WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors OKs $6.5 million for road repairs


A small list of crumbling Sonoma County roads will get $6.5 million this year for badly needed repairs under a plan approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

Crafted by two board members, Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt, the strategy is the latest tack in the county’s now two-year struggle over how to pay for its beleaguered 1,382-mile road network.

The report includes a number of short and long-term measures, many of which were made public in June. Since then, Zane and Rabbitt, along with county public works staff, have worked on a key question: Which roads to select for upgrades this year.

Their recommendations, which came under some criticism Tuesday, settled on fixing 13.2 miles of roads deemed important to the local economy.

The segments lead to parks, wineries and other destinations serving tourism and agriculture throughout the county. Improving those surfaces before they degrade further will pay off, supervisors argued.

“They really are a reflection of our community’s health, and that’s why they’re important to us,” said Zane.

The spending draws on an $8 million earmark for roads that supervisors approved in June. It comes from a special reserve meant to cover delinquent property tax receipts.

The list of roads due for upgrades with the money includes stretches of Bohemian Highway serving the Russian River, Doran Beach Road serving Bodega Harbor, West Dry Creek, Westside and Eastside roads serving wineries and vineyards, and Adobe Canyon Road and London Ranch Road serving state and county parks.

Beyond simple pothole repair, those segments will get longer-lasting upgrades this year that the county terms “pavement preservation.”

Currently, just under 200 miles, or 14 percent of the county network, gets such long-term maintenance.

Under a controversial triage plan first approved two years ago, the remainder, more than 1,100 miles, now gets only basic and emergency repairs, an arrangement that officials have said would ultimately lead to most roads returning to gravel.

That spectre has fueled a political firestorm that supervisors have sought to contain, searching for ways to restore a greater share of the network to long-term care.

On Tuesday, they acknowledged that the temporary addition of 13 more miles was a drop in the bucket. The entire system is valued at about $2.5 billion. It has a repair backlog pegged at more than $920 million, according to the county.

The problem has developed over decades, as money from state gas taxes — the main source for road upkeep — has remained flat and support from the general fund has dropped from $7.8 million in the past four years to a recent high of $5.3 million, or about 3 percent of general fund property tax revenue.

Supervisors committed to making sure the general fund support would not drop in the future, while backing earlier recommendations by Zane and Rabbitt to explore seeking additional tax money for roads.

“A million here, a million there is not going to get us to where we want to be,” Supervisor Efren Carrillo said.

Carrillo also advanced criticism by some members of the public that at least one road on the short-term upgrade list, Lichau Road in the hills east of Cotati, was selected because of political pressure by residents, who have been actively lobbying the board for repairs.

Susan Klassen, the county’s deputy director of public works and transportation, said the road needed improvements to alleviate safety issues for school children visiting the Fairfield Osborne Preserve, managed by Sonoma State University.

But she later acknowledged in an interview that some roads were selected to balance funding among supervisorial districts — Lichau is the 1st District, represented by Valerie Brown — or because of a groundswell caused by political pressure.

“I guess you could use the word squeaky wheel,” she said, referring to the complaint raised by critics. “To some extent, all the work we do is like that.”

The remaining $1.5 million of the $8 million in one-time spending will go to safety upgrades, including lane striping, guard rails, test projects for road reconstruction, increased inspections and a revolving fund to help support the creation of road maintenance districts.

(Check out a list of the roads to be improved here.)

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@ pressdemocrat.com.

21 Responses to “Sonoma County Board of Supervisors OKs $6.5 million for road repairs”

  1. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Snarky, maybe I didn’t make myself clear. The money is from the state for the courthouse. If the county does not build the courthouse the COUNTY GETS NOTHING. It cannot be used for roads, unfortunately. I agree we don’t need a new courthouse. The BOS are touting we need it for security reasons.

    I’m for anything built that puts Sonoma county workers to work. I think the money is well spent and in the end, with those paychecks being spent in the local economy, the local economic issues will get better. Of course, that means that contractors that win the bids hire Sonoma County workers and the BOS has not guaranteed that.

    I’d like to see more money going to improve our schools. Currently Yulupa School is being worked on. There will be 640 kindergarteners through 3rd graders there and the improvements were badly needed. It’s put plenty of local workers to work for at least 2.5 years and boosted small businesses. Solar is being put on all the roofs. This is building our infrastructure and that’s a good thing.

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  2. Mac E. Velli says:

    Right you are, Andrew, right you are.

    And now for something completely different…CALLING TO ACCOUNT.

