Jul 3, 2019
by Lynda Hopkins, 5th District Supervisor - Sonoma County
Summer is in full swing, as is the new 2019-2020 Fiscal Year.
In mid-June, after a week of deliberation, my colleagues and I adopted a $1.78 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020. Our deliberations were thoughtful and thorough, but the task was difficult. The Board was faced with prioritizing and aligning requests to revenues in order to adopt a structurally balanced budget in the face of recent natural disasters, increasing expenditures, and declining revenue sources. This year’s budget presented a $14 million gap between available ongoing revenues and departmental requests for ongoing funding.
The budget book and supplemental materials are difficult documents for our staff to produce, and also time-consuming to read. As your elected representative, it’s critical for me to thoroughly review and absorb these documents. The nitty-gritty details provide the foundation for critical decisions on funding issues. The Board heard extensive public comments about the cuts to mental health that were proposed, and we found a path to providing gap funding through diligent research on available funding sources.
The Board of Supervisors was faced with saving much-needed behavioral and mental health services; addressing crumbling, aged infrastructure; paying down our pension liabilities; and ensuring the County is in a fiscally safe spot so that our local government can successfully maneuver the economic downturn that many economists fear is coming.
The adopted 2019-2010 Fiscal Year Budget includes:
I am extremely grateful for the support, in letters, emails, public comments and more, from Fifth District constituents before and during budget hearings. Public engagement drives action and change; the more involved our pocket of Sonoma County can be, the more we can effect change in the Fifth District. Thank you to everyone who participated in the budgeting process. We would not be where we are without every voice that chimed in.
As Independence Day approaches, the County of Sonoma Fire Prevention division would like to remind residents and visitors that all fireworks are illegal in unincorporated Sonoma County.
“Our dry summer landscape creates a greater potential for fires caused by fireworks,” said Sonoma County Fire Marshal, Chief James Williams. “We encourage people to go see fireworks at events put on by professionals so you can have fun without putting others at risk.”
Every year, people are seriously injured, property is damaged, and the risk of fires increases due to the illegal use of fireworks. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and nearly 17,000 other fires. Additionally, in 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 12,900 people for fireworks related injuries.
If you are in an area that allows fireworks, please follow CAL FIRE’s guidelines to help prevent wildfires caused from fireworks by taking the following actions:
For more information on the County of Sonoma’s Fire Prevention work, please visit Permit Sonoma's website.
Local calendars, as of June 20, 2019, list the following public firework events in Sonoma County:
The public comment period on the proposed Russian River TMDL has closed. The TMDL, or Total Maximum Daily Load, is a new health standard proposed by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, that aims to limit the amount of E. coli and other bacteria in the Russian River.
To control the TMDL, the Regional Water Board has the authority to require homeowners within the affected area update their septic systems, if they are not functioning at acceptable standards. Homeowners who are operating on cesspools or unidentified onsite wastewater treatment systems, or OWTS, may need to update their systems in order to comply with the new environmental standards.
Does this mean you need to update your septic system now? Not yet. After the Regional Board takes up and approves the TMDL is August, there remains a lengthy process, which will include approval by the State Water Quality Control Board. The TMDL will like go into effect no sooner than Spring 2020, and will begin with a mailed survey to properties within 200 feet of the main stem Russian River and tributaries. Individual property owners who need an upgrade will have up to 15 years to comply, unless they choose to expand their home's footprint, add additional bedrooms, or have a system that fails. Communities that demonstrate an action plan to address community-wide need will have up to 20 years to implement their system.
The Regional Water Board will hold a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 8:30 a.m. during which it is set to discuss and likely approve the Russian River TMDL. To sign up to receive the agenda and other Russian River TMDL related news, click here to be directed to the North Coast Regional Board Email List Subscription site.
Public input helped shape the fee structures recently approved by the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA).
The Santa Rosa Plain GSA is a relatively new governmental agency, created in response to a state mandate ordering the county to manage water use in the Santa Rosa Plain groundwater basin. The GSA has a responsibility to make sure that clean groundwater is available to the thousands of people, farms and businesses relying on it today and in the future. To do this, the GSA needs a small, stable funding source.
Throughout the past year and a half, the GSA board has weighed many options, including a tax measure and imposing fees to fulfill state-mandated groundwater management requirements. In June, the GSA board approved a methodology that charges all groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plan a fee based on actual or estimated groundwater use. Those fees won’t kick in for three years, however, as the County of Sonoma and Sonoma Water have both contributed money to fund the GSA through the planning process. In other words, we’re picking up the tab for any rural groundwater user in the Santa Rosa Plain, for the next three years.
The approved fees, which will be assessed starting in 2022, are $19.90 per acre-foot for large groundwater users like vineyards; $1.99 per year for urban well users and $9.95 per year for rural residential landowners. During the three planning years, the GSA will reevaluate the average water usage to ensure equity in the rate structure once fees are assigned in 2022. For more information about the Santa Rosa Plain GSA, please visit santarosaplaingroundwater.org.
In August, the Coast MAC will join the Lower Russian River MAC for a special joint meeting that will feature State Senator Mike McGuire. The meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 15 at the Cazadero Fire House. The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Although the agenda has not been finalized, community members can expect an update on state legislation affecting Sonoma County. In addition, FireSafe Sonoma is expected to provide information on fire safety and there will be a presentation on consolidation efforts and talks throughout West County.
As we continue to have more Red Flag Warnings throughout the summer and fall season, PG&E continues to work on educating the public about the roll out of their Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). Click the link above (Note: The video will not play in the email browser, but will take you to a separate page) to watch a quick, three-minute video to learn all what to expect with a PSPS.
Download the emergency supply kit checklist from PG&E here.
For additional tips and information about how to prepare for wildfires and potential power outages, visit pge.com/wildfiresafety.
Join your neighbors and Landpaths staff every Tuesday, Thursday and second Saturday of the summer in a community-wide effort to maintain Andy's Unity Park and garden.
Volunteers are needed to help weed, mulch, plant and maintain this very special park. Community work day hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 707-565-7888 or visit the park's calendar site.
In addition, the Moorland Neighborhood Action Team (NAT) meets on the second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the park. The group is dedicated to making the Moorland area a safer place for the community and families who live there. Over the past six months, the NAT's involvement has resulted in:
The installation of a four-way stop at Bellevue and Moorland Avenues
New red curb striping on Moorland Avenue
Increased CHP and Sheriff deputies patrolling at Andy's Unity Park
"No Overnight" parking signs within Andy's Unity Park
For more information about the Moorland NAT, contact Omar Gallardo (email@example.com).
After nearly two years with the Fifth District, our Field Representative is moving on, having accepted a job with Social Advocates for Youth (SAY).
"I am grateful for the opportunities, challenges and triumphs this office provided me. I have learned more about myself, my strengths and weaknesses and of course, my community and its strengths and weaknesses, in the past two years, than I did during my previous two years as a newspaper reporter (and that's saying a lot, because I learned a TON when I was a reporter). More important, I was lucky enough to witness time and time again, the compassion, courage, grit and straight-up unabashed funk that epitomizes West County. I love how each community has its own flavor and I will miss being entrenched in it.
Thank you for letting me serve you."
We wish her and her family the best of luck.
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