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5 measures on Sonoma County ballots appear to be passing

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Four ballot measures that will support west county fire districts and one that will maintain urban growth boundaries in Rohnert Park appeared to be on their way to passing, according to early mail-in ballots counted Tuesday night.

Measures C, E and F — which would institute new parcel taxes of up to $250 a year to boost fire department staffing in the Occidental Community Services District, Gold Ridge Fire Protection District and Graton Fire Protection District — had 80.52%, 66.97% and 73.49% of the vote in mail-in ballots. All three measures require a two-thirds majority to pass. Measure E, the Gold Ridge tax, was just barely clearing that threshold.

The three districts rely heavily on volunteer firefighters but struggle to fully staff their engines. Chiefs for the three agencies said the measures would, if passed, increase staffing by letting the districts hire professional firefighters.

“We’re really pleased by the voter turnout and support for the fire district and taking the next step in our 70-year history in hiring our first career staffing,” said Graton Fire Chief Bill Bullard. “It’s really reassuring that the voters have seen the need and done that through their support of the tax measure.”

Measures C and E would create a $200 annual tax for residential property owners in the Occidental and Gold Ridge fire districts. That tax would be added to their current annual fire taxes, putting Gold Ridge’s homeowners at $265 and Occidental’s at $280. With Measure F, Graton Fire Protection District will receive $250 per residential parcel. All three measures also include a commercial parcel tax of $300 a year, plus 14 cents per square foot of building space.

Measure D, which would maintain the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District’s current spending limit for another four years, had received 93.66% of the vote in mail-in ballots. Unlike the other three measures, Measure D isn’t a new tax or tax increase, but would allow the district to use the proceeds of a special tax approved by voters in 2003 to support firefighters and emergency medical response services. It requires a simple majority vote to pass, and appeared to be winning in a landslide.

Rohnert Park residents also voted Tuesday on Measure B, which would maintain the city’s current boundary that defines areas for development over the next 20 years. The measure had 90.81% of the vote in mail-in ballots. It needs a simple majority to pass.

Renewing the existing 20-year urban growth perimeter requires voter approval, otherwise it will end next summer. The boundary prevents builders from constructing developments outside areas where the city already has utilities and infrastructure to support new projects.

Deva Proto, the county’s clerk-recorder-assessor- registrar of voters, said officials won’t be able to finalize the election results for another couple of weeks, once they count all the ballots from the polling locations and remaining mail-in ballots that have yet to arrive.

“On the first glance with these results, they appear to be on their way to passing,” Proto said of the five measures. “But we will never call anything until we certify because until then we haven’t counted all the votes.”

Most of the county — 78% — votes by mail, Proto said. She added that polling locations aren’t generally very busy on Election Day. Her office checked in with some locations earlier Tuesday, and by 2 p.m. one of them had only seen 26 voters.

About 9,815 ballots had been cast in the election as of 9 p.m. Tuesday.

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee.

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