Chief Gets a Raise, A Big Raise

by Mark Scaramella, July 22, 2009

Five percent over five years will bring Chief Wilson’s pay from $56,805 to about $72.5k per year when he retires.

Chief Tunzi of the Comptche Volunteer Fire Department is not paid. Most of the County's small volunteer fire departments are led by unpaid chiefs.

As a sop to budgetary worryworts in these unstable financial times, Wilson’s employment contract provides this highly unlikely provision: “Wilson agrees that the compensation provided for in this contract may be renegotiated and reduced if the Board of Directors declares by 4/5ths vote in the affirmative that a fiscal emergency is in existence. Fiscal emergency is defined as a reduction in property tax revenues equal to or greater than $50,000 in any one-year period. Should such a declaration be made, the parties (CSD and Wilson) agree to negotiate a reduction in salary as may reasonably be necessary. If a negotiated reduction in salary cannot be agreed to, both parties will commit to binding arbitration settlement by the terms of this contract.”

Wilson told the Board that the provision about declaring a fiscal emergency and associated salary reduction was not necessary because he could be fired anytime without cause. Wilson also declared that his salary increases “probably can be absorbed in the fire department budget.”

Like the County, the state and the feds, the Board’s attitude is: Hey! The money’s there, let’s spend it!

The 10th Annual Airport Day and Potluck Dinner (aka “Boonville Aviation Knowledge and Folklore Convention”) will be Saturday, August 8, 2009, at Boonville International Airport. Everyone is invited. Festivities begin at noon. Dinner at five. Please bring your favorite potluck dish. Drinks will be provided, but you might want to bring your own chair as seating could be limited to first arrivals.

Boonville International is at the corner of Estate Drive and Airport Road off of Mountain View Road near the high school. The parking area can be entered from the Estate Drive. For additional info contact Airport Manager Kirk Wilder at 895-2949.

Somewhat contrary to last month's report, broadband in the Valley is back on the Community Services District’s agenda. Kind of. Apparently Comptche has established a broadband committee, as has Albion. There are rumors that the AT&T cable running beneath various local roads may indeed become accessible to local users. The Board plans to invite members of the Comptche broadband group to a future Community Services District board meeting. So far, the unbroadbanded-and-proud-of-it and the anti-broadbanded have not bothered to participate in these early discussions.

The Anderson Valley Land Trust has applied for a planning grant for the possible preparation and development of a Navarro River water trail map. According to the study proposal provided to the Board, a watershed evaluation would be conducted on the Navarro River and on Rancheria Creek to develop information about how these waterways are used by the public. The study would also identify the feasibility of a water trail along all or portions of the Navarro River from Hendy Woods State Park to the Pacific Ocean, describing access points and “providing public information that would direct residents and visitors to river resources while interpreting the diversity and values of those resources.”

Newly appointed director Valerie Hanelt (wife of former director Hans Hickenlooper), whose home sits on the upper Rancheria, expressed “tremendous reservations” about maps of pathways across private property to local rivers. “Property owners would not receive this well,” declared Hanelt. “People do not have a right to walk in the creek area.” Hanelt also said she felt pressured by the short deadline in the Land Trust’s request.

Director Hanelt’s fellow directors, none of whom live on local waterways, were less apprehensive, voting 4-1 (Hanelt dissenting) to at least support seeking the grant. If the money is awarded, there would be public notice and hearings so that the public can voice objection or support. The primary purpose of the trail map is to make sure locals and visitors know where to legally access the rivers.

Chief Wilson informed the Board about the recent vehicle-ignited fire in Yorkville: “We had an interesting call in Yorkville on Monday, July 13. A woman lost control of her car just east of lower Yorkville causing the vehicle to roll, ending up in the eastbound lane next to a steep bank ascending the north facing slope. The woman had apparently suffered only minor injuries and was attempting to gather her belongings inside her car when a bystander noticed that the car was on fire and advised her to evacuate immediately — which she did. The driver was assisted to a nearby pull-out as the vehicle quickly became fully involved in fire which spread up the adjacent bank. Anderson Valley Fire and Calfire units arrived and quickly contained and extinguished both the wildland and vehicle fire. The driver was transported by Anderson Valley Ambulance to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center for treatment.” (The “woman,” Chief Wilson noted, was not local teacher Betsy Taylor.)

The District’s outside auditor, Rick Bowers, was on-hand at last Wednesday’s afternoon meeting to present the numbers and answer questions about the recently completed audit. Bowers commended the District for doing a good job of bookkeeping and accounting. “Special districts can be very bad at accounting,” noted the mild-mannered Bowers, adding that Anderson Valley was one of the better small districts he had audited.

Director Diane Paget told the Board that she had experienced a problem with a neighbor who apparently did not respond to requests to clear vegetation that Ms. Paget perceived to be a fire hazard. Chief Wilson replied that the District has not implemented the State Fire Code and therefore he has no authority to order locals to clear brush. Calfire, however, does have such authority. Ms. Paget went on to explain the problem had actually gone further — she had asked the neighbor for permission to remove the brush herself, and, having received permission and removed the brush, then found out that the neighbor — who does not live in Anderson Valley — objected to be brushclearing that she did.

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