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Kenwood and Valley of the Moon fire district updates

By Jay Gamel

In Kenwood, the fire district’s board of directors is sorting out the big job of looking at every parcel in the district to make sure the new benefit assessment rates are fairly apportioned and to catch any glitches as new rates are applied for the first time in over 30 years.

At their Feb. 8 monthly meeting, directors assigned Chair Bob Uboldi, Fire Chief Daren Bellach, and Fire Captain Tony Ghisla to check each parcel rate assignment. They all have the longest experience with the district and know almost everyone living in it. Directors also discussed who will lead work on finance, personnel, infrastructure, and equipment and generally attend to the administrative side of running a fire district.

Fire tax assessments are initially assigned by the County Assessor’s office and then reviewed by local fire department officials. Chief Bellach said that the directors will have the ability to change assessments that are clearly wrong – as evidenced by what is actually built on a property. There is no leeway for changing vacant lot assessments, however, unless the owner can show it is no longer vacant.

There will be glitches and problems to work out over the first year or so of the new assessments, but patience should see things worked out with a minimum of fuss. Anyone with questions about their new assessments can call Chief Bellach at 707-833-2042.

The timetable for the new assessments is as follows:

Individual assessments will be determined this month for each tax rate category. A parcel report from the County Auditor is then requested. A public hearing will be noticed in April and set for May. (This is done annually.) Appeals may be made through June, when the district’s preliminary budget for 2022-2023 is approved. That budget will include the anticipated new revenues and expenditures.

Tax rolls and appropriations limits are set in July. This sequence of events happens every year. Starting in June 2023, the department will have to account for how it spends additional revenue awarded by the county last month and what projects it funds with its new benefit assessment funds.

Sonoma Valley Fire District

The Sonoma Valley Fire District (SVFD) has a lot on its hands for so early in the year. At its Feb. 8 monthly directors’ meeting, Chief Steve Akre talked about the Sonoma Developmental Center’s future, evacuation exercises at Diamond A/Grove Street, a possible merger with the City of Sonoma’s fire department, a big volunteer training class starting March 1, and controlled burns scheduled for this spring.

Controlled burn specialist Sarah Gibson and Fire Marshall Trevor Smith asked for, and received, a policy nod from SVFD’s directors for encouraging future controlled burns that will pave the way to obtaining future funding and grants for these programs. Controlled burns will be included as an element of the department’s vegetation management program.

“Preliminary discussions with local partners have been positive and the potential for grant funded cost sharing exists,” Akre’s report said.

Akre said the state is very likely to continue providing an engine and crew for one shift a day at the Sonoma Developmental Center fire station, though he cautioned that permanent fire service for the area when it becomes privately owned is a more complicated issue that will depend on sources of funding that are not currently available.