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Public Health & Safety Redux

A couple of years ago, Fire Chief Andres Avila asked me if I would consider being his “boss.” I was startled by the request. Most folks don’t usually get to pick their “boss.” I got to know Andres because he had helped me look for escape routes out of the Nash Ranch in case of a fire event, and the guy seemed to really know what he was doing and didn’t need a “boss.” Anyway, Andres went on to explain that he was managed by a board of five directors through an organization called the Anderson Valley Community Services District (AVCSD) that not only managed the Fire Department and the Ambulance Service, but also the Boonville Airport and a Recreation Committee. It wasn’t much work he said—just a board meeting once a month. Having spent 11 years on the Board of the Nash Ranch Road Association and needing a break, I declined his initial offer but foolishly suggested that I might be willing to help if another board vacancy came up. Sure enough, one came up a few months later and the game was up. The vacancy on the Board was announced as required in the Anderson Valley Advertiser (AVA) and I was up for election if anyone else applied. Since I had no competition, I was duly appointed a director. I should have known that something was fishy! It seems that being a board member on the AVCSD is not a very desirable job, probably because there is no pay and you don’t know how much work is involved. It’s volunteer service.

So, with foolish optimism I jumped into learning the government alphabet soup of LEMSA, EOA, GEMT, IGT, LAFCO, EVOC, and more. Who needs cognitive mind-stimulating games in old age when you have this stuff to tax your old neurons? When on the Board I also learned that two of the other directors, Valerie Hanelt and Kathleen McKenna were pursuing another project to get a roughly 35 million-dollar grant in State funding to install a water/wastewater system for Boonville. At the beginning I didn’t pay much attention but was asked to attend community outreach meetings and went along for the ride.

I was quite surprised to hear at these meetings a few very vocal individuals who seemed to be very misinformed. Meanwhile Val Hanelt and Kathleen McKenna were chugging along trying to push ahead on this very complicated project. Val shared with me that she and Kathleen have documented 129 meetings of various sorts since they started the project in 2014. There have been four public meetings with various community members since they started working on the project in 2014 held either at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds or at the Fire Department. To my knowledge, these were announced both in the AVA and on the AVCSD website:

• May 2015. Panel of presenters including County Public Health and a consultant; about 30 people attended;

• October 2015. Discussion of the County Building and Planning report on potential impact to development; about 40 people attended;

• October 2017. Meeting to kick-off the Environmental Review for the Wastewater part of the project; affected people invited;

• January 2018:  Meeting to kick-off the Environmental Review for the Drinking Water part of the project where a preliminary plan for the design was presented; standing room only.

In addition, Val and Kathleen have set up an informal advisory committee called the Boonville Planners. 

With all of this vocal controversy, it became more and more apparent that we had to redouble our efforts to inform the public because the Anderson Valley community was either unaware or uninformed of what was going on. So, I proposed that we send one or more flyers to all residents of the Anderson Valley. The final version of the first flyer, which you can access on the AVCSD or the AVA website, was approved by the Board at our monthly meeting this past week. It will be mailed out to the whole Community in the next couple of weeks.

Last week, I was informed that someone from the Community posted a statement on his Facebook webpage alleging that we were sending out a flyer, that the AVCSD was a Corporation, that Directors were paid a lot of money, that we appoint each other, and that are were using scare tactics. Well, unfortunately this individual only got one of his “facts” right—that we are mailing out the informational memo that I mentioned earlier. 

Otherwise, he got his “facts” are all wrong. First, he stated that the AVCSD is now a Corporation. Not true! The AVCSD is NOT a Corporation; it’s a government agency made up of an elected board of volunteer/unpaid directors. 

Second, he stated that the Directors are paid a lot of money! I wish. Again, not true. The AVCSD would only manage the grant money and the water/wastewater system and the Directors would in no way profits from the grants. Four out of five Directors don’t even live in the footprint of the proposed Water/Wastewater project. The Community would be the beneficiary! 

He further states that we are appointed by our fellow Board members. Well, normally there would be an election, but it appears no one wants to do this often-thankless work. Since most candidates often run unopposed, those who volunteer such as myself are nominated by the Board, and approved by the County. 

He further alleges that the flyer is a scare tactic. Well, the State Water Board thinks that we have a serious public health problem related to sewage in Boonville, the Public Health Director of the County thinks we have a problem, and the Director of the Anderson Valley Health Clinic thinks we have a serious public health problem. Not to mention that the Fire Chief feels that a water system with hydrants would help to fight fires in our community. 

So, here is the thing. The really scary thing is that this individual and his friends propagate misinformation and don’t seem to have the Community’s best interest at heart. Do you believe public health experts who have credentials or these misinformed folks? Who knows what motivates this crowd? Maybe it’s just contrarianism or they have some other personal agenda. It’s now time for the Community to become more informed about the Water/Wastewater project and get behind it if it affects them and they are asked for their vote down the line. All of the AVCSD’s work is public and can be viewed on its website at Just check it out for yourself! And reach out to us if you have questions or concerns.

One Comment

  1. Tammy January 22, 2020

    I live near Mendocino, but I am grateful for your sacrifice and service. I believe that everyone of us humans has a responsibility to protect Water, to do our best at being mindful of how our daily lives impact the Water that is generously gifted to us by our Earth.

    It will takes some time however, for those of us raised in this “consumer” culture to regain awareness in such things. To understand that our very existence is dependent upon relationships within the Web of Life. I also think that so many folks are responding to discussions pertaining to all kinds of civic issues in such a drastic manner, because of this lack of understanding. It is after all a primary tactic used in colonization – to divide and conquer, instill a sense of fear and separation… in everything that does not come from the established institutions.

    Anyway, thank for your service.

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