Election Day arrives for Russian River, coast residents

After months of heated debate, several communities on the Russian River and along the coast are headed to the polls today to vote in special elections focused on three fire and urgent health care districts.

The ballot items could have significant implications for public service in those communities — enough that 2,745 people already had voted by mail-in ballot on Monday, elections personnel said.

In Bodega Bay, the fire district stands to lose a third of its staffing by next year unless two-thirds of voters approve a tax increase, according to Fire Chief Sean Grinnell.

If Measure A is passed, most homeowners will pay $200 more a year for fire services — or $724 annually, perhaps the highest rate in Sonoma County.

If the measure goes down in defeat, the district will switch from three firefighter/medics on duty at a given time to two people on duty, Grinnell said.

In the Russian River Fire Protection District, voters are being asked to consider recalling two district board members and electing two replacements.

The election stems, in part, from political revolt last fall after the board voted to remove fire Chief Max Ming from his local post with Russian River Fire, though he later was reinstated.

Those targeted for removal include board president Kevin O'Shea and vice president Linda Payne. Running to replace them, respectively, are retired Alameda County firefighter Mark Emmett and San Francisco Police Lt. Chuck Limbert.

Voters along a 60-mile stretch of coastline straddling Sonoma and Mendocino counties are considering a tax measure that would raise funds for urgent care in the remote area that includes Fort Ross, the Sea Ranch, Gualala and Point Arena.

That ballot item, Measure J, also needs approval from two-thirds of the voters in order to take effect. It would require most homeowners in the Coast Life Support District to pay an additional $112 a years to help sustain current urgent care clinic hours in Gualala and to expand hours to the weekend, as well.

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