Valley People

by AVA News Service, August 6, 2013

HIS MANY PHILO friends will be sorry to hear that Robert “Bob” Johnson has died. Bob, 53, had valiantly fought the liver cancer that finally carried him off last Monday in Fort Bragg. He leaves behind his widow, Jacqui. A memorial gathering for friends and family will be announced.

A LARGE CROWD turned out at the Apple Hall Sunday afternoon to honor Bill and Wanda Owens on their 50th wedding anniversary. Dean Titus and the Coyote Cowboys entertained while Bill and Wanda's many friends congratulated the popular Boonville couple on their marital longevity.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON'S FIRE near Yorkville, reports fire chief Colin Wilson, “was discovered by Tina Walter, one of our fighters and also a volunteer lookout. She reported the call to our dispatch and we received the call at 5:55 PM. Our first unit was on scene at 6:05 PM. The fire started somewhere near the intersection of Hulbert Rd. and Big Rock Rd. on the Hulbert Ranch Subdivision just West of Yorkville. Approximately six acres was burning in mixed hardwood and grass on a moderate slope with no structures immediately threatened. The fire was mostly contained by Hulbert Rd. and Big Rock Rd. with about a quarter acre of what we call “slop over” that had jumped the road and was burning at the base of a steep slope covered with timber, brush and hardwoods which was the first priority for containment. AVFD units were first at scene followed very quickly by Cal Fire aircraft and engines. There was a pond just to the East of the fire which provided a quick turnaround time for the Cal Fire helicopter which was very effective at slowing the rate of spread and suppressing hot spots. Fixed wing aircraft from Ukiah made one set of drops on the North and East sides of the fire before being released. The fire was contained at eight and a half acres at about 7:15 PM. Cal Fire units remained on the fire overnight and final mop up was completed by Sunday afternoon. The cause of the fire is currently undetermined.”

COACH DAN KUNY says he is pleased with the large turnout of enthusiastic prospects and the first week of football practice. The 2013 Panthers will play their first game on Friday, August the 30th against Laytonville. Aaron Ornbaun and Ryan Jones are serving as assistant coaches, with Erica Lemons coordinating transportation.

THE COACH remains upset about the weight room break-in and thefts of three weeks ago. He's offering a $100 reward for information leading to the return of the equipment.

AMANDA HIATT is managing this year’s Panther Cubs football program. “We're looking forward to a wonderful season for the kids. We have some great coaches in Joe Delgado, varsity, and Tino Martinez, junior varsity. Our cheerleading coaches are Alisha Ornbaun for Varsity and Kali Wellington-Johnson is the Junior Varsity coach.” Ms. Hiatt adds, “We are still taking sign ups and practices have started. For now we are practicing at the Fairgrounds Monday through Thursday from 5 to 6:30pm.” Interested persons are invited to contact Amanda at 707-489-07

THE SUDDEN dismissal of long-time AV Health Center's Kathy Corral was carried out in such an indefensibly brutal fashion it has shocked us all. Here's a lady who served for 11 years in the Center's thriving dental adjunct, was instrumental in founding it in fact, and suddenly, at the end of a work day Friday, with no notice it was her last, Ms. Corral's office keys are taken from her and she's marched out the door like a criminal in front of fellow workers and patients. Wow! Even by the dependably crumb bum standards of Anderson Valley's Nice People, this treatment of Ms. Corral is low down. According to Judith Dolan's statement on this grim episode, Mark Apfel, who has overall responsibility for the medico-dental functioning of the place, was not aware that Ms. Corral had been laid off.

THE HEALTH CENTER'S board of directors: Ric Bonner; JR Collins; Wally Hopkins; Eric Labowitz; Yadira Mendoza; Sandy Parker; Lynne Sawyer; Gaile Wakeman. Administrators are Diane Agee and Dave Turner.

