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Valley People (June 11, 2014)

STILL NO OFFICIAL WORD on the young tree trimmer killed by a falling limb at the Scharffenberger Winery the morning of Saturday, May 17th. We don't even have his name, although we've got an inquiry in with the Sheriff's Department.

THE COUNTY GRAND JURY has conducted what it called a “routine investigation” of the Anderson Valley High School and Junior high, concluding that “the Anderson Valley Middle and High School facilities are more than 50 years old and in need of extensive repair,” going on to point out that “The Anderson Valley community is very supportive of the Anderson Valley Middle and High School. Two years ago the citizens approved a $24 million bond measure for modernization, renovation, and maintenance of both campuses, to be used in three phases. Phase One provided $8 million dollars, which is being used for upgrades and repairs to be completed this year. One of the accomplishments has been the installation of solar panels to save money for the district. The efficiency of the solar energy system has reduced electricity cost to nine dollars per month. Further renovations will begin after the bonds for Phase Two are sold in 2015.”

THE GJ “found the Anderson Valley Middle and High School is well run and student oriented.” It was tempting to sic “student oriented.” A school should be “student oriented,” shouldn't it? But this year's Jury found that the Mendocino County Office of Education was not “student oriented” but run primarily for the benefit and comfort of Superintendent Tichinin and his inner cadre of administrators, a fact of public Mendocino County life for the past two decades.

“THE GRAND JURY was invited to have lunch in the school cafeteria where the well-behaved student population was observed. Indeed, it is clear that all students are valued and respected at the Anderson Valley Middle and High School.” Hasn't always been the case certainly, but the new high school principal, Michelle Hutchins, for a visible fact, has breathed badly needed new life and supervision into the place.

BILL BOGER of Jack's Valley Store passes along a 1955 story from a May, 1955 edition of the Redwood Journal by the late Elinor Clow. The Redwood Journal is now the Ukiah daily Journal.

“A GALA OPENING is planned for May 20 when Jack's Valley Store at Philo will open the doors of its new building. Work on the all steel structure has been completed and Mr. Clow and his helpers are putting on the finishing touches so that merchandise may be moved in. The new store is on the site of the old store building which was moved to the back of the lot and remained open for business during the three months of work. The new structure has an exterior of steel siding with a frontage of 50 feet and an overall area of 3000 square feet. In addition to a complete line of groceries now carried, Mr. Clow is expanding his meat and vegetable departments and is adding a line of paints to his well-stocked hardware department. He also plans to increase the stock of men and boys clothing which includes several name brand of work clothing and shoes. The Valley Store was established in 1927 by Mr. Clow's father, William F. Clow. The original store burned on Christmas, 1929, and was rebuilt in 1930. When the new highway went through in 1936 it was separated from the residence and moved to present site. It was operated by Bill Clow as a grocery store and gas station until 1947 when it was taken over by his son, Jack Clow. Many alterations were carried on through the years and in 1952 a separate gas station was built, which is now leased to Floyd Coffman."

THE COFFMAN FAMILY also operated a service station in Boonville for many years before moving to Willits where their descendants still live.

AARON BLAINE SMITH, a resident of Pittsburg (Ca) was the abalone diver who fell to his death this weekend from a steep cliff near Mendocino, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. Smith is the second ab diver to die this season on the Mendocino Coast.

HAPPY TO SEE that the Planning Commission has approved Verizon's application to erect a cell phone tower and related facilities on Bev Burger's Yorkville ranch, providing a very nice lady with a very nice source of additional income.

LONG STORY, with photos, in Sunday's Press Democrat called, “Camp Grounded” or “Digital Detox.” People, mostly young, pay $600 to camp at the old Boy Scout Camp in Navarro where glib someones remind them that there's life beyond their gizmos.

LOCAL GUY FERNANDO ESPINOZA won the baseball hand-autographed by Giants manager, Bruce Bochy. The much-coveted prize was raffled off by the Anderson Valley Little League. I felt fortunate to win a generous load of sheep manure donated by Reilly Heights Ranch, and there's nothing better for sun-stroked flowerbeds.

BRIAN MURPHY chips in another drought indicator: “California buckeyes are a good indicator of soil moisture as they shut down and drop their leaves to preserve themselves when soil moisture reaches low levels. The buckeyes are still flowering at the same time as they are starting to shut down and drop their leaves.” Looking around at The Valley's buckeyes, they're in full flower.

