RCSD to help RFD test local fire hydrants

Dave Brooksher

Redwood Times

The Redway Fire District met with the Redway Community Services District during this month’s regularly scheduled meeting to ask for RCSD’s help in measuring and documenting water-flow from each of Redway’s fire hydrants.

Fire chief Brian Anderson said the fire district expects to get evaluated for a new Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating sometime late next year, and that water-flow data could help lower the cost of fire insurance for local homes and businesses. RCSD board members have been generally receptive to the idea so far - but somewhat reluctant to commit resources to the project.

"We’ll purchase the meter," offered Steve Finch, from the Redway Fire District’s board. "We’ve already done the research."

The Redway Fire District is able to cover the material costs of testing the fire hydrants - but for their part they’ve already logged more than 1,000 hours of labor on this project from just 11 volunteers. They’re asking the RCSD board to make two staffers available to work alongside RFD personnel while testing the hydrants.

One possibility for complications could arise in the event of damage to the hydrants in the testing process. Chief Anderson pointed out that if one of the hydrants breaks, spews a large volume of water into the roadway, and has to be repaired - that may require overtime from RCSD staff.

"We’d be happy if you could commit to just trying to help us," said chief Anderson.

"Obviously staff time is valuable - but we want to ensure adequate water flow for the fire hydrants, and the fire district doesn’t have staff. They’re almost entirely volunteer," said RCSD board chairman Michael McKaskle after the meeting when asked if that was a possibility. "We instructed our operations manager to work something out with them."

During closed session, the board also conducted a personnel review of employees Doug Esget and Calvin Chaille. That segment was followed by an open-session discussion of a salary increase, but due to the district’s current finances it was determined that a pay raise would not be appropriate.

In other developments from the Redway Community Services District - the board is expecting a seat to vacate in the coming months. At the last meeting, John Rogers announced his intention to resign from the board effective at the end of this year. The RCSD would like to invite members of the community to come observe a few board meetings and get up to speed.

Due to the budgetary impact of depreciation, the board may soon schedule a public hearing to take input from the community on a possible sewage rate increase.

"We need to generate more income on the sewer side of our operations," McKaskle said. "Our cash flow is okay for right now, but over the next decade we need to bring in some more funds. We want to explore ways to do that."

Operations manager Ken Dean suggested that the needed revenue could be generated through a System Expansion Fund (SEF) rate increase of $3 to $5. This would increase the price of each water connection in the RCSD by a flat rate, sharing the cost equally among each of the district’s customers. McKaskle confirmed that an SEF rate increase is a possibility.

"Since a lot of our needs are going to be capital needs in the future, and the System Expansion Fund exists to provide capital, one easy way to do the rate increase would be just to charge everyone a chunk more every month," McKaskle said.

Interested parties should watch upcoming meetings in December and January to see if and when the board schedules a hearing on the matter.

The RCSD is also considering the possibility of a cooperative effort with the Garberville Sanitary District that would allow both organizations to pool their resources.

"The thought is that we would allow them to use some of our parts that we have warehoused, and they would potentially allow us to use their covered warehouse space to store some of our equipment," McKaskle explained. He added that so far there’s no final proposal to consider, but the board is eager to be a good neighbor.

(Full disclosure - Redwood Times reporter Dave Brooksher and RCSD board president Michael McKaskle work together through KMUD News, where McKaskle volunteers as a broadcast engineer.)