WatchSonoma Watch

Bodega Bay fire tax measure fails; Russian River fire board members recalled


A hotly disputed tax measure went down to thunderous defeat late Tuesday in the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District, where fire officials have said a third of the nine-member staff would have to be laid off by next year if the tax failed.

Voters in the Coast Life Support District straddling Sonoma and Mendocino counties, meanwhile, were favoring a special tax measure there to expand availability of urgent care in what is a remote area of the coast.

Residents in the embattled Russian River Fire Protection District voted to recall board President Kevin O’Shea and Vice President Linda Payne, with more than 80 percent in each case supporting their removal from office.

Bodega Bay firefighters train with Sonoma County Sheriff's rescue helicopter Henry One on Bodega Head on Wednesday, March 6, 2014.  (John Burgess / PD)

Bodega Bay firefighters train with Sonoma County Sheriff’s rescue helicopter Henry One on Bodega Head on Wednesday, March 6, 2014. (John Burgess / PD)

Votes counted in the Coast Life Support District showed Measure J squeaking by with more than 69.6 percent of the combined votes cast in two counties.

The measure must be approved by two-thirds of the district’s voters in the final count if it is to take effect. It was unclear if there were enough mail-in and provisional ballots still to be counted that the total could change the outcome.

If approved by a sufficient margin, most residents along a 60-mile stretch of coastline in north Sonoma and south Mendocino counties would pay $112 more a year to help sustain weekday urgent care hours at a Gualala clinic and extend availability of urgent care on Saturdays and Sundays.

Most residents within the district live 1½ to 2½ hours from the nearest hospital, but some voters who live at the extreme ends of the district said they resented the idea of paying more for services they say they won’t use because they are likely to seek care in Santa Rosa or Fort Bragg.

In Bodega Bay, voters soundly defeated Measure A, which received support from just over 37 percent of the voters.

The measure needed approval by two-thirds of the voters to pass.

“I’m very disappointed,” Bodega Bay Fire board President Constance Clover said.

“I understand that people don’t want to pay any more taxes,” she said. “But I think they are operating under a delusion, which is that the county’s going to step up and save them, or save us. The county has no obligation to do that.”

Most residents already pay $524 annually for fire and emergency ambulance service. Measure A would have required they pay another $200 a year, even though two-thirds of the district’s emergencies involve nonresidents — either tourists or other visitors — or residents outside the district but within its 220-square-mile ambulance response area.

Fire Chief Sean Grinnell said the board was already trying to determine what alternatives it might pursue to try to avoid cutting staff so that only two people are on duty at any given time.

But there were few options, he said, beyond putting a modified tax measure back on the ballot.

“We’ve heard there’s a better way. People have suggested there’s a better way. OK, come and meet with me and give me that plan,” he said.

In the Russian River Fire Protection District, centered in Guerneville, O’Shea and Payne were targeted for recall in the wake of a community uproar over the board’s August decision to remove Chief Max Ming, though his dismissal was made by unanimous vote of all five board members.

Ming also is chief of the Forestville Fire Protection District, which contracts with Russian River Fire to share a chief. He was reinstated to his post in Guerneville after mediation with the board.

But the strong community response to Ming’s dismissal motivated a recall effort against board directors critics contended were particularly strident and influential, fire Capt. Ryan Lantz said.

With all four district precincts counted, O’Shea had support from just over 16 percent of the voters. Nearly 84 percent voted to recall him. The recall effort against Payne had support from 81.6 percent.

San Francisco Police Lt. Chuck Limbert was winning election to Payne’s seat with almost 99 percent of the vote.

Retired Alameda County firefighter Mark Emmett was winning election to O’Shea’s seat with more than 88 percent.

A third candidate, Kyle O’Connor, received almost 11 percent of the vote to replace O’Shea even though he was appointed to the board last winter to fill a vacancy. His appointment came too late for his name to be removed from the ballot.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

4 Responses to “Bodega Bay fire tax measure fails; Russian River fire board members recalled”

  1. The Hammer says:

    Have to agree with Bodega Bay voters. You have to stop somewhere. Governments will cry and moan about how much more they need. Well, so does everyone else. Can’t continue to drain the residents for government.

  2. PapaESoCo says:

    Nice letter Follower, have to agree with the entire letter. LOL, RRFD, yea, not much going to change there; the lunatics have been running the asylum for years. Getting rid of O’Shea and Payne was a needed step.

  3. Follower says:

    From what I’ve seen, Coast Life Support seems to do a pretty good job of keeping their operation running on a tight budget.
    Running a service like that in an area like that ain’t cheap but I’ve never seen any of the obscene waste that seems to be Standard Operating Procedure most everywhere else.

    Rewarding entities that do a good job of spending our money wisely is… well, “WISE!”

    On the other hand we have BBFD. They got every penny they deserved.

    Good for you Bodega Bay voters!

    And I doubt much will change at RRFD but thank you for at least getting O’Shea & Payne off of our payroll.

    You all REALLY need to visit these Public Safety operations once & awhile. THEY BELONG TOO YOU! And in most cases you will find that the people who work there are good folks. You will be amazed at some of the technology your money bought and the training these people get to apply that technology to serving YOU!
    It’s the bureaucracies that are the problem.
    It’s the people at the top who need to feel the fear of their bosses (that’s YOU!) dropping by to see how they’re spending YOUR money.

    From the ballot box, these entities can seem distant and inaccessible. They’re NOT. They’re right around the corner and they answer to YOU!
    The food they put on their table came from YOUR table! The clothes they put on their kids came from YOUR kids! The money they use to make their car payments, house payments and fund their retirements came from YOUR paycheck.

    Don’t just walk away from the polls thinking you’ve done your duty as a citizen.

  4. GAJ says:

    Let’s see, a 9 member team of firefighters and a $1.9 million budget still isn’t enough.

    Tip of the iceberg; Public Safety statewide is rapidly pricing a significant number of their membership out of jobs by demanding continuation of outlandish pay and benefit levels.