Fire Board

The Geyserville Fire Protection District addressed consolidation efforts and budget issues at its meeting May 8.

A public hearing on the possible annexation of Knights Valley Volunteer Fire Company to the Geyserville Fire Protection District is set for Wednesday, June 5.

Sonoma Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) will conduct the meeting at or after 2 p.m. in the Sonoma County Administration Building.

The proposal is to improve fire services to the Knights Valley area and to include it in the district. This would also officially include Knights Valley with the territory in County Service Area No. 40, where the district currently serves under contract.

While the Knights Valley board wasn’t present at the May 8 board of directors’ meeting, Fire Chief Marshall Turbeville provided an update to the district plans.

“From the Knights Valley annexation point-of-view component of this, it’s as best as it can be. I don’t know if there are going to be protests,” Turbeville said.

Geyserville’s board of directors includes Paul Bernier, Rob Stewart, Tatsuo Okaya, Dane Petersen and President Fred Peterson.

The district then moved onto another piece of regionalization of fire services, the expansion to include Sotoyome, a.k.a. lower Dry Creek Valley, the Geysers and Fitch Mountain areas. Turbeville said the district is moving forward on it.

Peterson said Mark Bramfitt, LAFCO executive officer, might be able to give the district information on how to proceed with a Sphere of Influence expansion. The board had an ad hoc Geyserville/Cloverdale meeting with him Thursday, May 9.

Turbeville would like Geyserville and Cloverdale to sign a letter to pursue the expansion but acknowledged an uphill battle dealing with the county’s money.

“It’s not going to happen quickly, there’s going to be a Municipal Service Review and other stuff. We’re looking at probably a two-year process,” Turbeville said.

The district is also in the process of implementing a name change to the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District. Turbeville said the resolution has passed and that it’s in the district’s lawyer’s hands now.

The board shared concern on how to get the message of the name change out. Community member Larry Heiges suggested making it clear that even though the name is changing, the firehouse and everything else is staying the same.

Peterson said close communities like Geyserville and Alexander Valley often are in the situation of “neighbors helping neighbors” when protecting nearby areas. He said the main push to change the name was the Knights Valley annexation.

“It’s still going to be Knights Valley; their volunteer company will be there, as will ours. The station name’s not going to change here nor there,” Rob Stewart said.

Geyserville Fire Protection District Capt. Joe Stewart said adding a website now with the new name would help present information like Q-and-As to people.

The next agenda item was an exploration of possible tax revenue due to having more paid positions going forward.

Turbeville said he thinks the district should be ready for the November elections, in case the Sonoma County Fire District pursues a sales tax for March.

“I’m not optimistic the sales tax will even be on the ballot in March, but that’s just my opinion right now. We should start moving in that direction,” Turbeville said.

The board discussed hiring a consultant and holding a special meeting before the next official one, but no date was determined.

The next regularly scheduled monthly board meeting was pushed back from Wednesday, June 12 to Monday, June 24. The public meetings are at 7 p.m. in the Geyserville Fire Protection District building on 20975 Geyserville Ave.

Board members brought up a possible county-funded firefighter hiring, of which talks were stalled because they have yet to receive a contract in the mail.

“I would like to get it in the next couple weeks, but the next couple weeks is like June 1. I would hope the next week or two,” Turbeville said.

Turbeville presented a draft for the 2019-20 preliminary budget that states the district’s grants and the Knights Valley annexation may require it to be amended. The grants will be used to employ more personnel, and have a “matching” cost.

Property taxes for the current year, secured, increased to $998,325, at least $52,000 more than the 2018-19 final and $94,000 more than 2017-18 actual.

“That’s pretty conservative, so I would not be surprised if we go to $1 million next year. There’s no Knights Valley in this contract at all,” Turbeville said.

Expenditures for stipend employees decreased to $10,000, with the 2018-19 final budget being at $30,000 but actual expenses amounting to $5,400 for the year.

Seasonal firefighters decreased, from $112,000 to $90,000, but regular overtime went up, $70,000, near doubling 2018-19 and 2017-18 budgets averaging $40,276.60.

Fair Labor Standards Act overtime doubled to $20,000, which Turbeville noted was due to the planned salary increase and additional personnel. Medicare for all salaries and health benefits doubled to $20,000 and $70,000, with disability for all salaries, dental and vision showing steady increases as well.

After budget talks, the board went over the Fire Agencies Insurance Risk Authority ballot to nominate new governing board of directors. Peterson elected for the board not to vote since they weren’t familiar with the candidates.

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