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Our County by Efren Carrillo

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Our County by Efren Carrillo - July 2016

by Efren Carrillo

June is always busy with every one of our 26 departments finalizing their budgets for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1st. This year was particularly exciting because of some new innovations that contribute to making the county budget more transparent. 

Information technology has contributed to our ability to access information on almost any topic with a quick web search. Earlier this year, Sonoma County began making it easier for citizens to report road conditions and potholes with the introduction of the SoCoReportIt app for mobile phones. Not only can you report road problems, but you can then track the response by the team at Transportation and Public Works, as the request is reviewed, and the problem is fixed.

Following that first step, the County launched SoCoBudget, which provides an online view of the County’s annual operating budget as part of our commitment to transparency, open government, and citizen engagement. You can access SoCoBudget on the County’s website, and review the budget in a visual style. If you are more comfortable reading an Excel spreadsheet, you can click on the link to SoCoData and find and read the numbers allocated by department, service description and funding source. Our budget book – all 268 pages of it – is thus available to the interested public online. 

While I’m at it, I want to thank talented Fifth District resident, Jim Neville, for providing the beautiful photograph of an oak tree silhouetted by the Milky Way for the cover of this year’s budget binder.

Earlier this month, Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management (PRMD) launched a new permitting system enabling customers to file and pay for permits online and to track the permit’s process as it makes its way through the system. You are able to schedule inspections online and utilize the built in mapping tool. You can not only check the status of a current permit, but you can check the permit history online as well…it’s a big step forward that has been in the planning for a couple of years. Like any technology innovation, it has required a tremendous investment of time by PRMD staff and leadership. Next up, tying the online system to the SoCoReportIt app so that mobile users will be able to file code enforcement complaints online. This is expected to debut in the fall.

Back to the budget – and the most rewarding aspects of the Board’s decisions made during our week long hearings. We invested $1million into a housing trust fund to partner with non-profit developers and our cities to develop affordable housing opportunities for the county’s workforce. Sonoma County is experiencing a serious deficit of affordable inventory for sale or rent. In the past, a majority of these projects were subsidized through Redevelopment funding. With the domino effect of our recent housing crash, economic recession, and the loss of the Redevelopment funding vehicle, development of affordable housing has virtually ground to a halt. There are a few projects proposed, and a couple in the development phase, but by any measure it is far too little. The Community Development Commission will be hosting a community conversation/Housing Summit in the next few months to brainstorm solutions for our housing crisis.

Roads! The past few years, our Board has invested record amounts of general fund money into infrastructure repairs. I know that our roads are in horrible condition, but the Roads Plan for 2016 and 2017 that we recently approved will be addressing some sore spots that we’ve been working on for years. The Fifth District is home to over 40% of the county road network. This coming summer, we are going to see major projects on roads that have been on my wish list since beginning my first term in 2009. Among these are some of the very worst roads in the county: Irwin Lane, Frei Road, Lynch Road, Vine Hill Road, Valley Ford Freestone Road, Llano, Burnside and Bloomfield Roads. We’ll also see projects on West Avenue and Sebastopol Road in Roseland and Graton Road. This is long awaited good news for our rural residents.

Next summer, we’ll finally get repairs on Corby and Dutton avenues. Corby, in particular, has been the source of much frustration.  Also on the list for 2017, Annapolis Road, Bohemian Highway from Graton Road to Monte Rio, Cazadero Highway from Austin Creek to 116, Ferguson Rd, Furlong Road, Ludwig Avenue, Mill Station from Occidental to 116, Occidental Road from 116 to Santa Rosa city limits, another section of Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road and winding up the list Watertrough Road from Bodega Highway to Pleasant Hill.

All of this road work will result in some minor inconvenience and detours. Road Maintenance Updates are posted on the county website each week, listing the various projects scheduled that week along with lane closures that may be in effect. Please note, that the updates do not include work scheduled by CalTrans on state controlled roadways, but it is a good place to check for traffic delays. 

Speaking of CalTrans, Highway One at Gleason Beach will be subject to one lane traffic control for the foreseeable future due to erosion of the cliff into the traffic lane. There is a request in for an emergency detour, and we should be able to provide an update next month on this CalTrans project.