Tags >> finances
Jul 22
2009

Budget Cuts at SSU

Posted by Bruce Robinson in unions , students , Sonoma County , Rohnert Park , research , politics , news , legislation , jobs , government , finances , employment , education , economy , budget

Bruce Robinson

Budget cuts resulting in faculty layoffs and reduced course offerings are inescapable at Sonoma State University for the coming year; the remaining question is where will the axe fall, and how deep will it cut.

 

The CFA's membership vote on the furlough question closed at 5 pm Wednesday. The balloting was conducted online, as a means of obtaining greater participation during the summer, when few faculty are on campus. Because this was the first time the union has held a web-based referendum, they are taking a little extra time to ensure the accuracy of the results before making the outcome public on Friday morning, when they'll be posted on the CFA website.

 How much difference can the outcome of the furlough vote make? As much as $3 million for the Sonoma campus alone, says Melinda Barnard, SSU's Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.

 

 Even though the exact courses and faculty positions that will be cut due to the budget shortfall will not be decided for weeks to come, SSU Political Science professor Andy Merrifield (who is also a Regional Vice President for the California Faculty Association) predicts that the campus will be a markedly difference place by the start of next spring semester.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 20
2009

Sutter's Plans

Posted by Bruce Robinson in Sonoma County , public safety , policy , planning , nonprofit orgs , medicine , healthcare , Health , government , finances , construction , business

Bruce Robinson

Sutter Health proposes building a new, smaller hospital at the Wells Fargo Center, north of Santa Rosa, to replace the old medical campus on Chanate Road. But critics, including rival hospitals, worry that the new facility will be too small.

 The planned $176 million, 70 bed hospital would have barely half the 135 beds at the current Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, still known to long-time locals as Community Hospitlal (right). Such downsizing could rupture the delicate  balance among local hospitals regarding who cares for the poor and uninsured patients in the area, says Dr.Gary Greensweig, Director of Medicine for St. Josephs' Healthcare of Sonoma County. He notes that the existing Sutter facilites now provide about 30% of that car, and their Health Care Access Agreeement with the county, the contract that Sutter accepted when they first came to Sonoma County, stipulates that the same level of care be maintained.

 

Sutter has been weighing the construction of a new hospital on the grounds of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts for several years now. The current proposal would be situated on the northwest corner of the property, as shown in the site map below. With a specific project under consideration, Sutter spokeswoman Lisa Amador says they are already well into the process of drafting the Environmental Impart Report that the project will eventually require.

 

 Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the only member of the board to give an indication of her leanings on the proposal, appeared cautiously supportive. She also raised the spectre of Sutter following through on their earlier bid to leave the county altogether if their project is not approved.

 

 

Jul 13
2009

SMART's Railcar Decision

Posted by Bruce Robinson in transportation , technology , Sonoma County , policy , planning , nonprofit orgs , Marin , government , finances , environment , energy , economy , design , construction , community , carbon , business , budget , air quality

Bruce Robinson

The Sonoma-Marin commuter train faces a pivotal decision this week, as its directors choose the type of rail cars they will design the rest of the line to match.

The SMART Board of Directors Meets on Wednesday, July 15 at 12:30 pm in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors chambers to consider the railcar purchase and other business.

 The regulatory standards set by the US Federal Railroad Administration are the biggest single factor shaping SMART's choice for new rolling stock (as railroad cars are often called). SMART General Manager Lillian Hames explains those standards are especially stringent in situations where freight and passenger trains share the same set of tracks.

 The global financial woes of the past year are also affecting SMART, Says Hames, particularly their plans to issue bonds against future sales tax revenues. They are hoping to bridge the funding gap with grants, cost savings in planning and construction, and other measures.

One of the variables tied to the choice of rail vehicles that SMART will use is the height of the floor height above the tracks, which is a function of such design considerations as fuel tank placement and structural engineering. The difference could be 24 inches or more, but either way, the passenger loading platforms at each of the 15 stations along the line will have to be built to match the train's floor level, so that wheelchair users can easily access the cars. These new platforms, says Hames, will likely look quite different than the wooden decks seen along historic train stations.

{mp3remote}http://media.krcb.org/audio/nbr/platformsremote}

 

Jul 06
2009

Landfill Leak

Posted by Bruce Robinson in waste , transportation , toxic , Sonoma , resources , politics , government , garbage , finances , environment , conservation , chemicals , budget

Bruce Robinson

Although the Sonoma County dump, west of Cotati,  has been closed for more than three and a half years, the former manager of the facility says the issues behind its closure are political, not environmental.

 

Ken Wells (right), the former manager of the Sonoma County landfill says the  "leak" discovered beneath the dump back in 2004, has taken on an exaggerated significance due to subsequent regulatory conflict between the county and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. The actual contamination was quite minor, he contends, and was easily contained and repaired, so that no pollutants escaped into the local groundwater.

  County officials won't say, but indutry observers say Waste ManagementInc. is the only potential buyer for the Meacham Road dumsite that meets the criteria set forth in the county's Request for Proposals.

Ken Wells is also among those who would prefer that the county retain ownership of the landfill, perhaps contracting with a private firm to operate it. As the county's waste diversion rate-currently at 64%-goes up even more, the volume of trash going into the dump will contuine to shrink, he predicts. That's part of his overall vision of a long-term future for the facility.

 

Although the Sonoma County dump (seen from the air, above) is no longer accecpting trash, all other services there are continuing. There's a list of them, and related operation, such as local transfer stations, available here.

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