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Two directors leave Kenwood fire board, revised tax measure campaign to start


Oldest and youngest directors have last meetings with the district

By Jay Gamel

And then there were three … Director Dennis Mc Intosh had announced his intention to retire from the board of the Kenwood Fire District in the first week of August; on Aug. 9, the board’s newest and youngest member, Joseph Gruchawka, submitted his letter of resignation. He was unable to find a place to live in Kenwood, and is moving out of the district. Gruchawka was appointed on March 24 to fill the seat vacated by the late Jim Kempers. It was the last meeting either will attend.

Fire Chief Daren Bellach will search for replacements for the next two weeks. If none are found, the positions will be opened to the public and a 60-day filing period will commence.

McIntosh has served with the Kenwood fire department since 1973, when Joe Benguerel suggested he become a volunteer shortly after moving to the area. “Ed Geib welcomed me right away,” McIntosh remembers the long-time former fire chief, though things were quite a bit different in those days. “The amount of training is one of the biggest things that has changed since then, and the equipment has become much better and more complicated.”

An electrician by trade, McIntosh ran his own company from home for many years, keeping him available for volunteer work around the clock. With the passing of board member Ann Rudesill, McIntosh stepped up to take a seat where he has served nearly 25 years.

Gruchawka has enjoyed his brief time on the board and hopes to buy his own Kenwood home in the next few years. He practices law in Santa Rosa in a single office, representing plaintiffs and taking on labor law issues.

“I really enjoyed my time on the board, getting to know the chief and people on the board,” Gruchawka said. “It’s good to see something was accomplished in my short time on the board,” he said, referring to the revised property tax assessment that will be on the November ballot.

Revised tax assessment

Dennis Rosatti gave an update on district polling of support for the proposed fire tax assessment, which is expected to have a formal designation by late August. Rosatti is a political consultant hired to shepherd a revised fire tax assessment campaign through Nov. 2.

The new assessment would replace a 34-year-old benefit assessment that has left the district in a negative income situation in the past year. The old assessments were fixed at $40 per residence, with no cost of living increases. Polling, while covering a small pool of voters (1,226), has been positive.

While his sample groups were small, they came from a pool of 1,226 voters in the fire district. “And while there may be some wide margins of errors from the small samples, they show enough strength to be encouraging,” Rosatti said.

There are only between 600 and 700 “good” phone numbers for registered voters in the district. Respondents were asked first if they were going to vote and second if they supported the request after being read the legal document asking for the increase.

Rosatti said over 73 percent of the initial poll group were supportive, with a 10 percent margin of error. While not definitive, Rosatti said it was very encouraging and that later polls where respondents had information about how the money will be spent showed higher positive results – with 86 percent offering support with a 12 percent margin of error.

The key is getting people out to vote, Rosatti said. The district will begin its official campaign in mid-August.

Station upgrades, county support, new bunk beds

Bellach asked for $100,000 to be transferred from contingency to operation funds to pay for a wide variety of needed maintenance and ongoing projects, including planning for a new septic system and revamped living quarters for the firehouse. The living quarters need to accommodate expanded staffing.

The Facility Ad Hoc Committee, which includes directors Daymon Doss and John Cooper, along with three volunteers and citizen advisors, will be bringing an interim report to the next month’s meeting with a plan for the new septic system size. That will allow plans to be drawn up for the final quarters expansion and other renovation needed to accommodate more staff.

Chief Bellach reported a lack of clarity from ongoing meetings with the county supervisor’s ad hoc committee concerning interim county funding to facilitate consolidations of several county fire districts and Community Service Areas (CSAs) that need to be absorbed by existing fire districts.

A request by the Kenwood Firefighters’ Association to authorize painting the 20-yearold water tender to match current fire department colors was tabled until next month to consider upgrading the entire unit or buying a new water tender.

Another firefighter request to hold later board meetings had no support and no action. Directors agreed that they would schedule public hearings and important special meetings as needed.

Two new fold-down bunk beds for the sleeping room were designed by firefighter Trevor Pappas to allow for better sleeping arrangements for expanded engine staffing. The board approved Pappas’ designs and money to acquire the necessary hardware.

The board meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m. at the Kenwood firehouse. Meetings are in person and are open to the public.