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Graton stunned by sudden fire district move

Saturday, February 18th, 2012 | Posted by

Much to the surprise of most of the residents of Graton, the Graton Fire Department called a special meeting for Tuesday, February 21 at 5 p.m. to consider a private bid for the old Graton firehouse site. There has been a broad community movement to buy the site and create a park for the town and the West County Trail, a popular bicycle and hiking path.

HoLlynn D’Lil a Graton community activist, said the Graton Green Group, the non-profit seeking to build the park, had submitted a bid in December but have had no reply. The group has heard nothing about the new commercial bid the board received, and the fire board put the property on the market a week before it had announced it would at the the last official meeting.

“At the Board meeting last Tuesday we were told that the Board wants to pay down their $3 million debt on the new firehouse as their mortgage payments are $200K per year.  However, we have since learned that paying down their debt does not lessen their mortgage payments.  It will instead shorten the time on their 30-year payout.  Bill Bullard suggests that they will probably want to pay of a loan for a December 2010 purchase of a “wildland engine” for $300,000,” said D’Lil.

She went on to say, “We are quite confident that the majority of the community supports a park at that site, as we have received pledges totaling $75,000 toward the park land purchase, by only soliciting those on our email list of about 100 households.”

  • Mark Thompson

    Why dont you have the Dutton family pay for it. They think they own the valley anyway.

  • Steve O

    Sell the land to the highest bidder. we do not need another gathering place for illegal farm workers to hang out they already dont stay at the day labor center as it was built for and we also do not need another big ugly stucco development be hind the underwood as in the works from the same architect as the complex on the corner of Florence Ave in Sebastopol, what a horrible prospect for Graton

    • Judith Fenley

      Whoa! This reply strikes such a sad cord in my heart! I feel we live in a very caring, compassionate, open, even loving community. Yes, we do have a day labor center for workers to procure work from and have community support. I do not believe it was ever an attempt to corral people and, as was often said in a tragically segregated south, “to keep people in their place”. This is an integrated, non-racist community, as I see and feel it, as a resident of 40 years and a life-long resident of SoCo.

      There are caring ways to deal with inappropriate gathering. As a community park is utilized by a beautifully mixed community and events are created to attract any members of the community, it can and will set a standard for behavior. It is not objectionable to me that members of the hispanic or day labor group also use the park. We are a very heterogenous community and it is appropriate that the park serve all in this area. We do need places for community to gather. And we do need appropriate, ecological housing that enhances and beautifies this area.

      We are conscious and caring people, involved in creating, conscious, caring, ecological buildings, events, ways of being in our world.

      With respect to the comment of Steve O and the comment below of Joe N, who voice a certain view that is important to hear and address; let us find a way to make a park happen and find ways to enlist all members who might just want to “hang out”. We are all a part of the picture. It is time that we create inclusive ways to be best who we are.

      Thank you Sara for recognition of your community, your recognition of the “money rules” that too often short-circuits real community development, and your support of ways to make it all work.

      As for the “Fresh-Safe-Graton concerns ~ I am a single, mature in years, woman, and have lived here since just turning 30 years around. Those early days were clearly transition days. There were three bars, open nightly and ethnic lines and battles were sometimes drawn. Still, I have always felt safe here.

      The street is really right out in the middle of everything for goodness (really) sake, as will be the park. When I walk downtown, I usually meet eyes and greet (with a nod or verbal acknowledgement) with anyone there, yes, including the migrant workers. Most all of them return the greeting and I walk on. I have never been accosted or even rudely replied to.

      So much of how we treat others determines how we are in turn treated. It is certainly not a dark alley or an area of so called persons of ill repute. I learned at a very early age that all people are part of the family of man and to treat all people with respect. As we teach our children and remind each other that all here are off-spring of the great whatever you want to call “it”, we will be rewarded many times over for the good that will spring off that stance.

      Let’s not let a pre-judged eye or perspective rule what could be our great fortune. A town park is what made many towns and places across this country great and greater. We are Greater-Gratonites with heart and soul, standing for a community park.

  • Joe N

    Sell the property to the highest bidder before the community can complain about it….. bunch of idiots in west county…. I’m sure we are going to hear about how any new development will hurt the environment etc… all residents unite under their aluminum foil hats ASAP!

  • Sara Alexander

    There are other people who live in Graton other than migrant workers. I have lived here for 7 years and it is a wonderful small town with small town values, and providing toilets and shelter for the workers is just one of the values. The community potlucks, the community garden, the Graton Day event create a sense that one is part of community, something sorely lacking in most places in the Bay Area today. The park would just facilitate us in knowing each other, and would also provide respite for the many outsiders who use the Bike Path. Its a brilliant use for that space.

    The highest bidder will use it for commercial purposes and Graton does not need another Art Gallery (we already have one) and Graton is at risk of becoming another little cutesy wine country town with shops for tourists. We have enough of that already in Healdsburg and town of Sonoma and Napa, etc. Economics rule. That is why we no longer have a grocery store, an Italian restaurant, and a furniture store that also had a fully operational tea shop. All were places to ‘meet and greet’ and all are gone, gone the way of American values. Money rules. They have become, in order, two realty offices and an imported clothing store.

    We do need a “Dutton”, not because they own the valley, but because the thing that Graton Green needs now, today, or maybe tomorrow at the latest, is someone who can write a check for $429k for the old fire station property. We will pay interest on the note, and then will pay it back once we have time to involve the Sonoma Land Trust and Landpaths, or similar organizations. We should be able to pay off the note with their help, and with time for more fundraising. Its a risk for an ‘angel’ ( money lender). We need one, soon. If you want to have a park named for you and leave the planet a better place, please contact us. I can be reached at FrannyZ@aol.com. I am a member of the Graton Green park supporters.

  • Fresh_Safe_Graton

    SteveO, has two good points there. While I don’t agree entirely (the Graton Day Labor Center is often very well populated, for example…) still, it is worth considering if families, single women, or women with children, seniors etc. would feel safe i the Park. Unless there is an ordinance of some kind, migrant workers (men) will almost certainly over-run the gathering place. Heck, there are clear SIGNS on the street in downtown Graton, yet my wife doesn’t feel safe walking past the armies of male migrant farm workers. Total blight on the town, and believe me causes downward pressure on home values.

  • ross binder

    wheres skip? BRING BACK SKIPS!

  • wildflower

    As an active member of the Graton community, I would rather have a “green” zone in the area in question than some new buildings, paved parking lot etc above Atascadero Creek. It’s not perfect, but much preferred to a paved business for profit….and please not another real estate office!
    A community gathering place includes the entire community, yes…even the migrant workers. As a resident of Graton, I have experienced both sides of the migrant worker issue…and they are not all “downsides”.

  • HolLynn

    Dear Friends: I don’t think you quite undestand the situation. If the Graton fire board accepts thie offer tonight, the community will lose property that belongs to the taxpayers and has been serving the community for decades. The community has made a bid on the properto to convert it to a park that is only $29K less than what is being considered. This is about community. This is about letting the community create a place to gather. We have no free space in Graton for the community to come together. We have worked for four years putting together our plans and gathering more than $85,000 in pledges to pay the district for the land. We need the opportunity to continue to raise funds to create a place for community in Graton.

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