CINDY WILDER WRITES: “Are you up for a challenge? During the month of October every year the AV Foodshed features C'mon Home to Eat month. Everyone is encouraged to plan ahead so you can eat food that comes from your own gardens, the farmers' markets, farm stands, local stores, and restaurants. The motivation is not only in the health benefits, but in connecting with community, boosting the local economy, and the experience of being locally self-sufficient. AV Foodshed will be putting out a calendar of October events that feature local food. The Connecting With Local Food series (in the AVA, in our Foodshed Newsletter and online at mendocinolocalfood.org) will continue to acquaint you with the AV farmers and businesses that bring you local food so you will have well-rounded, vibrant meals. We hope you will join us.”

ON WEDNESDAY AUGUST 7 at 9am the Community Services Board will hold a special closed session entitled: “Personnel Item – Discuss an Offer of Employment as Fire Chief to Andres Avila.”

IN THE FREE FLOWING group discussions which often break out in the offices of your beloved community newspaper, a school-connected person remarked: “You know what's strange about all that Tomlin controversy a few months ago? A dozen school people get up at the big meeting to sing the guy's praises (and their own) and then the whole thing disappears, Tomlin included. No farewell dinner, no nothing. And he'd been with the local schools, what? twenty years?”

THE SCHOOL GANG, particularly, has always been light on what my grandmother called “presence,” by which she meant a combination of manners and graciousness, long gone among the general population and, well, no need to go off on our weepy high school staff, unequipped as they are for adult give and take. I never cared for Tomlin. Boorish and not very bright, is how I assessed him, which is pretty much what we find in public ed people everywhere in the land, and much of the reason our schools are ranked as among the weakest in the world. But still, one would have thought the Nice People would have at least thrown their faithful front man a farewell party.

BUT THE SCHOOL GANG is interchangeable with the AV Health Center Gang, the Ambulance Gang, etc. and so on. Tote them all up, and they're what fascism will look like when it arrives in America, their man Obama having accelerated the inevitable.

SHERIFF ALLMAN popped in Monday morning for a brief visit. I asked him how Jerry Brown's realignment was working out. The Sheriff, praising the management gifts of his Jail administrator, Tim Pierce, said our Jail, unlike almost everyone else's, remains well under legal capacity. A savvy combination of home monitoring and work furloughs has done the trick. The Sheriff said he was especially pleased with Anderson Valley's two deputies, Craig Walker and Luis Espinoza, who have done such a good job that the Anderson Valley has lately been crime-free. The Sheriff said he was opposed to the pending release of people from the state pen that the feds have imposed on California. He said he suspects the state will simply dump prisoners they want to get rid of, suggesting that some bad hombres, if the releases become reality, will be coming home to Mendocino County.

WHAT FOLLOWS is a nearly impenetrable discussion of countywide ambulance service. You're excused for not proceeding further.

THE COUNTY is exploring the option of establishing an exclusive operating area (EOA) for the sustainable provision of emergency ambulance services. Fitch & Associates, the County’s consultant, has completed their report on the feasibility of one or more EOAs within the County. It is now available online.

SELECTED EXCERPTS:

• The establishment of a countywide EOA that has a single provider is not feasible. The recommended structure will improve the stability and performance of the current EMS system. Moreover, the proposed configuration will encourage the retention of existing irreplaceable volunteer resources and ensure that all areas of the county have access to ALS.

• The County should recognize that if it moves forward with the establishment of EOA, it will be necessary to clearly communicate what creating EOA means to each community, how local services can continue and be supported, and that it is critical to retain the support and continued involvement of the system’s volunteers.

• It is clear that if Mendocino County decides to establish one or more EOA for ambulance services, these grandfathering provisions of law would not apply. That is because there have been a number of different ambulance providers, expansion and contraction of service areas, and closure of ambulance services over the years. None of the existing services meets the requirement for operating continuously in the same manner and scope since 1981. Therefore, the County would be required to select its exclusive provider through a competitive process.

• It is impossible to replace the time and effort provided by the volunteer personnel of Anderson Valley Ambulance Service. There is inadequate call volume to support the placement of an ambulance manned by paid personnel. Therefore, every effort should be utilized to maintain and support the Anderson Valley Ambulance Service.

