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February fire district business

 

Kenwood director vacancy, Glen Ellen firehouse upgrade, new development fees, and more

This month, the Kenwood Fire Protection District will start looking to fill a sudden vacancy on its board of directors with the passing of director Jim Kempers in January from complications that arose after a severe fall in December (see story on page 11). Farther south, the Sonoma Valley Fire District is looking to sort out seismic upgrades for the Glen Ellen fire station; it is also formally adopting revised fire impact fees for new development to cover the cost of projected new equipment, fire houses, and personnel to meet consequent increases in service demands. The district will also receive funds designated for the Mayacamas Volunteer Fire District that was formerly administered by the county. The funds will pay off an engine lease. A Mello-Roos tax district has also been dissolved so those taxes will no longer be collected from property owners.

Kenwood Fire Protection District

The announcement of a vacancy made by the Board at its Feb. 9 regular meeting set the clock ticking on the replacement process, allocating 15 days to notify county election officials of the vacancy, and beginning a 60-day period, ending April 10, in which the Board may fill the vacancy by appointment or call for an election. A notice of the vacancy has been posted at the fire house across the street from the Kenwood Post Office and in this paper. Applications for the position will be available through Feb. 25 at the firehouse or online. If the Board does appoint someone, it has 15 days from making the appointment to notify county election officials. If they don’t appoint someone, directors must request, before April 10, that an election be scheduled. That would be a special election which could prove very expensive.

An appointed replacement will have to stand for election in November 2022, according to county election officials.

In other Kenwood items, did you know that only seven percent of the Kenwood Fire Department’s calls were to actually fight fires? The 2020 report of the number and types of responses made and calls for the year show that nearly half of the job is responding to health and emergency issues other than fires, underscoring the current drive to have at least one Emergency Medical Technician on every callout. The “Good intent” category is a catch-all that includes getting cats out of a tree, celebrity appearances at birthday parties, community events, and other worthwhile appearances that don’t fall into the other categories. The Board is also looking at reviving the effort to pass a halfcent permanent sales tax that could alleviate much of the County’s fire funding needs. An attempt to do that last year failed in the March election, though voters proved to be not so tax averse in November.

Sonoma Valley Fire District

Ex-director Peter van Fleet is almost as busy as he was as an active director, tracking progress of a seismic upgrade being planned for the Glen Ellen Firehouse, now Firehouse No. 5 in the Sonoma Valley Fire District’s expanded domain. The Board approved spending another $4,000 to adjust the site planning to cover completion of the plan.

The Board will also ask the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to approve a levy of fire impact fees on new development, a kind of tax approved in 2018 by the state legislature to allow special districts to recover the cost of upgrading and adding equipment and firehouses to cope with new homes and businesses. The SVFD completed a study and held a public hearing last October, followed by an approved schedule of fees for various types of development. A review of the proposed fees with county counsel and the county administrator’s office resulted in a few minor changes, including reducing a fee for multi-housing units by about five percent.

County supervisors are expected to approve the new development fees at their March 23 regular meeting. Current projections suggest the fees will yield approximately $300,000 a year for the district for the next 20 years, based on projected assumptions, which did not include future developments at the Sonoma Developmental Center, and results of a Springs Specific Plan now being studied.

The fees will not apply to the City of Sonoma, even though it receives fire support from the SVFD. Fees will be collected by the Sonoma County Permit Resource and Materials Department and will be deposited into a separate fund or account so that there will be no commingling of fees with other revenues. Capital improvements and apparatus, vehicle, and equipment purchases that expand the District’s fire system are allowable uses of fee revenue. Likewise, the fee program will generate only enough revenue to proportionally expand the fire system to maintain the existing level of service.

Fee details will be posted to the district’s website at svfra.org.

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