|Cotati, RAFD turn to Plan B
Measure Z fails to hit two-thirds majority, blunts 2013 budget plans
The losses of Measures U and Z have forced the city government in Cotati and the hierarchy of the Rancho Adobe Fire District into scramble mode.
Measure U’s passage prohibits roundabouts or traffic circles from being constructed within Cotati city limits.
Measure U proved to be one of the most controversial and divisive measures to hit Cotati since the 1997 battle over whether Lucky’s supermarket should be allowed to build in the city.
Several businesses along Old Redwood Highway, where two roundabouts were planned as part of the Village Main Street project, vehemently were opposed to this plan. It also called for Old Redwood Highway to be reduced from four lanes to two in order to decrease the speed of traffic.
City Manager Dianne Thompson said the goal of the city now is to build a smaller project on the northern portion of Old Redwood Highway.
“With Measure U passing, we are now working on design of a smaller gateway project instead of the Village Main Street Project approved by City Council,” Thompson said. “I’m disappointed Measure U passed because it prevents us from building this project.”
The city estimates nearly $3.7 million in potential funding could be out of the grasp of Cotati if a project on Old Redwood Highway is not designed (not expenditure of funds) by February.
“It is important that the city use at least a portion of the federal grant funds received in order to prevent the city from being disqualified from future grant funding,” Thompson said. “Our goal is to use the money to benefit the community and not lose it.”
Measure Z won the majority of votes on Election Day, but it did not surpass the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. Many expected this measure to pass, as it seemingly had widespread support from people on all sides of the political landscape.
The District, according to Chief Frank Treanor, has had two successive years of budget deficits – with a deficit of more than $200,000 in 2010-11 and a $177,000 budget deficit last year. The anticipated deficit for next year is more than $350,000.
With Measure Z failing to pass, RAFD on the day after the election implemented a system calling for 48-hour blackouts on a rotating basis for each station in the district. This means at least one of three stations ¬will be closed for a 48-hour period. When one reopens another will be closed for two days. The three stations are located at 1 E. Cotati Ave. in Cotati, 11000 Main St. in Penngrove and 99 Liberty Road in unincorporated Petaluma.
“This will go on until things change financially, whether it’s through a ballot measure or there’s some change in the revenues,” said Jennifer Ober, administrative manager and board clerk at RAFD. “There have been some talks about trying to do something for the next election.”
Treanor, in an op-ed piece published in The Community Voice on Nov. 2, said the District has cut operating expenses 25 percent over the last five years and has paid off the unfunded retirement liability for our firefighters. He said RAFD also has modified the health plan, saving $231,000 over four years. Member’s salaries are on average 22 percent lower than other departments in Sonoma County. The members have not had pay raises in four of the last five years, and their retirement is 33 percent less than other fire departments in the county.