During the 12 months of 2013, Sonoma Valley saw numerous changes. The county’s board of supervisors decided to fund the long awaited Highway 12 project, there were two large and destructive structure fires, the controversy over patient care and potential closure at SDC is still perking, Sonoma residents were at odds as to whether or not hotels with 25 or more rooms should be built and the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center found a home. The Index-Tribune was there all year, capturing and recording the major issues facing the Valley and its residents. Here are the top 10 most significant stories of the year as decided by the I-T editorial staff.
1. Supervisors fund Highway 12 project
After Phase II of the Highway 12 project was shelved when the county’s Redevelopment Agency was dissolved in February 2012, the county struggled to find a way to fund the project that had taken decades for planning and approval, and that includes sidewalks, streetlights, left-hand turn lanes and gutters and curbs from Boyes Boulevard to Agua Caliente Road. Phase I, from Encinas Lane to Boyes Boulevard was completed three years ago.
The county even filed suit against the state, in a case that it won in August. But the state is expected to file an appeal against the judgment, so in May the county’s board of supervisors decided to use some of the money it was receiving from the state that formerly went to the Redevelopment Agency, to finish the Highway 12 project. With about $2.2 million in bond money and an additional $5.3 million or so in new money, the county will finish the project. It is expected that the county will call for bids sometime in the first part of 2014, start construction by mid-year and be complete by mid-2015.
2. SVH completes new surgical wing
It was a long road to get there – but on Nov. 16, Sonoma Valley Hospital celebrated the opening of its brand-new, $46 million, seismically safe and state law-compliant ER and surgical wing.
Like more than half of California’s hospitals, Sonoma Valley Hospital found out its three wings did not meet tough new state seismic standards following the Northridge quake of 1994. That incident had prompted state legislators to require all hospitals to meet the new building codes – and SVH was on the hook.
What followed was a series of engineering reports, abandoned plans, failed ballot measures, extended deadlines and, finally, a means for SVH to meet its obligations on site: a one-time exception allowing SVH to move forward in a design-build process. A final, $11 million, just-completed capital campaign made the plan a reality.
3. Ongoing drought
Sonoma County has been contending with one of the driest years – and possibly the driest year, ever – on record, and that has farmers and Sonoma County Water Agency officials scrambling.
This is the driest calendar year on record in the upper Russian River watershed, agency officials say, which is why they’re asking the State Water Resources Control Board for permission to alter their normal management of Lake Mendocino, which impounds water critical to both humans and endangered coho and steelhead. Other proposals, including requests for water conservation among consumers, are in the works.