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Sonoma County voters to decide fire department funding, development boundaries in Tuesday’s election

Voters go to the polls Tuesday in Rohnert Park and four west county fire districts to vote on ballot measures that, if passed, will maintain urban growth boundaries in the county’s third-largest city and support local fire departments.

In addition, voters in Forestville and Timber Cove will select directors to serve on the governing boards for their respective water districts. Turnout is expected to be light; of the 41,883 registered voters in all seven districts, only 35% are expected to cast a ballot in the election, said Wendy Hudson, chief deputy registrar of voters.

In Rohnert Park, voters will be asked if they want to maintain the city’s current boundary that defines areas for development over the next two decades.

Without action, the existing 20-year urban growth perimeter will sunset next summer.

Renewal requires voter approval if Rohnert Park residents want to prevent builders from pitching developments outside areas where the city already has utilities and infrastructure to support new projects.

Voters backed the previous version of the boundary in 2000 with 71% support. In July, the City Council unanimously placed Measure B on the Nov. 5 ballot to extend the existing boundary through 2040, which needs a simple majority to pass.

All nine of Sonoma County’s cities have urban growth boundaries in place that direct where commercial, industrial and residential projects may be built. The borders help cities focus limited dollars for expansion of sewer and water lines, and other infrastructure needed to develop the land.

Voters in the Occidental Community Services District, Graton Fire Protection District and Gold Ridge Fire Protection District will decide whether to approve new parcel taxes of up to $250 a year to boost fire department staffing.

All three fire agencies rely heavily on volunteers. The measures need a two-thirds majority to pass. If they do, Graton and Occidental would get their first paid firefighters. Gold Ridge Fire Protection District already has a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters, but would hire a third firefighter for each engine to bolster staffing.

“Having a career staff in the station shortens our response time and that means we can jump on a fire before it gets bigger,” said Graton Fire Chief Bill Bullard. “It really has the ability to impact lives.”

In Bodega Bay, the fire protection district is asking voters to maintain its current spending limit for another four years.

The measure is not a new tax or a tax increase, but, if passed, will allow the district to use the proceeds of a special tax approved by voters in 2003 to support fire protection, prevention, suppression, rescue and emergency medical response services.

Twenty-one polling locations in Sonoma County will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday for voters to cast their ballots. For a list of all the locations, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/CRA/Registrar-of-Voters/Elections.

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee. You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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