Saturday, September 23, 2023

Big Changes to Local Roads, Residents Calling for Cannabis Exclusion Zones—Highlights of the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

[Photograph from Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on February 8, 2023, at 5:00 pm in a hybrid live/Zoom meeting at the Redwood Valley Grange. Chair Dolly Riley, Vice-Chair Jini Reyolds, Members Chris Boyd, Adam Gaska, Treasurer Katrina Frey, and Alternate Member Marybeth Kelly and Fran Laughton were present at the meeting. Member Patricia Ris-Yarbrough was absent. Crystel Reyes took notes to prepare minutes, and Laura Henebury provided IT assistance.

Public Comment

Board Chair Dolly Riley announced that she would be a guest on the Citizen U radio show on KZYX, hosted by Mari Rodin and Dan Gjerde at 9:00 am, Wednesday, February 15. The discussion will be on the role of Municipal Advisory Councils in Mendocino County.

Mendocino County residents who suffered damage from the series of storms that began on December 27, 2022, may be eligible for emergency grants from FEMA and CalOES. For more information, see this announcement from the County.

Vice Chair Jini Reynolds announced that Meals on Wheels is contemplating expanding service to Redwood Valley. Reynolds has been a volunteer for Meals on Wheels in Ukiah for 17 years. If the program expands to Redwood Valley, the delivery would consist of a fresh meal on the delivery date, with a bag of frozen meals included for the rest of the week. They are looking for volunteers.

The Mendocino Council of Governments has received a grant to install 25 electric vehicle charging stations. There will be five sites selected in the County, with five stations at each site. For those who would like to see the installation at a particular site, please attend the Community Meetings on EV Charging Stations. Treasurer Katrina Frey noted that Frey Vineyards has four charging stations at their new facility on West Road that people are welcome to use during business hours.

Guest Speaker Howard Dashiell, Mendocino County Department of Transportation

Rendering of the finalized remodel of the Road 144-Highway 20 intersection. [From Caltrans website]

Dashiell gave an update on the Calpella Russian River Bridge Replacement project by Caltrans. The new bridge will be wider, with eight-foot shoulders so drivers can pull over in an emergency. Slides prepared by Caltrans were presented. There will be several closures of Eastside-Calpella Road with detours during phases of the construction. These closures will take place during normal work hours, and will be announced by signage near the intersection of Road 144. Closures are expected for four days sometime in March, three separate days in the Summer, and four days in mid-Fall. The old Highway 20 bridge will remain open with two-way traffic until the new bridge is completed. This is not a spot where it would be safe to narrow down to one lane with traffic control, so the decision was made to keep the old bridge in place until the new one is completed. 

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The Road 144 onramp to Highway 20 will have a longer closure, as the interchange will be redone more safely with longer merging lanes. (For those unfamiliar with this exit from Highway 20, traveling west, the road dips steeply downhill after you pass Lake Mendocino, then it curves while still going downhill. Then suddenly, there’s your exit, a sharp right onto narrow, curving Road 144, which you try not to miss while being tailgated by speeding vehicles. All the more dangerous if you’re pulling a trailer or driving a big rig.) Alternate Member Marybeth Kelly inquired as to whether there would be streetlights after the Road 144 intersection is redone. Unfortunately, no, but reflective materials will be used in the lane markings. She then asked whether there would be pavers (in the two triangular areas pictured) to distinguish parts of the intersection so drivers can stay in the lanes in the dark with no streetlights. The answer again was no. Many thousands of native plants will be installed around the area when work is finished. They will be watered for three years to get them established. The concrete and steel from the old bridge will be recycled.

Update from Glenn McGourty, County Supervisor Board Chair

McGourty said progress is being made on the consolidation of the Redwood Valley County Water District, and other local districts, with the City of Ukiah. The project is in the preliminary phase trying to sort out the legal structure of the consolidated entity. The working group is trying to wrap up the consolidation to take advantage of the grant funds under the State of California SAFER Program. It is hoped that this will be a more reliable source of water for Redwood Valley. This may open up the possibility of more housing in Redwood Valley. “This is the most transformational thing to happen in the Upper Russian River Watershed in a hundred years,” said McGourty. He has been in touch with state elected officials, who are enthusiastic about the project. 

There is a board seat open in the Redwood Valley County Water District. The current board of four members was deadlocked and not able to decide on the two candidates, Bree Klotter and Keith Tiemann. The decision should be made by the Board of Supervisors by the end of the month. Both candidates attended the MAC meeting.