• The key question regarding (the Ukiah Valley) zone is whether there is adequate revenue to support two ambulance services operating at a high level of quality on a long-term basis. Together, the two ambulance services currently are staffing up to six ambulances at a time. The estimated revenue of $1.5 to $2 million is unlikely to be able to support that level of coverage on a long-term basis. … The characteristics of this ambulance service zone met the criteria for considering establishing an EOA. There is adequate patient transport volume to support service but the patient transport volume is unlikely to be able to support two services able to maintain high quality service delivery and reliable response time performance.

• It is recommended that the County of Mendocino create an EOA corresponding to the boundaries of the current ambulance service zone (Zone 5) where services are being provided by Ukiah Ambulance and Verihealth. The County should develop an RFP and conduct a competitive procurement for a single provider to provide all emergency 911 responses and transport and all interfacility transports originating in the zone, as well as require the service to provide ALS intercept with BLS services, specifically to Anderson Valley and Covelo.

• Limited revenue streams (in outlying areas) mandate that services provided by volunteer agencies should be retained and operationally supported. This is particularly true for the areas served by Anderson Valley, Laytonville and Covelo. The only locations that receive adequate funding from patient fees to independently support fulltime ambulance operations are located in areas served by Ukiah and Verihealth and potentially the area served by the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.

• The ability of some the existing ambulance services in Mendocino County to maintain current operations or expand to meet future growth and demand is threatened. The two primary causes of instability for the services are directly related to: 1.) the lack of financial resources and, 2.) the challenge of recruiting and maintaining an adequate volunteer staff. MCDH, as indicated earlier, is going through bankruptcy and the long-term financial ability of the district to maintain current ambulance operations or provide necessary responses to growth and demand is questionable. Covelo and Elk are challenged by a lack of available volunteers who can reliably and consistently respond to emergency events. Moreover, while Anderson Valley maintains an active volunteer corps, it can only consistently respond to medical emergencies with a crew with limited capability consisting of a driver and a single EMT. Laytonville Fire Department is also challenged by the availability of volunteers to respond to medical emergencies in its zone. In fact, the fire district is considering only serving within the boundaries of its district and not responding outside to areas that it currently covers. Long term expanded deployment of staffed ambulances in the Ukiah and Willits zone is barely feasible, given the questionable financial strength of the two existing services to maintain this coverage level. It is clear that without action, there will be a continued disintegration of the Mendocino County EMS System and that the result will be lower levels of care, and in many instances, extremely long response times to emergency events.

OVERALL, the study concludes, ambulance responses in Mendocino County are uneven, inconsistent and unreliable from service zone to service zone. Finances and capabilities vary. And the only two areas that might benefit from an EOA are Ukiah and Fort Bragg.

NOT TO BE TOO CHEEKY about it, but we knew that. The money for this study could have been better used by giving it to one or more of the volunteer ambulance services which are already underfunded.

CEO ANGELO CONCLUDES: “The County contracted Fitch & Associates to study the feasibility of an EOA, or multiple EOAs, for Mendocino County as a means to stabilize fragile parts of the EMS system. The County has the legal responsibility to oversee the provision of ambulance services and EMS as a whole; this study is an exploration of a strategy that could address some critical issues with the system. Release of this report does not necessarily imply implementation of the recommendations. It is also not the only source of information by which the Board of Supervisors will base any future decision. There is more work to be done to determine the best path forward to improve the EMS system. Initially, the project team planned that the feasibility study be divided into two phases. The first phase would determine if an EOA is feasible, and the second phase, if approved by the Board of Supervisors, would include the competitive bidding process for securing services. However, as the team delved deeper into the project it became apparent that there were broader issues at hand. We anticipate that those issues will need to be adequately addressed before any specific strategies are implemented. The Executive Office would like to express caution to our decision makers in moving forward with phase two of the project at this time. The project team is committed to providing the time needed to fully understand the implications of any structured changes to the EMS system. Therefore, based on direction from the Board of Supervisors, a workshop is tentatively planned to take place in September 2013 to examine the findings and hear input from community members and EMS stakeholders, but there will be no action on any of the recommendations regarding creation of EOAs at that time. The Board of Supervisors welcomes your comments on the report.

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