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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Efren Carrillo "Our County" March 2010

The County welcomed good news this month, in the midst of extremely grim projections for our coming budget year. We received word of grant funds from the California Energy Commission, and the County’s application was the 4th highest ranked in the state and one of only five applications funded statewide. The monies will be used to augment the efforts of the innovative Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP). Sonoma County also received two additional awards through strategic partnerships.

This $2,537,000 award will fund home energy audits, enhanced water conservation efforts, and augment the leveraging of additional funds. The SEP Award will create a more sustainable program overall by increasing effectiveness. SCEIP is a first of its kind energy and water conservation program launched in March 2009 by the Board of Supervisors and has to date put over $20 million dollars into the local economy in home and business energy and water conversation projects. More information on SCEIP can be found at

The North Coast Energy Independence Program has received funding to duplicate the successful Sonoma County Energy Independence program model. This $4.3 million dollar application was the result of a joint effort of Sonoma, Mendocino, Del Norte, Trinity, Siskiyou, and Humboldt counties.

Finally, the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority will receive approximately $1,195,000 as a partner in a regional residential State Energy Program proposal led by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). The funds will support energy efficiency home retrofits for the new Countywide Retrofit/Renewables Program which debuts in April.

That good news was welcome, as we continue to see the effects of the faltering economy on our budget, and the State continues to threaten funds intended for local government. Last fiscal year, we addressed a shortfall of $26 million dollars. Projections for this year are $35-50+ million in funding gaps. Seventy percent of our 1.3 billion dollar annual budget is mandated by statute for particular programs and restricted.

Last year, over 37,000 property tax bills were reduced. Sales tax revenues and tourism are both down…with both local taxes and those collected by the state to support infrastructure and safety net programs drastically reduced. While we are a large employer with approximately 3900 employees, this is a nearly 10 percent reduction from the over 4200 employed two years ago.

Resulting reductions in services will impact our community. The Board has made efforts to improve efficiencies by contracting some services out, and employees continue to strive to increase productivity and retain vital services. We must seek innovative methods to do more with less.

While we adapt and downsize, we also endeavor to find new ways to spur private employment growth which aligns with our commitment to the environment.

The energy programs listed in the first part of this article have proved a boon to some job sectors. Further development of private sector green jobs, spurred by SCEIP and other renewable energy programs is a priority of our economic strategy. Our Human Service Department is leveraging grant funds to train local workers for renewable energy production and system installation. These efforts put people to work and offer opportunity which is much needed during this difficult time.

Our office has been fielding many calls from people who are concerned about the implementation of SmartMeters by PG&E. Concerns ranging to accuracy of the meters to long range health effects of electro magnetic frequency (EMF) have been expressed.

PG&E has established a hotline for individuals concerned about this issue. Please call 1-866-743-0263 if you have questions, or to be added to a “last to install” list. Although the County has no ability to prevent installation, it is important for the public to have good information on the issue. A public forum is being planned to take place in late April, where we will bring in experts who will discuss the issue. We will work with all interested parties to ensure that concerns are heard and responded to in a responsible, informed process.

Ending on a bright note, the Occidental Center for the Arts will celebrate its Grand Opening on March 13th. This community collaboration, with volunteers spending weekends doing the necessary painting and carpentry to make this project happen for several years…but really pouring it on for the past year, will follow by a few short days the 100th birthday celebration for Occidental’s grande dame, Doris Murphy. Doris’s dream of the OCA over a decade ago will come to fruition on her centennial birthday week…Happy Birthday, Doris!