TREVOR SANDERS, 45, the Point Arena city councilman and high school baseball coach, has entered not guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges that he drunkenly and deliberately drove his Chevrolet Suburban into several vehicles in downtown Point Arena on Saturday, May 24th. Sanders had been celebrating a baseball victory over Mendocino that meant his Point Arena team would proceed to the small school championships the next weekend in Eureka. (PA lost that game 10-0 to St. Bernard's.)

SANDERS' many supporters packed a meeting of the Point Arena school board last week to lobby the school board not to fire the popular teacher and coach. The PA City Council has also met to discuss the Sanders case. He's represented by ace criminal defense attorney Keith Faulder, and is scheduled for trial in Ten Mile Court on September 24th.

A READER WRITES: “One of our local vineyard workers was a top finalist in the recent 2014 Mendocino County Pruning Contest. He was down at Lemons Market Thursday evening eagerly awaiting his weekly paycheck and hoping for a big one. His expression dropped when he opened the envelope and took a peek, expressing that he had hoped for more. My son looked over his shoulder, and seeing the $600 figure, said ‘Wow’ that’s more than I make.’ The pruning wizard replied, ‘Yeah? Look at this,’ and pointed to the 68 hours he had worked that week. He explained that vineyard workers are at it almost 12 hours a day, six days a week. His hourly wage after nine years working for the same vineyard management company is $11 an hour with apparently straight pay for overtime. That's a crime. The people of Anderson Valley tolerate insults on many levels from the greedy wine baron bastards. As the our tenuous American social order continues its spiraling decline it won't be long until the revolutions predicted way back in the 60s are upon us. It won't be pretty.”

CORRECTION: IT’S SUNDAY, NOT SATURDAY! The Comptche Volunteer Fire Department’s Fathers Day Chicken Dinner is Sunday, June 15th, noon to 4 pm. Take Dad out to dinner! Bring the family and your appetite! But please leave the dogs at home.

MARSHALL NEWMAN WRITES: “Interesting to read Turkey Vulture’s note last week on the Hendy Woods’ mountain lion. In the 1970s and early 1980s, I’d see occasional signs of mountain lions north of Rancheria Creek’s Big Bend, but never saw an actual mountain lion. Lots of room to roam and sufficient water in the area, but a reduction in potential prey due to the drought may have caused the cats to expand their range.”

YEAH, IT WAS HOT. 106 in Boonville by Sunday afternoon. Same Monday, and hot most of the week but not hundred-degree hot. My dahlias fried on their stems, the hydrangeas were wilted-to-weeping, the roses were roasted to a deathly brown crisp at their crowns, the chickens panting in the shade. And the one drunk I saw downtown was turning purple.

SUPERVISOR DAN HAMBURG and Ag Commissioner Chuck Morse discussed the wind machine nuisance at the Board of Supervisors meeting of June 3, 2014:

HAMBURG: “Our Ag commissioner is in the room, and I know he's been very involved in this and it is something kind of tangential to the drought situation which is the needs in the Anderson Valley to use wind turbines for frost protection. I'm sure most of the board members have heard about this. We have wind machines operating all the way from the 128-253 intersection all the way to the town of Navarro along Highway 128.

“There have been a number of community meetings that have been held. I think Chuck Morse has attended a couple of them. I have attended the most recent one, which happened last week. There is no doubt that there is a lot of consternation in Anderson Valley about the disturbance from wind machines. This really is another result of the drought. It's because the farmers cannot use water to frost protect, they are using wind turbines.

“There are a lot of issues involved here. There is the right to farm ordinance. There are decibel limits connected to our noise ordinance. My concern is that we address this somehow between now and when we are going to have a lot of frost again, which will likely be in the fall. We have some very low-lying Vineyards in Anderson Valley where the cold really starts to get on nights when most of the rest of the county is frost-free, Anderson Valley is being hit with temperatures in the mid-30s and sometimes the low 30s.”

SUPERVISOR CARRE BROWN: “And we did have last Thursday as the Ag Commissioner predicted, we did have last night.”

HAMBURG AGAIN: “Chuck [Morse] watches this very closely. He knows when it's likely to happen and he tries to spread the word. What I know from talking to my constituents there is that there is a lot of concern. We are starting to get complaints coming in under our nuisance ordinance from people who are more than 300 feet away from an existing ag operation. So what our right to farm ordinance says is if you live within that 300 perimeter the rights of the agricultural operation trump any kind of a nuisance complaint that would be issued. [Probably incorrect. See below.]

