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King’s English Comes to Boonville

Boonville resident Bob Abeles opened Wednesday night’s Community Services District Board meeting with a complaint about an email he got from the lawyer the District hired to prepare the contracts for the property owners who have agreed to provide water to the planned drinking water system that District has been working on for the last couple of years. 

Last week, citing Board Chair Valerie Hanelt’s concluding sentence, “…there are some who are opposed to the projects and spread misinformation,” Abeles had written, “So, anyone with objections to the project or how it is being carried out is a spreader of misinformation? That sounds like a line straight out of the HBO show Chernobyl.”

For reasons that remain unclear, attorney Phil Williams had volunteered this response: 

“Characterizing Ms. Hanelt’s observation that ‘there are some who are opposed to the projects and spread misinformation’ as a conclusion that ‘anyone with objections to the project or how it is being carried out is a spreader of misinformation’ does violence to the King’s English. Mr. Fowler is likely rolling over in his grave. The use of the conjunctive ‘and’ merely indicates Ms. Hanelt’s observation that there are some who possess two characteristics: opposition to the projects and dispersal of misinformation. Ms. Hanelt does not say, or even indicate, that those who object to the project are the same who are spreading misinformation. Furthermore, in your mischaracterization of her observation, you improperly mistake Ms. Hanelt’s necessary condition (i.e., ‘opposition to the projects’) for the dispersal of misinformation as a sufficient condition for said dispersal. As an example, while it is necessary to have fuel to start a fire, the presence of fuel by itself does not produce a fire; one must have, from what I remember, heat, oxygen, and fuel to start a fire — fuel is therefore a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for the event of a fire. While it is entirely logical that one must oppose the projects in order to spread misinformation (i.e., opposition is necessary), that does not mean that opposition to the projects is sufficient in and of itself to result in the spread of misinformation. Ms. Andrews was being too diplomatic, sir; in no way does the most rudimentary understanding of the English language support your publicly-broadcasted mischaracterization of Ms. Hanelt’s observation. But the damage is now done. A gentleman would offer her an apology in the same forum in which the slight was given.”

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Mr. Abeles read from a prepared statement:

“Despite my less than a rudimentary command of the English language, to date the water and sewer project has washed away $286,000 in outside consultants and lawyers. $286,000. It will continue until $500,000 is drained away. Please take a moment to imagine what our community could have done with that money. Mr. Williams Esq., one of the nuzzlers at the fountain, has addressed me with a gratuitously insulting message. I ask the board whether Mr. Williams will be rewarded for his scribblings because that would be an egregious misuse of the people's money.”

Taking a page out of the Board of Supervisors’ playbook Board Chair Valerie Hanelt responded, “Okay, thank you.”

AV Fire Chief Andres Avila raised a concern which began back when Colin Wilson was chief saying that the District’s mid-90s Benefit Assessment lacks an inflation component and thus over time the purchasing power of the assessment decreases. He suggested that the board consider looking into some kind of development or impact fees which would apply to new construction in the Valley. The Hopland fire department has recently implemented such a fee which they were (of course) happy with. Avila suggested that something like $15,000 (of newfound strike team revenues) could be spent on a study of the District’s budget and future revenues and requirements to establish what potential additional funding might be necessary. 

The Board was generally supportive of the concept but did not want to proceed with spending any money on it at this time saying that they would like to revisit the subject later after the water project engineers have submitted the drinking and wastewater project’s "rate letters" with estimated monthly hook-up costs so they can get a broader picture of what future costs might be — although the “rate letters” would only appeal to Boonville proper, not the entire Valley as a development fee might.

Chief Avila also addressed the unsightly pile of rubble in downtown Boonville where the so-called Lodge Fire occurred last month destroying the local convenience store, a Mexican restaurant and bar, and several small apartments. Avila said that there were no provisions in the fire code to deal with such situations unless the debris was leaking known hazardous or toxic elements or threatening to dump silt into a waterway. And even then, the requirement would be to control it, not necessarily clean it up. Avila added that the Board might want to consider some kind of local commercial cleanup ordinance if the County doesn’t do one. Apparently, the County has been quietly (and very slowly) talking about a countywide clean-up ordinance in the aftermath of the big Redwood Valley fires of 2017 where there are still unresolved cleanup problems. 

Returning to the Boonville debris pile, Chief Avila said that he was in contact with the landlord’s insurance company and was expecting to hear back from them soon about how they were going to handle the situation since 10% or 20% of the property insurance is supposed to pay for cleanup after an insured incident.

Chief Avila also updated the Board on the sorry state of ambulance services in the county and especially on the Highway 101 corridor. There's been a drawdown of ambulance availability to zero on the 101 corridor “multiple times” in the last few weeks which not only dangerously restricts ambulance responses in that area but limits Anderson Valley’s ability to transfer ambulance patients to higher levels of care on their way to medical facilities in Ukiah or elsewhere. "Some people think the helicopter is an option for serious medical incidents," said Avila. "But on days like today [overcast, cloudy, rainy] that's not always an option."

