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Valley People (Aug 6, 2014)

HUGE TURNOUT at the Grange benefit Sunday night for Charlie Paget-Seekins and Mark Pitner, probably the largest turnout for a fundraiser ever in the Anderson Valley. The popular pair serve as both ambulance crewmen and volunteer firefighters. Charlie was injured in a tree trimming accident, Mark suffered a stroke. Both young men survived their catastrophes, but just barely. They have, and will continue to have, medical expenses not covered by existing insurance practices.

AT LAST WEEK'S meeting of the AV Health Center's board of directors, skeptical locals pounded the sphinx-like trustees with pointed questions about Dr. Mark Apfel's removal as the Center's Medical Officer. That title and function now belong to a Dr. Gorchoff. The Board, natch, remained silent, as if they were besieged by strangers rather than people they've known for years.

FORMER physician’s assistant Shannon Spiller, the recently appointed executive officer at the Center, now apparently holds supervisory authority over Apfel and Gorchoff. This in-house coup doesn't sit well with lots of locals because Apfel has been in place for nearly four decades as the Health Center's main man. He got the place going, for goodness sakes.

THE RECENT changes at the Center, conducted with the usual Politburo-quality secrecy characteristic of The Valley's non-profits, have upset many people. According to insiders, the Board and former Center director Diane Agee, a crisp Brit at least five steps ahead of the Center's sheep-like board of directors, has worked out a plan to reduce Apfel’s hours to the point where the doctor himself won't have enough hours to qualify for his own health insurance! And Apfel is out as Medical Director and the long distance consultant Gorchoff is in. (Gorchoff appeared in audible form by speaker phone at last week's meeting.)

WHILE ALL THESE MANEUVERINGS have been underway, the shocking termination of the Dental Clinic's Kathy Corral still rankles much of the Anderson Valley's Health Center-friendly population. And now the purge of Apfel, the Center's founder. Ms. Agee, and two colleagues based at the Gualala clinic, seem to have engineered the changes by simply having their alleged supervisors, the Health Center's board of directors, ratify them. The whole of it was described by various people at the meeting as “shocking, disturbing, odd, hurtful, needing an explanation.” Which they didn't get and are unlikely to get.

BRAD WILEY asked for the criteria applied to the decision to replace Apfel with Gorchoff as Medical Officer. Apfel said he will continue working at the clinic and wants to see the new on-site doctor, Logan McGhan, succeed. (McGhan begins work here on August 25th.)

I CERTAINLY AGREE with the prevalent local opinion that the nutty secrecy surrounding these wholesale changes at the Health Center is undermining the Center's survival because it's driving people away from supporting it. Treating Apfel like some kind of stray dog doesn't inspire confidence in management. And statements like that of one director that notice of public meetings not needing to be posted is incorrect. The Center is largely supported by state and federal money, and the public has the right to know how and by whom and for what that public money is being spent.

AND THE SELF-SELECTING means by which the Board maintains itself. Not good. It's time for elections. Ditto for the secret societies known as the Ambulance Board, the County Fair Board, the Historical Society Board, the Senior Center Board, even the Dead Body Board, which I believe is called the Cemetery Board. Even the School Board reluctantly holds a Third World-like election now and then, teachers and staff selecting then voting for “appropriate” candidates. The self-interested then vote as a bloc for whichever candidate appears most corrupt, er, tractable. Democracy's a good idea, Anderson Valley. Try it some time. You'll be surprised.

THE GOOD NEWS. Coach Dan Kuny says about 40 athletes showed up for the first day of football practice at the high school Monday afternoon. And the gravensteins are coming in. I plan to jump Patti Langley's fence in the next couple of days to grab a few for myself.

BOB SITES is offering elder care “in your home.” An infinitely good-natured man, Bob was a great comfort to the late Hugh Scaramella in Hugh's last days, pitching in uncomplainingly with the unpleasant tasks inevitable with the bed ridden. A long-time local resident, Bob comes with plenty of references and can be reached at 707 894-8429.

A READER describes the Navarro River near Philo as of Tuesday morning: “On a steady slow pace each day the river is looking lower and lower. The gauge for the past week has been swinging daily up and down suggesting a regular daily pumping schedule by someone. I did email USGS to ask if they knew what was causing the swing, but other than being notified by one USGS worker that she forwarded my question to someone who might know I have heard nothing else. There are quite a few real little fishies — occasionally a dead one but that is not unusual. Hardly any of the 3-4 inch California roach, lots of little frogs and here and there a big croaker. I regularly see egrets, occasionally a great blue heron, but have not seen an otter in quite a while. Algae is quite prevalent but that doesn't seem too unusual given the low flow state of the water. I can't imagine what it will look like in September.”

ANDREW WATSON of the US Geological Survey wrote back: “Subject: 11468000 Navarro River. Due to low flow conditions our sensors were not properly tracking the gage-heights. We initially thought we had solved the problem on 7/18 by using a lower sensor line. After ruling out the possibility of the fluctuations being caused by localized pumping we made a repeat trip today (7/29) and found the backup sensor line damaged. We have rectified the problem and the data on the web will be edited.”

AND ANOTHER READER chips in, “I spoke with a North Coast friend last week about the drought and he mentioned that some water haulers were running out of sources for water to haul. Scary times.”

CINDY WILDER WRITES: The fifth annual Not-So-Simple Living Fair, despite 100-plus temperatures both days, was well received by participants, both local and from locales far and wide. If you were among the crowd and have found yourself missing something, please reply to see if we have what you are without. Our Lost and Found is overflowing.

ANDERSON VALLEY'S Solar Grange is throwing its regular second Sunday Local Organic Pancake and Egg Breakfast on August 10 from 8:30-11 at the Grange in Philo at 9800 Hwy 128. Breakfast ranges from $5-10 for kids through hungry folks sizes, with Ukiah-grown Mendocino Grain Project wheat and local bacon and eggs.

THE ANDERSON VALLEY FOOD BANK distributes on the 3rd Tuesday of the month. We distribute at the Boonville Methodist Church. “We are now buying and giving out fresh produce from Burt at Boont Berry Farm and are seeking further improvements of a local nature!” says Denisse Mattei, Food Bank director. Denisse can be reached at 895-3763.

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