McGourty is meeting weekly with the County Cannabis Department to move the process along regarding the outstanding Phase 1 applicants. There was a public question on whether the cannabis growers who are going out of business could use their hoop houses to grow food crops. There was some back-and-forth discussion about this from various parties. The short answer seemed to be that it is difficult to switch crops and find a new market for them. 

Regarding the County Budget, it appears there is roughly $2 million left over from last year. This amount will be used to offset the approximately $6 million deficit expected for this year. County employees were given a 2% raise (COLA adjustment) and a $3,000 payment from American Rescue Plan Act funds. Upcoming labor negotiations in June will be tough.

Treasurer Frey asked McGourty to assist in releasing county funds from a PG&E settlement promised to the Grange for remodeling of the kitchen. He agreed to follow up.

Update from Sheriff Matt Kendall

There were fewer calls for service in the last month, mainly due to the extremely rainy weather. Parts of the South Coast reported wind gusts of 90 mph. This resulted in many downed trees and power lines. The Sheriff and his deputies coordinated with PG&E workers and with the Sonoma County Sheriff to assist the storm to the South Coast area, as some roads were blocked and impossible to reach from Ukiah. The state legislature has funded $25 million for sheriff’s departments to use for disasters. This will remove some of the burdens of covering disaster expenses from the County General Fund. 

The jail remodel is moving forward. This is a state-mandated project and because of delays and inflation, the cost has gone up from the original estimate. Sheriff Kendall has been pushing hard for the state to pay for the extra costs. Kendall is enthusiastic about the jail garden, beekeeping, and bakery projects. The person running the jail kitchen teaches a food service program. This improves morale among the inmates and provides employable skills. The inmates get to do physical work outside in a beautiful garden setting, which results in less tension inside the jail in the evenings. “I often think I have the prettiest jail on the face of the earth,” said Kendall. 

State legislation has approved hiring DACA-eligible immigrants for law enforcement, on a path leading to citizenship, following the model used by our military. A department employee who is an immigrant himself, and has previous experience with the citizenship forms and bureaucracy, is assisting DACA applicants with the process.

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Two years ago, the Sheriff’s office began a dual response to mental health calls, where a counselor rides along with the deputies. This program has been successful and the counselors and deputies are learning from each other. Before this program started, in 2020, deputies picked up 98 people for 5150 holds. This ties up a deputy’s time for 4 to 6 hours. In 2021, when the program was instituted, the number of people picked up was around 60. In 2022, only 39 people were transported for 5150 holds. The counselors can provide mental health assistance before the situation escalates.

The jail population is lower as a result of new bail procedures following the Humphrey Decision. Previously, judges were able to set bail in a higher amount than the defendant could afford, without having to prove that the defendant would be a threat to society if released. Post-Humphrey, cash bail must be set at a reasonable amount. The probation department now interviews those arrested before they are arraigned, and is able to give the judge better information using data and statistics. Currently, the average jail population is around 255-270. Previously it had been in the 315-320 range. Sheriff Kendall also reported that the homicide rate is lower.

Public questions for the Sheriff:

There have been reports in other states of attacks on power stations, causing massive power outages. What is our county doing to keep them safe? We have had past problems with thieves stealing copper and other metals. The substations are being monitored by video and we haven’t had a major problem.

Could inmates be used on County road crews? California’s AB 109 legislation in 2011 resulted in housing certain inmates in county jails rather than state prisons, most of the inmates are felons and not eligible to work on road crews.

Would you hire an inmate to work in your department? People with felony convictions are not eligible to work as peace officers in California, but those with past misdemeanors can apply. Kendall said something to the effect of who doesn’t have a few youthful indiscretions? 

RV-Calpella Fire Department Update

Board Member Chris Boyd, who is also on the Board of the Fire Department, reported the early warning siren project is underway. There is currently one siren, with funding for more sirens. Now the task is to educate the public. When you hear the siren will it mean evacuate immediately, stand by to evacuate, or something else? The siren project is still in process and you can stay informed by checking the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department web page. With the anticipated $250,000 from Measure P, Boyd is hoping to build a capital reserve fund into the budget, for future major equipment purchases, which should be separate from the operating fund. 

The heavy rains will mean more brush to clear. Property owners are responsible for keeping flammable materials cleared.

