but expected an update later in the afternoon.
Neverland is located in the rolling hills of central California’s wine country, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Rick Quintero, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, said the CHP had not received a request for a motorcade as of Tuesday morning. He said if the motorcade crosses through CHP jurisdiction, as it likely would from Los Angeles to Neverland, they would need to be notified.
“They would definitely need to notify us because it’s going to impact the motoring public. At the point they decide it is going to happen we have to be involved because it’s going to impact our jurisdiction,” Quintero said.
Santa Barbara braces for impactIn an open letter to the Santa Barbara community, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., who set up a joint venture with Jackson that took ownership of the 2,500-acre property, warned residents that the world will quickly descend on Santa Barbara and Neverland as fans grieve.
“We must also prepare to accommodate Michael’s family’s wishes as they contemplate the location of his final resting place and their own return to the tranquil grounds of the Michael Jackson family compound.”
The California Highway Patrol has internal meetings under way to plan for a Jackson caravan that could bring Southern California’s congested highways to a standstill. Sgt. Mark Garrett said the agency had not been notified of the family’s plans, but was preparing nonetheless.
“It’s just like when the president comes to town,” Garrett said. “We want to ensure people are not putting themselves in danger.”
At once a symbol of Jackson’s success and excesses, Neverland became the site of a makeshift memorial after his death Thursday. Scores of fans have streamed past the gated entrance to leave handwritten notes, photographs, balloons and flowers.
He was 29 and at the height of his popularity when he bought the ranch, naming it after the mythical land of Peter Pan, where boys never grow up. There, he surrounded himself with animals, rides and children.
Jackson fled the ranch — and the country — after his acquittal on charges that he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003 at the estate after getting him drunk.
Jackson moved luxury cars, artwork, jewelry, costumes and other property off the ranch last year for an auction that never occurred.