By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg, Geyserville and the County of Sonoma are getting more than $118,000 from a fund established to offset the impacts of River Rock Casino.
Most of the money — $60,000 — is going to the county to build a path next to Geyserville Bridge to make it safer for pedestrians, especially high school students who walk along Highway 128 not far from the casino.
The Geyserville Fire Department will receive $30,000 for rescue and training equipment that would be used in the event of a casino parking structure collapse.
And the City of Healdsburg is getting $28,817 to help upgrade the city’s emergency operations center and thus help respond to disasters or accidents associated with the casino, or its tour buses.
The money comes from the Sonoma County Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Committee, which oversees distribution of Indian gaming revenue in a system set up in 2003 by the state Legislature.
Local government agencies impacted by Indian casinos can submit grant requests. In Sonoma County, the committee is composed of county and city representatives and members of the Dry Creek Rancheria, which operates River Rock.
North County Supervisor Mike McGuire, one of the committee members, said Thursday that the pedestrian pathway will be built on the east end, upstream side of the Geyserville Bridge.
“It’s a dangerous section,” he said. “Students will no longer have to walk on Highway 128 in the lanes of oncoming traffic.”
In the past couple years, money has not been available to offset casino impacts because the funds were used to plug the state’s budget hole, McGuire said.
Since 2003, funding for Healdsburg to offset casino impacts has totalled about $250,000, according to Fire Chief Steve Adams. It’s been used to buy pickup trucks, a trailer and to train officers to address multiple-casualty incidents.
The tour buses going to and from the casino in Geyserville typically travel Highway 101 next to Healdsburg. The city needs to be able to respond effectively to a potential bus accident with multiple victims, Adams said.
The city might also be called upon to respond to a major emergency at the casino.
“In the event of something happening, this is the closest hub for service for the thousands of people who will accumulate up there,” Adams said.