Fifteen minutes in a burning building was plenty for Santa Rosa City Councilman Scott Bartley to confirm he was never destined for a career in firefighting. ‘I felt like a loaf of French bread in an oven,’ a sweat-drenched Bartley said after exiting the Santa Rosa Fire Department’s live-burn training structure.
As part of the state budget, the Legislature imposed new fees on rural landowners to fund fire protection services. There’s only one problem, according to Sonoma County fire chiefs Randy Collins and Dan Northern: Many rural residents are now paying twice for services they are already receiving from their local fire department. They say the new fees threaten local fire districts.
The Windsor and Rincon Valley fire districts have joined forces to create Central Fire, a new administrative agency that will oversee both fire departments. The unified command structure is designed to save money following the retirement of longtime Windsor Chief Ron Collier, who will not be replaced.
UPDATE: Interim Santa Rosa Fire Chief Mark McCormick, a 20-year veteran of the department, has been permanently named to the post. City Manager Kathy Millison says he will bring fresh ideas and innovation to the department during financially challenging times.
Since the beginning of the year, the Santa Rosa Fire Department has required a separate review of building plans for residential solar arrays and inspection of them once installed. On Monday, it announced it would turn over that role to the city’s building department. Critics said the additional bureaucracy was time consuming, expensive and unnecessary.
Plentiful sunshine, environmentally conscious residents and innovative public financing options have contributed to Santa Rosa outshining others when it comes to installation of photovoltaic systems. But that success is being threatened, some in the solar industry say, by burdensome fire regulations that reduce the size of many residential solar systems, increase their cost and in some cases may be unnecessary.
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 is going to the county to build a path next to Geyserville Bridge to make it safer for pedestrians
The Santa Rosa City Council approved $2.1 million in concessions from its employees Tuesday, including a divisive deal that gives firefighters 6 percent raises but requires them to contribute most of that increase over the next two years toward the cost of their pensions. Is it a money-saver that moves the city closer to long-term pension reform? Or a short-sighted move that locks the city into a bad contract for another year?
While I would still argue that Santa Rosa voters never intended to set baseline funding for police and fire, that is exactly what they did with Measure O — whether they knew it or not.