We had a very productive meeting on Thursday, Jan 2nd. We have started meeting on the first Thursday of every month at 10:30 AM at the Fire House in order to have an open forum where members of the public can come and engage with us so that we can understand community concerns. Thursday’s meeting was attended by eight community members. We went over questions and discussed concerns for two hours before finishing the public comments portion of the meeting. There were some very interesting questions we are sending on to the engineers or the State Water Board to get better answers.
We shared that we are continuing with our public outreach by setting up impartial panels to educate us about our health issues as well as the hydrology of our water table and the impact of the municipal wells. Once we establish a new wastewater site farther out of town, we will be setting up a tour to two MBRs (Membrane BioReactors) in the Geyserville area. We are also sending out a newsletter to everyone in all the Anderson Valley zip codes in mid-February.
Our Fire Chief, Andres Avila, explained how storage tanks and hydrants for fire suppression are planned, as well as how sprinkler systems work for new construction. He calculated that, because of the fire suppression provided by the system, folks could see their fire insurance rates cut by as much as 50%.
The yearly data is available now for our community’s median income. With a median income of $41,836, we are at less than 60% of the state’s median average income. While you probably don’t like hearing that you live in a severely disadvantaged community, the good news is that makes us eligible for 100% grant funding for both wastewater and drinking water projects.
In our last communication with our senior project manager at the State Water Board we were told they are now offering to pay for ALL the laterals – wastewater AND drinking water – for our residential properties. This median income also drives our future rates. Our median income of $41,836 divided by 12 puts our monthly income at $3,486. The state is currently using 1.5% of that as a minimum rate for customers. That means the minimum rate for each project would be $52.30. We are hoping that will be very close to the actual base rate for everyone. There is no provision for differing incomes – we are all treated the same. The actual rate is not set by us, but by a different state agency who takes into account future Operation and Maintenance needs (we have no loans to worry about) and our severely disadvantaged status. The State is aware that providing the infrastructure is only part of the picture and the community has to be able to afford their monthly payments.
Prop 218 also limits the amount of future rate increases. If, in the future, there is a need to increase the rate beyond the standard cost of living, the increase is subject to an additional vote. (The language of the Prop 218 is on our website and it is very complex. If you have the patience to study it, be sure you look at “fees” and not “taxes” as Prop 218 regulates both, and we are a “fee”). We are still probably 6 -9 months away from having the Rate Study done and the resulting “vote” letter sent out to parcel owners. Again, one parcel = one vote. We will continue to explain the process in the months ahead.
We are aware that regardless of our health issues, housing needs and fire suppression problems, there are some who are opposed to the projects and spread misinformation. We encourage you to educate yourself by continuing to check in with the website (avcsd.org), attend Water Project meetings (first Thursdays at 10:30 at the Fire House), and read material that we send you.