    It is election time.
    An accountant who stumps for a $20 million bike bridge to the mall. Who will be mayor if you vote for him.

    A young no-one who wants to be someone, who is married to an operative. Who pretends that she’ll work with the ‘other side’ but who will certainly immediately betray anyone who gets in her way.

    A back biter who is no-one, wants to be someone, wants a bite.

    A no-one who will do as she’s told and has demonstrated that ably on the planning commission.

    A mayor who’s a fool and allowed himself to be used by the wannabe girl.

    why go on? driving around this town you can at least identify the enemies by whose signs they have in their yards.

    Mac E. Velli says you get what you deserve. Enjoy the ride!

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  3. andrew simpson says:

    Underfunded roads are a $500 million to billion dollar symptom.

    Expanding pension and retirement obligations are a $1 billion to $2 billion symptom.

    The Water Agency’s ill–starred new energy venture, Sonoma Clean Power, is a billion dollar symptom.

    The County of Sonoma, by dint of local political culture long in the making, may be the most corrupt county in California.

    What’s the cause?

    The County of Sonoma isn’t run by the Supervisors. The Supervsiors are middle management. So who’s in charge?

    The Water Agency– which acts as money conduit and paymaster for the folks in charge– are lower middle management.

    Our County Auditor/Controller is supposed to be an independent balance wheel of fiscal responsibilty but is in fact lower middle management; our Administrator is lower middle management; County Counsel’s tasks include the crucial role of devising flimsy legal arguments to justify extralegal acts by the Board, the Water Agency and other County entities.

    So who’s really in charge?

    The Press Democrat, nominally an exemplar of Fourth Estate probity and watchdog of the public interest, constitutes the public relations arm of the folks in charge.

    So who’s in charge? Not the Supervisors. Not the agency heads such as the Water Agency leadership. Certainly not the editors and reporters at the Press Democrat.

    And certainly not the people who pay the taxes and rates and fees to fund the ATM that the County of Sonoma has become for the folks in charge.

    To quote the Sundance Kid, who are those guys? Who’s in charge?

    The players include elected officials in Washington and Sacramento; their staff members; a handful of creative political consultants and lobbyists (how else to explain the use of a bankrupt casino company in Nevada as the platform for a $800 million highway 101 gambling emporium in which a Senator’s son has been identified as, gosh-what-a-coincidence, a financial beneficiary), campaign contributors, a few senior people who run the Press Democrat, local union leaders, a continually growing network of local businesses and contractors who go along with the system in order to survive; and our beleaguered Board of Supervisors, County Administrator, Auditor/Controller, County Counsel, and agency leadership including the Water Agency’s, who are effectively (sorry folks) just hired help in a system they wandered into, but for the most part didn’t invent.

    Is this a conspiracy?

    Not a chance.

    This is tribal culture.

    With few exceptions, the vast majority of this insider culture’s participants aren’t getting rich. They’re not motivated, or not much motivated, by greed or any destructive intent. Most of the public officials involved are regular folks with kids and mortgages and dreams of a good life, just trying to hold onto their jobs.

    Most of the local public officials involved are running scared: they’re sitting on top of a dying county, and they know it.

    They feel powerless. They don’t really have anywhere else to go. They’ve bought into a system over time–the boiled frog effect–that operates on goals and metrics that are antithetical to good governance.

    The County of Sonoma is teetering on insolvency because the entire budgetary and resource allocation system is funneled down to one question for Supervisors, County Administrator, County Counsel, County Auditor/Controller, Water Agency leaders and other department heads: will I lose my job (or my reelection funding) if I actually act in the public interest?

    More often than not, the weight of that calculus is this: survival. I will survive as a public official if I go along with the demands of the folks in charge. I will lose my job, my pension, my reelection prospects, my hopes of running for Congressperson, Senator, Governor, etc if I stand up and do the honorable thing: which is to behave as though the County of Sonoma were actually run by the people and for the people.

    The COunty of Sonoma is run by the insiders for the insiders.

    Who’s to blame for this? Should we tar and feather somebody? Pillory the editorial staff of the Press Democrat? Mount a recall election?

    (How do we recall a County wide culture?)


    We should be outraged, but not angry. We should be observant.

    When we drive over a pothole, we should say, REALLY, WHOSE FAULT IS THIS?

    When our Supervisors say, with a straight face, look how hard we’re working for you! Look how we just allocated $10 or $15 million of your money at a road problem that needs 50 times or more that much! Look how we’ve mastered the ancient art of bread and circuses to appease the howling crowd even while Rome burns!