“But we are seeing now the people who are outside that perimeter complaining and sending those formal complaints to the Planning Department. We also have petitions which are out around the town. There are people who are having their sleep disturbed and they are very concerned. [No, they're irate, not concerned.] I'm in favor of agriculture. [Yea, team!] I'm in favor of vineyards. I know how much tax revenue they bring into the county. [They're ag exempt and, proportionately, pay little in the way of taxes to the County.] It's not a matter of trying to put anybody out of business or trying to make it hard for people to operate. I do know though that there are farming operations in Anderson Valley that get along with a lot less of these wind machines than others. And I don't know what all the reasons are. I know there are some ways that you can prune and some ways you can protect your crop that necessitate less, less of these wind turbines. I'm not saying that they are not necessary. I know they are. But I think there are better and worse technologies connected to the wind machines in terms of the thermostats, in terms of the way the actual turbines function.

“This year I think we kind of got caught by surprise. I don't think anybody anticipated how bad this drought would be and how much that would necessitate the use of wind machines. We had a lot of rental machines on the market and people going and picking up machines from rental agencies that maybe were not as high quality as some of the ones that are permanently installed. I think there are just a whole host of issues that are connected to this.

“The reason I bring this up during the drought report is that this is part of the drought, the increasing use of wind machines to frost protect. I don't think it's going away. I think we are likely to see the same kind of problems next year. So I am trying to work with both Chuck’s office and the Planning and Building department and of course the people in Anderson Valley to try to make some progress on this issue before we get into the frost season again. So, I don't know, Chuck, you are here and that's the reason I brought this up. I was going to bring this up later, but I saw you in the audience and I thought I would bring it up now.”

COUNTY AG COMMISSIONER MORSE: “I would like to start by thanking both Supervisor Brown and yourself for being at the Ad Hoc [drought committee meeting] and making it happen and keeping that moving because it is serious, a serious issue. It's great to see the coordination that you two have put together to bring the state resources to help our communities in the broader sense. [This kind of shameless nuzzlebumming is the contemporary equivalent of supplicants crawling to the foot of the Sun King's throne. It's s.o.p. among public employees, many of whom seem to have been serfs in their previous lives.] You summarized the situation out there pretty well. There have been multiple meetings. Just to be real brief, I am going to continue to try to bring the growers and the community together in the next — we have about 10 months before this is going to cycle through again. The vineyard operators I was talking to, most of them are not going to use it for frost protection in the fall. They are not thinking about that. Because these are rental machines, so every 30 days they are paying a cost for this very unusual situation, the majority of that. So I am looking at 9-10 months to try to figure out what we can do to help the folks out there.”

HAMBURG puckers up to reply: “I really appreciate the work you have done Chuck. You have gone over there and tried to settle things down and come up with some good ideas. Most of the vineyard operators over there have really tried to be receptive to the ideas that you put forth and that they've come up with themselves. [A wall of intransigence from the wine nobility so far, and no evidence whatsoever of them “trying to be receptive."] Obviously there are still some very dissatisfied people over there. We need to address as many concerns as we can between now and the next frost season. And I think we can do that.”

AG COMMISSIONER MORSE, blowing kisses over his shoulder as he exited stage center, “You are absolutely right that the owners and operators of the vineyards out there are very aware of the situation and what is happening. We are just going to try our best to see if we can work on that.”

SUPERVISOR HAMBURG doesn't communicate with Boonville's beloved community newspaper, and it apparently hasn't occurred to him to call an open public meeting to discuss the gross nuisance that the frost protection machines present to the people of the Anderson Valley. He and Ag Commissioner Morse are welcome to talk about this stuff privately, but resolution has got to involve the entire community, including the wind fan people — especially the wind fan people, since they're the authors of the problem.

THE 300-FOOT nuisance-free zone is news to us. Assuming there is a 300-foot free fire zone between neighbors and an ag operation, the logic of the right-to-farm ordinance is to forestall people who move into an ag area and then complain about the smell of barnyard animals and tractor noise. But we're talking about industrial ag, not moo-cows and roosters. We're talking about a freshly-introduced nuisance equivalent to the roar of 747s taking off one after the other for up to 7 hours. These things disturb the sleep of everyone within a mile or more of them, and that means most people who live on the Valley floor of the Anderson Valley. By Hamburg's reading of Right-to-Farm, the sons and daughters of the soil could install nuclear reactors to warm their vines

SPEAKING SOLELY for that beloved community newspaper, we don't expect relief from the Supervisors or anything resembling leadership from Hamburg, but these things have to go. Period. If they don't, we'll be in court next Spring seeking some kind of court order preventing their operation. Failing that we'll go creative.

THERE HAVE only been three formal wind fan complaints filed so far, two of which were rejected as being too general. The third complaint is ours. It's being investigated by the Planning Department's code enforcement division.

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