The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Thursday ratified a proclamation of a local health emergency from this winter's storms and flooding and approved curbside collection of debris containing household hazardous waste that has been piling up on properties in the lower Russian River communities.
Some residents of the Guerneville, Monte Rio and Rio Nido areas have been taking debris to dumpsters at several collection sites, but hazardous waste has been accumulating in the right-of-way and mixed with construction material and solid waste.
"The trash is everywhere," said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents the west county district.
"We need curbside collection as soon as possible," she said.
The removal of 2,000 tons of debris at drop off sites will have cost $1 million by Saturday or Sunday, Transportation and Public Works director Johannes Hoevertsz said.
"I recommend transitioning to curbside collection starting Monday," he said.
The debris collection sites will close Saturday, and curbside collection using the county's provider, Recology, will start Monday.
Sonoma County's Emergency Services Director Christopher Godley cautioned that there are dangers to curbside collection of large debris materials. He said there have been traffic accidents.
Three Recology teams will work the entire week, but a second collection sweep may be needed, Hoevertsz said.
"We hope to be finished two weeks from now," he said.
About two dozen people spoke during the two-hour special meeting.
Some said lower Russian River residents are overwhelmed by damage or loss of their homes and properties. Others are concerned about rats living in debris piles spreading to homes and causing an infestation.
"People are walking around in a daze," one woman said.
Two speakers said some residents just solved the debris problem by dumping it in their yard.
The Sonoma County Assessor's Office has advised owners of business property, structures and land that sustained more than $10,000 damage in last week's storm and flooding to file a Calamity Damage Reassessment Form for property tax relief.
Copies of the forms are available on the county's website.
The form must be filed within 12 months of the flood event, but property owners might want to wait until they have information from their insurance provider or have contractors' bids for the repair work, County Assessor Deva Proto said.
The assessor's office will reassess property and supplemental adjustments will be processed retroactively and sent to property owners in the fall.
Property owners still have to pay the second property tax installment for 2018-2019 that is due by 5 p.m. April 2 to avoid penalties.