Water Education Standing Subcommittee

Member Adam Gaska reported that he and Subcommittee Member Frey met with Deborah Edelman of the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District to discuss water catchment systems. The City of Ukiah and the California Land Stewardship Institute received a $1.5 million grant from the Bureau of Reclamation to develop a monitoring tool for groundwater. Gaska, also a board member of the Redwood Valley County Water District, said that there has been some pushback from Sonoma County regarding groundwater in our area. Sonoma County owns most of the water in Lake Mendocino, from which water is released into the Russian River. Sonoma County wants to ensure that none of the well water being pumped from the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Basin is actually river underflow (which Sonoma says is part of their water) instead of true groundwater from beneath the impermeable layer. As new wells go in and water districts consolidate with Ukiah, Sonoma is keeping an eye on this. Gaska is a true policy wonk on the science of groundwater, water rights, and the politics of it all.

Meeting attendee Gizmo Henderson asked whether contractors could be educated to include the use of greywater in landscaping. Gaska said that there are building codes regarding greywater that contractors can follow.

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Cannabis Policy Standing Subcommittee

Chair Riley asked why both sides are battling each other on the exclusion zone issue. Michael Katz, Executive Director of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, commented that there are two legally licensed cultivators in the proposed exclusion zone, who have spent a vast sum of money to get licensed. If the exclusion zone is implemented, they will have to move or cease to do business. Subcommittee Member Chris Boyd said that the reason specific neighborhoods are pushing for exclusion zones is that some cannabis growers are a nuisance, allowing big dogs to roam, and are hostile to neighbors. Katz said it is unlikely that they are licensed growers, as the licensed growers consider themselves stewards of the land and are respectful of their neighbors. Rather than an exclusion zone, why don’t neighbors address the problem of outlaw grows by working with Code Enforcement and the Sheriff’s Department? (A peek at the MCA website shows that Katz posted a letter to Governor Newsom expressing frustration with the unworkable Mendocino County Cannabis Program.) The Exclusion Zones are still being reviewed by the County Counsel’s office. 

Reynolds reported that the Mendocino County Museum in Willits will be hosting a cannabis exhibit.

Development Review Standing Subcommittee

Alternate Member Kelly reported that there are no new proposed development applications in Redwood Valley. 

Regarding the Community Action Plan, Chair Riley emailed the Planning and Building Department inquiring as to the status of their review. She will keep inquiring.

Redwood Valley Grange Update

Vice Chair Reynolds reported that the Flea Market, Puzzle Exchange, and Seed Swap will take place on Saturday, February 11 from 10 am to 3 pm. The seed swap will include bulbs, plant starts, and scions. For information on upcoming events see the Grange Website.

Alternate member Kelly reported that there will be another spay/neuter clinic scheduled for sometime soon, but the date has not yet been announced. The kitchen remodeling plans have been submitted to the Planning and Building Department. There is a large free library on shelves outside the building. Anyone is welcome to stop by and take some books.

Officers and Members Reports and Announcements

Chair Riley, Vice Chair Reynolds, and Laura Henebury, who is providing IT assistance to the MAC on an hourly basis, discussed the need for a new computer and a smoother Zoom setup. Henebury suggested some solutions and Reynolds said she may be able to donate a used computer. Riley had checked with the County about using the Behavioral Health building in Redwood Valley, but discovered that they did not have the needed IT equipment, and there was some question as to whether the MAC could legally enter into contracts. Looks like the meetings will stay at the Grange.

Reynolds said that she would like to see music venues and concerts as a driver of economic benefit to Redwood Valley.

Kelly announced that the Mendocino Firesafe Council will host a two-day training event for contractors regarding firesafe building methods. The dates are March 13 and 14 at the Alex Rorabaugh Center in Ukiah.

Riley announced that next month’s guest speaker will be a representative from Sonoma Clean Power.

The next Meeting is March 8, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. at the Redwood Valley Grange, or via Zoom, and is open to all.

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  1. The exclusion zone topic, the comment that legal growers are stewards of the land and good neighbors is not my experience. The license grow next to me is a mess and has been for years. Absolutely has had at large, aggressive dogs, noise, night time lights, workers living in small tents, road damage with no maintenance and damaged our bridge with overweight water trucks. I cringe when legal growers are given a complete pass just because they have a permit. I blame the county for little oversite.

  2. The North State St./Freeway on-off ramp junction is so dangerous. Would be nice if some of the money the county got from our town burning down was used to improve Redwood Valley

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

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