What happened last Friday in McKinleyville would be an almost routine event if it occurred in Arcata or Eureka – a state lawmaker came to town, visited with representatives of the local government and learned about a bunch of projects,
But for the McKinleyville Community Services District, a visit from Assemblyman Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) on March 15 was a first.
MCSD Interim General Manager Greg Orsini said Chesbro’s visit was the first time to his knowledge that a state lawmaker ever came to the district to meet with staff and board members. Why hasn’t this happened before? “They’ve never been invited,” said Orsini, who teamed up with MCSD Board President Dennis Mayo to set up the meeting. Also in attendance was Zuretti Goosby, a field representative for State Senator Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg.
Besides being a first, it was a productive meeting that may very well help McKinleyville garner more grants to pay for proposed community forests, new parks, a boat ramp on the Mad River, a new water tank, a massive sewer plant upgrade, and a variety of other projects.
‘A New Frontier
Reaching out to Chesbro is part of a new approach the MCSD has taken in recent years. It’s trying to forge relationships with more government agencies and decision makers. It’s trying to have more influence over the services and funding provided to the community. It’s trying to fill in some of the gaps that come from not being an incorporated city.
The MCSD unveiled a new slogan at Friday’s meeting – “A New Frontier in Government.”
Orsini explained that McKinleyville is unincorporated and will remain so. The laws governing incorporation make cityhood financially unfeasible, he said.
“We’ll probably never be able to incorporate,” Orsini told Chesbro.
Under Senate Bill 135, the district has the ability to take on additional powers. It could take over maintenance of roadways, have a planning department and even its own police force.
However, to pay for these services McKinleyville would have tax its residents, who are already taxed by the county.
“It would be like double taxation,” Orsini said.
Rather than do that, McKinleyville is taking a different tact. “We want to get more bang for the buck from the county,” Orsini said. The district is doing this by lobbying for additional services and by getting involved in planning decisions. The MCSD also has representation on the new McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee.
Orsini, along with Parks and Recreation Director Jason Sehon, gave Chesbro a brief overview of some of the projects the district is working on, as well as proposals that would require grant funding.
There are two proposed community forests for McKinleyville. One is a 60-acre Sitka spruce forest located above Beau Pre Golf Course, As a condition of building the 80-lot Beau Pre Heights Subdivision, developer Danco will have to set aside the 60 acres for preservation. It’s unknown when the subdivision will get developed, but when it is, the forest will most likely be deeded to the MCSD.
Homeowners in Beau Pre Heights will probably pay a fee as part of a landscape maintenance zone. That money could be used to maintain the forest trails and other park amenities,
A much larger community forest is envisioned further south. Green Diamond owns most of the forest on the east side of town between McKinleyville and Fieldbrook. The MCSD is interesting in acquiring a large chunk of property east of town for a community forest similar to the Arcata Community Forest.
According to Orsini, Green Diamond may be interested in selling portions of its forest to provide a buffer between McKinleyville’s residential neighborhoods and the company’s timberland, which is being actively harvested.
Discussions about creating this community forest are so preliminary that there’s not even an estimated acreage or even an exact location.
Parks and Recreation Director Jason Sehon said he envisions a mixed-use community forest, with hiking trails and maybe an amphitheater.
Like the Arcata Community Forest, the McKinleyville forest could be selectively logged to generate revenue to pay for maintenance.
Chesbro said that having a community forest can provide educational opportunities for the community, showing people that not all logging is bad.
Teen & Community Center
Chesbro was also told about a several other recreation projects, including the Teen & Community Center at Pierson Park. That project, with an estimated price tag of $1.75 million, is now in the architectural design phase.
The project is geared towards middle school students, who have few places to hang out in McKinleyville, Sehon said.
The center will contain classroom space, a sound-proof music room, game rooms and a commercial kitchen. Funds from Measure B (a voter-approved parcel tax which cost homeowners $30 a year) are paying for the construction of the teen center, but the district is still looking for grant funds to pay for the amenities inside.
Consruction on the teen center may begin in 2014.
Chesbro was also told about the district’s new parkland off Washington Avenue near the intersection of School Road, and the Hewitt Ranch, an undeveloped park off Azalea Avenue hear Hewitt Road.
All of these projects, along with proposed upgrades to the sewer and water system, could use grant funds.
Chesbro can help
“You’re doing a lot of good things in this community,” Chesbro told the MCSD representatives.
When it comes to obtaining grants, Chesbro said his office can help. He can get letters of support for projects. He can make phone calls to the appropriate state officials administering the grants. He can lobby for McKinleyville.
Chesbro and his staff also stressed the importance of the district communicating with them about grant programs and legislation that might hinder their chances of obtaining grants.
Zuretti Goosby, a field representative for State Sen. Noreen Evans, told the the MCSD that it’s best to have legislation written so that communities like McKinleyville have a greater chance of being successful in obtaining grants. Goosby encouraged the district to communicate with his office.
They then toured several project sites with MCSD representatives.
“It was great. It was an awesome opportunity,” said Orsini after the meeting was over.