By Michael Haran
Although a lot of Fitch Mountain is not in Healdsburg’s city limits it has long been considered a Healdsburg community. The Fitch Mountain Association just had its annual potluck meeting at the Villa and several items of local interest were discussed.
4th District Supervisor Mike McGuire spoke to us about several issues. As a background, in 1989 three antiquated Fitch Mountain water systems were put under a county tax assessment district the purpose for which was to upgrade the failing systems. The system was connected to the City of Healdsburg water service (this Fitch Mountain utility also has a fire and emergency services contract with Healdsburg). The system rehab was completed in 1994 with a state loan in the amount of $2,396,160 which is being paid off through a user property tax assessment which should be retired by 2022.
After a utility advisory committee was disbanded in 1994 due to a county government reorganizing act, the residents of Fitch Mountain had no formal representation. In 2011, Mike organized a community meeting and put together a local resident ad hoc water committee to advise on operations, maintenance and rate issues. He is now participating in formulating a new budget and is working with Healdsburg on a new rate structure which will include an increased budget reserve for maintenance. After a cost analysis he facilitated a change in the customer billing and service calls from the county to the maintenance contractor, Russian River Utility, which represents a significant cost savings to users.
Mike then gave us an update on the purchase of the Fitch Mountain Park and Open Space District on the top of the mountain. He said that the purchase escrow has been delayed until several property boundaries have been worked out. He said that of the forty or so identified post survey boundary issues under twenty remain and those were mostly wood piles and minor encroachments. He said that he is pushing hard to close escrow within the next sixty days.
Mike was thanked for taking the lead in providing more county Sheriff and Highway Patrol presents during the fourth of July weekend. Because of social media 20 to 30 cars can “appear” at any river access at any time which has required more traffic and parking control. Mike is such a proactive elected official he sets a high standard for other Politians.
Next to speak was Steve Adams, Healdsburg’s Fire Chief and Roberta MacIntyre Sonoma County Fire Marshall. The treat of fire is a big deal on Fitch Mountain and they talked about fire evacuation and weed abatement which is really small tree and shrub abatement. In addition the 100 feet of defensible space required around all structures vacant lot owners are now required to also remove all flammable materials from their lots including liming trees up to six feet above the ground. Laura Tietz of Fire Free Fitch spoke next. She passed around an old photo of Fitch Mountain that showed when it had no trees at all on it. Generations of fire suppression has turned the mountain into a jungle and it’s now up to us to return it to a forest.
This item wasn’t discussed but it is of local interest. The ten year effort to resurrect the seasonal dam at Del Rio is dead in the water. After meeting with regulators and consultants the Del Rio board determined that they were unlikely to get a permit. It’s too bad as the summer lake was a wonderful venue for generations. Now they have to figure out where the money to remove the 40-year old dam structure and spillway will come from. The seven acre site is under consideration as a river access point under the County Regional Parks.
Many of us wondered what that loud music was circumnavigating the Mountain on the forth. Mike said that it was someone who had created a flotilla by lashing kayaks together which included a reggae band. Mike said he know who it was – but of course.