Saturday, December 2, 2023

Fuel Reduction on Black Bart Trail, Vandalism at the Grange, the Redwood Valley School Saga—Highlights from the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

[Stock photo by Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on September 14, 2022, at 5:00 pm in a hybrid live/Zoom meeting at the Redwood Valley Grange. Issues discussed ranged from a proposed tax to fund Mendocino County’s local fire agencies, mail theft targeting Mendocino County’s rural communities, and the purchase of 400 acre-feet of agricultural water for customers desperate for water.

Guest Speaker Emily Tecchio, County Coordinator for Mendocino County Firesafe Council

Ms. Tecchio reported on two programs that may be of interest to Redwood Valley residents: 1) Defensible Space Assistance for Income Eligible provides free assistance with clearing defensible space around the homes of low-income senior and disabled residents. The income requirements may be flexible, so please inquire if you need help. Please spread the word to any seniors or disabled people you may know. 2) Home Assessments, where representatives from the Firesafe Council visit your home and suggest ways to harden it against fire. Some suggestions are often easy and low or no cost. They also offer community chipper days, to chip wood piles for free. The wood needs to be piled up and accessible for the truck with the chipper, see their website for chipper pile guidelines and details on these programs. Ms. Tecchio suggested getting a neighborhood group together for home assessment or chipping.

Mendocino County received a CalFire grant to perform a CEQA assessment for fuel reduction on a portion of Black Bart Trail. Mendocino County also received a grant to update the 2015 Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The Firesafe Council will be actively contributing to that process. Having an updated CWPP is essential in securing grant funds.

There was a discussion of Measure P which will be on the November ballot, a 1/4 cent sales tax to raise money for fire fighting. 3/8 of the Measure B sales tax is expiring, and the public would not see an increase above the current sales tax if the 1/4 cent Measure P passes. The cost of training, insurance, and equipment for County fire departments has greatly increased in the past few years. By law, the MAC cannot endorse political campaigns, but board members may endorse as private individuals. Board Member Chris Wick has Yes on P yard signs available at the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Station for those who support the measure.

The question of fire drills came up. The Laytonville Fire Department, with 7 other local agencies and CalFire, recently held a fire drill in the Cherry Creek neighborhood. The RV-Calpella Fire Department Board of Directors discussed a drill at their last meeting.

Board Member Adam Gaska pointed out that he has posted videos on safe mowing and brush clearing on the Redwood Valley Community Facebook page. (Reporter’s note: These videos are well done and informative.)

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Ms. Wick reported that the RV-Calpella Fire Department has appointed a Fire Marshall, Matt Keizer, who is an experienced Master Fire Inspector. 

Sheriff’s Update

Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jason Caudillo followed up with the discussion of fire drills by pointing out that the Mendocino County Office of Emergency Services is the main partner in disasters and has information about emergency drills. Caudillo said that CalFire has responded super-fast to all of the fires this year, getting them under control quickly. He provided an update on crime: The vandalism at the Grange last month is still under investigation. Mail theft is an ongoing problem. A ring of mail thieves was recently caught, but there are others out there targeting the county. They steal checks out of mailboxes and “wash” the payee and amount, filling them in with different names and amounts. Caudillo urged people who may be targets of mail thieves to get a P.O. Box and to pay their bills online. It is not safe to leave outgoing mail in your mailbox for the letter carrier to pick up. A local store was scammed out of thousands of dollars by a credit card thief. When paying for gas, use your credit card rather than your checking account card. Thieves sometimes insert devices into the gas pump card reader. When you report an electronic theft, it can tie up your account for 30 days. Most people would find it difficult to have their checking accounts tied up this long. They are still short-staffed at the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff is also the coroner and any unreported deaths need to be investigated by the Sheriff and it can take almost an entire day of a deputy’s time. The Sheriff’s Department prioritizes violent crimes over quality-of-life annoyances such as loud music, parties, etc. There are multiple job openings for patrol and corrections officers and dispatch operators. The County will provide training upon the applicant passing a background check. Job openings are posted on the Sheriff’s Department website.

Update on the Redwood Valley School Campus

In response to the RV MAC’s request to the Ukiah Unified School District, and Chair Dolly Riley’s informal meeting with County Supervisors Glenn McGourty and Maureen Mulheren regarding the possibility of the County acquiring the campus, Janelle Rau, General Services Agency Director, sent a letter to the UUSD stating that this request did not originate from the County Board of Supervisors, but from a MAC which has no authority to act for the County. Alternate MAC Member Marybeth Kelly suggested that the RV MAC make a formal, written request to the Board of Supervisors so that the issue can be considered by the entire Board for approval.

Ms. Kelly researched the Naylor Act, contained in California Educations Code Sections 17485-17500, stating that surplus school district playing fields must first be considered for use by other government agencies for community recreational use. The MAC Board voted to send a letter to the County BOS asking them to consider acquiring the school property under the Naylor Act. The MAC Board will invite Gary Breen, of GMB Realty, currently in talks to acquire the property via an exchange agreement, to the next MAC meeting. The Board will also invite Zoey Fernandez, President of the UUSD Board of Trustees to the next meeting.

Other suggested uses for the campus discussed: A state park adjoining the Great Redwood Trail; a children’s museum, a tribal cultural center, or a nature conservancy.

Water Update

On September 6 the Redwood Valley County Water District held an emergency meeting where the purchase of 400 acre-feet of agricultural water from the Rogina Water District was approved.  Rogina had contracted for 800 a/f of water from the Russian River Flood Control District and later determined that they would not need 400 a/f of this water. Rogina offered to sell it to Redwood Valley, whose ag water customers are in desperate need. This water is being pumped from Lake Mendocino to ag customers. It is not suitable for residential customers, as the treatment plant is not able to process it. Residential customers are currently being supplied by the Millview Water District. The RVCWD will monitor the ag customer use every month through December 2022, the deadline for use of the 400 a/f. RVCWD is not a customer of RRFCD and cannot buy water directly from that district.

Community Action Plan

There was a discussion of whether Redwood Valley would qualify as a Disadvantaged Unincorporated Community (DUC) under California Senate Bill 244. If Redwood Valley does qualify, the Community Action Plan would need to be amended. DUCs are eligible for grant funds for community improvement. More research is needed. The revised CAP has been posted on the RV MAC website.

Grange Update

Upcoming events:

October 8 – flea market, food, and puzzle exchange. 

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October 30 – Trunk or Treat Halloween event. 

December 3 – Holiday Craft Fair and Children’s Fair.

The Grange children’s program, Giggles, was very successful and led to private parent groups being spun off. For more information on Grange events, please check out their Facebook Page.

Treasurer’s Report

The RV MAC receives $2,500 once per year from the County. The MAC pays a monthly rent of $60 to the Grange. A printer is needed, which might be purchased in a shared arrangement with the Grange. There are open positions for a secretary to record minutes and for a tech person to assist with Zoom meetings. These positions pay $22 per hour, four hours per month. 

Next Meeting

October 12, 2022, 5:00 p.m. at the Redwood Valley Grange, or via Zoom, and is open to all.

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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