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Disaster Prep & Wastewater Planning

Learning that the County expects to receive over $22 million in PG&E settlement money, and that the County intends to use the windfall cash primarily for  disaster recovery and preparation, the Anderson Valley Community Services District has moved quickly to suggest that a small amount of that money be used to convert the County-owned Senior Center/Veterans Building into an emergency services center. American Legion/Veterans rep Kirk Wilder and Senior Firefighter volunteer Fal Allen took a look at the building and liked the idea and told the Community Services District Board last Wednesday that with some modest remodeling and additions it could  be upgraded for use as a gathering place during emergencies and power outages. Fire Chief Andres Avila noted that the firehouse is not a good location because it has limited capacity and would probably be needed for emergency personnel and equipment. Wilder and Allen said that the Senior Center would need to upgrade its water system, repair or replace the roof, and add a backup generator to make Boonville's venerable structure useful as an emergency community center. Fifth District Supervisor Ted Williams joined last Wednesday’s CSD Board meeting by Zoom to discuss the idea. Williams was supportive and said he’d work with PG&E and County staff on the idea.

The CSD Board also discussed the status of the proposed drinking and wastewater system projects for downtown Boonville, which have been in the works now for several years. Although having spent almost $1 million in state planning grant money, the District is still not ready to present any specific  proposals to residents of the respective service districts. The drinking water project is moving toward what sounds like a workable system drawing mostly on existing wells under formal agreements with several local property owners. A "rate letter" later this year is supposed to give prospective Boonville area property owners a costed out project to vote on. However, the wastewater system has experienced setbacks, blind alleys, and a maze of technical, bureaucratic and local obstacles as the CSD board members and engineers have slogged their way toward a workable system design.

The Johnson Ranch property at the junction of Highways 128 and 253 had seemed like a good spot for an injection field for the treatment plant and treated wastewater but, after some months of consideration, the Johnson family decided not to participate. Because of acreage requirements (about seven acres are estimated to be required) or setbacks from property lines or soil conditions most of the other sites that had been explored were ruled out. This left the County-owned, locally overseen Mendocino County Fairgrounds, whose back lot, in theory, is capacious enough to accommodate a sewage treatment facility. But the Fair Board has not been receptive to the idea and the CSD Board’s attempt to explain the many benefits to the Fairgrounds and the local population of using the Fairgrounds’ back lot for this purpose has met stiff opposition from the hard cases on the Fair Board. At the last meeting of the Fair Board, the Board voted to oppose the project unless or until new information comes to light which might change their minds. In the past, some members of the Fair Board have expressed the fear that a “sewage” project would ruin their camping revenue, although the proposed project involves injecting treated waste water underground and the only visible effect on the camping area would be the fenced off treatment plant itself. The engineers insist that there would be no olfactory impact. But since the Fairgrounds is county property, the final decision on the use of the site will fall to the Board of Supervisors. Fifth District Supervisor Ted Williams told the Board on Wednesday that he agreed that the project has obvious public benefit, but that he couldn’t predict how the Board would vote, especially considering that two new Supervisors are coming on board in January.

The District Board plans to prepare an explanatory presentation on the use of the Fairgrounds as a wastewater treatment site to the Supervisors in the upcoming months as the drinking water project, apart from the wastewater project, proceeds with no significant technical or bureaucratic obstacles in its path. The drinking water project may be presented to the property owners in the Boonville “service area” for a vote sometime in the coming year. But for now, the wastewater half of the planning is stalled unless or until a way is found to add the Fairgrounds property as its location, or some previously ruled out parcel comes back into the picture.

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