Apparently the city of Ukiah has conducted (contracted for) a new study on local ambulance service finances and there’s a chance that some kind of new organizational and financial model may ensue — someday. But, given the County’s historic reluctance to spend money on subsidizing or upgrading ambulance services, this approach probably won’t produce tangible results in the near future. 

When asked about the County’s reluctance to shift money currently being wasted on tourism promotion and juvenile hall, Chief Avila said that those specific subjects had indeed come up in a recent meeting of the County’s Emergency Services ad hoc committee — consisting of supervisors Ted Williams and John McCowen — and the emergency services officials were told that trying to shift any of those dollars to ambulance services would be "unpopular."

Which begs the question, which is more “popular”? — spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on nebulous tourism “promotion” and $2.4 million to house a dozen or so delinquents — or beefing up essential and precarious ambulance services in the County much of which is for those very tourists which the bed tax is extracted from?

Board chair Valerie Hanelt ran down the status of the drinking and wastewater projects and the recent article they wrote for the AVA which ended with the above-mentioned rather dismissive reference to the “spreading of misinformation." Ms. Hanelt acknowledged that "there was some awkward phrasing at the end," and apologized for the tone in what was an otherwise a straightforward report.

Hanelt said that the local entities which are expected to be water sources for the proposed drinking water system are currently in discussions with the district and their attorney (the same attorney Mr. Abeles complained about at the beginning of the meeting) and they expected have contracts with them finished in the near future. Hanelt pointed again to the recent report in the AVA which mentioned that the minimum cost for a drinking water or waste water hookup would be around $52 a month which she characterized as "fairly low." However, it’s still too early to estimate costs as follow up questions arose about how much additional cost there might be for actual gallons used. The Board now plans to distribute a survey letter in the next couple of months which would ask residents in the proposed service area what they think about various cost alternatives.

Several board members pointed out also that the funds being provided by the state for the drinking water and wastewater projects cannot be used for anything but those particular projects. Director Larry Mailliard added, "but it can go away!" — implying that if they don't proceed with a project soon, the state might withdraw the funding which is mostly from a statewide voter-approved clean water initiative from a few years ago.

Hanelt said that the District is still unsure where they would distribute the processed effluent from the wastewater processing system, but they are still looking at some properties on Highway 128 south of the Highway 253 intersection.

Hanelt also said she was surprised to hear that some locals have been accusing the district of some kind “ covert operation” in their efforts to develop the proposal. "I guess it just happens when people become aware of things sometimes," said Ms. Hanelt, adding that she and Director McKenna have done a lot of public outreach, going door-to-door to addresses in the service area and doing what they could do announce their meetings and invite people to participate. 

We thought Fire Chief Andres Avila was either joking or exaggerating when he told the CSD Board that the road signs on Deerwood Meadows Rd looked like something out of a Road Runner Cartoon. So we asked him to send a photo or two. Road signs and proper addresses in the hills of Mendocino County and Anderson Valley in particular are critical to fire responses because they can mean the difference of a few critical minutes of response to a fire or other emergency. Chief Avila and former AV Fire Chief Colin Wilson have been working with the County’s Planning and Building staff — albeit at the Mendo’s typical banana slug’s pace — to make the process of road naming and re-naming easier and they have been requesting Mendo’s hill muffins to make the extra effort to upgrade their signage as necessary so that they are clear not only to emergency responders, but visitors as well. 

Chief Avila writes:

“This a great example of the good work our residents are doing to ensure first responders can get to their properties. On the other hand, with the lack of county support to allow emergency response organizations the ability to streamline road names and addresses in the county, we end up with these types of Looney Tunes signs. Imagine stopping to read these signs at each intersection while every second accounts.

The first photo is from the first intersection of Deer Meadows Rd. in Boonville. The second photo is the next intersection up the road. This is only one of many subdivisions in Anderson Valley that have several miles of road systems with multiple intersections along the way and still use a common road name . Thanks to Former AVFD Chief Wilson and the many local FSC (volunteer) groups, we are very close to being able to fix many of these foreseeable problems. It is now up to the Board of Supervisors to allow us to proceed with corrections needed so we can be prepared for emergencies and evacuations.”

Avila told the Community Services District Board last Wednesday that they may need to write a formal letter to the County/Planning Department and the Supervisors to get more attention paid to this important component of fire prevention and response.

And finally, Chief Avila made a point of complimenting the volunteer firefighters who have had to deal with seven structure fires in the last two months. 

“On top of the previous six fires reported in the last chief’s meeting, we had one more structure fire on December 27. The fire was reported early in the morning as a fully involved structure and the glow from the fire could be seen from Boonville. Another family had completely lost their home. One of the two dogs was removed from the structure and the other was lost. The troops are preforming very well but need a break. All of their volunteer time and energy has been over the holidays and during normal work days. Their commitment and sacrifice to this community is tremendous!” 

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