    When our Supervisors engage in this increasingly transparent charade, shoudn’t we ask, REALLY, WHOSE FAULT IS THIS?

    When the senior management of the Water Agency lies, shamelessly; when they channel rate payer money into payoffs and fake contracts; when they bring forward the next billion dollar patronage and spoils scheme–Sonoma Clean Power– to feed the insider system, shouldn’t we ask, REALLY, WHOSE FAULT IS THIS.

    We’ve met the enemy.

    It’s us.

    We haven’t been paying attention. And the Press Democrat, filled with nice earnest people who have almost no scope for acting as honest journalists, aren’t able to be much help.

    We have to start paying attention.

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  4. Snarky says:


    You are a bit confused.

    We pay taxes to maintain roads… not to build brand new / unnecessary court buildings just to keep the public employees cozy.

    The existing court building works just fine.

    And, uh, its not just state tax money that goes into the project. Its local tax money as well.

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  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Snarky, I agree about the courthouse considering so many rank and file staff were laid off I don’t know who will populate it except managers. 657 rank and file staff has been laid off in the last 10 years versus 3 MANAGEMENT POSITIONS. So when SEIU is yelling loud about the ratio of rank and file to managers of 5.73:1 you all should listen. DHS is one of the worse offenders. It’s the unions that are trying to save their members paychecks AND SAVE COUNTY TAX DOLLARS. SEIU has offered plenty of tax dollar savings ideas to the BOS with none being taken. Since these ideas come from rank and file staff WHO KNOW, it’s just plain stupid for the BOS not to listen.

    But the money does come from the state (not county) for the courthouse and it will create jobs. I specifically asked Shirley Zane if those jobs would be bid to local contractors and local union workers would be hired and she said no, it would be put out for univeral bid. It will be up to the contractors to hire local workers or import their own.

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  6. Snarky says:

    When “Frank” refers to criminal scumbags… I wonder Frank… are you referring to people like the cop just arrested in a plot to torture and consume female victims ???

    See the headline below:

    By Joseph Serna

    October 25, 2012, 2:06 p.m.

    “”A New York City police officer has been arrested in a plot to to kidnap, cook, and cannibalize women, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

    Gilberto Valle, 28, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Queens, N.Y. by FBI agents and NYPD’s internal affairs after a two-month investigation. He is scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court Thursday afternoon.”"

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  7. Snarky says:

    We do NOT need a brand new court house in Sonoma County….

    The existing court house is just fine.

    Use that tax money instead for roads, you government criminals.

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  8. Snarky says:

    This mornings headline news:

    “Support Plunges For Prop. 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Tax Initiative”

    “Only 46% of registered voters now support Prop. 30, a drop of 9 percentage points over the last month, and 42% oppose it.”

    Of course, we all know that despite the SPENDING crisis created by criminal governments, they will refuse to stop their spending and in six months will be blaming voters for their deepening hole.

    Message to Sonoma County & cities:
    STOP your spending now…

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  9. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    The county would have even more money if they’d bring the manager rank and file staff ratio more in line. It’s currently 1 manager to 6 rank and file (1:5.73) DHS is currently hiring 8 managers after laying off hoards of rank and file and closing programs. Managers and contracting out are more expensive to the taxpayers.

    The BOS also needs to get rid of the perks that they and the management get the biggest of which is county paid deferred comp. Getting rid of that will put $4M more in county coffers that can be used for roads.

    And they need to pay attention to Bennett Valley Road all the way to Glen Ellen because that country road is extremely well travelled with people heading east and commuters.

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  10. Frank says:

    The roads are crumbling Says the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors( fire them all, meaning the administration staff cus of redundancy), This is the poster child for what’s happening right along with the State Of California. I have lived not far from Corby and the road between Hearn and Baker for some 12 years now, how long have we been paying a tax to keep are roads paved let alone keeping the neighborhood safe
    Many are excited to vote for another tax increase (misleading and poorly written), give more Rights to a criminal scumbag then to the taxpaying victim. Many Vote for laws and regulations ( governing Farm, Rachers, and other industry) that are a clear violation of our constitutional rights
    “We need to support our schools and balance the Budget” Moonbeam says
    So as a taxpayer I ask why do you (Moonbeam) continue to hire for the public sector and how will the worker’s salary be paid?



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  11. Terry says:

    Save Our Sonoma Roads (SOS Roads) has endorsed John Sawyer for 1st District Supervisor. Why? Because he gets it.

