The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is expected to approve an increase in curbside garbage collection fees, a move that would generate additional money to pay for expanded street sweeping services and dead animal removal along county roads.

Residents in unincorporated areas of the county could see increases ranging from 37 cents to $1.02 on monthly bills starting in August. The amount depends on how far garbage collectors travel in the county. The increase is part of an extended financial contract with Redwood Empire Disposal, part of the Ratto Group of companies, the dominant garbage hauler in Sonoma County.

The proposed fee increase would boost county revenue from curbside garbage service by about $400,000, to a total of $3.2 million per year.

The contract would extend street sweeping services in the unincorporated parts of Forestville, Guerneville, Monte Rio and Occidental to six days a year, scheduled around rainy or stormy months.

“The sweeping would be focused before storms or in between storms, keeping debris from just running into the streams or rivers when it rains,” said Susan Klassan, director of the county’s Transportation and Public Works Department.

Dead animal collection would also change under the new agreement. At present, only large, wild animals such as deer are collected by Redwood Empire, with oversight from the county’s public health department. The new rules shift oversight duties to the public works department, and expand collection to include both big and small animals, domestic and wild.

Redwood Empire’s current contract with the county, which started in 2010, expires in 2029. The total value of the contract in today’s dollars is about $580 million over the 20-year period. Expanded street sweeping and dead animal collection services are set to cost an additional $275,000 a year for staff and equipment.

California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it

OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.

Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”

“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”

Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.

Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.

Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”

The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.

California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.

The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”

Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.

“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”

—Associated Press


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