    He knows that we have to prioritize and do what it takes to fix our failing infrastructure (including roads). The County needs a solid tax base built around a strong diversified economy in order to fund our needs. His opponent plays lip service to this, but has never proven that she gets it. She bogs down every proposed project to where Sonoma County now has the worst reputation in the state regarding doing business here.

    I believe that is why SOS Roads has endorsed John Sawyer?

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  12. Bill me says:

    And Shirlee wants PLA’s on all County public works projects. Why would we want our dollars to go a shorter way to solving our pothole problems?

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  13. Snarky says:

    Although the Press Democrat is not reporting the big news of the morning, other media outlets like the ONLINE Chronicle are:

    Prop 30, that sniveling demand by the State Government to raise taxes, is failing and falling behind.

    As of the poll just released, Prop 30 has fallen since just weeks back as voters who are sick of government criminals… wake up.

    Vote “NO” on Prop 30 … and you will witness a criminal government unable to find a way to hide its criminality with additional taxes to cover up.

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  14. Grapevines says:

    If one was to follow the money they’d probably find out that the only reason Zane and Rabbitt are pushing for this is because they people who will benefit from it the most, are the ones who donated the most to their election campaign.

    It does not have a thing to do with public awareness, miles traveled, how we’re perceived by tourists visiting. It’s all about who donated and will thus benefit.

    So remember people, after electing these jerks, er responsible representatives, notice how it becomes all for them and not for us, the public?

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  15. Dan Drummond says:

    Kudos to Susan Klassen for her refreshingly honest comments. Hope she still has a job.

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  16. David says:

    This is only .0095% of the County roads! You mean to tell me that can’t even maintain .0095% of the roads with the money we already pay in taxes?

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  17. Steveguy says:

    Oh my. I read elsewhere that the Water Agency is spending tens of millions on Dry Creek ‘restoration’.. Then millions on the lower Russian River, AND that EXPENSIVE electrical contraption that they are installing near me.

    Other Agencies are spending MILLIONS. Like another story. The Cotati SMART (?) station is bleeding MILLIONS from Sonoma County Transit. With MILLIONS more coming from other ” Agencies”. SMART seems to be ‘padding’ the bill through not being a viable service. The new tracks are cool, I have seen many crossings. At least we will have new track for 10 years from now for lumber, rock, etc.

    I could go on and on, and add up some REAL math like I have before, but others here seem to get the total strangeness of what we are doing with our public monies.

    I can do math, they seem to be on meth !

    Besides, I think that the COUNTY should have a full-on road crew, not hiring it out with all the overhead, JUST GO OUT AND FIX THE ROADS !!

    Sorry for being a bit adamant . Steve Mosher

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  18. GAJ says:

    Read the last 12 words of the sentence quoted from the article that is at the bottom of this post several times after reading the entire sentence.

    What does “maintenance Districts” imply to you?

    To me it means that the County, who IS THE MAINTENANCE DISTRICT, will be shirking their responsibility and asking people in those smaller districts that they will create to vote on increased taxes to pay for the work the County has already been paid to do!

    Road maintenance is at the very foundation of the job they are handsomely paid to do…but, of course, they’ve shifted the funds from that budget item to satisfy Union pressure…especially from Public Safety.

    We’re about to be had…again.

    “The remaining $1.5 million of the $8 million in one-time spending will go to safety upgrades, including lane striping, guard rails, test projects for road reconstruction, increased inspections and a revolving fund to help support the creation of road maintenance districts.”

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  19. Critic at Large says:

    Does this mean the Board of Stupidvisors are rethinking the “back to gravel” road concept they have been advocating?

    I think not. This is another cynical politcal move to shut some critics up.

    $5.6 million for a $100 million dollar project. Who is kidding who?

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  20. James Bennett says:

    See, the people can make a difference.

    ICLEI has ‘em slippin’ through all kinds of stuff, much of which the people aren’t aware of.

    Sometimes it gets too much heat, so they retreat.

    Like the well monitoring, “the Green Building Retrofit Program”, Humbolt Bike Blvd., etc..

    If we made all of the over reach a highly contested charged subject, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.

    It’s tough though, that work thing cuts up the whole day.

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  21. Snarky says:

    Why does state and local government purchase and own more than it can properly maintain ??

    Like little kids, they can’t stop spending and then when its time to make repairs, they snivel that they haven’t got enough money.

    But, alas, they always have the money for out of county public employee conventions and public pensions !

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